Monday, July 28, 2008

A uke is born!

I strung it up tonight with Aquila strings and strummed a couple chords. The strings are still stretching so it'll be a day or two before I do much playing. At one point as I was bringing the strings up to tension I heard a good CRACK but I think it was the neck shifting slightly as I don't see any problems. I'll need to pick up a new case for it now, maybe one of those nice tweed ones that musicguymic sells. I'll try to post a sound file in a day or two if the strings have settled a bit.

Next StrumMn meeting tentatively planned for Monday 8/18 at Como, mark your calendars!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Almost there... !

Another coat or 2 of Arrow Wood Finish and then tuners should get me to the point that I can string it up and test the results.

Today I bolted on the neck so I could work on the saddle placement.
Here I masked it off, placed it with double stick tape, then carefully cut around it and then scraped off the finish so the glue would have bare wood to stick to.

Gluing the saddle in place. I lucked out with a new clamp I bought a few weeks ago, it turned out to work perfect for this task! The 2 side clamps were just to make sure the "wings" made solid contact, although I was afraid to pull them up too tight as they clamped right on the body.

Here it is tonight. I put in a bone nut and saddle which may need a little tweaking, I think the action may be able to come down a little bit.

Hopefully the bolt on neck attachment will work ok, etc... this whole thing has been an interesting experience. I'm hoping I can have it completed mid week and maybe a sound sample at that time. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Disaster! (and recovery?)

Well I got 8 frets installed this morning and then the tail of the fretboard broke off at the 12th fret slot. :-(
I thought I'd just install the frets in the broke off piece and then glue it together with that fret glued in place but when I tried putting in fret 15 it split again. That sheoak is just too brittle when not glued to backing.
I thought about gluing it all to the body and then trying to install the frets but then I'd worry about busting up the body soooo... I took the fretboard off the neck with my table saw and I'll need to fashion a new fretboard.
I have a nice piece of ebony fretboard material I bought a couple years ago, I guess it's time to put it to use!
This may blow my timetable for having it ready for the Windy City Uke Fest. :-(
Pictures later....

Here's the start of fretting, looking good and I love that fretboard!

And here it is broken... ARGH!

I thought I'd try fretting this section and glue it on but it split again at the last fret when I tried to install it. You can click on all these pics if you want to see a larger version for details...

After much thought I decided to scrap the fretboard so I pulled the frets to re-use and here I've started nibbling the fretboard off the mahogany neck with the table saw.

Here is the piece of ebony I had on hand, I printed out a new fretboard template to glue on the fretboard blank.

First fret cut, 14 more to go...

Time to taper to match my neck and put the frets in again. I'm going to put all the frets in this time before gluing it to the neck.

And here is the new fretboard being glued to the neck. I'll need to do some glue cleanup and then, hopefully, I can install the neck on the body. Then I can do some refinishing and measure for placing the bridge and saddle. Installing that will be another hair raising adventure.
Wish me luck!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend progress

It's getting closer!

Here I'm gluing on the top. Most people seem to use a bunch of spool clamps. I don't have any and anytime I use a bunch of clamps then the pieces seem to creep all over. I put the back on my radius dish and applied a bunch of weight in the form of lead!

Here is how I'll attach the neck, a bolt-on into the barrel nut. Drilling the holes was tricky.

My bridge. I was going for a "canoe" shape, also looks like a smile I guess. Still needs to be a bit thinner and sanded to the curve of the top. Also needs holes for the "string-thru top" setup.

To glue on the back I sandwiched things between the 2 radius dishes, this worked really well!

Double checking my routing instructions before trimming off the excess!

After routing the excess. It left a few marks and some extra that needed trimming with a sharp chisel but all-in-all it went very well. At least no chip-out!

Here's the body after a little sanding.

I decided to just sign, date, & number it for now. There is room for a label if I come up with something...

Fitting the neck was a bear... I need jigs!!! Here it's bolted on but I'm just holding the fretboard in place.

Fretboard still just sitting in place...

The neck is removed and the fretboard is being glued under all those clamps somewhere. Still need to sand it even and install frets.

That's enough for now... it might be ready for the Windy City Uke Fest after all!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More progress

Ok, a couple new pictures.
This shows the rosette inlay, it's a 1/8" ring of mahogany. Somehow the inlay ring and the soundhole cutout didn't come out quite concentric (all my practice ones did!) but I was able to sand them into allignment. I think this is the "before fixing" picture, see if you even notice the problem. Sometimes I'm a bit picky...

My "go-bar deck." I'd read you could just use a table, so I did. It took 6 fiberglass bars just fine but the 7th lifted the table! Even with extra "stuff" piled on top. Ok, guess what I'll be building soon?

The joint at the tail was not perfect (what is?) so I built a jig and inlayed a mahogany tail graft. It was easier than I thought but I need to trust my jigs. I lined up on the bad joint instead and it's a hair crooked... no one else will notice but I'll always know it's there. I could have immediately recut it but decided it was close enough and a good reminder.

Got braces and a (mahogany) soundhole patch in place, ready to carve.

I carved and did some initial sanding on the braces. I did the "tap tuning" but since it's my first and I have nothing to compare to... well I'll just have to wait and see! The tone is definitely different from the front to the back. Which is better? How should I know?! :-)

Last thing I did tonight was to glue on the internal bridge patch. I looked at pictures of others to get an idea on size/shape etc... and it looks kinda big now that it's in there... it's awful thin though and maybe I'll sand taper the edges a bit more, just because I can!

Pretty soon I'll need to button up the box. First I need to think about neck attachment, I'm planning on a bolt on neck so I need to drill a hole or two. Then some final internal sanding. Oh yeah, I suppose I should sign the inside or even make up a label... first I need a "name"... any ideas? I'll probably just go the way of C.F.Martin rather than think up something "cute."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

7/14 recap and potential next meeting

We ended up with 6 of us strumming up near the waterfall at Como last night. It was a gorgeous evening weatherwise, perfect for playing outdoors. We had several onlookers stop and comment which is always fun.

Everyone seemed to agree that we need advance notice of music and they agreed to submit links to stuff they're working on... infact, how about just adding your link to music for next time in a comment here. Maybe a week before we meet I can put them all in an email as a reminder.

With the Windy City Uke fest on Aug 1-3 and my work schedule I think I'm going to plan our next meeting for Monday Aug 18th. Comments?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

a couple more build pics

1st, Come StrumMn Monday 7/14, 7-9 @ Como.

Now, pictures!
Here I'm gluing in the "mandolin" kerfing I bought from Stew-Mac. Nothing too tough here.
I had a little glue squeeze out which I wish I'd cleaned up right away, the stuff is rock hard now so will take a little more work. At the time it was soft I didn't want to mess with it because I was worried about moving things. I guess you get a choice and deal with it either way.

Here it is after the glue is dry. It's sitting on one of my radius dishes to which I've glued down sandpaper. I'm already done sanding it to the radius at this point. I need to get my top and back ready next.
I'm a little afraid of ruining my top by doing a rosette since I've never done any inlay and it seems a little like a "black art" to me. I'd also bought a 1/8" downcut router bit from Stew-Mac to give this a try. Turns out my little router circle attachment only went down to 4" so it was back to the drawing board. I built a new base for it and put several registration holes at different diameters. I only had to re-do one of the holes. Here is my second practice attempt, a 2" hole, then 1/8" from that I have a 1/8" ring. This is all in 1/8" mahogany, nothing glued. I've got another mahogany ring ready to go when I get up the guts to route my actual top, probably tomorrow. I also have braces just about ready to go in so they'll probably get glued up tomorrow too. By Monday I should be ready to start carving the braces back.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

build progress

1st, don't forget to come play uke with StrumMn on Monday 7/14, see the blog below for info.

Now! I carved my uke neck tonight! I should have taken pics right after the glue up but I didn't. I had already glued the headplate on (I bookmatched scrap cut off of my sides and I'm using it for both the headplate and the fretboard.) I slotted the fretboard a couple nights ago, it went SO much smoother and faster than last time and looks good.

On my blue uke-stick I used a zero fret, this time I'm going without and will need to learn how to setup the nut. I don't know how this "Sheoak" will hold up as a fretboard but since it's my first real uke build I'm guessing it won't matter much. I may not bind this one either... we'll see. Probably no soundhole ring either, inlay still scares me and I'll need to practice a bit.

I also finished a second radius dish over the weekend. Now I have 25' and 12' complete with patterns and material to do 15' and 8' dishes when I get bored. :-)

My order from Stew-Mac came today with brace wood and kerfing so it's time to put those radius dishes to work and see about closing up the body. I wonder if I can get it done before the Windy City Uke Fest... I'm not going to rush.

Now for pictures!

Here it is, I used the exact same pattern as I used on my blue uke-stick. The center line is just pencil used for layout purposes.

The sanding isn't complete yet. I used micro-plane rasps and 100 grit sandpaper so far.
Here I just set things in place to get a sneak preview, I can't wait to finish it up!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

StrumMn @ Como... Monday 7/14, 7-9pm

The title says it all, we'll try to meet next on Monday 7/14 near the pavillion from 7-9pm. We'll be outside if it's nice and inside the Black Bear Crossings Cafe if the weather doesn't cooperate.
Hope to see a few of you there!