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Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:02 am

Recently a friend asked me if I would help his daughter make a ukulele. And after some discussions and planning, we agreed that rather than charging him for doing the work, he would buy two sets of materials and I would make one for myself and help her with hers at the same time.

So, after a few weeks of planning and research, we are getting close to finalising designs and ordering the materials.

Now, while a uke isn't a guitar, they do have a lot in common. And it should be a lot quicker to build than a guitar.

So, if the interest is here, I'd be more than happy to post a build diary with pics. What do you all think?

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Stan » Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:26 am

If you're up for it zen.
I'd love to look in -.

All the best musicians have a Ukulele or two, i believe.
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Dave B » Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:24 am

Definitely! The uke is a fun instrument that even a numpty like me can pick up. It would be fascinating to see one built from scratch.

Mandolin next ..?
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:19 am

cheers guys,

looks like I'm keeping a photo diary.

Construction wise, ukes are pretty much the same as acoustics. So it should be useful to anyone interested in building their own acoustic guitar. And it should be equally relevant to anyone interested in a flat top mandolin too.

Looks like we will be building two Tenor Ukuleles. I've spent the last couple of weeks working on plans. Ruth found a pic of one with a cutaway, so I've managed to scale that up into a drawing for her approval. I am going for a standard body. Once the drawings are agreed, I'll turn them into templates and moulds, and we'll be ordering the woods.

But to wet your appetites...

I've already come up with a theme and ideas for inlay for mine. So watch out for something on some unusual inlay techniques, this will be a first for me. And as I would have to modify other truss rods, I am considering making them from scratch.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Stan » Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:52 am


i have read that George Harrison traveled with two ukuleles - the story goes - it was just incase he ran he ran into someone who could also play. Ukulele duets! i cant wait!
zen - you and Ruth should make dvds.
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sat Apr 10, 2010 11:44 pm

Isn't making the d*mned thing enough without having to learn to play it too!!

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:00 pm

OK..

drawings approved...

Moving onto the cutting list, templates, and moulds.

Woods are pretty much decided too.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby grab » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:29 am

Stan wrote:i have read that George Harrison traveled with two ukuleles - the story goes - it was just incase he ran he ran into someone who could also play.

Or because when your plane goes down and you're stuck on a desert island, it's better to have two paddles for your raft.
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby RegressiveRock » Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:18 pm

grab wrote:
Stan wrote:i have read that George Harrison traveled with two ukuleles - the story goes - it was just incase he ran he ran into someone who could also play.

Or because when your plane goes down and you're stuck on a desert island, it's better to have two paddles for your raft.

Zen has converted me on Ukes: amongst other things they make a great starter intrument for kids. (If you can stop your three-year-old playing it with their feet, that is).

However, my mate left his banjo on the back seat of the car whilst he went shopping the other day. When he came out of the lift on his way back he could see that the glass of his rear window had been smashed.

He ran back to his car that to find that some bugger had put another fecking banjo on his back seat!!!
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Mon May 10, 2010 12:58 am

OK... things have started moving.

I've bought all the materials for the jigs, and cut them down to size ready to cut out templates and moulds over the next couple of days. Both instruments will be made with Hawaiian Pheasantwood backs and sides with Red Cedar fronts. These have also been ordered from the USofA and should arrive in the next few days.

Tools are being serviced and sharpened. And I'm preparing a second order from the USA with the neck woods, hardware, internal body woods, bindings etc.

And I'll get some pics to post now things are getting interesting. With some details of everything done up to now.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Thu May 13, 2010 11:59 pm

latest update...

Bloody Paypal!! But excellent US Postal Service. Body woods are in the system and due soon.

Finished the jig for building joining the fronts and backs today, pics on the way, and almost finished the templates for both ukes.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Wed May 26, 2010 12:24 am

Things are moving...

I've spent the last couple of weeks building jigs and moulds... Here they are.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/Mouldsandtemplates.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="Jigs%20&%20Moulds[/img][/image]

And a jig for jointing the fronts and backs...

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/Jointingboard.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="Jointing%20Board[/img][/image]

We spent the afternoon preparing the backs for jointing. Using a shooting board to plane the edges on the two halves of each back ready for jointing. Like the wood? It's Hawaiian Pheasant Wood, and this piece is exceptionally pretty.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/Shootingback.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="Shooting%20Back[/img][/image]

And this evening we joined the first back in the jig. We'll start tomorrow by joining the other back and then go on to prepare the fronts for jointing.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/backjointing.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="Joining%20Back[/img][/image]

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Stan » Wed May 26, 2010 12:42 am

zenguitar wrote:Isn't making the d*mned thing enough without having to learn to play it too!!

Andy

thanks zenguitar - looking great and excellent photos to -
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Dynamic Mike » Wed May 26, 2010 12:53 am

Wow those cramps are pretty cool. Did you make them yourself?
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Jumpeyspyder » Wed May 26, 2010 8:00 am

Wow, your jigs are better quality than my finished DIY jobs

Did you do anything to stop the backs from sticking to the jig ?
what type of glue did you use ?
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Hewesy » Wed May 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Gorgeous Zen. Fancy moving on to a lapsteel slide guitar next (I could use a week on the south coast...)

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Thu May 27, 2010 12:40 am

Cheers guys...

Dynamic Mike wrote:Wow those cramps are pretty cool. Did you make them yourself?


No, although once you have one you can see how easy it would be to make as many as you need. They are called Klemmsia clamps and they are a type of cam clamp. They are very popular with guitar makers for a number of reasons, they are very light, it's possible to put them in place one handed and then use the same hand to keep things together and free the other hand to tighten the clamp, it can apply a lot of pressure but in a very controllable way. In the UK you can buy them here and StewMac have their own versions too.

Jumpeyspyder wrote:Wow, your jigs are better quality than my finished DIY jobs

Did you do anything to stop the backs from sticking to the jig ?
what type of glue did you use ?


Cheers Jumpey... If you look closely at the pic of the back jointing you can see the end of a strip of newspaper. It lies between the jig and the glue join. I wipe the paper with candle wax but that's not essential, some of the paper sticks anyway and you still have to plane and scrape the surface true on the outer side and thickness from the inside. I'm using Evostick PVA wood glue, in theory Titebond or Humbrol is marginally better as it has less slippage when it sets. But for something this size it isn't significant.

Hewesy wrote:Gorgeous Zen. Fancy moving on to a lapsteel slide guitar next (I could use a week on the south coast...)

Hewesy


Cheers Hewesy, I thought you would have finished the lapsteel by now!! And besides, it would take longer than a week. But if you have a workshop I'm more than happy to visit with my tool boxes as long as you feed me and take me to the pub every night

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Thu May 27, 2010 12:53 am

And just so you know what it looked like when it came out of the jig...

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/jointedback1.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="Jointed%20Back%201[/img][/image]

I just ran a scraper over the join to see how it looked.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Hewesy » Thu May 27, 2010 7:29 am

zenguitar wrote:Cheers Hewesy, I thought you would have finished the lapsteel by now!! And besides, it would take longer than a week. But if you have a workshop I'm more than happy to visit with my tool boxes as long as you feed me and take me to the pub every night

Andy

Sadly not mate, woodworking course ended and the summer beckons!

I might just get back to you later in the year though, I'm sure something could be arranged (the Sunn needs a new nut too..!).

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Fri May 28, 2010 12:07 am

I might just take you up on that Hewesy, although I'm sure the Sun runs on hydrogen, not nuts!!

Meanwhile....

Now both backs are jointed, we are working on the fronts.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/frontforjointing.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="artistic%20front[/img][/image]

This is the first one after planing the jointing edge. A nice piece of Western Red Cedar. And it smells wonderful when you plane it

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/jointingfront.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="jointing%20front[/img][/image]

And here it is in the joining jig. Notice how I am using one of my planes for clamping? The two halves are very different thickness, so I clamped the plane there to control the thinner side across the full length of the join. Not essential, but it does ensure that we can minimise the amount of wood work on the 'good' side to maximise the bookmatch.

We already made a start on the sides, here's Ruth working on the 1st.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/side.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="side[/img][/image]

She's planing the good side to remove the sawing marks. Once it's true we'll flip it over and thickness from the inside.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sat May 29, 2010 1:07 am

A shorter day today.

Took the first back out of the jig and cleaned up the glue line. Then jointed the second front and clamped it in the jig overnight.

The Pheasant Wood has been generally pretty good to work, but it is hard on cutting tools and can tear out even when using a toothed blade. So this afternoon I used a cabinet scraper to clean up the good faces of one set of sides which worked nicely and solved the tear out problem.

So now we have several days of thicknessing ahead after making a start today.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/sidethicknessing.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="Side%20Thicknessing[/img][/image]

You can see Ruth measuring with a dial calliper which can comfortably work to 1/20th of a mm. The side is divided into a grid with chalk lines and the thickness is measured in the centre of each block. And the measurement is chalked in the block so that once it's completed you can look over the entire piece and spot which areas are highest. Then its a simple matter of setting the plane to a fine cut and planing off the highest numbers, then the next highest PLUS the area you planed before, and so on. For the first few stages you avoid the lowest areas completely. Then you get the chalk out again, draw a new grid, and start the process once more. I prefer drawing the grid freehand and with little attention to accuracy. That ensures that you are taking measurements across the whole area rather than concentrating on a single grid. In the photo you can see we divided the side into three strips lengthways, for the next stage we divided it into four strips, but with longer sections.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Hewesy » Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:26 am

Simply amazing. Can't wait to see it Zen.

Young Ruth looks like a natural too, good to see she's getting into it.

Quite a USP, "guitar for girls, by girls..."


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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:47 pm

Cheers Hewsey,

I've spent the last 2 days thicknessing sides. Yesterdays pair went fine, but today's had awful tear out so I spent most of the day working with a cabinet scraper. However, all four sides are now down to 2mm max, with a couple dipping down to 1.9/1.95. When it comes to bending them, I'll probably take them down to 1.7mm in some areas first. But before then, there are two backs and 2 fronts to thickness too.

Meanwhile, the rest of the materials have been ordered and should be here by the end of the week. So it'll be on to preparing neck blanks, truss rods, fretboards, braces, bindings and inlays etc.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sat Jun 05, 2010 12:49 am

Had a few days thicknessing the backs. Finished the first this afternoon, down to around 1.65mm, thick and made good headway with the second one.

And the courier delivery arrived at Stanstead this afternoon. So not long to wait.

Meanwhile, more planing tomorrow, and more aches and pains tomorrow evening. At least I get an excuse to go to the pub !!

More pics when something interesting happens.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Stan » Sat Jun 05, 2010 12:53 am

Dear zenguitar, why dont you use a sander, like a floor sander, for thicknessing?
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:24 am

Stan wrote:Dear zenguitar, why dont you use a sander, like a floor sander, for thicknessing?

A couple of reasons.

The main reason is that sanding furs up the ends of the wood fibres, whereas planing and scraping cuts them cleanly. Where the surface has to be joined (like joining the sides to the front and back) you get a far better glue joint. The dust that sanding produces gets into the grain and compromises the strength considerably. And the furred fibres don't take the final finish as well.

And the other reason is that mechanical sanders just aren't that accurate. I've been working to 1/20th of a mm, you just can't do that with a sander. On mass produced instruments sanding is the default because of the sheer time required for thicknessing by hand, even with cheap Chinese labour it isn't cost effective. But when you are making by hand, you have to put in extra hours so there is no point in compromising on materials. And getting those details right gets the very best out of the woods.

Now, this a project with a friend, not a commercial job. But if I was running a commercial workshop I would compromise. I'd use a mechanical sander to shift the bulk of the material, and then finish off with the plane and scraper to have the maximum control and best finish.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:55 pm

Deep Joy..

I received a parcel from Luthier's Mercantile International on Monday. Full of woods and bits... Mmmmm

So, the main thicknessing of fronts, backs, and sides is finished. I spent yesterday afternoon largely bewildered, making sure I had all the bits I ordered and then worrying in case I'd made any mistakes. But all was fine and well, so I got on with making some jigs last night and this afternoon. Here's a pic..

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/rosettejigs1.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="rosette%20jigs%201[/img][/image]

Both ukes will have a Mother of Pearl (MoP) ring bounded with wood purflings for a soundhole rosette. And as both soundholes are going to be different sizes I had to knock up one for each. The package from LMI had a 1oz pack of 0.050" white MoP slab. So I'll need to cut a number of segments for each radius to make up each MoP ring. I'll be rough cutting them by hand, but once that's done I'll need to use the other jigs I'm working on to get the inside and outside curves good. Once that's done, I need to make perfect butt joints so that the segments can be joined invisibly. So what you can see in the pic are the 2 jigs where I've cut and hand routed channels to seat the pearl sections, a final step will be to cut a slot through the groove where I can accurately run a file to finish the ends of the pearl strips so they mate perfectly. The big thing with a screw through the middle is a fly cutter that I modified a few years ago, replacing the cutter with a holder for a #15 scalpel blade. I did consider making a circle cutter for my Dremel router base, but on balance I decided not to. The modified fly cutter is very accurate and makes a much neater cut than the best downcut router bits. So, once I made the cuts with the fly cutter, I used my baby router plane to clean out the slots. Yes, before power routers we used router planes to cut slots, grooves, and cavities.

You'll be seeing both again when we inlay the rosettes into the fronts soon.

And after finishing those, I started preparing a neck blank and cut off the end section to make the headstock. I'll grab some pics tomorrow so you can see what's involved.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:44 am

Starting from where I left off, I promised some pics of the preparation of the 1st neck blank. Here goes..

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/neck1.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="neck%201[/img][/image]

This shows both neck blanks side by side, Peruvian Walnut from Luthier's Mercantile. On the left, the blank as received, and on the right the other one with then end cut ready for flipping over to make the headstock.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/neck2.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="neck%202[/img][/image]

And this shows the end flipped over so you can get a clear idea of where it goes. Just needs to be glued, like this...

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/neckclamp1.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="neck%20clamp[/img][/image]

Don't you just love all those clamps? I'll grab a pic tomorrow when they're removed so you can see clearer.

And then while that was sitting around waiting for the glue to dry, I made a start on the first back stripe. So it was out with one of the Dremel's and the router base, a test piece to take some measurements, and then laying out the straight edge to rout along.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/backroute2.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="back%20rout%201[/img][/image]

And then moving the straight edge to widen the channel to take the inlay.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/backroute1.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="back%20rout%202[/img][/image]

The back is about 1.7mm thick, and I routed the channel just over 0.8mm deep. If you want a closer look at the channel, here it is..

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/backroute3.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="back%20rout%203[/img][/image]

The channel is about 3mm wide. The strip to fill it is made up of 5 strips of 0.6mm coloured veneer. Once it was all prepared I did consider dropping in the individual strips in one go. But eventually, I thought better of it and glued the strips together into a single piece. Tomorrow I'll tidy it up and flatten one edge to sit in the bottom of the routed channel. If the fit is loose, there is some maple we can use on either edge to fill the gap neatly.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sat Jun 12, 2010 12:34 am

More pics...

Yes, I have been getting on with more work!!

Starting with the necks, here they are again. The first neck glued and the second ready for cutting.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/twonecks.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="two%20necks[/img][/image]

I've since cut and glued the second neck blank too.

And here's the first back strip ready to be inlaid.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/backstrip.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="back%20strip%201[/img][/image]

It's also now glued in and setting overnight. I'll plane and scrpae it back tomorrow.

I also glued up the other back strip ready for inlaying tomorrow.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sat Jun 12, 2010 12:07 pm

This just has to be the best post ever on SOS. Thanks for all the effort that's going into it, the photos really bring it to life. I'm getting really excited about it being finished & it's got nothing to do with me. Actually, I think I'm getting impatient, any chance you could work a bit faster?
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