Aloha! This has got to be the most freakish-looking uke you'll ever see... BUT IT SOUNDS INCREDIBLE! Simply put, the Styrofoam Cooler Ukulele is nothing but a neck without a body and a huge cooler screwed to the butt end.
Watch the video to hear it for yourself:
Here's the parts I used:
- 1x2 plank of maple, 33 inches long
- A separate thin plank of oak for the fretboard
- Small piece of maple for the floating bridge
- Medium/Medium fretwire
- A four pack of Shane Speal signature tuners
- A pack of standard ukulele strings
- a used styrofoam cooler
- One drywall screw and a large washer to anchor the cooler to the neck.
- Six flathead screws, 1/2" long
This is a very easy project! Although the thought of fretting an instrument might be daunting for some people, consider this project a good beginner’s instrument to learn the fretting process.
I built this guitar a couple years ago and unfortunately didn’t photograph the building process. However, the steps are easy and can be described with photos of the completed uke.
Measure 3” from the top of the long piece of wood. This will be your headstock. Remove ¼” from the face of the headstock area. I used my belt sander but you could use a coping saw, jig saw or whittle the thing with a pocket knife!
Drill four holes for the tuners using a ¼” drill bit. Make sure the tuners are spaced 1” apart to ensure the back mounting plates don’t overlap. Insert the bushings and install the tuners.
Make the fretboard separately. For this project, I chose a 13.75" soprano scale. Take the 7 ½ ” x 2” x ¼” piece of wood and measure in ¼” and mark a line across. This will be your zero fret and the starting point for the rest of the frets.
Set your ruler on the zero fret line (not the end of the piece of wood) and mark the following lines for your frets:
- 1 ½”
- 2 ¼”
- 2 7/8”
- 3 ½”
- 4 ½”
- 5 ½”
- 6 ½”
- 6 7/8”
Note: These fret measurements aren’t 100% exact. We’re building a Styrofoam uke, not a Kamaka! If you want more precise fret measurements, check www.stewmac.com/FretCalculator.
Use a fretting saw or coping saw to cut the fret slots and install the frets.
Drill mounting holes for the flathead screws at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th fret markers. The screws serve as fret position markers and also attach the fretboard to the neck.
Mount the fretboard to the neck, 3” from the end. Make sure the zero fret is positioned toward the headstock or your fretboard will be upside down!
Place your ruler at the zero fret and measure exactly 13.75”. Mark a line across the neck. This will be the location of the floating bridge.
Drill two holes for each string, 2 inches behind the placement of the floating bridge. These will be your string anchors where you feed the strings through and tie them tight.
Using sandpaper or a pocketknife, shape the top of scrap 1.5” x 1” x ½” scrap wood into a rounded edge. This scrap will serve as the floating bridge.
Place the last scrap of 7” x 2” x ¼ ” wood at the butt end of the neck and drill two small pilot holes at 1 ½” and 6” from the end to serve as mounting plate inside the cooler.
String up the ukulele by tying the ends to the double holes behind the bridge area.
Place the floating bridge under the strings and move it back to the 13.75” mark. Tune it up to My Dog Has Fleas (GCEA). If the action is too high, simply pull the bridge off and sand down the base as needed.
Note: When I first built this monstrosity, I just rolled the strings over the zero fret. I later found that they moved around too much. To ensure proper string tension, I added a Floyd Rose style string tree (find ‘em cheap on eBay) and added some notches behind the zero fret.
Attach the cooler to the end of the stick using a drywall screw and washer.
Optional: Add strap buttons on the back of the neck. I placed mine 10” and 22” from the butt end.