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Friday, November 28, 2014

Inlays, the presumed hard way

Last night I found the fretboard for the koa soprano, and started thinking about inlays. I decided to put a shardvof broken mother of pearl at the seventh fret, and in preparation for routing the cavity I glued it on with a drop of ca glue. 

Then I scored around it with a Swiss marking knife, very pointy and sharp. Like my boots. 

Then off it popped, leaving the traced line around the contour. 

But it was too late to fire up the router. Still I wanted progress. So out came the small chisel. And I made the line deeper and started digging in. 

And after five minutes and without the increase in heart rate that my router inevitably gives me, the cavity was done. The piece fitted snugly. 

Add glue, a piece of plastic and press it down!

Then this morning I drilled for 2 mm pearl dots, again without using power tools. My miniature drill works just as fast. 

I'll still have use for my Proxxon drill, but mush less. If I didn't need it with its angle attachment when I mount piccolo necks I'd put it on ebay.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Resonator sides

Do you remember the post from just after summer, where I started all those ukes at once? Well things are moving along. The concert is done, the tenor an the piccolo need only a final rubbing and bits like nuts and tuners. The koa soprano is actually well under way and also spoken for. 

But what of those resos. It's a wee bit annoying; I have gotten so much praise for them and so many enquiries from people who saw or heard one. Yet I build them sort of reluctantly. Get me right, I love how they turn out and I'm awfully proud of them. The truth is they sound a lot better than most resos. But I depend heavily on the hardware that I have to import, and that's both expensive and cumbersome. 

And then it's my method of building them, an improvised way from the start but one I don't dare to stray from now. Building the skeletons take forever. 

But the worst task is bending a one piece rim to a snug fit around the skeleton! Drives me mad. I also make two piece bookmatched sides but today was one of each. 

First out was the one piece rim, of mahogany. I can't remember sanding this piece but today I found it was on the thick side of ideal. 

It took me two hours! Then I clamped it using no fewer than 666 clamps. 

Then I turned to the two pieces of ash for the other one. They bent easier than masking tape. Took me all of five minutes to bend both. I put brown paper tape at the joint and did a dry run, which you can see in the pic. 

Last pic is of the koa soprano, top and bottom cut flush to the sides, then the whoke assembly was sanded and scraped. I remember slotting the fretboard for this one. Hopefully I can find it. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Videos of number 75, and a few others

I sat down yesterday and made a demo of the recently finished koa concert, number 75.

And then later I grabbed a few more ukes and made this:

They might go in and out of tune but hopefully you can hear the differences, which were quite big at least in the sofa. My boy Johan was very excited and I might start using his newly fangled words next time I describe differences in sound!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The koa concert needs either the final "glaze coat", which so far has proven to be very difficult. Or a buffing with some polish compound. I might settle for the latter, that at least I know how to pull off. 

The walnut tenor and the mahogany piccolo (sod secrecy; here it is) are sealed, almost pore filled and ready for some more shellac. I could do another session of pore filling but have yet to decide exactly what I'm aiming at with these two. Semi-filled pores might be just right. 

Here's the concert. Rather cool figure. 

I gave the piccolo and the tenor a few more coats. It's starting to build up nicely. I'll let it shrink back a couple of days, then scrape it with a card scraper and start the french polishing work. Up until now I have avoided oil, but will use it from now on. I use walnut oil instead of olive oil, my experience is better with the aforementioned. If I understand it correctly, it dries together with the shellac and gives a tougher finish. Be that as it may, I don't have to wipe any excess off between coats. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Workshop glimpse, early November

Oops, we're in November already and October didn't see much action on this blog. Sorry about that, especially since I keep referring prospective buyers here. 

The explanation (which is not an excuse) is I've been abroad in work and then I spent a wonderful week's vacation at the summer house. But the project there is building a sauna at the moment. 

But things do tend to happen in the Argapa cave even if I don't publish enough. So tonight I'll show you some pics of the concert and of the bridge to the walnut tenor. 

The koa concert is on the home stretch. I've given it its wash and build coats of shellac and scraped it back. My new method of doing these coats cut a week from finishing, at least. 

Then some pics of that bridge. I showed you the one I made for the concert, this will have wings but I chose the same wood and the same tools. I considered ebony but that's so hard to plane and carve. And I thought this bridge would go nicely to the headplate veneer. 

The only machining I did was cutting the slanted saddle slot on my mini table saw, before and after that it was only edge tools. No sandpaper or even files. 

In this first pic you can see how I chisel away the end to make a wing. On the first end the grain direction was helping me, on the other end it was really tricky. 

Here you can see the wing after paring for a few minutes. 

The other end done, and a couple of facets. 

Two curves snuck into the design while nobody was watching. 

I love freehand carving. Never will I settle for a bridge design and crank out twenty at the time, it's so much more fun to let them grow into shape depending on the piece of wood and my mood. 

I think the walnut shows some promise, don't you?

(What I haven't shown is the custom piccolo. It's taking shape but it's gonna be a surprise for someone. Anyway it got its fretboard glued today.)