You are here

Project Ukulele

For all things relating to guitars, basses, amps, pedals & accessories.

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Tue Oct 02, 2012 1:17 am

Well, I SHOULD have been mixing up some shellac on Saturday. But a constipated, senile, cat put paid to that. Don't ask.

But today I could get started again :lol:

I'd cleaned a bottle, labelled it, and filled it with Olive Oil. Cleaned an old salt cellar and labelled it too. And today it was filled with pumice. And after double checking some details, I made up the shellac.

I'm starting with a 2lb shellac mix. And that is mixed in the ratio of 2lb of shellac flakes in one gallon of meths. The devil, as always, is in the detail. We are talking US gallons here. And a gallon is way to much for a couple of ukuleles so measures have to be reduced to something sensible. In the end I made up 1.5 oz in 6 US fluid oz of meth, which is the same ratio.

Image

I checked the scale first with a selection of weights. The meths looks blue because I used my camera phone to grab the pics today, in real life it's the proper purple. You can also see my neatly labelled bottle and salt cellar, and the two cleaned glue bottles ready to accept the mixed shellac.

Image

And here's the shellac and meth soaking away in an old coffee jar. It needs 24 hours for the shellac to fully dissolve. But tomorrow afternoon I'll start putting down the spit coats on the ukes.

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:25 am

So, I decanted some meths into another of those little brown dropper bottles, then decanted the shellac into the old glue bottle, and made up a polishey thing (properly called a muneca).

Image

Cut up squares of cotton t-shirt with pads of cotton wool, I used some 100% cotton pads sold for removing make-up and face cleaning. Then folded, twisted, neatly into a pad.

Image

Next job was to soak the pad with shellac and give the 1st uke a thorough coating all over, taking care to work the shellac into all the corners and assorted nooks and crannies. As I worked each face/side I started by wiping a generous coat over the bindings and then worked over the entire surface. The first coats form the sealing coat. The idea is to go over each instrument 3 times, and then brush extra shellac over the bindings, ready for pumicing which combines very fine sanding, pumice, and shellac to fill the open pores of the back, sides, and neck.

Here's the first uke after it's first coat.

Image

Image

Right away I gave the second uke it's first coat too.

Image

Image

In the time it took to finish the second uke, the first was dry. So I took the chance to give both instruments their second coat.

Tomorrow they get 3rd coats, then I will brush the bindings with more shellac for extra protection and make a start on the pumicing.

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Folderol » Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:27 pm

Wow! That's a totally different method to what I've seen :shock:

My father was adamant that you had to have a sort of triangular shaped pad (much bigger than yours looks) and that you only applied the french polish to the inner padding and allowed it to work its way through the 'skin' fabric. He never used pumice, but finished off with a fresh pad with nothing but meths in it. Overall, it took him many days but the finish was fantastic.

A second method I saw (which dad very much turned his nose up at) was to paint several coats of shellac on with a good quality paintbrush, then rely on spiriting off with a meths pad to bring it back down to a smooth pore-filled finish. It was definitely much quicker, but I thought the finish wasn't as good as dad's. It seemed to form shallow ridges that showed up on reflected light.

Personally, I could never get it right whichever method I tried so gave up in the end:(
User avatar
Folderol
Jedi Poster
Posts: 10063
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:00 am
Location: The Mudway Towns, UK
Yes. I am that Linux nut.
Onwards and... err... sideways!

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Dynamic Mike » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:42 am

Folderol wrote:My father was adamant that you had to have a sort of triangular shaped pad (much bigger than yours looks) and that you only applied the french polish to the inner padding and allowed it to work its way through the 'skin' fabric.

That's exactly how I remember my Dad doing it.

I never got the hang of it either. It's a bit like playing the guitar, it looks easy when someone else is doing it!
Dynamic Mike
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3278
Joined: Sun Dec 31, 2006 1:00 am
Irrational beliefs justify unthinkable actions

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:53 am

Indeed Folderol :)

And I'm more than happy to repeat that this is a learning experience for me. I've used French Polish in the past for repairs, but these are the first instruments I've Frenched Polished as a finish. I've sprayed guitars with water based and cellulose finishes, and as well as a compressor and spray guns I have a gallon of cellulose I could have used.

But on balance I decided it would be best to French Polish these ukes, partly because I wanted to give it a go, partly because it would have been difficult to create a decent spray booth, and partly because it fits in with the DIY ethos of the project.

As you have an interest through your father you might like to read the guide I am following from Milburn Guitars in the US. This guide has a good reputation among luthiers and is linked to by LMI among others.

Essentially, it divides the French Polishing into a number of steps. The first is a body coat, the next is grain filling using pumice, then building the bulk of the finish, levelling, and the final finish and polishing.

What I've done so far is to apply the body coat and paint extra shellac on the bindings ready for pumicing. Here's a pic of them both after this afternoon's work.

Image

The pumicing isn't required for French Polishing as such, it is the grain filling stage. There are other ways to do it that are perfectly compatible with French Polishing (in the narrow sense) but don't involve shellac. So it is perfectly possible that your father used a different method of grain filling before moving on to French Polishing. The shape and size of the pad is really about finding something that works for you and suits the size of the piece you are working on. I've used bigger ones in the past on repairs but have to admit that the smaller pad is working nicely for me at the moment.

When I've initially loaded the pad with shellac I've alternated between loading the inner padding and loading the completed pad. Both work the same, but I can see the logic of loading the inner padding (if there are any impurities they will be filtered out by the outer covering).

And I will be following your father for final finishing, a pad with no shellac and just meths. But that comes in a few weeks, gotta build the finish first.

And yes, I've heard about the brushed shellac finish too. And I even briefly considered it, but only briefly. When I read about it they did include flat sanding to level it before spiriting off with a pad.

But I think you do have to grain fill before moving on to a final finish, which ever way you go about it. Nothing worse than a sinking finish a few years down the line.

Anyway, this time tomorrow I'll be able to give you my first experiences of pumicing :)

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Fri Oct 05, 2012 2:17 am

PUMICING!!!!!!!

It's hard work!!!

SERIOUSLY!

It took a couple of hours to get this far..

Image

Image

If you look close enough at the pics you can see how well the grain has been filled on the bass side. By the time I finished this afternoon I'd half finished the treble side too. 3 hours to finish 3/4 of the back of one uke. I'm still aching ;)

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Folderol » Fri Oct 05, 2012 8:27 pm

Thanks for the link. Very interesting indeed. I'd quite forgotten about the linseed oil as a pad lubricant :blush: so maybe there's more I've forgotten :frown:

The ukes are looking better and better.
User avatar
Folderol
Jedi Poster
Posts: 10063
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:00 am
Location: The Mudway Towns, UK
Yes. I am that Linux nut.
Onwards and... err... sideways!

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sat Oct 06, 2012 1:29 am

Thanks Folderol :)

I'll be using Olive Oil to lube my pad later ;)

But today was more elbow grease pumicing the remainder of the back and both sides. In a couple of weeks I'll have a left arm like Stan Laurel and a right arm like Popeye ;)

Anyway, here it is with the body finished.

Image

Image

Tomorrow I'll pumice the neck and hopefully make a start on the other one.

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:59 am

Image

Start with a pic :)

1st uke neck finished this afternoon, that Peruvian Walnut was fine to work again. Even filled the Bloodwood headstock veneer without problems.

Then I knuckled down and completed half of the back of the second uke as well. Quite an interesting contrast, the first back had long but shallow pits that needed grain filling but the more exaggerated figuring on the second uke had much shorter pits to fill, but they were a lot deeper. So a lot more elbow grease was expended than I expected.

And I will admit that it's hard work pumicing. You have to work over the instrument in small areas and as well as keeping the pad constantly moving in small circles you have to keep up the pressure too. Lets just say that I'm glad of the day off tomorrow ;)

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:26 am

More pumicing this afternoon, but you expected that.

And I am learning too!! I finished the back of the second uke and carried on to get it much cleaner and neater than the first. Physically it doesn't get any easier, although you do get used to it the same as any exercise, but I am definitely learning from my experience and getting a feel for French Polishing and understanding it a LOT more. Once the second uke is finished I'll be going back to the 1st and bringing it up to the same standard. French Polishing is very forgiving too, it's easy to go back and rework something.

Anyway, here's the finished back.

Image

And once that was done I finished one side too.

Image

I know it's hard to see much in the pics, but it's good to keep showing regular progress :)

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Frisonic » Tue Oct 09, 2012 3:03 am

I'm really enjoying the progress. The Ukes are looking amazing. If this particular quote from Tom Petty, giving an account of a special day with George Harrison hasn't already made it into this thread I thought it was time to introduce it (if it did I hadn't noticed and apologize in advance - anyway, its worth repeating):

"He came in with two ukuleles and gave me one. 'You gotta play this thing, it's great! Let's jam.' I have no idea how to play a ukulele. 'Oh, it's no problem, I'll show you.' So we spent the rest of the day playing ukuleles, strolling around the yard. My wrist hurt the next day. But he taught me how to play it, and a lot of the chord formations. When he was going I walked out to the car and he said, 'Well, wait... I want to leave some ukuleles here.' He'd already given me one, so I said, 'Well, I've got this.' 'No, we may need more!' He opened his trunk and he had a lot of ukulele in there, and I think he left four at my house. He said, 'Well, you never know when we might need them, because not everybody carries one around.'"

:angel:
Frisonic
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3287
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2010 1:00 am
Location: Refugee currently in transition.
Still strictly project but lately on the run.

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:38 am

A boot full of Ukuleles!!! I'm gonna need a bigger workshop and a stack of machine tools I think ;)

And you can be certain they'll all be sprayed with cellulose too, this French Polishing takes it's toll on my shoulder arm and hands. But I'm getting used to it and it still appears to be worth the effort.

The pumicing of the second uke body finished this afternoon, I'll spare you yet another pic that looks much like the ones I've posted already, but I am very pleased with the outcome. Tomorrow I'll get the neck done too, and then go back and fine tune the first uke.

After that, I'll start building the body coats on both. More shoulder, arm, and hand strain, but I don't have to press quite so hard.

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Frisonic » Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:32 pm

Never worry Andy. Had Mr Harrison owned one of these two Ukes, French Polished and all, I very much doubt either would have found their way into the boot of his car to be dished out to sundry rock stars like confetti! His missionary zeal for the instruments notwithstanding. They would have remained in his private collection for sure. Deemed too precious to be the subject even of his legendary largess.

However I am concerned about the possibility of some kind of RSI resulting from all this pumicing. Often an alternative repeated movement will help to off set any damage. Perhaps repeatedly lifting a glass of cider and tipping it towards the mouth would use some different muscles in the shoulder, arm and hand? Maybe worth a try. Anyway, it looks like thirsty work!
Frisonic
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3287
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2010 1:00 am
Location: Refugee currently in transition.
Still strictly project but lately on the run.

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby Folderol » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:40 pm

Frisonic wrote:However I am concerned about the possibility of some kind of RSI resulting from all this pumicing. Often an alternative repeated movement will help to off set any damage. Perhaps repeatedly lifting a glass of cider and tipping it towards the mouth would use some different muscles in the shoulder, arm and hand? Maybe worth a try. Anyway, it looks like thirsty work!
Now this is important!
Why, only today I adjourned to a friendly hostelry to rest from my labours (It took me all of half an hour to get there) and enjoy a couple of glasses that pleasantly surrounded a smoked salmon lunch.
User avatar
Folderol
Jedi Poster
Posts: 10063
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:00 am
Location: The Mudway Towns, UK
Yes. I am that Linux nut.
Onwards and... err... sideways!

Re: Project Ukulele

Postby zenguitar » Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:30 pm

Folderol wrote:
Frisonic wrote:However I am concerned about the possibility of some kind of RSI resulting from all this pumicing. Often an alternative repeated movement will help to off set any damage. Perhaps repeatedly lifting a glass of cider and tipping it towards the mouth would use some different muscles in the shoulder, arm and hand? Maybe worth a try. Anyway, it looks like thirsty work!
Now this is important!
Why, only today I adjourned to a friendly hostelry to rest from my labours (It took me all of half an hour to get there) and enjoy a couple of glasses that pleasantly surrounded a smoked salmon lunch.

Indeed Gentlemen, it might even be argued that many years of regular cider drinking has had a prophylactic effect protecting me from the potential dangers of repeated pumicing. However, it would appear that the benefits are only short term and last for 24 hours at most. So I'll be off to the pub later, purely for medical reasons you understand, and when I return I'll supply the latest update complete with pics.

Andy :beamup:
User avatar
zenguitar
Moderator
Posts: 9524
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Devon
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

PreviousNext