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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Make] Projects 

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build, hack, tweak, share, discover,- 

Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Written By: Chester Winowiecki 



Drill, or drill press (1) 

Drill bits (1) 

Flush nippers, end cutters, toenail 
clippers, or a utility knife (1) 

Hacksaw (1) 

Handsaw or power miter saw (1) 

Marking pen (1) 

Measuring tape/ruler (1) 

Needle/small files (1) 

Pencil or pen (1) 

Phillips head screwdriver (1) 

Rasp or Surform plane/rasp (1) 

Rotary tool with cut-off wheel (1) 

Sanding block and sandpaper (1) 

Spring clamps (2+) 

Square, adjustable (1) 

Hardwood lumber (1) 

Actual size is 3/4"x 1-1/2". Choose oak, 
maple, poplar, or other hardwood as 

straight and as knot-free as possible. 
Wood screws (3) 

Wood glue (1) 

Spray lacquer or poly-urethane, clear (1 

Sheet metal screw (1) 

Cake pans, aluminum or steel (2) 

Cake pans have sides at right angles to 
the bottom, and are deeper than pie 
pans. Steel is OK. but rigid aluminum 
pans are easier to cut and have a better 

Ukulele friction tuners (4) 

I'm using a basic $13 set, item #UP26 
from Elderly Instruments (, 
but for just $15 you can get better quality 
tuners. Elderly ZGUKNW. 

Ukulele strings, concert scale length (4) 

I'm using a basic $3 set of Hilo black 
nylon strings. Elderly #HCU. For $57 
Aquila's Nylgut set. Elderly #ANCR,has 
the sound of old-fashionea gut strings. 

Square wooden toothpicks (20) 

You can also get these from Lego 
Education (h ion, us), if em 



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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

I love making my own musical instruments. Nothing beats the feeling of playing your own 
music on an instrument you made yourself. While the best instruments are made by skilled 
craftspeople with high-quality materials, it can be very rewarding to craft an instrument with 
simple components at hand. 

The name? Early in ukulele history, Alvin D. Keech introduced a banjo ukulele that 
eventually got the name banjolele. Looking like it does, it seemed natural to call my 
instrument a Cake Pan-jolele, or Panjolele for short. 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 1 — Prepare the neck and brace. 

• Using a power or hand miter saw, cut 2 lengths from the 1 x2 board: 13-3/4" for the neck 
and 10-1/2" for the brace. Save the leftover piece for other parts. 

• Decide which side will be the fretted (top) side of the neck, and use a sanding block to 
sand it flat and smooth. Start with coarser grits and work up to finer grits. 

• At one end of the topside of the neck, mark out the cutout as shown. This is the Panjolele's 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 2 



2 Vi- 




• Carefully cut away the wood from this area using a handsaw and then sand away any saw 

• Mark out the placement of the tuner holes as shown. Drill the holes all the way through the 
headstock using a 3/16" drill bit. 

• Following the same holes, drill down 1/8" from the top of the headstock with a 3/8" bit. Test 
the fit with one of the tuners. 

• TIP: Mark the bit with a piece of tape to help you stop at the right depth. 

# NOTE: These hole dimensions fit the UP26 tuners. Adjust if necessary to fit your 
tuner's shaft and bushing. 


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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 3 — Attach the neck to the brace. 

• Mark out the areas where the neck and brace will join. Draw a line on the bottom of the 
neck 1-1/2" from the uncut end. Make a similar mark 1-1/2" from one end of the brace. 
This is now the top of the brace. 

• On the bottom of the brace at this same end, mark out the 3 holes as shown. Drill the 
holes all the way through with a #6 screw countersinking bit. 

• TIP: Alternately, use a bit slightly larger than the unthreaded part of the screw's 
shaft, then use a larger bit to countersink the top of the hole. 

• Leaving one hole uncovered, clamp the neck and the brace together on a workbench with 
the 2 marked areas facing each other and each edge squared up to the marked lines. 

• Using the hole as a guide, use the #6 bit to drill Vfe" into the neck on the centerline, fret side 
down, being careful not to drill all the way through. Install a #6 wood screw into this hole 
and tighten well. 


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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 4 

• Remove the clamp, recheck the alignment of the 2 pieces, and drill the other 2 holes. 
Install the remaining wood screws to check for fit, then remove all the screws. 

• At the other end of the brace, mark out the string holes as shown in the diagram. Using a 
1/16" bit, drill the holes all the way through the brace. 

• Measure 5" from this same end, and drill a 1/8" hole through the brace, centered from side 
to side. 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 5 — Lay out and glue the frets. 

• Using a pencil, mark a line on the topside of the neck 3-7/8" from the headstock end. This 
is where you'll glue the nut. 

• Starting from this line, mark out the placement of each fret as shown in the chart (see Step 

• NOTE: Double check your measurements and be sure the lines are square to one 

• With a very small amount of wood glue, glue one toothpick at the headstock side of each 
line, and clamp carefully with a pair of spring clamps. 

• TIP: To keep your fingers away from freshly glued frets and do the job faster, 
stagger the gluing order: #1 , #7, #2, #8, #3, #9, etc. 


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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 6 

Fret Placement Chart 
Scale length; 15V4" 




Inches from nut 
(la ntaftst Vii) 































• Allow the glue to set for a couple of minutes, remove the clamps, and carefully wipe away 
any excess glue with a damp rag. 

• Set aside to completely dry overnight. 
Step 7 — Prepare the cake pans. 

• On the back of the 9" cake pan, mark the center and drill a 3/16" hole. 

• On the back of the 8" cake pan, mark the center and draw a line through it, from edge to 
edge. Draw parallel lines 3/4" on either side of this centerline. 

• Transfer these parallel lines down each side. 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 8 

• Between these lines, mark a base line on each side 1/2" from the back of the pan, using 
the adjustable square. 

• Using a hacksaw, cut a notch in the side of the pan along the parallel lines, from the rolled 
top edge to your base line. 

• Cut along the base line with the rotary tool's cutoff wheel. (You might also be able to 
score, bend, and snap the piece off.) 

• Repeat on the other end of the pan. 

• File away any burrs and test-fit the brace into the notches. If necessary, file enough metal 
away for the brace to fit. 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 9 — Sand the frets. 


• Using a saw, pair of flush nippers, end cutters, toenail clippers, or utility knife, carefully 
trim the ends off of the toothpicks. 

• TIP: If you use a saw like I did, clamp the toothpicks and cut downward to avoid 
pulling off the frets. 

• With medium-grit sandpaper and a sanding block, sand the edges of the toothpicks flush 
with the edges of the neck. You can also sand the ends of the frets at a 45° angle. 

• With fine sandpaper and a block, sand the tops of the frets so that they're all level. 

• Sand the top edges of each fret to make them nice and round. 

• CAUTION: Don't sand too much, as this will change the maximum height of the 


Step 10 — Finish the neck and brace. 


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• Using a rasp or Surform tool, ease over the corners of the neck, and round the back. 

• NOTE: Stay about 1/2" away from the headstock area and the area that will be 
screwed to the brace. 

• From the leftover parts of the 1 x2 (or other hardwood scrap), cut the nut and bridge pieces 
as shown. File the notches with a triangular file. 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 11 


• Glue the nut on the nut line on the fretboard side of the neck, the same way you glued the 

• Set the bridge aside; you'll use it in the final assembly. 

• Sand the entire neck smooth, removing all pencil lines and tool marks. Sand the brace. 

• Attach the neck and brace with the 3 wood screws. 

• Finish the entire neck/ brace assembly and the bridge with spray lacquer or polyurethane 
and allow to dry completely. 

Step 12 — Begin the final assembly. 


v v 

V ^0^' 

# Press-fit the bushings into the front of the headstock and install the tuners. 

• Put the 8" cake pan over the brace, taking care not to scrape the wood finish. 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 13 

2nd string (hino to E> 1st string (tun* to A) 

(tune to C) 4th stNng {tun* to C 

• Tie a knot in the end of each ukulele string and thread them through the holes in the end of 
the brace. Check the diagram to get the placement just right. 

• Thread the strings through the holes in the tuners and knot them. Turn the tuners to tighten 
the strings. 

• Attach the 9" cake pan to the back of the brace with the 2" pan head screw. 

• Put the bridge under the strings and move it 15-5/8" away from the nut. (The extra 1/8" 
compensates for any string stretch.) 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Step 14 — Final Adjustments, Tuning and Playing 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

• Tuning up: Tune up your ukulele 
with an electronic or online tuner, 
tuning the strings G-C-E-A (most 
popular) or A-D-F#-B. Ukulele 
strings take a long time to stop 
stretching, so you'll need to keep 
retuning for a couple days, but it's 
good practice! If the tuners turn 
back after you let them go, tighten 
the screw at the end of the tuner. 

■ Fine-tuning the action: If the 

strings feel really hard to push 
down to the frets, you can lower 
the "action" at the nut and the 
bridge. The bottom of the strings 
should be about 1/32" from the top 
of the first fret and 332" from the 
top of the twelfth fret. 

• Deepen the notches in the nut first 
and then sand the bottom of the 
bridge. Do a little at a time, and 
check frequently so you don't 
overdo it. If you find that the strings 
pop out of the nut or bridge, use a 
precision knife to cut deeper slots. 

• Playing tunes: Here are few 
chords to get you started. For 
righthanders: use the fingers of 
your left hand to press the strings 
down to the frets in the spots 
shown in the diagrams. The 
numbers under each string show 
which finger to use. Strum all 4 
strings with the first finger or thumb 
of your right hand. Lefties: reverse! 

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Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele 

Going further: Use this same 
method to make instruments with 
longer scale lengths, more or fewer 
strings, metal frets and steel 
strings, or different sound boxes. 
One of my favorite instruments 
right now is a tenor banjo with 4 
steel strings, metal frets, a 21" 
scale, and a cake-pan soundboard 
and resonator. 

This project appeared in MAKE Volume 33 . page 76. 

This document was last generated on 201 3-02-05 03:1 5:03 PM. 

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