Learning Ukulele 50 Sites Top 50 Ukulele Sites Argapa Ukuleles - one size louder

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bridge blank

I’ve made more piccolos than I’ve made any other size ukulele, and most bridges for those have come out of three bridge blanks. One of the blanks might still be kicking around somewhere but searching for it would take me longer than making a new one.

In the first pic you can see the length of cherry I chose, as well as the newly fretted piccolo. I forgot to take pics of pressing the frets in but there are posts on here covering that. I know there are a couple covering making bridge blanks, so please consider me a man of consistency rather than a predictable wind bag. 

To get an idea of the height needed for the bridge I measure thusly; a 3.5 mm drill bit at the 12th fret and the secondary ruler roughly at the string length. Which is the scale length (280 mm) plus compensation (~2 mm). I will make the bridge blank around 9 or 10 mm high and take each bridge down from there.

I score a line with a marking knife and run a chisel lengthwise on one side to get a starting groove for a rabbet plane. It takes very little to steer the plane if it’s set right.

Are my planes set right then? Not all of the time, no. But 95% of the time, yeah! This wonderful old Swedish plane called out to me at a fleamarket. Cheap and in good nick it was a bargain. Aggressive but very precise it rough shapes the blank in no time. It was a task I wanted to last longer, the sound of the plane biting into the wood was special.

As the bridge blank got lower it was harder to keep clamped in the vise, so I took a moment to make two shallow rabbets in the wooden jaws. This will help me loads when I’m working on other small parts.

I did this yesterday. Today I spent in Copenhagen, showing the plans for the new Swedish embassy to the ambassador and the staff. It was fun and all but I really wanted to come back home to continue working on this. Now it’s too late at night so I had to settle for making this entry. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bracing work

The cavaquinho will have steel strings, and I know this will means a higher tension. So I made the braces a bit larger than I would on a concert ukulele. 

They are made from quarter sawn spruce and the two outer ones I made lower and wider than the one in the centre. First pic shows how I rough shape them before glueing, but with the solera now free to move around (before the workshop overhaul it was mounted on a wall) I chose to save most of the shaping til after glueing. 

And my new go bars. The grey ones are fibre glass tubes from a collapsable wardrobe, sliced in half. The black ones are from a tent I found in the trash. Both kinds are stronger and more consistent than the wooden ones I used before. 

With chisels and a variety of tiny planes I shape the braces and bars. Tap tone shows promise. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Prepping for fretting

My piccolos don’t have a separate fretboard, as I’m sure some of you know already. This means the neck is set with an angle to get the strings clear of the soundboard and bridge. It also means I saw the fret slots after attaching the neck, since it might get shorter at the heel end as I’m making sure the surfaces match. 

This is the jig I’m most proud of. It’s held in place by the styrene rods that will become the fret markers. 

The first slot is where the nut will sit, it won’t be a slot for long. 

Paring down the fret marker rods. The neck has a lovely grain, it popped under the wash coat of shellac I put on before sawing. 

To properly seat the fretwire I relieve the edges of the slots with a triangular file. A couple of passes is enough. You can see the difference in the pic, slots to the left are done. 

Then I turn that first slot into a stepped ledge for the nut. The nut is held by the strings and a dab of glue. As always, my chisel is super sharp. Look at the cross grain shavings. 

Almost done. Here I come in from the other side to finish it off. The surface is crisp and shiny, no sanding is required. 

I really don’t mind abrasive tools for stock removal (as in a drum sander) or sometines rough shaping (as with the rasp on that neck blank), but for final surfaces an edge tool will always win. Here I’m chamfering the fretboard edges with a miniature plane.