Stuart Fuchs sent me this photo taken at a Central Illinois workshop with the news that there were three Griffin Kasha ukuleles there. Wow ! , that is exciting, Here is Stu and Kent Lowry with their Griffin tenors.
Looks like Stu needs a little refinishing, he really puts a uke through its paces, and maybe Kent ought to invest in a decent strap, But it delights me that they like those instruments.
Meanwhile, back at the workshop a new "Griffin" is coming along. This is Floyd's tenor which just got its peg head plate glued on. The wood is spalted maple which, with the g is kind of my signature peg head. Floyd selected this piece for its interesting lines.
'the final shaping of neck and peg head is being done. Lots of use of this scraper. What a terrific tool this is. I recommend it to all woodworkers.
The other great tool for shaping necks is this bow sander. It nicely rounds the neck. Now comes lots and lots of final sanding of the entire instrument before the finishing begins.
This is the measuring tool I use to gauge how thick the neck should be. I compare with ukuleles that I play and like. A handy device
The fret boards are tapered and cut to shape, gently radiused, and now it is time to install the frets. A little glue, a gentle tapping with the hammer, strong pressure from the arbor press and the frets are installed to stay. Here is one done, and one yet to go.
once all the frets are in, and the glue has dried, the ends are nipped off flush to the sides, the ends are smoothed and rounded a bit on the belt sander and they are ready to attach to the instrument. Note the little brad in the empty slot. Two of those are used to hold the fret board in position during the gluing.
Now glue can be applied to the fretboard and it is clamped in position
Next the brads will be pulled, frets put into those two empty slots, a nut made and fitted to the neck, and the peg head plate fitted and glued on and firmly clamped. Then the final neck shaping and lots of sanding can begin. They are coming along nicely.
Meet Vernon Leibrant who has been turning magnificent wooden bowls for more than thirty years. George Thomas and I went to visit him today and I was stunned and amazed at the beauty of his bowls and grateful for his generosity.
I had hoped that Vernon might have a few scraps of spalted maple that I could acquire, as I am about out of it for my peg head plates.. Being s bowl turner myself I was also eager to see his shop. He welcomed us warmly and showed us the scores of magnificent bowls in his shop just waiting for buyers.
And we were able to watch him make the chips fly on this large piece of maple. The wood is turned wet, allowed to dry and finished with a final sanding and an oil finish. If you want a magnificent salad bowl or a spectacular bowl for display, here is the place to get it. He lives in the foothills east of Everson Washington.
Vernon generously gave me these pieces of spalted big leaf maple, enough to make 14 ukulele peg head plates.
I am grateful and delighted. Following is a slow motion video clip of Vernon making the chips fly.
Now it is time to add caps to the neck heels. The heel must be flattened and the rasp is perfect for that. I like to use wood that matches the fret boards so I searched my box of scrap Rosewood.
Found a nice piece of Honduran Rosewood and scribed the heel shape on it and then added a bit more to extend the "hook" a bit. And now off to the band saw.
The small bench top bandsaw is very handy for little projects like this.
After cutting matching shapes of thin Maple veneer and darker Walnut veneer I stacked them on the heel , walnut/maple/ heel cap, all glued together, and then clamped them tight.
A couple of hours later the glue had set and it was time to trim things up. The sharp Exacto knife and a small rasp will do this job.
And now both ukuleles have their heel caps. There will be lots of sanding and final shaping before they are done, but they are looking good.
Sunday it was off to Anacortes to attend the Stu Fuchs workshop and concert and deliver a new ukulele to him.
As you might imagine, he was great.
Then it was back to the workshop to install the bindings on Floyd and Carolines tenors. Here I am preparing the slots at the neck to receive the binding.
Here I am preparing the back side to accept the binding by sawing off the excess piece over the heel. One cut this way,
Then a cut the other way
then carve off the heel down to the binding level with this sharp chisel.
Before you know it the bindings are on and it is time to put in the end piece.
That will have to wait until tomorrow. Enough for the last couple of days.
Call it a "hearing hole". The idea is to project sound to the player. When you are playing in a jam with a group of ukulele players it is hard to hear yourself. Side sound ports help a lot. I put them in all my instruments except for the Pinecones. Here is how you do it.
I scribe a pencil mark where I want the hole and then rough it out with a Dremel drill bit. I am preparing to fit in, the wooden oval you see a lower right.
The oval hole is perfected with a small sanding disk on the Dremel until the wooden ring just fits, then it is fixed in place with super glue.
It didn't take long before both ukes had their side sound ports. Now some trimming and sanding is called for.
With the sound ports in its time to box em up.
Floyd's uke gets its back.
I like to add a few barrel clamps to insure a good tight fit.
Caroline's uke will get its back tomorrow when the clamps are freed up.
Whatever you want to call them, they are what holds acoustic instruments together.
They are those long and segmented strips of basswood which attach the sides to the top and bottom of any instrument. I just used up the last of my basswood supply, preparing for the next few instruments and needed to renew the stock.
This was all I had left, so it was off to Windsor Plywood and their amazing selection of woods.
I came back with a large chunk of nice clear Basswood. This is what is left after cutting a new supply of stock.
The yield was eight dozen strips which I will eventually run through my saw device cutting the grooves which allow them to bend. These will last me quite a while. You can buy tentalones from luthier supply houses, but I prefer to make my own in the size that fits a ukulele best.
Floyd's uke is now ready for the lower tentalones that the back will be glued to.
When the glue is dry and the clamps removed it will be time to put in the side sound port.
First we must gauge how much to cut off each end to make the sides, with all their curve fit perfectly. in this photo the upper end has been trimmed and the pencil marks the cut off point for this side.
Here is how I trim the ends to fit.
Once both sides are trimmed properly they are taped together at the butt-
Glue is applied to the block
And to the bottom edge of the sides.
the sides are slipped into the neck slots, the rear joint is centered on the butt block and clamped tightly to the butt block. Now, side adjustments are made and the sides are clamped tightly to the top.
But first we have to get the butt block made and glued on.
The butt block is a light piece of Honduran Mahogany that I had cut from scraps left over from band sawing necks. I had a number of them all cut to the proper length and width and ready for their final shaping. They are taken to the sander and gently rounded to fit the curve at the bottom of the instrument, and here I am sanding off some excess wood to save a little weight, leaving enough of a flat surface to mount a pickup.
This ought to fit the curve nicely. Remember to set it back from the line to leave room for the sides that will be glued to it.
Here they are, glued and clamped. Now one more thing !
I like to put this thin maple veneer patch around the sound hole to prevent the possibility of a split of the Cedar soundboard. The maple grain runs crossways. Just a little insurance. When the glue dries we can put on the sides.
Well here is the proof. My wife and I dried this huge leaf last fall. She just set it out as a fall decoration. The tenor ukulele is for contrast.
They don't call it "big leaf Maple" for nothing. Acer Macrophylum is a common deciduous tree on the northwest coast. It's strong wood makes excellent instrument bodies, and when highly figured it is frequently wonderfully beautiful. When spalted it can be sublime. The peg head plate on this uke is "big leaf".
Meanwhile, down in the workshop I got the necks roughly carved and glued to the sound boards. The next task will be shaping and attaching the butt blocks- Then it will be time to attach the sides.