Picking out the wood for the next build of two Kasha tenors for Paul and Glenn. These instruments will be going to Edmonton Alberta, and Mountainside New Jersey. Today I was selecting the wood after beginning the French Polish on the Triplets.
Glenn's uke will have a tiger strip maple body and a "bear claw" Sitka Spruce soundboard. It ought to be a stunner with these woods.
Paul decided on a mahogany body and he also chose "bear claw" Sitka for the soundboard. I am just about out of this rather rare Sitka but just love to work with it. I had one very interesting piece of Mahogany that will make a unique back. Most mahogany is quite straight grained, but this piece has some character. I think Paul will like it.
Spent much of the day sitting on the garden bench doing the final sanding on the three ukes. Three reasons, it is delightful to be outside. The sawdust blows away in the breeze, and most importantly, natural sunlight provides so much better visibility. Amazing how much better one can see scratches and imperfections in wood in the sunlight.
And so, now the sanding is done and the finishing can begin. Nothing very exciting to blog about in the finish process so lets talk about the music we can play on our ukuleles.
Here is a book just revealed to me that I have been very impressed with. A huge collection of songs, many familiar, many that I Must learn, but presented in an excellent format. I ordered mine on Amazon.
Here is a peek at what you will find inside. Readable, widely spaced, well done I thought.
Three at a time, thats about a maximum number for me, but these three ukes got finished in 31 days and are now ready for the final sanding and the french Polish. Each with NYC Water Tank Redwood tone boards and East Indian Rosewood bodies. Just like the Kasha Tenor that Stu Fuchs plays so frequently. I am confident these will have the same rich tone, if you could only play as well as Stu does.
'they may look like triplets but there are differences, Note that the middle one has no marker dots on top. Randy wanted dots only on the side of the fret board. He also nixed the yin/yang
All they need now is the final sanding and about two weeks of French Polish. Then they will sing.
This morning they needed a bit of final trim work. Here i am using a jewelers saw to cut the excess from the little nut mate I like to include to accent the white nut. Note the crazy spalt lines on Olga's uke. She said she liked wild wood.
These are the patterns, one paper, one lucite, that I use to mark the final shape and the tuner holes on the peg heads,
And now the rasp is used to take the peg head down to that just drawn shape. Then the holes for the tuners are drilled on the drill press.
The peg heads are carefully sanded down to the proper thickness to accept the Gotah tuners
Just to be sure, a tuner is tried out. Aw! the perfect thickness. We can proceed to some last shaping of the neck and then ------
WE CAN CALL THESE BABIES BUILT
The end caps on the heel and the peg head plates are the final additions until the finish is applied and bridge & tuners can be installed. Got both done today,
Ebony heel caps are cut out on the little bandsaw. Ebony to match the fret board.
I am cutting a piece of dark veneer to layer with a light piece under the heel piece. The goal is to meet and blend with the black/white purfling of the binding.
Pieces are laid out in the order they will be glued and stacked on the heel.
Just took the clamps off this heel. Now it will be faired in and the hook and heel shaped with rasp, scraper and lots of sanding. That job done, it is time to fit and glue on the spalted maple peg head plates.
Plates attached, Tomorrow there will be lots of shaping and sanding and when that is done the French Polish will begin. I think I started these three tenors just one month ago on the 22nd. Not bad progress, must be the quaranteen keeping my nose to the grindstone.
A few days ago I glued the binding into the slots and got nice fittings on each of the three, but then the work begins.
The groove is cut a little smaller than the binding so the binding stands a little proud in all dimensions.
it must be brought down flush with plane, scraper and sanding block.
This tiny plane held at a slight angle, takes the binding down to almost level with the back. Final work is done with sanding block.
High spots along the sides of the instrument are taken down with a sharp scraper, a wonderful tool.
Then it became time to put the side dots on the edge of the fretboard. Once they are located it is a simple job of drilling the holes, and glueing in the dots but you must be careful not to split the narrow wood of the fretboard. score it lightly with a sharp awl to guide the drill bit.
A bit of thin super glue locks the dots in.
'The Redwood soundboards have been sanded to 320 grit. Now to keep them clean, a coat of French Polish shellac is rubbed on for protection. This top is going to show some figure.
Got my computer issue solved and so I can catch up with the progress on these three tenors. A couple of days ago was fret board day.
So here are the fretboards just laid on their ukes, marked for tapering on the table saw.
And here they go through the saw, riding on a sled and clamped into the position that will cut the angle. 1 1/2 inch at the nut, 1 3/4 at the 12th fret.
Now cut to shape with the marker dots installed it is time to sand in the radius. I tape them to this board and have at it with the sanding block and 180 grit paper.
It is kind of a slow process but finally it is done and it is time to put in the frets.
You buy the frets in a long straight piece but when installing them in a radiused fretboard it is wise to bend them first. The piece shown was hand cranked through a simple fret bender.
Each fret is cut to approximate length and laid in its position. Now a bit of glue on the tang and each is tapped into its slot and taken to the press for the firm setting into the groove.
This is a Grizzley Co. arbor press adapted with a 12 foot radius fitting from StewMac. Does a great job.
Its a long tedious job to fret three ukuleles but it finally got done. Each fretboard has two unfilled slots. brads will be driven through a tiny hole in each slot to hold the fretboards in perfect position when they are glued to the necks. That is next. The missing frets will be placed after the fretboards are attached.
Yesterday I went to see my computer guru, Loron S, so that I could get pictures on my blog again. No problem, he fixed it, then he brought out of the closet his mother-in-law's old Martin soprano. Ancient, dirty, a big crack in the side, broken strings, a weary and sad old uke. We made a trade, he fixed my computer-I fixed his ukulele.
A little gentle cleaning overall, a bit of oil on the threads of the tuner screws, some hide glue in that big ugly crack, and an overnight clamping with the big rubber bands, a new set of green aurora strings and this little darlin was playing "My dog has fleas' just like it did in 1920. It was fun, my computer works, A Fair Trade indeed.
The next project was finding a wonderful source of quality leather scraps from a talented leather book and bag maker in town. I was able to get wonderful leather for the connectors for my Guatemalan belt ukulele straps. I am now in production and offer them to the ukulele world as a fun and innovative instrument strap.
These colorful cotton belts are woven by the native women in the villages. Each one is different. They will come with simple instructions to adapt them to the length that fits your body. Each strap will have strong leather connectors with instructions for fitting it to the strap buttons on your ukulele. If you use a ukulele pick, you will also learn how to make a pocket for picks in the fold of the strap.
Each complete strap w/ instructions will cost $25.00 plus $3;00 postage. Personal check, Visa or PayPal accepted. You will love them.
Darn computer has refused to pick up the photos from my iPhone the last couple of days. I will see the computer guru tomorrow and get it fixed. In the meantime lets talk about hard cases.
PROGRESS REPORT SANS CURRENT PHOTOS;
This is a picture from several days ago. Now the end seam inlay is attached in each, The basic work with plane, scraper and sand paper is now completed and these bodies are finished until the final sanding after the fretboard is attached and the neck is shaped. Yesterday I sawed the fretboards to shape, sanded in the radius and glued in the marker dots. Next is the boring job of inserting all of the frets.
When that is done, the fretboards will be glued on and the neck will be carved to its final shape. Then the final sanding can begin prior to French polishing. These three instruments have gone together very smoothly and I expect will be very good. The French Polish might begin in about a week and at that time I will begin the next build of #138 for Glenn in New Jersey and #139 for Alan in Edmonton, Alberta. If I get another order soon I will include #140 in the build. Three at once is all I can handle.
Hopefully I will be able to post "catch up" pictures tomorrow.
Ukulele straps should be fun and comfortable. I love these cotton belts hand woven in Guadamala and sold on the street in Mexico and other south american countries. If you have one, just make a simple leather piece for either end to attach to your ukulele. fold and stitch the belt together to get the proper length and you have an inexpensive and very practical strap. I recently found a steady source for the belts. If you want one contact me.
Meanwhile, back in the workshop I put the bindings on the three tenors I am building. It begins by cleaning up the binding slots with a little file to be sure the bindings will fit well.
then the pre-bent bindings are carefully fitted, marked and cut to fit, glued and held into the slots or groove with special strong tape. The clamp is to be sure there won't be a gap at the waist.
After a few hours all the binding is attached, top and bottom, and now we must wait a couple of hours to be sure the glue has set. After dinner I will take the tape off and see how things look.
And things look great. Excellent fit, These will look good after some delicate work with plane, scraper and sanding block.
Much of the secret to getting a good fit is in how well the binding was bent on the hot pipe. If the bend was extremely close to the shape of the instrument, the binding goes on without a problem. I got lucky on my binder bends this time. Made the project pretty easy.
I love it when the weather is warm and I can open the big garage door to the shop. Fresh air, my fan blows dust out, and I can see a passerby now and then. Once in a while someone drops in to chat.
The backs are on, Now to trim the edges of both back and soundboard flush with the sides. The router does this quickly. the blue tape is to keep the bitt just that far away from the side so as not to mar it. The finish is done with sand paper.
The sawdust flies everywhere, wear a mask and get the shop vac ready, but worse is yet to come.
All three ukes trimmed and sanded, I took a little break to trace patterns for peg head plates on this wonderful spalted maple. I will take it to my friend Kurt at Bay engraving who, with his laser machine, will cut out the grooves for the big g that goes on all my ukes. And you thought I did that by hand!
Now for the tough job. With the router set up like this I will cut the slots all around the ukes that will receive the bindings. This is a delicate and dusty job. Always scary as you could ruin a ukulele if it went wrong,
But all went well and they are now almost ready for the bindings, Just a little prep work to do where the bindings enter the neck.
The router can't get to this piece. Got to do it the old fashioned way.
But now they are ready. The bindings go on tomorrow. Which do you like best?