In these troubled times this was a good day to hide in the workshop and try to create beauty. I am weary tonite but grateful that we still are healthy and functioning. I wish the same for you. Here was the days progress.
with three ukes under construction I found myself short of tentalones. so out came the jig, and the strips of bass wood that I had cut months ago. You can buy these vital parts, but if Griffin Ukuleles are hand made, then so must be the tentalones.
once the slices are run through the band saw there is a bit of hand work to do, slicing the angle, and sanding them into a nice looking connector that holds a ukulele together.
So here we are. This will get me through the next few builds. Now on to more complex things.
Now we need a couple of necks. I carefully plot them out on the blanks that I made several months ago. These are the lines that will be cut on the band saw.
And here it goes through the band saw.
This is the critical cut that will accept the ends of the sides. It is so important that the cut be exactly at right angles to the flat of the fretboard. These worked out very well.
And it is important that the slots be wide enough to accept the sides readily. Makes it much easier when assembling the instruments.
and now we must shape the neck. this involves the draw knife, the spoke shave, the rasp, and the chisel
'but when it comes down to the final strokes, the fine carving, there is nothing better than a sharp blade and just old fashioned whittling.
WHEW! it was a long day, but I got a lot done. Take a look.
First project was to finish gluing on the last of the tone bars. Takes 2 hours for the glue to dry, so on to other projects. I always put thin veneer patches behind vulnerable places, like the sound hole, and the glue joints joining backs or sourdboards.
this is a sheet of thin, but tough maple veneer ready to be cut into the patch around the sound hole. The grain of the patch must be opposite the grain of the soundboard.
The invaluable exacto knife is used to cut out the ovals. just a sharp pair of scissors cuts the rest i always insert a new blade when I start another build. I love exacto blades.
I only needed two, but while you are at it make a few for the next build. This will last me for awhile.
By now the tone bars were set and it was time to glue down the strips over the glue joints.
'then a bit later i shaped the butt blocks and got them glued and clamped.
And about 5;00 pm I got the sides on the 'Sunburst' but I didn't get a picture, too pooped and needed a martini..
I have two different backs of East indian Rosewood for the bodies of these two ukes like the one i built for Stu Fuch's. Which do you like better. One is for Gary, and he gets first choice having ordered his first, The other for Sandy, I think both are beautiful, Which would you choose?
What a pleasant way to spend a gray rainy day sequestered from the virus. I ventured out with mask and gloves to send his ukulele to Randy in California. I was the only person in the post office at 10:00 am. Enjoy that uke Randy, its a good one.
Then back to the workshop to spend a day of whittling and attaching tone bars.
What is it about whittling? Sitting in a comfy chair thinking deep thoughts as your fingers and muscle memory do what they have done for perhaps 80 years, carving wood just the way you want it. I recall sitting on the beach on San Juan Island carving little birds or boats from the abundant cedar driftwood, smelling the lovely wood and listening to the gulls. Whittling is always a joy for me.
today I was whittling Sitka Spruce, tough and springy, it makes perfect braces and tone bars for instruments. Note the fine grained wood that I select for my ukuleles. the vertical grain acts like an arch, stiff strong yet able to vibrate.
All done, 24 slim and springy tone bars ready to be glued into place, First the bridge patch must be glued in place. That is what is under the bag of lead shot in the upper part of the picture. 25 pounds of lead makes a good clamp while the glue sets.
While the glue is setting up on the tone bars I finished the braces for the backs and got them glued up in the Go-Bar. Then it was time to attach the first of the Tone bars.
Got about half of them glued and clamped. I will get the rest of them after dinner.
I will get the rest of them tomorrow.
This morning I printed the last chapter of my book, "The Donovan Diaries". Whew!, it's been a long haul. Took the manuscript to my dear friend Gayle Helgoe for her review. Gayle is a retired librarian, a grammarian and a historian. She will no doubt correct my errors in all categories. Then it will be off to Kate Weisel who will build it into a book, then off to the printer and hopefully by the Christmas season it will be available in the bookstores and on Amazon. This has been a four year project and it feels very good to have it to this stage, This afternoon i was able to spend in the workshop working on ukuleles for Gary and Sandra.
First I bent the East Indian Rosewood for the second ukulele. It bent very nicely and I will leave it in this Jig as it dries and sets. This was a nice piece of wood, should make a pretty instrument.
Now it is time to make the small tonebars that give the Kasha ukuleles their great sound. First I cut lots of stock from fine grained Sitka Spruce from Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Crucial to the quality of sound we seek.
Here are all to the bent sides for the three ukuleles I am working on, Always nice to get by this major part of building a ukulele.
Now to scribe on the underside of the tone boards the location of the tone bars. a crucial step.
Here are the unfinished tone bars set roughly in place on the ukulele top.
Each of the tiny tone bars must be cut to fit over the bridge patch. this is done very carefully on the table saw.
And now begins the artistry, The whittling of each tone bar so that they will transfer and control the vibrations of the strings about the sound board.
A little whittling with a sharp exacto blade, a bit of sanding to slick things up, and by the end of the afternoon just four of the tone bars are completed. Twenty more to go and I will be glueing them down. Lots of whittling tomorrow.
GOOD THINGS ARE'NT MADE IN A DAY, And neither are ukuleles. Made a little progress today, Thinned some backs, bent a couple of sides, replaced a broken blade in my small bandsaw, The ukuleles for Gary and Sandy in California are coming along.
Here are the backs for three ukes. At the top is my mahogany Sunburst back, below are the two East Indian Rosewood backs for Gary and Sandy. All thinned, ready for their braces,
And here are the mahogany sides bent yesterday. Ready to be glued to the "sunburst" top. This is nice pliable wood and will fit nicely.
And here are the soundboards for the two new tenors. Interesting that they differ in color a bit. They both tap tone wonderfully, sounding like church bells.
Here I am thinning the backs on the thickness sander. It takes many passes through the sander to get to the exact thickness desired. It's a dusty business and I am protecting these old lungs. I also wear ear protection in this process as the vacuum system is very noisy.
The next project was bending a set of the East Indian Rosewood sides. I connected the hot pipe and here I am bending wood. I have reverted to hand bending the old fashioned way. I think I get better results than using the bending machine. 'sometimes the old fashioned way is best.
So here is the bend. I will put it in the press immediately.
After 24 hours of drying in this form the sides will be set and ready to install.
The two book matched pieces of Redwood have been glued together. Now we can run the joined wood through the thickness sander smoothing both sides but still keeping it quite thick. Now using a template, draw the shape of the soundboard, and band saw to shape leaving a 1/4 inch margin outside the pencil lines.
Here is the jig used to rout the decorative strip around the sound hole and the oval sound holes themselves. Several different size options on this jig. Tenor or Baritone sizes,
The soundboard is slipped under the 1/4 inch acrylic sheet and the wood is positioned under the proper hole. Important that it is carefully measured and exactly in its proper position, then the screws are tightened and the wood is half firmly in place.
Now the router with its guide is utilized to cut the groove for the rosette. The groove is just the depth and width of the "rope" purfling we will use.
A liberal amount of dilute shellac is brushed into the groove to seal the wood pores and prevent the super glue we will use from migrating into the surrounding wood and leaving a stain. Then the "rope" purfling is pressed into the groove and medium superglue cements it in.
Now to cut the sound hole. I find it easier and safer to do this by cutting a hole with the drill press to accept the circular sanding tube. Then you can enlarge the hole by eye.
And once that is done the soundboards can be taken back to the thickness sander and sanded down to their final thickness, .085.
Next step, whittling the 12 tone bars
First you must select the wood. In this case, Redwood for the soundboard and East Indian Rosewood for the bodies. Then the wood must be thinned on the thickness sander to the proper thickness for bending sides or for the next step.
The sides must have one perfectly flat edge. I accomplish that by clamping this very large and very old and very sharp plane in the bench vise upside down. A couple of passes over it ant the edge is perfectly straight.
Next, the two pieces of book matched redwood must be joined. The edges are perfected by rubbing them over sandpaper set atop the flat surface of the table saw until you cannot detect light between them. Then they are ready to glue.
And here is my gluing technique. four clamps, a bit of visqueen, a couple of straight boards and a 25 could bag of lead bird shot. Simple but it works perfectly. Tomorrow I join the backs and cut the sound holes in the newly joined soundboards (tops).
Last night, about midnight, I finished re-writing the manuscript for my book. Touched up a few spots this morning and was able to go back to my Lutherie workshop this afternoon with a clear conscience. Still plenty of work to do on the book, selecting photos, final editing, etc, but the writing is done and now I can get started on a couple of instruments. Gary and Sandy in California have tenors on order, and I have a rescue job of my own.
First priority. Here is a magnificent piece of "Bearclaw Sitka spruce. magnificent except for that pitch pocket that was bared as I sanded fit. to salvage it i am going to do my first SUNBURST. Hows that for a good idea? Today I thinned down and shaped the Mahogany back and sides. Next will be bending the sides. This could be a marvelous salvage job.
next priority is selecting the wood for those two California bound tenors. I have lots of East indian Rosewood to choose from, and the Water tank Redwood tops are selected at top right in the photo. Both tops from my best ranked tap toned redwood.
Great to be in the workshop again. I was missing it.
Did you know? You can survive on a diet of only potatoes? The poor Irish peasants of the early 1800s did so for generations, potatoes and a little cabbage. When the "potato blight" hit they starved or emigrated to America.
Today was planting day in the raised bed garden. Peas along the fence to the right, Russet potatoes planted where each of the little sticks is seen. There are six more of another species planted in the adjoining bed. Lettuce and salad stuff will be planted in a couple of weeks.
And the Mason Bees are beginning to wake from their long winter hibernation. The males began to emerge a couple of days ago. Lots of holes here for them to lay the eggs in for next years population.
SPRING IS ON THE WAY
AND AS DARK AND FRIGHTENING AS THESE DAYS ARE- HAVE FAITH THAT THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN ON A BRIGHT NEW TOMORROW.
Even the Great Blue Herons that nest in the trees at Post Point rookery believe that. They build their tiny nests high in the tree tops, sure that the sun will warm their chicks and life will continue on. So take heart, we will all get through this with love and music to keep us steady on the path.
And for all of you folks who have purchased my Concert pinecones, I have a limited number of really good gig bags for your concert. It will even have an embroidered pinecone decorating it. About five left, so get in touch quickly if you want one. Only one brown one left. $50.00 plus mailing.