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.
Stringing up a new ukulele is always exciting, but when you are building one for a guy like Stuart Fuchs, it is nerve-racking. This is not the time to make a mistake-and what will it sound like.? Here is the drill.
First you install the tuners, These are Gotah UPT tuners in gold to match the frets. Next you determine where to cut the notches in the nut so that the strings are properly spaced on the fret board. You put a string on the A tuner and stretch it in the proper place marking with a pencil where the notch should go. Then you do the same with the G string. Now cut the notches and measure the distance between the two- divide that distance by 3 and you have the distance between the other two strings. Now cut those notches in exactly the right place.
with the A string in the newly cut notch stretch that string along the fretboard and move the bridge until the string hole is directly under the taut string. Mark the lateral position with a piece of tape.
Now you must determine the vertical position of the bridge and saddle and it must be perfect if proper intonation is to be achieved. The measurement from the top of the zero fret to the break of the saddle must be perfect, so measure and check, and do it again. Then mark the position of the bridge with tape and check again.
when you have it perfect carefully surround the bridge with little pieces of tape. Then measure one more time.
Now with a razor blade, scrape away the finish inside the tape to expose bare wood for gluing.
A thin coat of glue is applied to both the scraped top and the bottom of the bridge and this weird clamp system is employed.
Three hours later the clamps are removed, the tape carefully removed, and the uke is ready for the strings, but first the holes are drilled in diameters to fit the strings.
Also the little acrylic rings are rounded so that the string does not bend over a sharp corner as it exits the hole.
Now each string is pushed down its hole until the end can be fished out of the sound hole. Then an overhand knot is tied in it and the string is pulled back out of the bridge and attached to the tuner-simple as that.
and just to be tidy, I nip off the excess string about here. Lets tune this baby up and hear what it sounds like.
I AM SO DELIGHTED- THIS MAY BE THE BEST UKE I HAVE BUILT. TONE, VOLUME, INTONATION, SUSTAIN ARE ALL TERRIFIC. I AM RELIEVED AND STU IS GOING TO LOVE IT. WHEW! NOW TOMORROW I INSTALL THE PICKUP, A STRAP BUTTON AND MY NEW LABEL AND THIS BABY IS READY TO ROCK.
I didn't take many photos today for some reason, but I got a lot done nevertheless . The big news- I have finished the French Polish on Stu Fuchs new tenor and plan on stringing it up tomorrow. I promise pictures.
This is a day previous photo of gluing on the tone bars on the two Kasha's in construction. They are all glued on now and I have moved on to the necks.
I took the sides out of the molds and was delighted with their shapes. These will be easy to assemble.
I began shaping the necks when suddenly I remembered that first I must install the carbon fiber rods, so I turned them over and got to work.
And after a trip to the hardware store for epoxy, I got them installed. These necks will never warp.
I have made big progress on this new build. The sides are bent, the pieces are all thinned to their final thickness, The rosettes are in, the bindings are selected and bent. Here is the report.
Here is the new Griffin Ukulele label. I finally gave up on my rather garish hand painted and drawn label and asked my talented grandson, Evan Christie to design me a new label. I have it in several colors and think it fits into the Kasha sound hole quite nicely. What do you think of it??. I would appreciate hearing from you.
a new wrinkle. I clipped the newly bent bindings to the sides to let them dry and set in the shape that I will insist they take later.
I got the back braces made and glued to the thinned backs. The braces are fine grained Sitka Spruce. Here you see them in the "Go-bar" deck.
Now the sound holes have been cut and the bridge patches are being glued on
Here are all of the tone bars, cut to length and set in their approximate positions awaiting final carving.
Now each has been marked with the high point and the whittling begins.
The tone bars on the first uke have been whittled into final shape and sanded. It is 5:00 pm and time for a martini, but a lot of progress has been made.
Two new Kasha tenors were started yesterday, #127 for Floyd in Bellingham, and #128 for Caroline in Illinois. Both will have Sycamore bodies and Western Red Cedar soundboards, Honduran Rosewood fretboards, Evo gold frets and gold Gotah tuning machines. They will be the fourth and fifth ukuleles I have made using these wonderful woods. I will chronicle the build on the blog in the coming days and weeks.
The basic parts are already assembled. #127 on the left-#128 on the right. necks, fretboards bridges and bridge patches were already made as I frequently make a half dozen parts when I only need one. Sure speeds things up.
I joined the backs and cut the slots for the rosettes yesterday, trimmed the sides today and decided to thin them down immediately so that I can do all of my bending at once, The rosette, sides and bindings must all be bent using the "hot pipe" mightt as well do it at one time.
Here goes a side thru the drum sander. Got them down to bending thickness so maybe I will bend tomorrow morning. Feels like a good beginning !
The morning found me in the workshop beginning a new tenor build for Floyd, and doing another French Polish coat on Stu Fuch's uke. Then I was able to meet Kent and Nancy Lowry of Illinois and bring them to the Bellingham Ukulele Group jam where I handed Kent his new Griffin ukulele. Kent, Nancy and I played together for several hours and then headed up the hill to my home for a glass of wine and a tour of the workshop.
After all that uke playing a glass of wine hit the spot. Great fun getting acquainted and learning that we have friends in common.
Here is Kent with his brand new Kasha tenor. I think he is very happy.
It happens, I dropped the bridge for Stu Fuchs ukulele on the concrete floor of the shop. I was fitting the saddle. Of course it broke. Not a huge deal, but a small set back, Then I thought, This might be the chance to do a better job of installing the new "string surrounds" Here is what happened.
The problem and the solution
Here was the set-up. A new bridge with holes mimicing previous uke measurements. Then scored with an awl to guide the drill. Holes drilled to guide the larger bit that would seat the acrylic "donuts".
Here I am drilling the small holes to accept the "donuts"
now those hole are drilled. The depth of the holes is measured so as to seat as much of the "donut" as possible.
Now the "donuts" are put into place and CA glue is applied with this device.
So here is the solution. Sanded, the beginning of refinishing, and the string exit holes tapered with the little device shown on the right. The bridge, after French polishing will be attached to Stu Fuch's instrument and the hole will be tapered even more to provide a smooth bend to the saddle.
I have been thinking that the "String Through" holes in the bridge were looking a little un-finished. I got the idea to pass the strings through a portal made of bone. Took a piece of bone to my friend Kuirt at Bay engraving, an absolute wizard with a laser machine. The laser burned the bone badly so Kurt suggested white acrylic. See the result.
Kurt made tiny little donuts of acrylic, I inlaid them with CA glue and then drilled the proper sized string hole with a hand drill, rounded the string hole a bit and restrung the instrument.
What do you think. I like them, seem to add a bit of class to the instrument. I think I will make them a standard feature of my ukuleles. I would appreciate hearing your opinions
Today I installed MISI pickups in both Kent's tenor and my own Sycamore/cedar. Both working fine. I also installed strap buttons on the heels of both ukes. They are now finished. Two very successful builds. I am liking them both.
And Stuart Fuchs's Sycamore/Cedar is beginning to show a tiny bit of shine after the first day of French Polish application.
By the way, If you would like to be present when Stu opens the case and sees his new uke for the first time, for tickets to the event check Brown Paper Tickets It is on Sept. 29th, an exciting afternoon of learning and playing ending with a concert by the master.
All at the Anacortes Senior Center starting at 2:00 PM.. Come and join us, I would love to meet you.
This is #125, and I built it for myself. Sycamore and Western Red Cedar, and it is a wonder. Great tone, great sustain, big volume. One of the very best I have built. Im keeping this one.
It is a Kasha braced tenor and just like the one I am building for Stuart Fuchs. I started the French Polish on his today. Sycamore and Cedar seem to be a great combination of woods.