Now that this lovely Watertank Redwood has been glued together it is time to begin. Lets lay the Kasha Tenor template over the top and mark off the tenor shape and the location of the sound hole.
But lets not forget the baritone and the concert. They are sitting on the worktable hardening up thieir French Polish. It is about time to give them both a sanding before more French Polish. they are beginning to look pretty good.
Here is a better picture, shows the old and the new.
Now that we have the pattern marked lets cut out the shape on the bandsaw, leaving about a quarter of an inch for error.
Now it is time to cut the groove for the decorative rosette, and for the sound hole itself. With the aid of these 1/2 inch thick acrylic guides I will attempt to do this without mishap with the 1/8th inch router bit mounted on the " Otter", small router tool that I bought at the Luthier convention recently. It has a round guide which will follow the oval of the sound hole.
I screw the acrylic plate firmly over the wood (not thru it), holding it in place. The clamp is just for safety purposes. The first cut was a success. This groove is just deep enough to keep the purfling above the level of the Redwood.l
The next cut will be the sound hole, and I might as well go all of the way so I will lengthen the depth of the cut.
I brushed on a good thick coat of shellac to prevent the superglue I will be using from staining the redwood. Here I have bent the rosette material and got it in place waiting for the thin superglue to fix it permanently.
Bending that stuff into an oval is getting easier and easier over this 250 degree hot pipe heated with a soldering iron
Here is the finished product. I will run this through the thickness sander a couple more times to get it thinned down to .080. The slight stain will be gone by that time and it will be ready to turn over and receive the 23 tone bars and braces. Tune in tomorrow.
It happens every time- When the finishing begins on the last built, I get the itch to start another.
The next project is a Kasha tenor for a local musician. She has chosen a duplicate of my 100th instrument, a Kasha tenor with a Redwood top and East Indian body. The uke has incredible warmth, character and clarity and is currently my personal favorite. I think this copy will be just as good. Today I chose the book matched Redwood top. It is from that trove of New York City water tank Redwood. It has probably been absorbing the minerals of New York water for eighty years. It tap tones with a remarkable hard high ring. I have high expectations that it will make an incredible instrument. So today I glued together the two pieces that will be the soundboard.
You do that by making the edges to be joined perfectly flat. There are a number of ways to do that, but my primitive-but affective way is to sand each edge on the flat surface of my table saw.
Here are the tools that I use to make perfect glue joints for tops and backs of instruments. Really very simple and easy.
And here they are, clamped tightly together with a 25 pound bag of bird shot preventing the tightly clamped top from popping up in the middle.
But now back to the ending of a build, the finish work. When you have sanded and sanded, and finally apply the finish all your careless mistakes and miscues become evident. One of the problems is always glue spills which mess up the finish. I use a glue that has a chemical in it which shows up under black light. So I pass the instrument under a black light bulb and , Oh no, I must do more sanding here and there.
Note the blue color of the purfling around the rosette, The middle picture shows the way it is supposed to look, but the right hand picture shows the glue that will affect the finishing. It must be sanded off. and so it goes. sand and filll-sand agin- and when it is all done and drying you get to see further little inaccuracies of just plain goof-ups.
The Baritone and the Concert are ready for their finish. I use French Polish because it is reputed to be the best finish for tone. It is incredibly thin, Just layer after layer of thin shellac rubbed on thinned with alcohol which quickly evaporates. It is not as tough as the sprayed on plastics but it is a lot easier to fix a scratch and I think has a rich wholesome luster. It also does'nt stink up the workshop and the house. And you could drink the alcohol if you were desperate enough.
I have begun the first of several wash coats to build up a little working surface. Even the first coat begins to bring out the beauty and character of the wood. This is the Juniper top on the concert. The rosette is made of Koa.
Whoa !, look at the grain on the Baritone peg head pop when it gets little diluted shellac.
And the "bear claw" marks on the Sitka Spruce top are beginning to show. They will show brighter and brighter as the finish continues.
Here is the before and after comparison on the side of the concert. The tiger striping will get more and more prominent.
Today Luthier George Thomas and I drove up the Skagit River to the Pacific Rim Tonewoods plant in Birdsview. It is always a delight to visit our friends there, but today was different. They have received an amazing amount of Koa logs from Maui. There is Koa everywhere you look. Take a look.
George, in awe, is photographing a stack of sawn planks sitting outside in the rain.
Wow!, the beauty of Koa is just staggering. This amazing wood will all be run through the dry kiln and sawn into instrument thickness to be sold to guitar and ukulele builders around the world.
The trees are pushed over rather than felled so that wood is not splintered and damaged in the fall. Then sawn at the roots so as not to waste any of tis precious wood. there is lots of rot in this over mature stand so they carefully must cut around the rot.
Does just the sight of it make you drool?, It does me.
I came home with enough to make a couple of tenors. Here is one of them. I will pair this back and sides with a Water tank Redwood soundboard and it ought to make a terrific Kasha tenor.
Here's a closeup of the figure in this interesting piece.
And then a set of rather plain Koa. We had a great morning visiting with our friends and seeing this fabulous tonewood factory.
I ran into Jack Edwards at the Bellingham Farmers Market yesterday. He told me he would like to give me an Arabic Oud that needed some repair. It had been given to him and he did not really want it. Today he arrived at my home with an array of exotic instruments.
Here he is playing a little Celtic harp that he found in a local thrift store and bought for a song. He also brought along a lovely Irish Bazouka (sp). And then he presented me with this very large Arabic Oud.
The soundboard has seen better days. Some nasty cracks and a terrible glue job, It should probably be replaced. I have plenty of Sitka Spruce that would make a dandy replacement top. Hate to see an instrument in this condition- I will think about repairing it.
The huge balloon body appears to be in pretty good condition although there is a wide band of gold tape up the center which is likely hiding a crack.
What do you suppose I would find if I tore that tape off.
The soundboard appears to be some sort of cedar. I bet spruce would be an improvement in strength and sound, surely in looks.
This creature has 12 strings in six courses. Could sure use a nice bone nut. The paired strings are tuned in pairs. I have been busy tonight reading about this ancient Arabic instrument. Apparently it is tuned in fourths with the exception of the low C and F, so it is C,F,A,D, G C, ( I think). Eight of the tuning pegs appear original and four appear to be new cello pegs. If I try to rehabilitate this poor creature I will most likely replace the old ones, they are pretty rough.
Not sure that I needed this challenge, but I have been listing to Oud music on you tube and I am kind of intrigued. I will sleep on it a few nights. Might be kind of fun to do- anyone out there want a rebuilt Oud?
A whopping big turnout for the Bellingham Ukulele Group Jam today at St James Presbyterian Church.
About 45 of the faithful turned out today to sing and play. As usual lots of fun. We are led by Wes Lewis.
JOIN US NEXT MONTH, THE FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY. AT 1;30
WITH SCRAPER AND THE BOW SANDER, I AM DOING THE FINAL SHAPING ON THE NECKS TO GET THEM SLIM AND SMOOTH AND FAST.
IT IS BEST TO DO MY SANDING OVER THE SANDING TABLE CONNECTED TO THE DUST COLLECTION SYSTEM. IT SUCKS ALL THAT NASTY DUST AWAY.
I JUST POSTED THREE TENORS FOR SALE IN THE "AVAILABLE INSTRUMENTS" SECTION. BE SURE TO TAKE A LOOK THERE.
It began in the workshop carving out the peg head shapes with a fine rasp.
Rasp that edge until the black is gone. Now it is the proper shape.
Now turn it over and do the other side.
All that excess wood and dried glue gets cut away.
Until it looks like this.!
Then it is time to glue in thin strips of hardwood that separate the peghead plate from the nut. Here they are wedged in while the glue dries.
NOW IT IS TIME TO PLAY
So I was off to Gail's studio for the bi-monthly practice of the Bellingham Ukulele Group Community Players. Our leader, Linda Henderson looks a little somber here but she was really in a happy mood.
We had a grand afternoon playing through our song list and by the time I got back home, the glue had dried and these ukes were getting pretty close to french polish time.
The final shaping of the necks is all that is left before the last sanding, and the finishing process begins.
I confess to an inordinate fondness for the "Hook" that I carve into the foot of my instrument necks. I see the flat stubs on most ukes and think, what a wasted opportunity for a bit of grace and beauty. So today, I was engaged in the carving and shaping of "hooks" A bit of sanding tomorrow and they will be done. Ain't they purdy?
I use these razor sharp Exacto blades for much of my carving. They hold an edge for a long time, and when they dull, just slip in another sharp blade. Love them.
Got a nice fit on the black/white/black trim. It is going to look great when all done.
The heel plate had to be carved down a bit with the finger plane and scraper. The blue paper lets you know when things are getting close.
Got a good match on the Concert too. This hook is about where I want it, Now lots of smoothing up.
Pays to watch for new tools on the market. This is a tiny scraper that I find very useful, Especially in tight corners and in carving necks.
With the hooks where I want them I turned to gluing on the fretboards. The little brads in the fret slots are driven in when the board is just where you want it . They hold the fret board in the proper place when you put the slippery glue on and apply the clamps. They are the reason you always leave two fret slots un fretted until the very end.
Whoa !, I am running out of clamps, but the two fretboards are clamped tightly.
And finally the peg head plates get glued and clamped.
Not much time in the workshop the last couple of days, but I have got the frets installed in the fingerboards and today I got the heel caps made and glued to both uke's heels.
I wanted some black white black trim on the heel cap to match that on the bindings around the instruments. That is done with very thin veneer of maple (for the white), and ebony (for the black) stacked one on another. I had already shaped the heel cap, now using it for a pattern on the veneer, I simply cut the veneer with scissors.
So here are all the pieces. From the top left, the Honduran Rosewood heel cap, and black, white and black to be glued on in that order.
Now for the glue, spread out on each layer with a brush.
Lastly, on goes the heel cap.
Now clamp it down, and tomorrow the baritone will have it's heel cap.
Next I did the Concert. There will be lots of shaving, carving and sanding tomorrow to finish them. That is always a pleasant job. After that, a final sanding of the soundboards and it will be time to glue on the fingerboards.