Sunday, January 5, 2014

Vintage Inspired Crafting: Cardboard Ukelele

Nothing says 1920's like a dainty little ukelele (or ukulele - apparently both spellings are correct). In summer of last year I visited a flea market and spotted a vintage banjolele for sale. Unfortunately I didn't find it until right before we left and I didn't have enough cash left to purchase it, but it certainly stuck in my mind. I have a habit of picking up new instruments as hobbies, so since then I've toyed around with the idea of picking up a ukelele or banjolele several times. If only I could go back to that flea market!

Anyway, I got this wild idea while stuck at home sick this weekend that i could put together a ukelele with (mostly) things around the house. I'd seen DIY pages with cardboard instruments before so it wasn't a totally unique idea. First I did a bit of sketching and then some internet searching and finally found a great instructables page by eplunkett. It filled in the gaps in my sketched design and gave a great way to attach the strings (hinges!) so it was just what I needed.

 I won't go too much into detail on my process since you can definitely use the instructables, but I will discuss a few of the changes I made for a vintage aesthetic.

 For my design I used some doubled corrugated cardboard that we had on hand since it was stronger with less bulk. I was also careful to cut my layers on several different angles so that they would support each other and not flex. 

 I noticed in photos of the finished cardboard ukeleles online that you could see inside the sound hole to the back piece of cardboard, so I decided to add a bit of color. Yay, Periwinkle!

The Instructable calls for composite cardboard (also called chip-board, for those art-supply-store-junkies out there) in addition to the corrugated stuff, so I purchased matboard with the intention of using the colored side for the front of my ukelele.

It took me forever to decide on the aesthetic designs for this little lady. I toyed around with leaving it a simple color using the matboard, as well as paint, decoupage, wood burning, acetone transfer... and ultimately settled on a simple vintage print with a sort of "circusy" bohemian look to it. I have a couple of antique squeeze boxes and accordions that have cardboard bellows and they are often decorated similarly, so I'd imagine if cardboard ukeleles were a thing in the 1920s they'd look something like this. I kind of wonder if there were instruments like this because so many cheap "travel" instruments were mass produced at the time. 

I'll have another post for you soon to show you all the finished instrument. I'm very excited! Maybe I'll  even include a video of it in action! :)

 xoxo Emily