Going to be a nice instrument.
This new uke is coming along nicely. The binding went on very well, The heel cap of Honduran Rosewood is attached. Now it is time to finish the neck and do lots of sanding to get it just right.
The Port Orford Cedar soundboard is looking great, The Bubinga sides and back fit well. Now the challenge is to make a fast and comfortable neck, I think this is going to be a really good one.
Here is the end piece.
And here is the back. This Bubinga is pretty wood. I am liking it.
The binding is curly white Koa. You can't see the figure in it yet, but it will jump when the finish is applied.
Going to be a nice instrument.
A delight indeed. The joy of playing music and of building the instruments. Yesterday I enjoyed both.
This is a shot of the Community Players practice held at Gail McDonald's studio. We practice twice a month for a monthly gig at one of the assisted living institutions in town. Bringing the joy of music to those mostly elderly folks. The practices are always fun, last for a couple of hours and we are getting pretty good. I play my "son of gut bucket" two string bass. Great fun.
Then, back in the workshop, it is time to install the bindings on #108, A Kasha tenor made with Bubinga Sides and back and a Port Orford Cedar sound board. This ought to be a good one.
First I must cut away the notch that the upper end of the binding will fit into. Here you see the pencil marks indicating the planned cut.
And here the pencil mark indicates the planned cut on the back. Here the top of the binding will be visible and this must be done well.
Two cuts are made with a very fine toothed Exacto saw.
Then the curve is perfected with the edge of this big bastard file.
Next, with a sharp chisel I cut away the Spanish Cedar heel to the level of the upper edge of the binding. Several layers of veneer and the heel cap will fill this cutaway space.
Yep, this looks about right.
\Now for the top. Here I am clearing out the slot so the binding will fit in it properly with a tiny chisel from my considerable stable of carving tools.
Wood carving has long been a fascination for me and I have collected a pretty good variety of carving tools. They frequently come in handy building instruments.
Now with the first binding carefully fitted, I am ready to glue it on, secured with several dozen small lengths of this orange "binding tape'. You must get the tape pieces cut and ready as this is a timely exercise.
Now the first two pieces of binding are glued on. The clamps are to assure that the ends will be firmly pressed to the instrument. They tend to want to spring out. I will let the glue set for two hours and then attach the remaining 2 pieces of the curly koa binding. So far things are going well.
I was recently given a lovely piece of tiger stripe maple just the right size for a baritone neck. Even though I have not decided to make another baritone at the moment, I could not resist carving a neck with this beautifully figured wood. Never made a uke neck of tiger stripe maple before, but lots of classic violins had such nccks.
The idea came to me during the night. A way to hold the neck firmly in a good position to carve with spokeshave, rasps, knives, chisels, and the bow sander. Just a couple of simple pieces of 3/4 inch plywood screwed and glued together to be held in the versatile parrot vise.
It is just a tiny bit narrower than the neck, You can clamp the neck to it in most of its length using two clamps or in this case just one, giving wonderful access to the entire length of the neck.
The parrot vise can be turned to whatever angle is most convenient for you. Notice the vise itself is portable, simply attached to a piece of plywood that is clamped to the work table where ever it is convenient.
Just a simple little idea, but I am really pleased with the results.
This afternoon I strung up Delrene's tenor and installed the MiSi pickup. Thought you might enjoy seeing the process.
First you must hold the instrument firmly. Here I protect it with foam pads and clamp it firmly to the edge of the work table. Notice the clamp pressure is only on the very end over the butt plate. You can exert pretty firm pressure here.
Next, I find the exact mid point at the end piece and score it with the sharp point of an awl to guide the drill bit. You sure don't want the drill to stray and marr the finish here.
Now I drill a guide hole entirely through the butt block with a small drill bitt. The big step bitt will follow this hole faithfully.
This is the step drill bitt. I believe they are made to drill holes in sheet metal but I have successfully used this many times for perfect holes in wood for pickup installation
Now the step bitt is about half way into the end block. I will go entirely through at its maximum width, exactly right for the barrel of the pickup.
With the big hole drilled, now it is time for the tiny hole in the bridge through which the piezo cable of the pickup must be led. I drill the hole, and then move the bit around to lengthen and widen it a little. Pulling the cable through this, from the inside, is difficult and the hole needs to be enlarged a bit.
With the holes drilled now it is time to install the pickup. I use a wooden dowel just the right size to firmly fit into the end hole of the pickup barrel.
Here is the marvelous MiSi pickup for ukuleles. I have also used it successfully in my big bass. After a one minute charging, it will power your amp for 16 hours. Truly an amazing device. I have installed dozens successfully.
In order to get the piezo cable up through the bridge, I insert a thin steel wire into the hole , pull it out through the sound hole, and carefully wrap it around the cable in this fashion. Now I am ready to pull the barrel of the pickup from within the uke out through the hole in the end after inserting my wooden dowel.
Here I have gently brought the barrel out of the hole, but it protrudes a little too far.I must push it back into the instrument and adjust the nut and washers on the barrel. Then bring it back out the hole to attach a washer and nut.
Now it is adjusted correctly. With a tiny wrench I have tightened the outside lock nut and now can screw on the end cap and strap button. The pickup is installed if I can successfully pul the piezo cable out of the hole in the bridge.
And here it comes. Now it is just a matter of undoing the wire and laying the cable in the groove of the bridge.
Then the saddle is simply placed down over the cable and the job is complete. I sanded down the bone saddle an amount equal to the thickness of the piezo cable so that the action remains at the proper height. I installed the strings, gave the MiSi a 60 second charge and connected it up to my amp. Works like a charm. Job successfully completed. Delrene's uke is finished.
It is time to finish Delrene's Tenor. Last night I placed the bridge in its proper place (no easy task), glued and clamped the fretboard to the Soundboard.
This morning the Peghed tuners got screwed and glued in place and this is beginning to look like a uke.
Next, using a spare string, I marked where the 1st and the 4th strings would need to enter the bridge behind the saddle. then with a sharp awl, worked a small hole to guide the drill bit.
Now carefully measure the distance between the awl marks.
It measured 1.3. divide that by 3 and you have 6,13 as the width between the strings.
Now mark that on the bridge and it is time to drill the holes for the strings.
Once again it is time to use the old, gentle hand drill. You are using a tiny thin drill bitt just a hair larger than the string, and in this very delicate place you want complete control. The drill bit goes into the mark pre-made with the awl, and you drill through the bridge and its walnut mate glued exactly below it.
More tomorrow- stay tuned.
Delrene wanted a tenor just like my #100, a Kasha of East Indian Rosewood and Redwood, with lovely curly koa binding. #100 is the best sounding uke I have built, and she wanted its clone. She also urgently wanted to have a role in it's birth. I have never done this before but I let Delrene come to the workshop and do a little sanding one afternoon. And today I taught her to French Polish.
Here she is polishing up the bridge.
Note the gloves and the Munica held in her fingers. thats the new baritone on the right.
And here she is working on the East Indian Rosewood back- and it is starting to shine.
And here is the Redwood tone board, brilliant and rich. Bet it will sound that way also.
Delrene has done a marvelous job. May have to hire her as my "finisher". this uke is about done.
Last night I got the bridge glued on using a couple of clamping techniques. Kind of hard to clamp it this far from the sound whole, but this worked fine.
Today I drilled the holes for the PegHed tuners using an old friend, a hand drill that I bought in a garage sale sixty years ago. Electric drills are too aggressive in this instance. Hand tools are often more controllable. First I carefully clamped it into a secure position.
The old hand drill allows you to drill slowly and gently avoiding tear-out on the bottom of the peg head.
With the small holes drilled, now I can insert the tapered auger and cut out the 3degree hole necessary to insert the PegHed tuners.
These excellent tuners look like old violin begs, but they are really modern, aluminum geared tuners delivering a 4 to 1 gear ratio. I have used them for years, lightweight, reliable and handsome. Not cheap, but good!
And now for the big moment. The stringing up. I have had great success with Southcoast Strings.
AND SHE SINGS. I am very pleased with this Bubinga, Sitka Spruce combination. Looks good, sounds wonderful. And the Kasha bracing provides rich bass and bright but balanced trebles. This baritone is a success. I have been playing it for hours and enjoying that robust baritone sound. I will keep this one and sell my earlier maple and spruce bari. watch for it in the "available instrument" section of the website.
When you can step outside and pick raspberries for your Corn Flakes, it is officially summer.
There is going to be a huge crop this year, and they are delicious. I will show you the patch one of these days. Growing abundantly right beside the driveway. Bountiful!
But, back to ukuleles. I got the ring in the side sound port this afternoon. I think it is Alaska Cedar that will match well with its cousin Port Orford cedar on the sound board, But I am thinking a better choice might have been a ring that was darker to match theBubinga. Oh well, It is done now.
Here is the interior view showing the patch I always glue in to support the side.
I think these two are finished and ready to get their bridges, strings, tuners, saddles attached. I think I will get at that in the morning.
Just a little more work to get these lovelies singing. Hopefully at this time tomorrow I will be enjoying a martini as I play these two instruments gauging their tone, resonance and overall quality. I am hopeful and expectant.
After a week of travel it is great to be home again, and back in the workshop. I have had a few hours to work on ukuleles and have made some good progress.
I got the bent sides attached to the #108 soundboard and a few of the tentalones glued on as well.
The next day I completed the soundboard tentelones and got them attached to the back sides also.
Now the glue is set and off come the clothespins.
A little sanding to make sure of a slick fit, and once the side port is in, we can box this baby up. The back is all ready and setting beside the uke. The photo makes the body look crooked. I assure you it is not.
I also wet sanded, and applied several more coats of French Polish to the two ukes I am finishing. This Kasha tenor for Delrene shows an unusual pattern in its redwood top. It was not really visible until the finish went on. I like it, a pleasant surprise.
The Bubinga Tenor is really beginning to look lovely. Bubinga is a new wood for me. I am hoping it sounds as good as it looks.
Last Friday Marya and I boarded the Alaska Ferry in Bellingham and headed for Juneau Alaska. We sailed off on a beautiful evening directly into the sunset.
The island you see is Texada Island in Georgia Strait well north of Vancouver . The ferry boat is wonderful. Spotlessly clean, great observations areas, friendly crew, The cabins, adequate, no luxury, food good, the scenery unbelievable.
In some places of the Inland Passage you could throw a rock from either side of the ship and hit the shore. This is a very typical scene.
Our mission was to return to the culture from whence it came, this extremely rare Basalt hand hammer found many years ago by a Haida woman half buried in the mud flats in front of her village on Prince of Wales Island.
I bought it from her forty years ago but felt it needed to be returned to its culture. It was featured on Antique Road Show a few years ago, and considered very precious, Made by Haida or Klingit artisans before contact by white man.
So here we are presenting it to the Chief Curator of the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. We have just signed the deed of gift and he is thrilled with his new artifact promising to put it on display in the appropriate exhibit. I hated to part with it but decided that one never really owns something of this cultural value, we only possess them for a while, and I wanted to be sure this piece would be safe for future generations and seen by others. I treasured and enjoyed it for forty years.
And here is where it will likely be exhibited, in this lineup of hand hammers, or "pounders" in the Haida/Klingit longhouse exhibit. If you ever get to Juneau be sure to see this marvelous new museum and say hello to the ancient Raven hand hammer for me.
We had time for a little sight seeing. This is the Mendenhall Glacier just a couple of miles north of town. Salmon fishing season had just opened.
If you ever want to have a marvelous marine adventure, here is the agenda. It leaves from Bellingham and returns to Bellingham. If you get here, give me a call I live about five minutes from the ferry dock, I will show you the workshop.