Thanksgiving took it's toll on workshop time. Four days in Seattle and San Juan Island, Then a two hour Tuesday history lecture to prepare for and finally today I was able to spend the afternoon in the workshop.
I drew out the neck shapes and cut them on the bandsaw.
Next, I plotted out the shape of the heel and the location of the cuts for insertion of the sides.
Back to the bandsaw to cut those grooves.
And now it is time for the artistic part, the carving of the neck. First the spokeshave.
Then the rasp and the old English chisel.
And once it is roughly carved it is time to hog out the slot to accept the soundboard. Be careful to perfectly match the thickness of the soundboard.
This is done by repeated passes over the saw using this saw sled. A very handy jig.
Clean this up with the old J.D.Kier chisel bought many years ago in England. J.D.'s name stamped on the handle. A wonderful tool of Sheffield steel. Every time I use it I think of J.D. whoever he was, who would be happy to know his tool is still cherished and used.
And now the necks are ready to be fitted to the soundboards. That will happen tomorrow. Wonderful to be back in the workshop after a six day hiatus.
In the late fall the berries of the lovely Madrona Tree " Arbutus Menziezi" slowly turn from green to bright red and before the birds can get them all , I like to collect a few to make necklaces for the ladies in my life. I dry them in the oven, drill a hole in each and string them into necklaces, each with a small glass bead between them.
Heck, you can't make ukuleles all of the time.
I did have a little time for the workshop today. I am getting ready to carve the necks, but first I wanted to put carbon fiber rods in them to assure that they would never warp and bend.
You simply cut a groove up the center of the neck.
Here's the incredibly stiff carbon fiber rod.
You just drop it into the slot and flood it with 5 minute epoxy, and that neck isn't going anywhere.
Not much done in the workshop today.
I did get the cross grain patches on the center seam and around the sound hole. These are made of very thin maple veneer with the veneer grain lying counter to the grain of the Redwood top giving considerable strength and avoiding splits in the soundboard.
Now the soundboards are complete. On to the next project.
I will use ebony veneer to reinforce the glued joint in this rosewood back. Here are the half inch wide braces waiting to be glued.
And here are the backs getting their seam patches glued on. This will be finished in the morning. Then to carve the necks.
If you ever wondered how this great tree got it's common name this photo should explain it for you. this huge leaf floated into our yard from a nearby wood lot. It is photographed here beside a standard sized tenor. this wonderful tree grows throughout our Western Washington area and it's wonderful wood is exported world wide to make stellar musical instruments.
Big Leaf Maple is normally pretty plain wood but occasionally it develops wonderful figure, Tiger Stripe, Quilt, many variations. That rare wood is quite valuable and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of woods. Here is a tenor I built a few years ago to demonstrate the beauty of this wood.
And if the maple log is left on the damp ground for a year, decay will begin. This is called spalting. Strange black lines and subtle discoloring begins. If you can catch it before it gets soft and rotten, Dry it and stop the decay, wonderful wood results. Here is the back of a tenor I built in 2014. Spalted Tiger stripe Big Leaf Maple. I love it.
George and Rich; Here are your backs, now with carefully carved Sitka Spruce braces. I chose especially fine grained quarter sawn spruce with the grain rising vertically through the brace to give the best strength and resonance.
Stu paid for his uke today, and in the envelope with the check was his sticker. Here it is on my tenor case. Love it, but I could not ignore the alliteration. Fuchs, Ukes Nukes. A little more than coincidence don't you think. If you can blow it up, note the Fuchs .com signature at the bottom right.
Had to separate these sister baritones today. Ron came to pick his up. On the left is my keeper. Identical in every way to Ron's on the right except for the wood of the neck and the radiused fretboard on Ron's. Two of the best instruments that I have built. Kind of hated to see them part, but we are each going to enjoy playing our sister.
Interesting to note the angle of the saddle between these two baritones. The one on the left indicates a saddle that dips a bit to the left, the traditional tilt to achieve intonation. The intonation on that Bari is good but not perfect. The Bari on the right seems to tilt to the right. The saddle, set with the intonation jig, has resulted in absolutely perfect intonation at the 12th fret. Live and learn.
Here is Ron, with his new Griffin Baritone. He is happy, I am happy, the Rooster is happy.
I spent a lot of time this morning running this back though the sander getting it thinned down the the .090 I wanted. What wild wood. It will be fun to put the finish on it. East Indian Rosewood gone mad.
I did'nt ignore you Rich. I got your back down to the proper thickness as well. I even thinned down the side pieces. I guess my next step will be to put the braces on these backs. Both amazing pieces of wood.
Did the final tweaks on Ron's Bari today and he will be in to pick it up tomorrow. A lovely instrument, Kind of sorry to part with it, but Ron lives but 20 miles away. I will see it from time to time. So lets get on with the next project. Here is the back for #112 in the "gluing together jig" . Looks crude but it works flawlessly. The secret, a 25 pound bag of lead shot.
And here it is, out of the clamps and ready for sanding. This is going to be a wild looking tenor back. Believe it or not, that is East Indian Rosewood.
Are you sure you want a back this wild George ? I have some much more sedate wood I could use.
While I had the lathe set up for small stuff I turned a handful of strap buttons from various wood scraps. Here are buttons of Maple, Walnut, and Honduran Mahogany. They rest on the Redwood soundboard of #112. Redwood from the old water tank from a New York City building.
Delighted by the news from Stu Fuchs that he is pleased with his Griffin tenor that he received via USPS yesterday, I entered the workshop this morning eager to work.
The first project was to install the MiSi pickup into Ron's Bari that just got it's strings yesterday. Here I am cutting the big 1/2 inch hole through the butt plate. The step drill does it very nicely.
Now with a long dowel, you carefully draw the pickup out through the hole. Note the washer and nut ready to secure it.
Next a small hole is drilled in the saddle notch and a thin steel wire is inserted through the hole to be attached to the piezo cable of the pickup. it must be brought up through the hole to lie in the groove under the saddle.
Success !, out it comes. Note the tiny hole I drilled in the end of the cable to accept the wire. Never done that before, but it was a huge success making the most difficult part of the installation an easy maneuver. Wish I had thought of doing that years ago.
The pickup installed and tested, I turned to the next project. Ron wanted a strap button that matched the maple of the neck. This is a pretty small job for my great big wood lathe, but I was able to turn a handful of these little guys.
And install one of them in the "hook" of the neck. I don't like buttons in this location, but this sure looks better than a gaudy metal strap button. A hole was drilled into the neck and the shaft of the button inserted and glued.
So, Ron's baritone is finished, and I think it is perhaps the prettiest instrument that I have built. Bearclaw Sitka Spruce,
Bubinga body, Tiger stripe maple neck and binding. This uke is a looker, and it sounds good too.
Now it is on to the next project. #112 on the left is for George, #113 on the right is for Rich in California. The soundboards are completed, Next I will be gluing the backs together, sanding back and sides to proper thickness. Both will be tenors of the Kasha bracing design.
I am really pleased with Stuart Fuchs Kasha tenor. I played it for an hour and a half at our Wednesday jam and enjoyed hearing the strings mature and this Redwood/East Indian Rosewood instrument begin to warm and mellow. Last night I sat beside the fireplace and played it for a long time. The basses are rich, strong and warm, the trebles are brilliantly clear. Stu will be able to make this uke really sing.
I always kind of hate to see my babies leave, but this morning I packed it up and took it to the post office. It will be in Vermont on Tuesday.
And now for the next completion. Ron's baritone got it's bridge glued on today, Tomorrow the tuners and maybe even the strings.
But workshop time will be cut short tomorrow by the Bellingham Ukulele Group November Jam. If you are in the neighborhood grab your uke and drop in. 1:30 at St. James Presbyterian Church. It's always a lot of fun. I have my big old bass, "Son of Gut Bucket" and all my gear ready to go.
But first I had to put the tuners in. Heres is what was needed this morning. A little coffee, A tapered reamer, and four Peghed tuning pegs. These Pegheds are metal, they have internal gears which deliver a 4 to 1 gear ratio, perfect for ukes. They are light, reliable, and I like their looks.
But what is it going to sound like?
I am delighted to report that it sounds great. Warm, lots of volume. excellent tone.
I think Stu Fuchs will really make it sing
There are always a few tweaks. I wanted to make the saddle a little bit higher, so here I am sawing a new one out of a chunk of buffalo bone with a jewelers saw.
Got to flatten and thin it. This is my homemade holder. Saves the fingers I can tell ya.
I also got the MiSi pickup installed. This was a busy day but this uke is just about finished.