Tuesday, December 29, 2009

StrumMn meeting

Sunday Jan 3rd, 2-5pm, Java J's
Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Next StrumMn meeting

Monday Dec 21st, 7-9pm at Java J's.
Probably heavy on the Xmas music but anything is fair game.
Hope to see you there!
Keep StrumMn!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Uke building delayed...

I had another project that was a long time a'coming.

I had built several finger jointed cedar boxes several years ago. My youngest daughter got the prototype and the others were auctioned to benefit the Lupus Foundation through my oldest daughters sorority in college.

My oldest has been kiddingly asking where HER box was, and she wanted it to be octogon instead of just rectangular like the rest.

Well, I went nuts; I built a jig, bought some aromatic cedar, bought some new saw blades so I could get a deep enough dado and went to town.

I didn't get any "in progress" pics but here is the finished product with an oil finish on the outside (raw on the inside to get the full cedar effect) and some woodburning on the lid (the design is stolen from the Brighton store at the MOA, they did it in mosaic tile in the store entrance).

Back to uke finishing next.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Email from Paul in Samoa !

Hi Brian,

Sorry it’s been such a long time. Life has been busy. How are you? How are things in the States?

I don’t know where to start it’s been so long and so much has happened. I’m not sure if I have told you my situation? It’s been over a year now since I left. The first three months were very intense. I could talk about the training phase forever. Some very good times and so very challenging things happened in those three months.

After graduating from training I was placed in my post. I’m on Savaii (the big island) in a district named Satupaitea on a Methodist school compound. The compound is sandwiched between the village of Vaega and Satufia if you want to look it up. The island is very beautiful and very peaceful. My position is a college (high school) teacher. The subjects are automotive mechanics, social studies, geography and English. The main reason I was brought here for was to teach automotive, but as in everything Samoa you need to be flexible that’s how I acquired the other classes.

The kids are great. Far different from the youth of America, not all the kids are great, of course there are a few bed ones here or there. The structure of the school day is much different than at home. Time isn’t valued that much here and not looked at equally. The other big difference is the priority of education. I would say it’s around forth or fifth. With that being said the education of the average Samoan student is very low. Not only is it low, but the worst part is that they don’t really have the ability to critically think.

Life moves pretty slow, not much big things happen, with the exception of the recent tsunami and earthquake activity that has been happening ever since. My internet availability is pretty poor. My island has one computer with dial up internet that does not work all the time. As of today we have a new office computer that we have been waiting computer less for 2 months now.

The travel situation is pretty rough. I have a bike that I use often, but it’s usually to hot. There are buses that run in the morning and afternoon, but they are often unreliable. Especially my bus! I have to take a boat to get to the other island. All together it takes about 5 hours to travel from my village to Apia. The good thing about it is that it keeps me in my village. Apia is nice to go to every once in a while, but I’m glad I don’t live there.

The language is great. I had a very tough time at first. Then one day it just clicked and I started understanding it. I tested at intermediate-high at the end of training and my language skills have improved a lot since then. Learning a second language is great. I took Spanish in high school but I was never at the level I’m at with Samoan. The bad part is when I go back there won’t be many opportunities to use it. That’s ok though. My language ability is one of the things that I’m proudest about in my life. The down side is that my English has suffered but I can get that back pretty quick.

In my free time, which I don’t have much of is usually spent with friends, or fishing oh and of course my guitar. I had a uke, but my students broke it. Surprisingly it is very hard to find a uke here. If you do find one it is usually ridiculously cheap, poor quality Chinese product.

I will be going back to the States in Dec./Jan. for a few weeks. If you want to schedule a StruMN get together somewhere in there I would love to go. If it doesn’t work out don’t worry about it. I’m very flexible with the dates and times if that helps. My ukulele skills have weakened but my guitar skills have increased a lot. Either way I should be able to hold my own. It would be nice to dust off that nice Ohana that I picked up at the Uke Fest last year. Tell everyone I say hi!

I better get going now. Thanks for sending me the email. I really appreciate it. Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. Communication should be a little easier now with the new computer in the Savaii office and you know the best email address to reach me at. Please get back to me when you get some free time.

Take care, Paul

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Neck attachment time.

To attach the neck I needed to drill parallel to the body, NOT perpendicular to the top surface of the neck. To do this I clamped the neck to this jig, doing t this way allowed me to line up the brad point bit right in the center of the maple strip of my neck.

The bit tracked straight! I was a bit worried about this since I was just using the spring clamps.
I also wrapped the neck with a bit of rubber carpet backing to both protect it and help keep it from shifting.

Here it is all bolted on (temporarily).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

half hour cabinet scraper workout

It was still warm and muggy outside but I sat in the yard and worked up a sweat tonight.
I thought the sides were looking pretty tough but a half hour with the cabinet scraper followed by a minute or two with some 100 grit and I'm a happy guy! I'll still need to work through some finer grits but this is very encouraging. I love how it looks and the tap tone is good. The top and sides are under 0.070" and I tried hard not to over brace it. I'm going for a lightweight, good sounding uke... in other words I'm trying VERY hard NOT to over build it. Just had to share!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

top binding in place

Here it is with the binding taped on and already glued. I tape the binding on first, using a hair dryer to heat the binding and help it bend in the tight waist and upper bout curves. After it was taped on I applied the CA super glue in the gaps, the glue wicked under the binding... and unfortunately under the tape too. But that was why I'd applied the Shellac yesterday! After applying the glue I also added additional tape and pressure using tools on hand until the glue set.

After the glue was dry I removed the tape and here you see the mess of adhesive soaked super glue. A pain in the butt to clean up, but do-able.

Almost all cleaned up and looking good! I think normal sanding will take care of it from here.

Now that both top and back binding is in place I still need to clean up the sides which is a little tougher but hopefully not too bad. There isn't as much glue or adhesive but I'll also be sanding/scraping the wide surface of the binding which may be touchy, we'll see!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

StrumMn meetup at Java J's

Don't forgat that we're meeting up at Java J's on Monday Sept 14th. Visit StrumMn.Nexo.com for details.


I want to try my hand at putting binding on this uke. To do this I built a new jig/tool last weekend. I had to do some ugly welding (I'm out of practice) and mount this angled piece to a heavy duty drawer slide (from Axman's). The router is then kept verticle and I can keep both hands on the uke body. I tried it out last night and it worked pretty well.

Here you can see a wood guide I added to the bottom. This is necessary because of the radiused top and back, otherwise the router bit wouldn't keep the right distance from the top. You can see I added my routing directions so I would do things right.

I also decided to try my hand at inlay for the headstock. This is my first ever attempt. Here are my initials (minus the verticle on the left side), I'm leaving that off to be "artsy."

Here the binding channels are complete. I decided against purfling this time, maybe on the next one.

In this shot I've already started removing the tape. I first tried some special glue made just for plastic binding but the work time is so quick that I started to make a mess of it and had to remove it, clean up the channels and start over. I stopped to research things some more and ended up using CA glue instead (super glue). It left a real mess to clean up as it wicked under the tape and across the back.

Here is the back, all bound, and mostly cleaned up. I won't clean up the sides until I finish binding the front.

The back was such a mess that I'm afraid the CA will really wick into the Western Red Cedar top. I stopped and went to the store and bought some shellac. I'm hoping this will seal the grain a bit so the glue won't wick in but still allow it to adhere well. Then I'll sand the shellac completely off after the binding is on. This also gives a little preview of how the top will look with some finish on it... I like it!

I love the look of tortoise binding but I'm getting the idea that plastic binding in general can be a pain in the butt! With wood binding I could just use Titebond and work it like normal. We'll see if the extra effort is worth it when it's complete.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Well, I got the top braces glued in and carved to shape with a chisel over the weekend. I've done a bit more shaping since this and got the ends tapered right down flush with the top. A little more sanding is in order still but you can't see glue marks anymore and it looks really "nice!"

I also decided to try to put a "zipper" in the back, even after the body was mostly together. I built a jig that would flex with the curve of the back and routed a slot for the inlay. Of course it wasn't quite wide enough so I had to use scrapers and a chisel to carefully widen the channel a hair. But it's now glued in and looks good. This will also force me to try binding the body which I wanted to do anyway but again, it's once of those operations I've never done (like the zipper), which is fraught with possibilities for really messing the whole thing up. But first I need to get the top glued on... I'm getting closer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

a mock up

The rosette went "ok...", they just never seem to turn out "right on" and always need some tweaking.

I still need to sand a little more as some of the super glue is visible where it soaked into the wood.

When I got done I just set the top on the body and set the neck up next to it, the neck stripe will only be visible from the back once the fingerboard and headstock veneer is in place.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


They're scary! No room for mistakes. I cut the ring to inset for my tenor tonight. I used Sheoak since I'd used it for the tail graft already and I think it'll look great against the western red cedar top.

It took 2 tries after I miscalculated on the first one... maybe I can use it for a soprano down the road.

I still need to cut the groove in the top to fit it in and the ring is also WAY too thick still. I'll have to sand it down some, maybe before gluing it to the top (I'll use double stick tape to hold it down so it doesn't move and crack).

The top is only about 0.070" so routing halfway through is "interesting". It's hot and sticky in my garage now and the mosqitos are coming out... I'm going to wait until tomorrow so I don't rush it and make a mistake. I'll also cut a groove in a test board first to make sure it's RIGHT before cutting my top.
I'll also cut the soundhole while I'm at it... I suppose I should cut the soundhole reinforcement plate while I'm at it too... so much to remember...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Build pics

Ok, here are some build pics as promised. I've been working on these over the last month or so.
This first picture is the plans I made for my tenor. I used basic measurements but made the curves to my taste using visio. When printed to scale it used 4 sheets of paper.

Here is my wood for the tenor. It's curly cherry and western red cedar.

Here is the wood I picked for the soprano. It's satinwood and old growth redwood.

Here I've glued up mdf for the tenor mold and getting it cut out.

Here is the next step, building the side bending mold for the tenor using the inside bits of the mold.

Here I'm gluing in the braces. I've got it sitting in my 8ft radius dish to put a nice curve on the back.

Here is the neck glued up from spanish cedar, ready for some carving.

I also bent the sides for the soprano and scarfed/glued up a few neck blanks while I was at it. Ok, so I made a mistake on once of them and needed to do another tenor size... but the mistake can be used for another soprano or concert.

Here is the tenor back and sides all glued up, just waiting for a top and neck.

And it's tough to tell in this shot but the side of the neck closest is pretty well rough shaped here.

I just keep poking away it when I get the chance, I hope I can finish it before Milwaukee at the end of September!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Aug meeting

Don't forget the meeting at Como on Monday night Aug 10th, 7-9pm.

See the nexo site for info on the pool party at Sue's on Sat Aug 15th.

Sharp tools make for easy woodworking... but can be tough on fretting fingers!
Nothing serious but took a nick out of my left index finger tonight with a sharp chisel. We'll see if it affects my playing.

And I ended up getting some spanish cedar for my uke necks... I wonder how I can tell if it's really "spanish" cedar vs some other variety? I may have to do some research on that one.

Friday, July 03, 2009

2 items

1) Anyone want to meet at como monday evening the 13th?

2) I've got 2 new ukes under construction, pictures to come later.

Soprano; Satinwood back/sides, Old Growth Redwood top, undecided neck (mahogany or spanish cedar? I have mahogany on hand, but...)

Tenor; Curly Cherry body, Western Red Cedar top, same neck dilemma on this one.

Tops and backs have been bookmatched, jointed, glued, and thickness sanded. Still need to build the mold for the tenor but the pattern is ready to go and I have mdf on hand for it.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

June StrumMn meeting

Let's meet on Sunday June 7th, 2-5pm.

We'll meet at the Como Pavillion but we'll plan to stay outside.
Hopefully it will be nice enough to meet at a picnic table near the waterfall, otherwise we'll find space under the Pavillion roof on the lake side.



Two projects in the works. I've got another harp frame in clamps now being glued up, the top and bottom have been jointed and thickness sanded.

Then there is this Airline ukulele. It belongs to a co-worker and needs some TLC. The top and back have some seam separation and will get reglued but it was also missing the saddle/bridge. I've built one from scratch and glued it on, here are some pictures.

First I scraped off the old glue.

Here is the new bridge.

Here it's just sitting in place.

Taped off and ready to glue.

In the clamp.

The clamp is off now and I added some Danish oil finish before removing the tape.
Now I need to glue the body separation.
You may have noticed the fretboard, we're not going to mess with it for now.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

M-day project - and then back to uke stuff

Pounding in the tuning pegs an then stringing it up.
Metal strings tune a lot easier than those nylon uke strings!
But 22 of them?!?!

Delivered to my mom on mothers day. It's a hit!

A close up.

Ignore the hiccups in this sound sample...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Pics of the Mothers day project

Here is what I'm building. The top is mahogany, the back is some kind of ply with a cherry back. The sides are solid cherry. I've traced everything so I have patterns to build another one.
The place I bought it from is ok with this kind of thing and even sold me the second set of hardware. They sell plans for many of their instruments but this is new for them and plans aren't available yet. They sell plans/kits/complete - harps/guitars/banjos/dulcimers etc.

Here I'm gluing up the frame. It's just 4 pieces and the plans say to just tape the joints but I added the one clamp too. The joints were pretty good but I did sweeten up a couple of them.

I glued/clamped the top/back by simply placing a board on top of it and piling weight on it.
About 150 pounds to get the joints tight. I hate using a bunch of clamps, it's so much harder to keep things lined up.

Here it is with the edges trimmed. I then used a lot of elbow grease and some 40 grit to clean up the edges, followed by 100/150/220/400 grit.

Here it is hung up after the edges have been rounded over by router and sanding block. It also has a couple applications of danish oil.

It has to dry for 3 days and then I'll do 3 coats of wipe-on poly. After that I can install hardware and strings. Hopefully it will be complete by the weekend!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Woodworking season

Well it's finally warm enough to work out in the garage so I'm starting to pull out my tools.
I hope to build a couple ukes this summer with the goal to be complete before the Milwaukee Uke Fest in September. Okay, it's a long way off but I've got a busy summer ahead with a graduation party to prepare for, etc.

I'm planning to build another soprano with the forms I have on hand. I also have plans drawn up for a tenor so if I can build a new side bender form then that will be in the mix too.

I bought plans for a Regal style tenor guitar last year too, so if I have time and feel real ambitious then who knows what may come out of my garage.

As a starter I'm working on something a bit different as a mothers day gift for my mom. It's called a Reverie Harp and I'm building from a kit supplied by Musicmakers Kits in Stillwater, Mn.
The kit is built and I'm working on the finish now, I'll have build pictures up soon. It only took 2 days and would be an easy one for just about anybody.

I also bought a second set of hardware and plan to built a second harp for myself completely from scratch. The mahogany has already been resawn and glued up in a bookmatch for the top/back. Need to thickness sand and built up the side pieces. More when I get going on that.

Off to a StrumMn meeting now!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March meeting update and next meeting.

Nice turnout today with 13 people playing uke down at Como.

Let's plan on Sunday May 3rd for the next meeting. Como, 2-5pm.
Visit http://StrumMn.nexo.com for updates or to leave music info for everyone to try.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March StrumMn meeting

Everyone has been asking, so...
Sunday 3/29/09, 2-5pm, Como Park Pavillion

See you there!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Twin Cities Ukulele Orchestra anyone?

Bill, who has attended several StrumMn meetings, contacted me about this idea which he is trying to get off the ground. Here is a link to his craigslist posting if you want more info or to contact him about it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Feb meeting - 2/15/09

The next StrumMn meeting will be February 15th, 2-5pm at the Como Pavillion.

I'll followup with music choices if I hear from anyone.

Check out the forum on http://strummn.nexo.com for any music discussion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Check this out...

Rachel has setup another tool for StrumMn to use. I've had a quick look and uploaded a few things but want all of you to check it out and let me know what you think.

It's at http://strummn.nexo.com/ and has a forum where we can all discuss anything uke or StrumMn related. It also allows anyone to upload music or pictures.

We'll "see" you all there!

P.S. This blog will not go away and I'll still send email before each meeting.
There is also a test facebook group for "StrumMn ukulele players" if anyone wants to check that out as well.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Great turnout today, best we've had in quite a while. The ukes were so loud we couldn't hear ourselves singing... which might be a good thing... ;-)

A February date will be announced soon, stay tuned.