But they are getting close.
In the last few days the bindings have been installed, the end pieces fitted and the heel plates installed, and lots of sanding and prep work has been done. Here is how it went.
Gluing on the bindings.
Cutting and fitting the koa end piece.
The end piece glued.
A little more sanding and the end piece will look good.
And now for the heel caps, Each one is three pieces glued one on top of another.
Two hours later it is time to start whittling them into shape.
And here is the first one, Final carving comes tomorrow, but a lot accomplished. Next comes the fretboard.
But first you have to cut the channel for the bindings through, not only the soft Redwood top, but also the hard Rosewood side. It is always a little nerve wracking.
But a small router, a sharp bitt and a steady hand seem to make it work every time.
And what a mess it makes, sawdust everywhere.
And after the second uke, it is only worse.
And now to rig the router to cut the end piece inlay.
This guide will ride along the jig made of 1/4 inch plexiglass. The jig clamps to the back of the instrument over the center seam where the sides join. Tomorrow I will install the bindings and the end inlay.
In late afternoon my daughter arrived from Seattle. She is having great fun learning the pottery art and wanted some wooden lids. We had a fun time making these tight fitting lids.
So while the glue is drying I have been turning out Madrona berry necklaces. Of course Marya gets first pick.
But I have been making progress on ukes too. Here I am preparing to put the back on George's tenor. Sawing the slots that the back braces will fit into.
Now I will rout out the slots with the Dremel. I find this makes clean neat cuts.
With everything fitting it is time to brush on the glue and clamp down the back.
George loves wild wood, and here he is getting some of the wildest East Indian Rosewood that I have ever seen, but for the soundboard he is getting some classic fine-grained Redwood.
I tried to count the grain using a ten power glass. Each mark represents ten years of growth. Really hard to see, but it approaches 80 years per inch. Just imagine how old this tree was. It was probably six or eight feet thick at the butt.
So now it is boxed up and trimmed, and looking really good, And Rich's uke is in the clamps and will be ready to trim in the morning.
I love that hole in the side of my ukulele. I insist on putting them in every uke I make. It sends the sound up to me in a crowded noisy jam, and it does not hurt the overall sound of the uke at all- in fact it might help it.
But it is obvious, it must weaken the side of the instrument, so I glue a veneer patch on the side with the grain going opposite the grain of the side. Here I have a caul and clamps holding that patch tight as the glue dries.
Glue dried, Patches on, Ready to drill the hole out.
I rough the hole out using a drill bit in a Dremel tool. Then I switch to the Dremel's sanding disk to slowly and carefully finish the hole and fit the wooden oval ring into it.
Now that it fits into the hole, I carve it down flat with a very sharp chisel and apply superglue to cement it in.
Then it is just a matter of sanding it down flush.
I got word today that my new gig bags would be shipped next week. These high quality tenor bags will be black with gold piping and this lovely embroidered image of a Pinecone. The pinecone, of course, is the name of my popular brand of travel ukes, the oval shaped Pinecone. If you are interested in owning one of these beauties send me an email.
Some folks call them "Linings", some folks call them "tentalones", Whatever you call them, they are the bendable pieces that hold an instrument together by providing an adequate glueing surface. I make mine of basswood.
Pre-cut strips of basswood are run through this jig that fits on my band saw. Repeated thrusts into the blade cut the grooves which allow the piece to bend with the curves of the instrument.
The piece is stopped at each new cut by the point of the very hard Boxwood shaft seen here just to the left of the cutting notch. Powered by two rubber bands, it enters the new cut, stopping the workpiece in just the right place for the next cut. I devised this simple gadget years ago and have made many hundreds, nay, thousands of cuts with it. Works just great.
I slice them to an angle with a sharp exacto knife, sand them smooth and here they are ready to install with the clothes pins for clamps.
And here they are, almost ready for the installation of the backs. First the side sound ports will be installed.
Soundboards and topside. Carbon fiber rods installed in necks.
a peek at the lavishly figured sides.
Here are the Swans A'Swimming for you George. I used to be into carving duck and goose decoys. These are the miniatures.
Back to the workshop late, where the sides got attached on #112 with a nice fit. got a bunch of tentalones glued in and ready to make a lot of progress in the morning.
Below is #113, out of the assembly jig and looking good. Look at the wild grain in that wood. See why I was worried about bending it? It will make a lovely uke.
Here is another view. Gonna be a nice one.
And today was the day to put up the decorations. Here is the "Partridge in A Pear Tree" carved many years ago to festoon an actual espaliered pear tree out side the back door at our old home on Knox Ave. Now moved to a metal tree at our new home, the family tradition continues.
So here is the Partridge, sitting atop the metal pear tree beside the entrance to our home.
And here is the whole works, carved so many years ago, golden rings, calling birds, lords a leaping and even a few fake pears to liven things up. All of the figures of the song. Whittled and painted in my workshop.
Maids a Milking
LORDS A LEAPING
THERE THEY GO AGAIN, ALONG WITH ALL OF THEIR OTHER FIGURES, WHITTLED AND PAINTED WHEN MY CHILDREN WERE YOUNG. MANY YEARS AGO.
Back in the workshop it was time to begin assembling these ukes. First the assembly jig.
You place the soundboard and neck upon it ready for the sides.
Eye balling the fit, you trim the bent side to fit the soundboard. Here I am trimming off excess wood on the end.
Make sure the sides fit into the neck slots. This is looking very good.
Once you think you have a fit, liberally glue the back of the butt block and apply a thin line of glue to the bottom of the side. Now quickly put it in position and clamp it down.
It is a good fit, and I was able to secure it all with a few tentalone strips This uke is going together nicely.
After a morning trip to lovely Lummi Island to attend the memorial service for my old friend Jack Bowman, I returned to the workshop somehow with the spirit of the coming holiday. Must be time to make gifts from the natural wonders of our world.
I have collected hundreds of these colorful berries of the Madrona Tree, dried them in the oven and now am drilling holes in each one preparing to make them into necklaces.
Here is the result, Necklaces of Madrona seeds separated by tiny glass beads. A fun project and a fun gift for many friends for Christmas.
Here you see the tiny glass beads that separate but accent each seed. Also the thin needle used to carry the thread through the beads and each berry.
And the final result is a happy wife.
Made a little progress in the ukulele world also. Here are the two successful bends of the East Indian Rosewood, now out of the molds.
All the major parts of these tenors are completed now as the butt blocks just got glued on this afternoon. Next will be assembly time, attaching the sides to the soundboards.
When the glue is dried under the butt blocks it will be time to get out the assembly jig.
Hooray! an entire day to play in the workshop. I got the necks refined, sanded, and ready to install.
But first I got out my old wood burner from the days of making duck decoys. I now burn into the ukulele neck, year, name and the instrument number. You can't see it on the finished uke without peering through the sound hole or the side sound port but it is going to be there forever. Do you suppose one of my ukes will last 100 years?
I fitted the soundboards to the necks and got them glued on straight and true. Here they rest in their clamps as the glue sets.
Then I decided to bend the sides. I was worried, as this is wildly figured wood and I thought it might be difficult to bend and easy to break.
I set up the hot pipe and plugged in the soldering iron seating element and when it got to 250 degrees I started the bend.
To my delight and surprise I was able to bend the four sides successfully . 'the first bend was put into the tenor mold to dry and set up, but I had no place to do the same for the second pair of sides. Aha, an idea. See below, I simply clamped the wet sides to this half mold from the bending machine. I will leave the sides clamped to shape for a day or two to dry well and set their shape. Then The assembly will begin.