One of my favorite acts in building ukes is whittling the tone bars. today I had lots of practice,
And then you have to glue and clamp them all on, That is not so easy
I cannot get to all of them at the same time. It will take two sessions.
I took the sides to of the molds, Very nice b ends, very little spring back. These will be excellent.
Bubinga, Bear claw Sitka and maple bindings make a pretty uke. it is beginning to show the French Polish
East Indian Rosewood and Bear Claw isn't so shabby either. These two are coming right along.
We are busy as bees here in Bellingham, this is the Mason Bee colony on the back fence in their usual Spring frenzy.
Rick put a final wash coat of dilute shellac on Ed and Bruce's tenors and then Pumiced them to fill the pores. They are looking good, Meanwhile I was fitting a strap to Cindy's uke and packing it for shipment to Arkansas.
I also dashed off to the FedEx shop to get Joe's tenor off to his home in upstate New York, both ukes will travel in these dandy Crossrock tweed cases.
Then it was back to the shop to work on the baritone for Stu Fuchs and the tenor for Walker. I heated up the hot pipe and decided to bend sides.
Walker's tenor sides bent nicely and were put into the mold to cool, dry and sst up for the next 24 hours. Then I turned to the baritone sides. They are actually a little easier to bend because the bends are a little less extreme. The first and sharpest bend is made at the waist.
This is the critical point in the process, a pretty extreme bend!
that's a good start, better spritz it with water before continuing, the heat is drying it out.
Checking against the mold, We are getting there.
And now, the bend is successful, the sides are in the mold. Now it is time to turn to the soundboard. Both ukes will have redwood tops from the old New York City water tank.
This is the baritone soundboard, getting it's sound hole shaped. It rings like a bell when tapped. Going to be a great one I think.
They will be on their way to you tomorrow.
Here is Joe's. Redwood top, East Indian Rosewood back and sides, Sings like a bird. Rich and mellow
Cindy's has this remarkable back, a Western Red Cedar top and wonderful tone and sustain
Two excellent Kasha tenors that we are very pleased with. Meanwhile, back in the shop, Rick is putting the first wash coat of dilute shellac on the two newest tenors. their construction is now done and the French Polish process begins.
And I am fussng around preparing parts for future ukes.
It is very helpful to have numbers of parts and pieces made and ready to install as you build, speeds things up immensely
This challenging task is not too bad once you get the hang of it. Here is how it was done today on Cindy's tenor.
Undo the strings from the tuners and secure the ukulele. Locate the center of the bottom seam and score the spot with the point of an awl to guide the pilot drill.
With a small drill bit make a pilot hole to guide the big step drill bit.
Switch to the step drill which makes a huge 1/2 inch hole in graduated steps. The hole is drilled through the end block.
Now drill a hole the width of the saddle slot in the bridge. The piezo cable must be led up through this hole to lay under the saddle. Scrape the saddle slot with a razor blade to be sure it is perfectly flat.
Insert a thin wire through that saddle hole and out the sound hole attaching it to the piezo cable of the pickup. You will have to draw that wire and cable up through the hole, not always an easy task.
Now hold the pickup barrel inside the sound hole, insert a long dowel of the proper diameter in through the drilled hole and into the bore of the pickup fitting tightly so as to bring the barrel out of the hole from within.
the dowel has brought the threaded barrel out of the hole, the washer and nut have been slipped down the dowel and treaded onto the pickup and tightened.
Now the wire is gently pulled and the cable is coaxed out of the hole and laid in the groove of the bridge, the saddle is placed in the groove over it and the pickup is successfully installed.
'The final act is to thread the strap button onto the barrel of the pickup. I use MiSi pickups which do not need a battery getting power from a capacitor charged with a device plugged into the same hole that the amplifier cord plugs into. A 60 second charge activates the pickup for 16 hours of playing, Remarkable. I charged this one up and tested on the Amp. Works great, Installation successful.
The work table had lots going on today. Stu's baritone back being joined in the clamps, Joe and Cindy's tenors all shiny and ready to be strung up and two new tenors for Bruce and Ed, ready to get their fretboards added as soon as we get the frets installed. and at the far right, the 22 tone bar blanks for the baritone, cut and ready to whittle.
Here they are in approximate position. Count em, yep 22, all vertical grain Sitka Spruce cut to length and waiting to be shaped and sanded. You wonder why baritones cost a little more?
We even got the back braces for the baritone ready to whittle into shape. The acrylic template has tiny holes drilled at the end positions of each tone bar and is the way the proper location is plotted on the soundboard. A pencil lead is poked through each hole marking the location.
I am delighted to start a new uke for Stuart Fuchs. He has chosen a baritone to be the big brother of the tenor I built for him a couple of years ago. East Indian Rosewood body and a redwood soundboard.
The redwood top just got its glue and is headed for the clamp.
In the clamp
And here are a couple of Honduran Rosewood necks, one of these for Stu.
And the back and sides. They will be sanded to final thickness tomorrow.
Our daughter Lisa dropped by on her way home from farm country with her flock of chicks. Here Marya admires one of them.
Just two days ago these little guys were easter eggs. Three different breeds. The plan is to keep only hens, half of this clutch are apt to grow up to be roosters I am told. They will go back to the farm.
But back to Ukuleles-- I have two baritone orders and needed to make some necks. Yesterday I found a big plank of Honduran Mahogany in the Windsor Plywood store. About ten feet long , 2 inches thick and 12 inches wide. Bought 54 inches of it, enough for for baritone necks and eight tenor necks.
Sliced it in three inch widths on the band saw first.
Plotting out how I want to cut it. Again, on the band saw
Two baritone necks about ready for use.
One pair, for Joe and Cindy just days from getting their tuners and strings, the other pair , for Ed and Bruce were just boxed up yesterday and got their bindings today They are all lookin good.
Rick is trimming the overhanging edges on both ukes preparing for the cutting of the binder channels.
Meanwhile I am re-sanding a section on the neck of joe's uke that had some rough spots I didn't like. Sometimes you can't see rough spots until the finish is applied. I am happy now and new finish is being applied here. Repair successful !
Now I am cutting the big groove all around the uke for the binding to be glued into. Always a bit scary but it went very well on both ukes.
With the grooves all cut Rick is cutting the slots for the binding ends to be inserted
The end of the binding is tucked into this groove and is covered by the fret board.
And now for his first experience in fitting and applying the bindings. He did it well.
Now all the bindings are on, held by this sticky tape until the glue dries. A huge amount of progress for one day
Do you see it, hanging in the workshop. A little sign that is usually just outside the shop door. Been in the weather too long and needed sanding and a new coat of varnish.
showing some signs of age and weathering, but who isn't? ought to be good for a few more years.
I was sanding the radius into the fretboards for the ukes we are working on today.
While Rick was making bridges on the table saw sled.
We got the side sound ports installed and now we could box these ukes up.
Here they are with the backs on, Boxed up!
A pretty good day !
Joe's and Cindy's Ukes are just about at the end of the French Polish process and really beginning to shine.
Here is Joe's, a nice piece of east Indian Rosewood.
And Cindy's, wild grain on this E. Indian.
The following pair, #s 157 and 158 now have all their tentalones and are ready to be boxed up as soon as they get their side sound ports.
But first they must get a patch glued on that will strengthen the oval sound port.
Now the sound port can be cut out and carefully fitted with its oval ring using the Dremel sanding disk.
The ring is in, locked in with super glue. Boxing in with the back is tomorrow's task.