once you have shaped the back to a pleasant roundness it is time to turn it over and hollow it to a thin concave shell.
On the drill press Set the tip of this Forstner type drill bitt to stop at just the thickness that you want the back to be. Then hog out the entire back. the bitt will follow the curve you have rasped into the outside. Trim up the edges a bit with a round cutter in the drill press.
Now with a rough sanding disk in the electric drill sand down the surface until the moment the tip marks disappear. Now you know the back is thinned to the desired thickness. This is a dusty job, so set up your shop vac. to suck all that bad stuff away.
A good sharp scraper cleans up the rough spots and improves the edges
And after sanding the glue surface flat with a big piece of sand paper on a flat surface, these Pinecones are ready to box up.
These huge rubber bands are perfect for this clamping job. In the morning I will be fairing up the edges and making these look pretty. Then it is just a matter of carving the necks and making the fretboards.
My grandson Evan Christie, and I designed the first pinecone perhaps 10 years ago. It is a wonderful instrument in either soprano or concert model. I am currently building two concerts, After making the soundboard of Englemann Spruce it is time to bend the sides.
This is a pretty simple bend as none of the angles are extreme. I clamp it shut as it dries, cools and sets. the neck for these pinecones are shown in this picture. they are walnut from a limb that broke off of a huge walnut tree in the county, The limb was twelve inches thick, the tree, the largest walnut I have ever seen.
So far it has been quick and easy- now the work begins. The Pinecone backs are made from a highly figured 3/4 inch slab of Big Leaf Maple. The first step is carving a pleasant round back. This is done the old fashioned way with a very sharp set of rasps. Good upper body exercise, but a fun part of the build. Fairing it all in evenly and with a pleasant angle is the challenge.
Here is the final result. A rounded back with a concave inside that is only a little more than an 8th of an inch thick. It is strong, beautiful and I believe what makes these Pinecones sound so darned good. But how do I hollow them out???
It begins at the drill press where I am hogging out most of the wood with a Forstner bit and the drill press set to stop before penetrating the back, This is the first step. More tomorrow.
The blondes sit still as the French Polish hardens just waiting for the next application and beside them are the beginnings of a new build of Concert Pinecones. Only one of them is spoken for, so if you want the second, let me know. They are great ukuleles. My personal pinecone sits beside them for reference.
THIS IS THE UNIQUE KASHA DESIGN AND THIS IS IT'S STORY
A couple of years ago I had made my 99th ukulele and was considering what my next build would be. I had visited master luthier Eric Devine in his workshop on Maui, Hawaii several times and had been extremely impressed with his instruments made using the Kasha bracing system. They looked a bit radical with their off center sound hole and trumpet shaped bridge, but they were extremely beautiful and sounded wonderful. I decided to make my 100th ukulele using the Kasha system. I ordered the same plan that Devine used and got to work.
That 100th uke was terrific, made with East Indian Rosewood and NYC water tank Redwood, the sound was rich, warm and powerful. I have now made 39 Kasha tenors. I am ceonvinced that it is a superior bracing system resulting in better sounding instruments. Nationally known Stuart Fuchs played that 100th instrument and asked me to build one just like it for him. He has been touring and using it on his Patreon website now for almost two years. He apparently agrees, Kasha is a great design.
HERE IS HOW IT BEGAN;
Michael Kasha was a Physicist at a Florida university. He bought his son a guitar and became interested in the acoustics of stringed instruments. He determined that his son's guitar construction was inefficient and began a study to improve instrument design. He teamed up with a famous luthier, Schneider and the the result was the bracing system that I am now devoted to
Corn Flakes and Raspberries, Been eating this breakfast since a kid. It must be summer.
The big shop door was open all afternoon as I sanded and shaped the necks on the two blondes. I sanded the tops to 400 grit and put a coat of french polish on to seal the wood from stains as I continue to work on them. The alcohol/shellac mix made the "bear claw" marks begin to show. These are going to be beauties.
This is Glenn's. Big leaf maple body highly figured and a Sitka Spruce top. It will be lovely, and apt to be a cannon.
And this is Alan's A mahogany body, Sitka Spruce soundboard, Honduran Mahogany neck. I have one just like it and it has become my favorite player. Sweet and powerful. He is going to love it.
Here they are together, the blondes are ready for their final sanding before the French Polishing begins. I put a tuner in Alan's just to be sure the peg head thickness was correct. Both these ukes will have gold tuners to match the gold frets.
Shipped off to their new homes, and the workshop is feeling kind of lonely.
Lonely but surely not empty, these two blondes are next up and coming along nicely.
After a morning spent packing the triplets and taking them to the post office, I spent the rest of the day working in the yard. Here is our little vegetable garden, lots of lettuce, potatoes are blossoming, peas are now filling their pods and are delicious. Raspberries just coming into season. 'weeds are thriving.
Have you ever seen the famous Edelweise? I had not until my wife found this plant in a local nursery. Sure enough, the fabled Edelweise. Very lovely flower that thrives in the high mountains of Europe. It is doing very well in our garden.
Here they are, three melodius Kasha tenors, ready to go to their new homes. one to Calgary, two to California. They are each equipped with MiSi pickups and my colorful Guatemalan straps. I will be shipping each one in a Crossrock solid wood case to be sure they get there safely. I have decided to include a Crossrock case with each of my future ukulele builds. Makes shipping so much more secure.
The great MiSi pickups include this strap button at their entry point. Here you see my strong leather strap end firmly attached to one of the fun and practical ''Guatemalan belts that I make my straps from. If you need one for your uke, send me $15.00 for the strap and $5.00 for the Post Office and I will send one next day. Easy to attach and adjust length.
Here is how it attaches to the strap button at the heel. Slick and easy!
At last, the time has come to bring life to the triplets. Here is the process.
First you must determine where to drill the string hole in the bridge. I use this big white string to plot the course. The g string doesn't want to be too close to the edge of the fretboard or the player will push it off as he plays. I mark the proper place on both sides of the bridge with a pencil.
Then you carefully measure between the two outer marks, divide by three, and you have the distance between the next two string holes.
After marking a straight line across the bridge and starting a tiny hole with an awl, you widen that hole with this finger drill to provide a non-slip base for the larger drill bit. A slip of the drill bit here can be disastrous.
Once again an unwanted plastic card guards against slips and the holes are drilled for the little white string guards. The actual string holes will be drilled through those guides after they have been glued in place.
The little acrylic guides have a tiny hole in their center. I will drill the appropriate sized string holes through that center, through the soundboard and the hardwood patch below. The "through the bridge" string attachment is a far more secure way to string a ukulele.
And finally the ukulele is ready to sing. This is Olga's instrument and its home will be in Calgary. I am delighted with its song.
With a little luck I should have the triplets strung up and singing tomorrow. Got the last of the bridges on today
It starts with carefully locating the bridge. I use this reliable old jig clamped at the exact center of the zero fret. I have a trial saddle in the slot and cant it slightly downhill at the bass end to provide proper intonation, and when all is right the position is marked with blue tape.
And more tape, until the bridge is surrounded by several layers, enough to hold it firmly in position when glued.
Now the finish is scraped away down to bare wood so that the glue will grab,
The glue is applied and my crazy homemade clamp system is utilized
and here they are, ready for their strings. Jack's on the left, Olga's i upper center and Randy's on the right. I did not forget them, Randy chose not to have marker dots on the top of his fretboard, only on the side.
Little by little an instrument gets built. Seems like a hundred little details must be attended to. For instance the fret ends must be smoothed out.
And it is much easier to do it before the fretboard is attached to the instrument. This tiny file is rounded on the bottom so that it will not score the wood of the fretboard. Lots of frets to smooth, Have patience.
Can you see the ones that have been smoothed and those that have not?
Did you wonder why two fret slots were left empty? Because a hole is drilled in them to accept a tiny brad that will hold the fretboard in its proper place when it is glued and clamped to the neck. The fret will be put in later and cover the brad hole.
The fret boards are glued and clamped to the necks.
And after a few hours, and a little work with a rasp, they are beginning to look like ukuleles.