A couple of months ago I built a tenor for Laura, a teacher in Cicero Illinois. She sent me this marvelous photo of her recent class of new ukulele players. The camp was for two weeks, 3 hours a day. This was the last day, they had just played a concert for their parents. look how happy they are. Don't you love it?
Laura looks pretty happy too. She stands on the far right holding her new Griffin Kasha.
And there are more Kasha tenors in the works. Here is #126 which had just received its back and now is going to have all the edges trimmed in preparation for cutting the binding slots.
The blue tape is to make the trimmer stand a tiny bit proud of the edge to avoid hitting the side. The final bit of edge will be leveled with sand paper. The instrument is held firmly in this clamping device while the edges are trimmed.
The binding grooves have now been cut with a router, the bindings bent on the hot pipe, and now they are being glued on. Held in place with this special tape while the glue sets.
All the bindings are glued on. These clamps assure that the ends will be tight to the body top and bottom.
Heel caps to match the fret board have been cut and are now clamped as the glue sets. Ebony for Kent's #125 and Honduran Rosewood for the Sycamore.
The end pieces are also installed now. I guess it is time for the Fret boards.
I have cut the fret wire into the 21 pieces, now for the tedious job of installing each one with a thin line of glue on the tang.
Here are the tools needed. Glue, hammer, damp paper towel, dry paper towel, arbor press with a radiused insert, and some patience
This Tenor ukulele was built as an experiment. I wanted to try the Kasha bracing system in my "Pinecone" design with it's carved curved back and thin body profile. I also wanted to test the new Graph Tech Ratio Tuners that were new on the market. I have now played it for the past six weeks. Here are the results of the experiment.
This uke is a success! I find that it is extremely playable, perhaps it is the thin profile, or the radiused fretboard, or it's jaunty bright sound, but i find myself frequently choosing it over the other three ukuleles presently residing in my living room. Lots of power, a strong and rich voice, and I have become fond of it's Mod, rather offbeat appearance. I like it and will keep it rather than sell it.
The soundboard is made of a single piece of the wonderful old cedar that I have hoarded for more than 50 years. extremely tight grained wood with a bright ringing tap tone. The Kasha shaped bridge is Macassar Ebony as is the fret board. The saddle is Bison bone. The small sound hole is simply a design element having no known acoustic purpose.
I like side sound ports in my instruments but this narrow side seemed to call for three little ones rather than one large one. Besides I kind of liked the port hole like design element.
The entire Pinecone family feature curved concave backs carved from a 3/4 inch thick plank of fancy Big Leaf Maple. I am convinced it is what gives them their surprising power and excellent tone. Combined with flame maple sides it is also what gives them their beauty. Note the lathe turned maple strap button on the bottom and the strap button on the neck heel.
My grandson 'Evan Christie designed the peg head plate years ago. I have them cut by a laser machine and they are of course, the "Pinecone" hallmark.
This photo shows the slight 12 foot radius I sanded into the fret board. I am now a believer that it helps with playability. I plan on including the radius in all of my future instruments.
The all plastic Graph Tech tuners have proven to work very well. They deliver a six to one turning ratio, hold their position and keep the instrument in tune very well. They turn smoothly and seem strong and durable. They are extremely reasonable in price, perhaps the least expensive tuners one could buy. Their appearance is not high end, but they will surely earn a place in the ukulele market.
Another view of the Graph tech "Ratio" tuners.
I even overcame my long held reluctance to put strap buttons on the heel of a neck. I find the strap attached here does support the instrument better and perhaps leaves the fretting hand freer to fret. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks.
So the final result is, "Holey Moley" is a success. The Kasha bracing works on the pinecones. I like it a lot and have already received interest from local players interested in buying one. Holey Moley may have a future.
At last the French polish is done and it is time to string these Concert Pinecones up. The first task is affixing the bridge.
The bridge is carefully located and tape is placed around it to mark the place. With the razor blade, the finish is scraped off, and the bridge is ready to glue on.
these home made clamps work great while the glue sets.
By late that afternoon the glue has set, the string holes have been measured and drilled and the strings and tuners installed. Now for that great moment of tuning them up and seeing whether all that work was worth it. I always like to mix a Martini with a twist when approaching this moment.
'The Ukuleles are strung up, the Martini has been drunk and I am very happy to report that both of them have excellent tone and playability. Maybe I should mix another Martini in celebration.
Made some good progress today. The tentlones are all attached and on to the fretboards.
First lets sand in the radius, the convex curve that will make the ukulele more playable. that is done with this curved sanding block and stick on sandpaper.
Not much of a radius curve, but it seems to help.
The pencil marks a across the fingerboard indicate your sanding progress. When they disappear the job is completed. Takes only about fifteen minutes of sanding the ebony and Kent's fingerboard is done. He does not want marker dots on top, only on the sides.
The Sycamore will get this wavy Honduran Rosewood fretboard. I have determined the marker dot locations, made an indent with an awl, and then with a small finger drill made a small hole to guide the larger bit.
And now the final sized hole using a hand drill. Much easier to control the depth than with a power drill.
The Paua Abalone dots are glued in and stand a little proud. They will easily sand down flat with the final sanding.
I am cleaning the sawdust out of the slots so that I can measure the depth of the slots at the edges. They must be deep enough to accept the tang of the frets. A few will have to be deepened with a hand saw.
Now its time to install the side sound ports. I always glue in a backing patch of hardwood veneer to prevent any possible splitting of the side. Then cut out a rough hole with a drill bit in the Dremel.
The Dremel is now fitted with a grinding drum and the hole is carefully perfected until the wooden ring can be inserted,
And now it only needs to be fixed in place with super glue and trimmed down flush.
Done !, Thats enough for one day
The Community Ukulele Players which plays for assisted living facilities all year long, last wednesday had their first annual potluck and concert for friends and family.
an intimate private event we had great fun meeting and socializing , eating and then playing a short program for our significant others. Here is a sample.
The Community Ukulele Players has been a wonderful experience, in great measure because of the inspired leadership of our conductor, Linda Henderson. We play a couple of times a month at assisted living homes and just have a great time enjoying our music.
I play my home made bass, "Son of Gut Bucket" beside my good friend pat Madsen who plays his "grande Baritone" made for him by George Thomas, a bellingham luthier Pat and I play off each other in the "rhythm section" The rest of the gang are great ukulele players and show people. We just have a wonderful time together.
It begins with a good bend. Took the East indian out of the mold this morning and was delighted with the result. The Sycamore was even better.
So I got out the assembly jig and trimmed the sides to fit. they are now glued and attached. After a couple of hours I was able to take the clamps off and do the same for the Sycamore.
Now it is time to start work on the fret boards. here is Kent's ebony fretboard with paua abalone dots.
Was spent on Bellingham Bay where I narrated the weekly Sunset History Cruise for the Whatcom Museum. this is the eleventh year that I have enjoyed this volunteer task The hat that I am wearing is a traditional Coast Salish indian hat made from the inner bark of the Cedar tree. On the shoreline seen in this photo we saw an amazing family of seven otters which emerged from a hole in the sandstone. Quite a thrill! A lovely warm night on the water,
I was in an optimistic mood this afternoon so I decided it was a good day to bend the sides. I got the bending pipe in the vise and plugged it in.
It takes awhile for the soldering iron inside to heat the pipe up to the 200 degrees I need to bend wood. That gives me time to wet the wood in the sink.
'the East Indian Rosewood came first. i got a good bend and put the side in the mold.
I tightened up the reverse clamps and got to work on the second side.
Success ! the East Indian is bent nicely. I will leave it in the mold over night to set, and dry. and now for the Sycamore.
Sycamore bends very easily and because I have only the one tenor mold, I used another method. simply clamp the bends to the bending form from your bending machine. Works just fine. I have not used the bending machine for some time now I find I get better bends and don't break wood by doing it by hand over the hot pipe. It went so well that I even had time to select the fret boards and cut the fret slots. Thats enough for one day.
Been busy the last few days and these ukes are coming on quickly.
Here are the final clamping of the tone bars.
this is an old fashioned fix for a mistake. I forgot to cut the channel for the carbon fiber rod with the router before I cut the angle of the neck. Decided to do it the old way, with a sharp chisel. Took a little longer but turned out fine.
Heres the groove and the carbon fiber rod beside it.
Now the rod is epoxied in. I later took this to the sander and cleaned it up so that the fretboard can be glued to it.
Then I made the braces for the backs and got them in the Go bar.
Here I am hogging out the groove so the neck will fit over the soundboard.
With a razor sharp draw knife I am beginning to shape the necks. This is fun, delicate, and you want to be very careful.
Now we can attach the soundboard and the necks.
The Kasha system that I find so pleasing requires a dozen tiny tone bars, each one only 3/16ths high and wide.
Whittling them out from vertical grain Sitka Spruce takes some time, but if you love to whittle as I do, and have a sharp new blade in your exacto knife, it is really a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
First you must cut the two sets to the proper length and mark each one where the high spot will be.
The tip of each tone bar rests over and is glued to the bridge patch. Each piece is notched on the table saw to accomplish that. Then the taper and slope are whittled. Then the tone bar is sanded smooth and ready to glue into place.
All that whittling leaves a bit of a mess on the workshop floor.
But finally they are all done and ready to glue on.
It takes a while to get to each tone bar and firmly clamp it. At this point half are glued or clamped, the others get their turn tomorrow. You simply do other tasks as the glue dries.
Like making a covey of tenor necks for this and future builds. I found some very nice Honduran Mahogany and Spanish Cedar at our local wood store. Five of these are "hog". Easier to do them all at once.