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Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's sanding weekend, innit?!

Oh how I HATE my thickness sander. Does a terrible job at the moment. I'm going back to hand planes and scrapers.

Thickness sander - if you read this: you have one week to change that crappy attitude, or you're going back to being a lathe. I mean it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wanted: a diagnosis...

There might be something seriously wrong with me. I keep starting new projects when I really should finish some of the ones that are under way already. Like the three piccolos on the bench. Like Robin's soundboard. Or any of the ukuleles on the order list.

But what do I do? I renovate an old plane and start jointing and bookmatching some koa sets I got this summer. And who will get the three koa ukes I'll build? Me, Mange and Robin of course...

No sanding this weekend. Got stuck in Tbilisi because of fog over the airport. But on Saturday, I promise.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Robin's new soundboard

Halves are jointed and glued. This setup with string and wedges is really effective and, better still, easily stored. This is important when you're building at home, but I have seen really nice board and clamp systems. Maybe I'll build one of those some day.

Thickness sanding this weekend. It makes too much noise to do in the evenings. And I need to empty the dust collector.

Maybe I could make Robin do that for me?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New tools

Santa came early, packing concealed knives. I'm excited, and very grateful to Rob at Metropolitan Music. A very good webshop, check them out at www.metmusic.com

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Resurrection of number 8, pt 2.

I got busy with one of the sharpest knives, and after 20 minutes I had gotten rid of the cedar and the glue around the edges. Even the wood under the fretboard extension was easily removed.

And we found some very nice cedar for the new soundboard. From Rob C, even.

Resurrection of number 8, pt 1.

So tonight Robin came by with the broken soprano. I told him I'd take it in, but I wouldn't open the case. I didn't think I could stand looking at it.

Bad news: it was a lot more broken than I would imagine possible.

Good news 1: it was just the top, sides and back were intact.

Good news 2: I handled the encounter better than I thought I would. Lump in throat but no tears.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mock up fitting

Just to show what happens with the three piccolos. Necks are almost shaped, time to... cut soundholes? I forget the order of things, another dangerous side effect of working too much at the office. And in Georgia. And in Israel. And in Finland. And...

First Argapa casualty

Poor Robin. Poor little cedar top Argapa. Damn you, ice covered slippery Swedish ground.

We'll attempt to fix it. But first the customary 40 days of sorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Aya's uke finally fixed

Aya's G-string soprano had two holes from strap buttons, one in the slender heel and one next to it where the screw missed the block and damaged the thin side. So I cut the hole clean and glued a small diamond shaped patch in it.

And I put the new strap button in the neck block. And now I'll tell Aya it's done, I've looked forward to that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Carving necks

Three piccolos means three necks. I really enjoy carving, especially since I got a good deal on a high quality sharpening and honing machine. My chisels are now crazy sharp, as well as my planes.

The one with the walnut stripe is most likely for Ian, the one with the blonde stripe will be offered to Andy in Switzerland.

The third might go far far away.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shipping tomorrow

I'll attempt to send two parcels, one half-ready fretboard to Norway and the Argapa piccolo number 23 will get an extremely good home on the desert planet Tatooine (known as Arizona).

My witty and accidentally comical buddy Brian D Newman (D is for dungarees) have made the epic mistake of selling some really nice ukes to make room for this tiny piece of ... wood.

Cheers Brain!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Piccolo progress

Fore- and background: laminating necks with center stripes. Two of these three will have them. Since I made Paolo's this way (by mistake), some people have demanded it. You know me - I'll be where the business is, making silly money!

On the bench you should be able to see the boxes. Tops are trimmed, but so far no soundholes. They're very different from each other...

Shoddy fret work

D'ya fink he'll notice..?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fret slot cutting jig

I'm not too happy with the saw. I should have bought the more expensive model. But the jig and the template is great.

Fretboard bound for Norway

A nice guy in Norway emailed me to ask about where to get fretboards. So I offered to make him one, I need to try my new concert length jig from Stewmac. Really nice rosewood on this.

And the third piccolo got the lining installed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Installing linings

I was going to put the reverse kerfed lining strip on the third one as well, but guess what... I'm out of miniature clamps and clothing pegs!

The soundboard side of my piccolos have solid linings to maximize the "free" area of the top, but I make my own miniscule kerfed strips for the back side. A bit faster to install, and maybe a stiffer joint. Which ought to be a good thing for the back / sides joint.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Good news, and piccolos

Fantastic day! I cleaned the workshop (actually found a place for the thickness sander), made and installed top side solid linings, made kerfed lining, picked neck blanks and am now glueing the first bridge patch. I even put a radius in the soundboard.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gah! More piccolos!

I started three more. The workshop is a mess. It is the mother of all messes. But it sort of works somehow.

The sides on these three (and some more to follow) are a little better than the previous ones. They are closer to being perfectly quarter sawn.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bridge for UU colab

I promised a long time ago that I would make some very small parts of the international Fun Build project, spawned by Vic on Ukulele Underground. Of course I forgot all about it. Almost. But the others have made a unique uke, and all of a sudden I was in a hurry. My name is already on the label!

So I made these, and I'll ship them tomorrow to Brad Donaldson in Seattle, who's assembling the uke.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The apprentice

I am not cloned, the instance to the right in the pic is really Lars. Lars will build a mezzosoprano of cherry under my stern and sometimes angry guidance.

This was the first actual building session, and the plates for top and back were joined.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recording made on an Argapa tenor

No picture this time, but a link to a swell recording! Alli of Ukulele Cosmos made it and I think it's great.

Friday, September 17, 2010


And my first scraping away of the finish is done! Hopefully the rest of the process is as simple, then the uke is sort of complete.

Cutting tape

Tape is removed from where the bridge goes.

Placing bridge

Hopfully the shellac won't be ruined by the masking tape.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

French polishing cont.

It's time consuming, but I'm getting closer. Look at that curl.

To learn about french polishing, check out milburnguitar.com. Or milburnguitars. They have an excellent tutorial, as I tried to tell them in an email. But the address was faulty.

Anyone knows how to contact them, tell me pls.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Polished and strung up

At least the two new piccolos are strung up. They have a good sheen from the shellac finish, but getting a good surface near the bridge is damn hard. So the pineapple is finished without bridge, and I'll have to scrape it away before glueing the bridge.

This is standard procedure for most builders, but it's a first for me.

The hinoki soundboard has revealed cross grain curl, and it's gonna be beautiful.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Not bad for a first attempt I think. The contrasting edge did reveal a slight irregularity in the shape though, one I didn't see before. But you can't get it all at once. At least it seems I can't.

Routing for binding..!

A spitcoat of shellac around the edges, and away we go. I've already made the part at the neck since I mount the neck before the back. I could put the back on (as I planned) before routing, but it feels stable enough. And I want to tune the top a bit before boxing up.

This might be the last you see of this uke. Routing is scary.


My son Johan made a sketch and had me bend the rim for him. Apparently it will have five strings, one of which should have rattly beads. I'm not sure if it's going to have frets, or a neck. But he's enjoying the build immensly.

Tuners might be fitted on the block at the "end".

Sunday, August 22, 2010

But what of the piccolos?

They're done, almost. A final coat of thin shellac for gloss and then nuts, tuners and strings.

One is for Jyotix, the other one... Erm, wasn't I supposed to check the order book?

And tomorrow I'm getting a better camera for this blog! Hopefully.

A pineapple for Michelle

Michelle in California found me on the internetz, and ordered a pineapple from me. She's been on the waiting list a while but this morning I started. I had walnut and some Hinoki for the top, and I ran it through the thickness sander at 10 o'clock. Then I bent the one piece rim and braced the soundboard. Blocks were glued and linings installed. Then I roughly carved the laminated neck and glued the top. I have now profiled the rim and take a break for putting Li to bed. Four hours effective building so far, and drying time for the glue. As you gather by now, I amaze myself.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More progress

Well I'm back at work, but things happen none the less. The two are ready for finishing, and I will use shellac I think.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Boxed up...

...and roughly sanded! These are going to be brilliant.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rapid progress, finally!

I've been waiting for a chance to report some speedy progress, and right now I am pretty impressed with myself.

I started these two ukuleles on monday, that is the day before yesterday. And I'm alone with the kids (they get fed, don't call the police).

They are very good so far, straight and clean in joints. Tomorrow the backs get glued on, then some heavy sanding in the forest behind my house.

One is destined for Holland, the other one... London? I need to check the order book.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two days, two piccolos

After Hollesley I have an even longer list of ordered piccolo ukuleles..!

Good thing I am faster than ever. But these are the last two of the old soundboard batch. I need to make more, and that means an intense weekend in the big workshop resawing and thickness sanding.

When am I gonna get time for that?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New soprano

It is said to be the best firewood in the world. This is swedish ash, I cut the tree down myself some 20 years ago.

This has been one of my fastest builds yet, but the neck was shaped about a year ago. It's the first with a domed soundboard, and I am pleased to say that it is a very clean build. Neck joint is perfect. Bookmatch and line up too.

I have about 72 hours to finish it, and by that I mean put a finish on. I'll decide upon method tomorrow, Danish oil is an option.

Soundhole shape is a secret so far.

Piccolos reunited

In Hollesley, where I had a grand time, some of my piccolos met Phil's original. That was what made me start building them!

Phil's uke is great. But mine stood the test of being played beside it!

(I was nervous as hell.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Builder in exile

I'm with my family in Småland. Absolutely lovely surroundings. But since I've got stuff to do, I'm here with an emergency kit of tools, oil and shellac to finish Paul's piccolo and Alli's tenor.

Here's the fret slot cutting jig that I'm so proud of, clamped to the piccolo. It does have great advantages to build outdoors; the light is many times better than in my workshop.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

First coat of shellac

Will it be ready for Hollesley? This is the question that haunts me; keeps me awake at night and stops me from functioning at the office.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rush hour

Crikey! What a mess. I am forcing my way forward to finish Alli's tenor before going to Hollesley, and one more piccolo might join it. I really should put tuners on Jukka's piccolo, and a nut. I'm in such a hurry I even bought pre-cut kerfed linings. But my extra soprano for the Hollesley raffle, that won't be ready. But who'd wanna win a uke that was thrown together in a haste?

(Don't answer that, I know - maybe the same people buying thrown-together ukes from me...)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Some work done between festivities

Necks and fretboards for one soprano and some piccolos, roughed out on
the bandsaw. The fretboards are for sopranos of course. I have to work
super fast next week, too bad I have a terrible workload at the office
as well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Flaming ukulele hung to dry

I'm sorry. No posts in a month. I've had too much to do at the day job.

But some small things have been done. Jukka's piccolo has a few layers
of shellac, and I'm working on Alli's fretboard.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fretting tomorrow.

Or at least I'll cut the slots. This is so much fun!

Alder tenor, cherry piccolo

Alli's tenor has got sides glued and shaped for the domed back, the
neck is carved and bolted on, and solid linings are installed.

Jukka's little piccolo is my fastest build ever, the back is glued and
soon only fretting and bridge work remains.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Upgraded piccolo mould

Thanks to Pete Howlett, I have learnt how a mould should be. This one
is not finished yet, I'm gonna make a rebate where the roughly cut
soundboard fits. And I need better spacers to hold the sides firmly.

But I never had a better glueing experience than this! I need one of
these moulds for each size, obviously.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Good progress

This is an attempt to show you a lot in a single pic.

The alder tenor has gotten its' sides bent, blocks glued in place and
solid linings installed on the soundboard side. And I chose to build
it with a bolt-on neck since I think that gives me more control
aligning and fitting.

A new little piccolo is taking shape alongside the tenor, sides bent
and blocks and linings glued, neck almost completely carved.

But the best thing is I really upgraded my piccolo mould, I put
threaded inserts around it so I won't have to use string when glueing
the top and back. It looks almost half semi-professional I think. I am
so proud. I have to make one for my next tenor.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crack attacker

I had a look at my friend's Ohana which had gotten a crack in its'
spruce top. It was below the bridge and my longest tiny clamp could
just reach the little caul's closest end. So I made a hinged strut
with a long handle and attached it to the caul. Mending patch was
stuck to the caul by winding tape with the sticky side out around the
caul, and the clamp was superglued to it. After getting the clamp
fastened I could push the handle to raise the strut, making it push
the patch up against the top.

The mock-up in the pic is an attempt to show it, I don't have a uke
split on the bandsaw yet.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thickness sander mk II, cont.

Voilà! Pivoting table made from scrap and I'm almost done. Just the
drum and the dust collector to fabricate.

I could make several drums and use one for each grit.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thickness sander mk II

I bought a nice and cheap lathe with a good low noise motor with
variable speed. I am now in the process of converting it to a sturdy
thickness sander.

It has a 25 mm groove where a piece of wood will hold the bottom
plate, then the usual arrangement with a pivoting table and a dust

The drum will be wooden discs glued together, I just remembered my dad
had a lot of those lying around since making a bunch of holes once. He
saved them for my kids to play with, so it's almost the intended use.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


And here he is, keeping a straight face. Before the champagne was

Pineapple done

The shellac has dried and Markus is here to collect it!