That lovely bottle of Sauternes that Ali sent me was a 2017 vintage, not 1917. Sorry about that typo. You can be sure I will drink it long before it even becomes ten years old. To make amends, I worked on Ali's tenor today, take a look, it will be very pretty.
I have glued in the white/black/white purfling and now am fitting the end piece selected from my scrap box of rosewood to match the binding. The dark stain is from the super glue catalyst used to set the purfling. It will disappear.
Now it is fitted, glued and taped in while the glue sets.
Planed and sanded down, The end piece is almost done.
I chose this dark Rosewood binding feeling that the Sycamore and Cedar needed some contrast. the fretboard will be Honduran Rosewood, which is a medium brown color. I like my decision.
A bit prematurely, this package was delivered by the mail many today. It is Ali's hard case that will carry his Sycamore uke to Bordeaux. No matter, I have lots of room to store it until the uke is ready. Lets see if the instrument fits in the case.
It fits perfectly- and a pretty nice case too.
Was a busy one today !--It began this morning at the lumber store where I found a nice piece of Honduran Mahogany. I could not resist.
Clear and sweet. - two by six and about 14 feet feet long. I can get two tenor necks out of each 18 inch piece. I bought 6 feet of it, When ripped, enough to make 8 tenor necks Just ripped the first piece on the band saw.
Eight future necks. Honduran Mahogany is light, stable, fairly soft and very pretty, Excellent instrument neck wood. One of these days I will saw them all into rough shape and stack them in my wood stash, meanwhile they will climatize in the workshop.
Then the doorbell rang. It was Fed Ex with a well padded package containing this elegant bottle of 1917 Chateau Miselles Sauternes, a gift from Ali, the resident of Bordeaux, France who is buying the Sycamore tenor. What a generous gift! In a note he said "I find that the color of Sauternes goes well with Sycamore and Western Red Cedar, Cheers". I am astonished and delighted and will save this fine wine for a special occasion. And Ali is right, they do go nicely together.
With that delightful incentive, I got right to work on Ali's tenor getting the binding trimmed and fitted.
A few hours later the bindings were on both tenors, glued, clamped and curing on the work table. Then the doorbell rang again. This time it was UPS with the hard case that Beth had ordered for her new instrument. Of course I had to be sure that her baritone fit into the case. Relax Beth, it is perfect. I now only need to put a label in your uke and it will be ready to take to the post office.
A few other projects were completed during this busy day which ended with a much needed Martini shared with my neighbor George.
The final adjustments done on the bari and the tenor and they are sounding great.
This is Lee's tenor. A bubinga body and Bear Claw Sitka Spruce soundboard. with a tiger stripe maple neck. This is a lovely uke with great tone, sustain and volume. I am very pleased with it and with this combination of woods . I have been playing it for the last hour. Love the radiused fret board.
Peghed tuners, tiger stripe maple binding.
This is Beth's new baritone. Wow, big rich guitar like tone, lots of power. Got the MiSi pickup installed today and this uke is ready to rock. East Indian Rosewood body, and NYC water tank Redwood soundboard. Mahogany neck.
Excellent East Indian Rosewood on back and sides.
The kids from Geneva School performed xylophone magic at Saturday's farmers market. Here they are in front of the Depot Market building. Enjoy.
With the deep rich voice that I was expecting from the Redwood sound board and the East Indian Rosewood body. Just got it strung up before dinner. Been enjoying it this evening. The power of baritone always surprises me.
First thing this morning I glued and clamped the bridge using my new invention- IT WORKED GREAT!.
by late this afternoon I was able to string it up. Very pleased!, The intonation is spot on. That crazy jig I showed you really works.
Here I am drilling the string holes with a hand drill. Notice the AARP card shaped to the bridge and taped to the soundboard. They keep mailing them to me, and I find them useful in the workshop. In this case, protecting against a slip of the drill.
SO HERE IS YOUR NEW BARITONE BETH. I THINK YOU WILL LIKE IT
I am excited to announce that this Sycamore tenor is going to Bordeaux France. Ali confirmed his purchase today. Here I am trimming the edges preparing for the routing of the binding channels. All the necessary routing is noisy and messy and not my favorite part of lutherie, but it all came off very well.
Both tenors got their channels cut and ready for the bindings. This was a very productive day.
The Mailman brought me a package today from my luthier friend Jon Dale in Philadelphia. Jon makes wonderful ukuleles and banjos under the name Jupiter Ukuleles. We share a passion for wood and it is Jon who has provided me with the wonderful Redwood from NYC water tanks. He also has a stash of Sycamore which he has generously shared with me.
In the package were three sets of terrific Sycamore. One set is rather brown, he said he had been drying it in a hot attic. One set is normal sycamore looking like the Uke I am building now, and a third set is rather spectacular spalted sycamore. All of them will make really unusual and striking tenors. I am thrilled.
With that nice start for the day, I decided to mount the bridges on lee's tenor and Beth's baritone, The French Polish is done and it is time to string them up. Locating the bridge properly is critical. Beyond measuring, I use this intonation jig to get the best intonation I can.
Strings are stretched from zero fret to saddle and tuned to a note, any note. then the bridge is moved forward and back until, when pressing at the 12th fret, the exact same note is registered on the tuner. That is the perfect place for the bridge to be.
So you carefully mark the sweet spot with tape, I located the bridge for both instruments and then moved on to another project. Putting the back on the Sycamore.
The final project for the day was inventing a clamp for the trumpet shaped Kasha bridges. Several times I have had difficulty putting clamping pressure on the "bat wings" of the bridge and failed to get a perfect connection at their extremities;. I sat down and sketched an idea I had been working on. Soon, I was off to the hardware store for some thumb screw parts.
It took just a few minutes to fashion the clamp. It will fit over the bridge and its slot will receive the saddle. The bridge with the new clamp atop it will be glued and clamped to the instrument top with the usual clamp which extends from the sound hole.
Once it is tightly clamped to the top, the thumb screws will be tightened to bring pressure on the three extended areas of the bridge.
These two ukes are about ready to string up. Maybe one more application of French Polish, then I will glue on the bridge, install the tuners and put on the strings. Always a fun moment to hear them for the first time.
Meanwhile, on the next batch, The veneer patches behind the side sound ports are installed and all the tentalones are attached.
Next project, cutting in the sound ports.
oops. I just realized I have not made the braces for the back,
Well, That didn't take long. The backs can go on tomorrow.
Now that they are bent it is time to fit them and attach to the soundboard. The Sycamore sides are on and lookin good.
And this is how it is done. First you trim the ends to fit, The sides are always made extra long and must be trimmed off.
Ah!, This one is going to fit just right
Once both sides are fitted, the bottom ends are taped together and glue is applied to the bottom edge of both sides, and to the foot block.
And the sides are clamped tightly into position. This is looking just right,
I like to get some of the tentalones in place at this stage, then the sides are well anchored. I will finish the tentalones tomorrow.
This week end we attended an appreciation event of the Whatcom Symphony. We enjoyed a number of lovely performances. The following is but one.
But back in the workshop work went on.
I took the two bends out of their molds and found them both to be excellent. Now it is time to begin the assembly process.
After carefully trimming the ends from each of the sides I found I had a perfect bend and fit. It is time to glue it down.
And here we are. the sides aligned just perfectly. This will be nicely balanced and the Sycamore wood will be spectacular.
Here are two of the stalwarts of the Whatcom County and Bellingham ukulele world. Wes Lewis and Pat Madsen. Wes is our leader of the Bellingham Ukulele Group monthly jams, a fine musician, an excellent singer. Patrick Madsen is another marvelous musician who began, and leads the Blaine WA weekly jams, a key member of the Community players, and a committed player and all around patron of the local Ukulele scene. They are shown here chatting after another very successful Bug jam for the month of May.
Before the BUG jam today I spent some time in the workshop bending the sides for the two tenors i am working on. Here are all of the parts and pieces necessary to bend sides.
It begins with the hot pipe held in the vise in the upper right corner of the photo. The home made pipe is heated with a soldering iron. 'the sheet of stainless steel is helpful in trapping the heat in the wood, and providing a gradual and even pressure to the wood in the bend. The form, or press, is used to "cure" the bend. 24 hours in compression as the wood dries confirms the bend.
Here is the east indian rosewood in the sink getting some moisture to help the bend,
it is easy to get confused when bending sides so I carefully mark with white pencil, where the waist is to be and which end is the head.
The Sycamore bent like rubber. Here it dries in the mold.
The Rosewood bent well too, and here it is clamped to a form to dry. i only have one press, so this is another way to hold the bend as it dries and "cures".