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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Hewesy » Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:52 am

Fabulous.
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Dynamic Mike » Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:01 am

Great stuff, but you do realise you're going to be asked to leave the luthier's magic circle after posting explicit details like this :)
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Folderol » Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:02 am

Really good to see such care and attention to detail - I simply don't have the patience for work like this!
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:41 am

Thanks guys :)

Dynamic Mike wrote:Great stuff, but you do realise you're going to be asked to leave the luthier's magic circle after posting explicit details like this :)

LOL... think of me as the Penn & Teller of Luthiery. The principles are straightforward, but the devil is in the details. But in all seriousness, it's not fancy woodwork. Nothing more complicated than a butt joint or a lap joint. Luthiery is two things, simple woodwork done carefully and accurately, and a good understanding of how the instrument works.

One of the reasons I wanted to post this diary was to show how straightforward it is to make an instrument. Ukuleles are great because they use all the same design principles and processes as a guitar but small enough to build on a kitchen table. I'm working on a small section of workbench in Mark's garage, you can see how small an area it is from the pics.

With the exceptions of using a router to make the moulds and cut the truss rod channels and a Dremel to rout for the back strips, everything has been done by hand. All of those can be done by hand with simple hand tools if required, and even the moulds aren't necessary. The bending iron and thickness calliper are specialist tools, but there are ways to make simple versions for yourself.

Anyway...

Here's a pic of both backs and sides roughed out. You can also see the channel for the rosette on one.

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

I finished bending the first set of sides.

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

Then I bent the first side for the second uke. And finally, I made a start on the hardest side, the one with a cutaway. The tightest curves I've ever bent, was nerve wracking at times!!

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

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Fri Jul 02, 2010 3:02 am

Finished bending the sides today. Then moved on to working on the necks.

Step one was to pin the fretboard to the neck and then use a scalpel to mark out it's location on the neck blank. The secret is to use some small panel pins and drill through a couple of the fret slots to locate them. That way you can use the locating pins later when the fretboard is glued to the neck and be certain it's in exactly the right place.

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

Once the exact location of the fretboard is marked out, it's time to rough cut it to width. I've put both side by side here in the pic so you can see the difference once one has been trimmed. At the heel and nut I've gone close to final width, ready for carving.

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

I have since planed the heel end down close to the final length for a 14th fret neck/body joint. At the same time I have adjusted the cut to approach the correct neck/body angle.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Tue Jul 06, 2010 2:19 am

So, on saturday I popped the first pair of sides into the mould and glued in the heel and body blocks...

Here it is in the mould...

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

And here it is pulled out this afternoon...

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

Then today I fitted the second pair of sides into their mould, made and fitted the heel and body blocks, and glued that up.

Made a start on glueing the kerfings to the front of the cutaway uke. And I am all prepared to do the first rosette.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:47 am

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:36 am

I left it last night preparing the bindings for the rosette.

Usually, I would use 1mm wide veneer strips for inlay. They are nice and easy to lay in the channel with the mother of pearl, although a little fiddly.

But the 6mm wide veneer strips I am using for the front and back perflings are long enough for guitar sides. And there was enough left over for the back strips, rosette, and other details. And I do hate wasting decent materials, so I decided to use those. But that meant some creative thinking to work out the best way to install them.

The rosette designs both have a ring of pearl bordered inside and out with 3 coloured rings of veneer strip. The pearl is about 1.5mm thick. So the problem was how to successfully glue the thin strip of pearl between 6 wide strips of veneer.

The solution was to use the bending iron to pre-curve the strips, and then use some MDF discs as formers to glue the 2 sets of three strips together like this.

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

This is the first ring half done. You can see that I lined the MDF ring with masking tape then I glued the 3 strips together in the middle, taped to the former, and then applied glue and worked out to one end. And then I worked from the middle to the other end. Here are both sets glued.

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

Tomorrow, I'll remove the tape. Then I'll either saw, plane or sand the rings down to the same thickness as the pearl and maybe get them all glued in place.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:29 am

I know you all love the pics... so here's a few more...

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/completedkerfings.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="front%20kerfing%20on%20first%20uke[/img][/image]

The front kerfings on the first uke completed.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/glueingsecondukekerfings.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="glueing%20kerfing%20for%20second%20uke[/img][/image]

And here's the front kerfings on the second uke all clamped up. Had to do a test run first to make sure I had enough pegs and clamps!!

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

And I did promise to show the glued veneer strip rings after taking them off the moulds. Worked out nicely. But still at 6mm high, a lot taller than the pearl segments.

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

So here I am cutting a ring in half. Once I finished cutting both rings, I had to sand them nice and neat. A couple of test fittings, and then it was out with the glue. The veneer and pearl rings fitted nicely. OK, I could have posted another pic of them after glueing, but all you would see would be a brick sitting on top of a board to clamp them down.

But I promise to post a pic of the completed rosette tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the search goes on for number 15 Swann and Morten scalpel blades. None to be found in Plymouth or Tavistock today, and even worse, not a single shop that generally carries them. So I'll just have to order some online. Those blades are the ones I need for my modified fly cutter. I still have to cut the channel for the second rosette, and I have to cut both soundholes later, so the blades are essential.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby jammy jamz » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:05 am

fantastic thread zen..

you mean these?

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/10-x-Swann-Morton-No-15-Scalpel-Blades-Sterile-FreeP-P-/120588621178?cmd=ViewItem&pt=UK_BOI_Medical_Lab_Equipment_Medical_Specialisations_ET&hash=item1c13a4557a

and if not, if you can source a canadian supply, close to the east coast, i would be willing to track em down, and send them over the pond for you..

you know..admiring artisan, to experienced luthier.

:D
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:04 am

Many thanks for your kind words JJ,

And those are, indeed, the blades I need. Not a bad price either as it includes P&P. Fortunately, I don't need the Sterile ones as I'm not planning on any surgery any time soon. There are other things I need to buy, so I'll shop around in case I can include the blades with another order, but I have bookmarked that link just in case.

Meanwhile, this afternoon I got out the scraper and levelled the rosette which is now looking good. As always, scraping back ends up leaving some marks and scrapes on the front too which will need sanding back. I'm always in two minds whether or not to put a protective layer on the front when I scrape back. On the one hand it will protect the front, but on the other hand it will prevent me from getting the inlay flush to the front. Perhaps I'll try it the other way on the second uke as it's an ideal opportunity to make a comparison.

Anyway, here are a couple of pics showing the scraped back front with it's body and the part carved neck. You can see the bruising on the front from the scraping, but it will come out nicely when it's finally sanded. And they give a sense of all the bits coming together as an instrument too.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/Uke1bits2.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="uke%20bits%202[/img][/image]

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/Uke1bits.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="uke%20bits%201[/img][/image]

And after that I worked on the heel block for a while. I had to trim it down a little. Initially I'd noted that I would have to allow for the length of the neck bolts, but it slipped my mind when cutting and preparing the block and glueing. My mistake, but no harm done. And it's part of the learning curve as it's the first time I've used this method of attaching a neck. And once I'd tidied up, I drilled the heel block to take the neck bolts.

You can see them here.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/neckbolts1.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="neck%20bolts%201[/img][/image]

And here's how they look from the outside. I've put on the inserts that will eventually be drilled and screwed into the heel itself, which will be one of the tasks coming up soon.

[image][img]http://i262.photobucket.com/albums/ii92/zenguitar2000/Project%20Ukulele/neckbolts2.jpg"%20border="0"%20alt="neck%20bolts%202[/img][/image]

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:16 am

For any of you who might have been worried after a close up look at the front after scraping down the rosette....

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

... here it is now I've sanded it nice and smooth again. Much better, don't you think?

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sun Jul 11, 2010 1:51 pm

It looks fantastic, it's really starting to take shape. What has suprised me is that you haven't actually done anything yet which I feel is beyond the capacity of most people, or used any tools the average bloke hasn't already got in the garage. Apart from the pegs!

I know this is an arrangement with a friend rather than a normal commission (& also that you're making two) but is there any chance of a breakdown of the hours worked & the cost incurred when you finish? I hope you're enjoying making them as much as I am following this post.
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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:44 am

Thank you Mike :)

You are right, they really are beginning to take shape now. At first we were just dealing with pieces of wood, joining them and thicknessing them. But increasingly now, you can see the instruments appearing at every step which is always very rewarding and gratifying.

And yes, there are far less specialist tools required than people might think and even those that are used are not essential. When I was at the Totnes School of Guitarmaking many years ago each workbench had 2 planes (with standard and toothed blades for each), 3 chisels, 2 gouges, a rasp, a scalpel, a marking gauge, a 6" steel ruler, a cabinet scraper, and a chalk pencil. And for the entire class there were a few saws and hammers, a single router, a Dremel, a thicknessing calliper, a bending iron, a go bar deck, a few jigs & moulds, and a load of clamps.

Don't get me wrong, all of the specialist tools you can buy from luthiers suppliers have their uses and I will be purchasing some more soon too.

But when I started this build diary I was hoping to show that it wasn't essential to have all of the specialist tools. That is was possible to make a good quality and attractive instrument on a workbench with basic tools. Although there has been a lot of crossover in the last decade or so, there are essentially two traditions in luthiery. The European tradition has been based on basic hand tools and the traditional Spanish method, and the North American tradition has been based more on using jigs and machine tools. And we are fortunate to be able to pick the best from both traditions. Learning to build in the European tradition teaches you a great deal about how guitars work and develops your intuition for the materials used. The North American tradition gives you consistency, repeatability, and the science. And I think both are worth learning.

As you have seen, the woodwork is pretty simple. No fancy joints at all. There are, however, a few caveats. The simple woodwork has to be done very accurately in places. You do need to know how to set-up and sharpen your hand tools and be comfortable and confident using them to achieve that degree of accuracy.

When the project is finished I plan to do some summing up. I'll be listing the suppliers I used, giving a guide to cost and time. What I might also do is add a lesson on sharpening planes, chisels and scrapers.

Anyway, back to work tomorrow. Time to make a start on the braces for the fronts and backs.

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Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:02 am

Got the main braces for the front and back done today. Planed to thickness and then planed the curves on the edges that glue to the front and back. Here are the front ones..

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

Once they are glued in place, they'll be carved to height and shape.

Just need to finish the fan braces for the front now.

And then I have to do the same for the second uke once I've inlaid the rosette.

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