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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Close to finish

Did I use that pun before? Well. Nothing much happens in the pun department at Argapa Ukuleles.

I have picked out rosewood for the bridge but am considering putting the finish on first, like proper builders who know what they're doing. My excuses for putting it on before the finish have so far been that I hate acraping away the finish (for fear that I might bodge things up), and that makers of classical guitars are said to doing so.

And this one just became an orphan. So I have to check the order book to see if it matches the requirements of anyone else...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Strange going-ons

In the humble abode of the Argapanator, things are set in motion. I have this old guitar that a friend gave to me, with split braces and a bowed neck. No truss rod.

So I googled "straightening guitar neck" and found this method. The neck is heated carefully and placed fretboard down on a perfectly flat heated surface.

I used a stone sample and a thick piece of duralaluminium (at least in Swedish). Both was heated in the oven to 85-90 degrees centigrade. I shimmed the neck at the nut end and at the 12th fret, then clamped it down using cauls of moldable plastic.

After two attempts, it looks as if it worked! I might try it on another guitar as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cherry uke for Jon, progress

I decided that I wanted to try a carbon fibre rod in the neck, even though the lamination makes it strong enough. But then I wondered how I would drill for the barrel bolt if the carbon rod was there. So I used two instead and the bolt goes between them.

The neck is attached and the fretboard is planed. Maybe things will be moving along fast. Or maybe the day job will almost kill me with all the stuff I need to do before christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Safety measures

I don't use too many safety precautions, and since I avoid routers and rotary sanders I have all fingers left in decent condition.

But this, what a difference it made. The leather strip I glued on my depth stop for cutting the pegs helps me; before I put it there the saw always flew into my left hand at the last cut. And these saws are so sharp!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mock lute / ukulute done

So the Argapa #55 turned out to be a strange beast. Half uke, half lute and it sounds just like an Argapa uke.

It has all the characteristics of a prototype, I "solved" problems as they came. But it's probably going to stay as a one off.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cherry soprano facing deportation

It hasn't done anything wrong yet, but it's gonna be sent to Australia none the less.

Working with cherry is so rewarding that I sometimes wonder why I even bother with other woods. And the soprano size - well it doesn't get any better or more ukey than that.

Top and back are bookmatched and I chose to laminate a neck blank with a pin stripe of contrasting woods.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Update from the workshöp

Building is very fun right now. A massive effort last weekend has left the workshop tidy and well organized. The kids have spent the day sewing small plush toy figures, and I have serviced Robert's piccolo (Argapa #14), continued finishing the mock lute, slotted the neck on Mary Agnes's piccolo. And I've bent the sides for a new cherry soprano.

Order list is still a mess. If you think you have made an order and your uke doesn't show up in the blog, let me know. I will apologize (and tell you the dog ate your uke).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Back glued on the uke for Mary Agnes

(See how I cleverly avoided all the apostrophes in Agnes's's?)

Some of these go-bars sprung free after two hours, fell rattling to the floor and ruined a recording we were doing.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Binding on the mock lute, and MAK's piccolo

I made binding rabbets without any use of power tools, and they turned out good! But it wouldn't have worked on a figure eight shape, I used my miniature shoulder plane a lot. My home made gramil isn't perfect yet. But this one is gonna be good looking.

And Mary Agnes's piccolo, maybe I can fit the back braces tomorrow morning before I go back to Palestine for a few days.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Progress, and finish

First pic shows the neck joint on Mary Agnes's uke, I managed to carve an excellent neck and get a perfect neck joint.

Second pic is the polished back on Jörgen's uke. Now I'm gonna string it up.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Piccolo for Mary Agnes

Mary Agnes is a force of good. And she wants one of my piccolos. It is well underway, I'll carve the neck tonight and then it's really not that much left.

Monday, October 22, 2012

French polishing halfway through

Yet another piccolo, almost done. This one is for a fellow uke player in Stockholm. I've gotten about four layers of shellac on and it's time to level sand a bit before the last coats.

Hardly seen behind it is top and sides for the next one.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

High resolution pictures of the reso, #52

Brian was kind enough to send me some good pictures, since I completely forgot to take any before I sent it. So here it is, in Arizona.

(Email me for Brian's address if you want to burgle his home and take it.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Various stuff

Oh what strange going-ons. I'll present them evilly backwards since I've listened to nothing but death metal today. So "first" we have the strange invention that was the Martin backpacker uke. (Yes, a portable ukulele. Now we wait for the pocket harmonica.)

Anyway, a friend had it, his kid stepped on it, and I got it. The mahogany soundboard was shattered so I took the remains off and put a spruce soundboard on. With a novelty soundhole. I have no idea what to do with this one after it's finished.

Next is a uke that wants to look like a lute. Because I have a friend who is a medieval jester. But hey, who hasn't? It'll be a one-off, but I think it's gonna be nice.

And then finally number 53, the un-ordered soprano that got ordered during building. I polished it and strung it up, and I must say it served its purpose. I wanted to build it for my own sake, with the intent of getting the joy back into building. And it's a bit quirky, the first soprano with a one piece rim, and some elaborate-ish carving efforts on the neck.

And it sounds GREAT. I am so glad I made it.

(Not to be seen is a couple of piccolos I'm working on. One of them is half done, the other a wee bit behind. I don't build them exactly parallell anymore, for reasons I've ranted about before.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bending touch up

I dug out a piccolo rim that I bent some time ago, but there was a spot on it where the curve was a bit uneven. It takes a while to heat the bending iron, so I tried this crude method - clamping the wood in the heating blanket and reworking the curve before the heat burned through the glove. It worked, but it hurt.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Carved neck

I'm very pleased with this neck. It's on the mahogany / cedar soprano I made without a commission but now it's sold. It's going to Luleå in the north of Sweden.

I made the heel with a sharp ridge, and tried an inverse volute at the headstock end. The mahogany wasn't very forgiving, I had to use a very sharp chisel in order to avoid any splintering.

In the pic it almost looks as the profile is V-shaped, but it's C-shaped as usual.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fretboard, preparation

These pics are a couple of days old, but I forgot to post them. The first one shows the slotted board with the small position markers I've come to like. They're made of the same 1.6 mm styrene rod I use for side markers.

The second pic shows how two of the rods protrude on the underside. I do like this: first I mark all the spots, then I drill right through the fretboard. Then I place it on the neck, and carefully check that everything lines up. I hold it in place and drill through the holes at third and tenth fret so I get corresponding holes in the neck.

The rod is glued in the holes, and cut off to make markers. And, of course, two of them are left protruding.

This is the second time I do this, fretting is a wee bit more complicated due to the rods, but glueing the finished board is a breeze. No more slipping around, and no miniscule brads in fret slots or something like that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Start to finish

The first base coat of shellac has been sploshed on the reso. It's quite messy and it soaks into the surface, raises the grain and makes the muneca stick.

But that's alright, it's always like that. I just knock the grain back with some 500 grit sanding pads and I know the following layers will be so much easier.

It does look half good already. Innit.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A giant leap forward on the reso

Well I made an effort and it sort of came together. But since it differs so much from my acoustic ukes, I did something I very rarely do. I put the parts on and strung it up before applying finish.

And a good thing that was - the coverplates I ended up buying was lower than the ones I paid for but never got. So the buckle above the bridge was too close to the bridge. Or saddle or whatevva.

I thought of scrapping it and then forget all about resos. But tried mounting the plate on small blocks, about 2 mm high. And now it works. It makes noise. And the secret inlay under the usb stick is fab.

So I need to invent a permanent fix, maybe blocks, maybe washers, maybe a solid ring.

And then finish it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Resawing rosewood, the ancient way

What do you do when you run out of fretboards, and you won't see your big bandsaw for a couple of weeks? Well I decided to try a method that I saw in an instructional vid on the web, where a few guys sliced wood for veneers with a handsaw.

I had a nice chunk of rosewood and started out by planing the sides so they were parallel and square to each other.

Then the most important step is to score a line around the whole block. I used my lovely marking gauge that I got from Steve Caldwell of Weazel wharf. Steve is known as ecosteel on some forums I frequent. I made several passes to get the line deep. If you try it, be very careful at first since it wants to wander along the grain, if the grain isn't totally straight. Mine was, but I pulled the gauge hard towards the side of the block anyway.

Then you saw from the corners, all four. And it's now that the scored line helps - the saw follows the line and is guided by it. I've tried similar cuts without scoring and that's very much harder. As you can see I used a Japanese pull saw. One of the edges is for ripping. It works but I really want a rip saw from Lee Valley. I haven't bought it yet because of a negative cash flow but I yearn for it.

Anyway, the cuts eventually meet and then it's just the diamond shaped bit in the middle to saw through. And the first fretboard from this piece turned out as good as it could get! Some sanding, or even scraping is all I need to do. Or I can feed it through the drum sander. Yup, that sounds like the right level of effort.

So. This went well but it took a long time. About 35 minutes and I won't need to do any push ups tomorrow. And my excuses for not finishing Brain's resonator are almost spent. Darn.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Juniper log

We salvaged a really really big piece of juniper today. We saw it earlier this year, it had fallen down when nearby trees were cut. I have never seen a trunk of this diameter. I'll try to make some very aromatic ukes of it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back glued on cedar soprano

In the first pic, the back braces are fitted between the sides. This is my way of doing things, most builders glue the braces to the back before it goes on.

In the second pic the back is under pressure. (It's a lot easier to glue a one piece back without a pesky centerline to keep from sliding away.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Resonator, making the hole and fitting the coverplate

I made a giant version of the cheapo compass cutter to make the hole for the soundwell. After carving a bit it was ok.

Then I tried to align the coverplate to get the screw holes right, but that was impossible. So I made a perspex template from the coverplate with a circle of the exact size and all the holes. With this lying on top of the body I can make all the holes at the right distance from the well.

Margins are a bit small. I'm considering a way to strengthen the holes. Since you have to remove the whole plate to get to the biscuit and bridge, these screws will go in and out a bit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mock-up fitting

The cherry reso is moving forward, I'm really pleased with the neck.

The cedar top soprano is bound. I won't say the binding is everything I hoped it would be. But other than that I think it has great potential.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A tough neck to carve

I found a neck blank I made some time ago and I'll use it for the soprano. It's a bookmatched mahogany neck with some really good looking grain in the headstock.

But it was really hard to carve. I usually go directly from knives to 180 grit sandpaper, but this wood wanted to splinter and tear so I had to make the final shaping starting with 40 grit. That's as coarse as asphalt.

But, as so often the case is with ukuleles, it turned out nice again.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Episode IV, a new hope

Well. Some things at the Argapa stronghold have been a tiny bit below par this year. I have built a couple of ukes that I wasn't completely satisfied with. Both are still here.

Others have turned out really really good. But I need to think about my routines.

So for the upcoming season I promise myself not to build when I'm not in a good mood. I'll not build for others than I want to. I'll make sure to finish stuff I've started ages ago.

This week I upgraded the workshop / workbench by mounting the solera on the wall, and the go-bar deck is stabilized by hooks that the threaded rods go through when they're attached to the board. It made a big difference.

The solera-free workbench is also secured to the two walls in its corner, so it won't rock when I plane stuff.

And on to the pics then - on the solera is the first soprano with a one-piece rim, it'll be a cedar top mahogany uke with binding around the soundboard. (I tell you about it so I can't chicken out of binding it.) The uke is the first in a long time that isn't ordered, I just felt like building a soprano with a softwood top.

If it's any good I'll put it up for sale. (If the binding's good that is...)

And in the other pic, you can see a resonator! I got cones and coverplates from Chickenbone John in England. The first one I finish will go to Arizona, Brian has helped me out for years now.

But the coverplates have those holes for the strings, I'll probably make a stringholder across them to save the nylon strings from snapping.

Stay tuned, I can promise all of you that some great ukes will be made now!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Knew tool!

I found a bloke in Sweden who sells Knew saws, and Veritas tools! I've bought stuff directly from Lee Valley / Veritas before and it's really no trouble at all, but it is simpler to see the sum in kronor, taxes included.

So I bought a Knew saw that I have wanted a long time. Took tjis pic to show what good results a 7-year old and a 10-year old achieved with just a little help.

Worth every krona. Thanks Knew Concepts, and www.hyvlar.se

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adjusting a one piece bridge

I chose a rosewood bridge / saddle on the miniatures. I had to go over them a couple of times to adjust the action. In the pic you can see my miniscule shoulder plane (and some excellent shavings).

It doesn't make them a lot more playable, but it did improve the intonation.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Soundhole cutter

Inspired by Ken Timms' marvellous creation, and a bloke with a blog called The Village Woodworker, I finally made a decent soundhole cutter. The blade is from an old Taylor chisel, with the stamped acorn. It's easy to choose radius, the piece in the middle with the pin slides, guided by the dowel going through the piece at the end.

It would work for rosettes as well, but I've never felt the urge to make one. Perhaps now with this tool I'll try.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Soundboard material, maybe

I got a strange looking bookmatched piece out of the board. What looks like beautiful curl is marks from the bandsaw.

I plan to try a fairly thick top with light ladder bracing. There is tone in there and I'm gonna get it out.

Attempt at reclaiming

This used to be a boat. Built in 1899, it's on the last lap now. Just for fun I have salvaged a board from it. Maybe I can use it for... (drum roll) a ukulele!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


From left: numbers 51, 48, 50, 49 and 46. That means I have made 11 ukes so far this year, if you'd be willing to call the two toy thingies "ukes". But they do work! Scale length is 160 mm. Weight is 63 grams.

Now I'll take a break. I won't bring any project to the summer house, I've got enough to do there as it is. Of course, there's all that alder and cherry to resaw. And the reclaimed spruce log.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weird pics or weird ukes

Gee, perspective can really play tricks. Those ukes in the back look really small compared to the piccolo in front!

And the other pics, look at the size of that watch. Hilarious. If they were as small as they seem, what good would they do? Well one might be on offer in Hollesley, I hear there are all sorts of gullible people attending this year.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hollesley piccolos

Well I think it's safe now to say that two piccolos will come with us to Hollesley. Maybe I can make a third one if I can create some flow. But, at least the two in the pic.

New caul for glueing the back

Just a short post to show the thin mdf caul I made to distribute the pressure from the go-bars. It turned out a lot better than the other methods I've tried, with smaller patches under each bar.