Today I finished and strung up Floyd's new Kasha tenor # 128. it is always a thrill, and a bit of a tense moment as you first hear its song, but this is going to be a good one. Floyd picked it up this afternoon and went home happy.
Part of the final process is leveling the frets, polishing them up to be smooth and slick.
And don't forget the pickup. Drill a frightful big hole in the bottom center, another hole in the groove of the saddle for the piezo conduit.
Next you must fish that Piezo coax out the hole from the inside. Not as hard as it sounds once you know how.
Then lay it in the groove and set the saddle over it. Put the strings back on and you are done.
Hook those strings back up and lets play some music.
Got a ton done today. Starting with finishing fourteen neck blanks.
first I needed to complete the router cut for the carbon fiber rod in the center of each neck. Here is the router set up I used.
Here is a neck blank running through the router set up.
And here is the result, A grove right down the center that will accept that carbon fiber rod that will stabilize the neck. So today I finished 14 neck blanks, that will keep me in necks well into 2020.
This epoxy is pretty ugly, but it will never be seen under the fret board.
So now lets get to more fun projects, stringing up a new uke. This is Floyds tenor getting its Gotah gold tuners installed. these are very nice tuners, wonderfully easy to install.
In this close up perhaps you can see the little spur that prevents the tuner from turning in its hole.. Nicely machined, precision tuners that provide a 4 to 1 gear ratio perfect for ukuleles.
Next step is placing the bridge and saddle in the proper place. That place is secured by bits of tape .
and once it is established, tape goes all around to not only guide the scraping of the top, but holding the bridge in place as it is glued.
we also need to make a nut and cut the string grooves in the proper place at this time.
stretch a string- make a pencil mark- do a bit of measuring, and soon you have the proper places for the string notches marked with pencil.
Floyd has provided his own strings, Aquilla Reds. Never used them before but we will cut the nut to fit these strings. Here are the diameters.
So now we are ready to scrape off the finish and glue on the bridge
And here it is. Bridge glued down, we will string it up in the morning.
A fruitful afternoon in the workshop. I got a good start on #s 129 and #130 sanding the backs down to .080, their final thickness, and likewise finishing the soundboards.
Heres the set up for cutting the groove around the sound hole. The router guide will ride around the plexiglass oval.
Yes, its old fashioned, but I find it more successful to cut the oval sound hole this way. A rough hole to slip over the reciprocal sander tube, and then sand out the rest of the oval hole.
Then you heat up the hot pipe to bend the "Rope" to fit in that groove you just cut.
Success- a couple of good fits, and then a little thin super glue to cement them in and it will be time for the thickness sander.
Sanded down to it's final thickness this soundboard of wild Bear Claw Sitka Spruce is ready to get it's bracing. This will be spectacular when finished. A great piece of Bear claw.
Here is it's Bubinga back, This is lovely wood.
And here is the front and back of #129, Nice East Indian Rosewood and an unusual top of Redwood with some interesting figure. Ought to be striking when finished and sure to sound great.
Marya & I spent Halloween in Seattle with our daughter's family. Whew, what an experience. Perhaps 800 trick or treaters, An afternoon street party in Magnolia Village, Crazy but fun.
Incredible amount of candy doled out
And an impromteu concert from a treo of cute three year olds.
even saw a strange new breed of lion dog
Despite all of the fun, strange costumes, crowds of tricker-treaters, we somehow survived to return home to more normal pursuits. but then I went to visit Luthier George Thomas and found him working on this monstrous harp guitar.
George tells me that this huge instrument is a 1906 Gibson Harp Guitar. He plans to get it back together and string it up.
If you want a true musical oddity give George a call. I think he plans to sell it once it is playable. Look at that huge hand carved back. If you want it just google George Thomas Guitars, Bellingham.
Was this sunset real. I have never seen a layer of cloud lit up like this. Maybe it was that Martini I enjoyed as I was inspecting a couple of ukuleles before dinner.
Well, the martini is gone and the ukuleles passed inspection. I think that sunset was the real thing.
I did a little French polishing this afternoon, but most of my time was spent making necks from that chunk of Honduran Mahogany. I am delighted to report that I will get 18 tenor necks out of the plank. a very efficient usage of this valuable stuff.
Thats the old saying, well we sure had one tonight
But before the sky turned red, I had some fun making necks for future generations of ukuleles. I recently bought some nice Honduran Mahogany in a thick plank at Windsor Plywood and have been trying to use it most efficiently.
Here is how I piece them together in an effort to waste as little of this nice wood as possible.
Gluing the pieces together requires lots of clamps and smooth sanded surfaces, but if done properly the joints are almost invisible.
Here are necks in three stages of completion. At the top, two assembled and ready to shape further, in the middle, the pieces awaiting gluing, and at bottom, one glued up and drying. I expect to yield ten necks from this nice piece of wood, and waste very little of it.
French polish seems to take forever. Application after application and hardly any progress shows, and then suddenly the finish seems to jump. Then each application adds depth and luster until finally you know it is enough. These ukuleles have reached the jump stage, still lots to do.
Caroline's tenor is on the left, Floyd's on the right. They are beginning to shine.
Caroline's in the foreground with the dark binding, Floyd chose a figured maple binding. Love em both. That Sycamore is crazy.
the Western Red Cedar isn't bad either. notice the medullary rays, that means it is perfectly quarter sawn.
And the top begins to shine at last.
now it is time to level the frets and smooth up the fret ends. This tiny file is rounded and smooth on one side to avoid damage to the fretboard as the fret ends are worked on.
beyond the 14th fret it would be very easy to damage the top with a tool. I don't think AARP intended that their plastic promotion cards would be used this way, but they make very handy protective shields.
Marya and I enjoyed a fascimating afternoon learning about the history of the piano, musical notation, and how the sound qualities of available instruments influenced the music composed on them. Prof. David Kim of Whitman College charmed us with his knowledge and his musicality.
This is the pianoforte, the instrument that Beethoven would have composed on. This is a modern copy of the instrument dating back to 1790 that much of the great classical music was written on and for. Prof. Kim demonstrated the differences between this and modern pianos.
Kim's lecture was learned, interesting and entertaining, As he discussed the nature of notes played on the old Fortepiano versus the modern Steinway, I found myself thinking of the nature of sustain in the ukuleles that we play, and what that duration of sound does for our playing, or what it could do.
And finally, on request he played us a lovely piece on the fortepiano. I recorded one minute of it for you-enjoy
Long ago I adopted the "String Through" method of attaching strings. The old method of strings hooked to a glued on bridge is weak and frequently tears the bridge off. A far better method is putting the string through a hole which penetrates the bridge, the instrument top, and a hardwood patch glued under the top. a knot tied in the string pulls up again that patch.
I now dress up the look of the system with tiny acrylic plugs with a string hole through them. They not only look better than a raw hole in the wood, I am able to round the exit hole to provide a smooth exit for the string. Here is how it is done.
I have carefully taken measurements from previously successful string installations and know that drilling holes in bridges at these measurements will successfully place the strings on the fret board.
The hole locations are carefully marked on the bridges with pencil.
Once the tiny donuts are inserted into the holes a drop of superglue is applied.
Once they are sanded down flat and an application of French Polish is put on the wood, they blend in very nicely and add a touch of dignity to the instrument I think.
This old and labor intensive finish has been used for hundreds of years on fine instruments. It provides the thinnest of finishes and so is considered the best finish acoustically. It is really just shellac diluted in alcohol and rubbed on the wood in scores of separate applications.
Here is what you need. A bottle of Everclear 190 proof alcohol and a package of shellac flakes. It also helps to swipe your wife's cooking scale from the kitchen while you prepare your mixture.
weigh 1 ounce of shellac flakes in the scale and put it into a small glass jar.
The next morning, with refreshed mixture, the second day of finishing began. The wood is just beginning to show a little shine. It takes many applications over a couple of weeks which is why factory instruments have spray on plastic finishes. Way too much labor.
With the finishing in progress it is time to start another build cycle. Today I selected the wood for instruments # 129, a East Indian Rosewood and Redwood tenor going to Australia and #130, a Bubinga and Bear Claw Spruce tenor which will find its home in Seattle.
The first step is joining the pieces. Here, the Redwood soundboard for #129 is in the clamps.