Little by little an instrument gets built. Seems like a hundred little details must be attended to. For instance the fret ends must be smoothed out.
And it is much easier to do it before the fretboard is attached to the instrument. This tiny file is rounded on the bottom so that it will not score the wood of the fretboard. Lots of frets to smooth, Have patience.
Can you see the ones that have been smoothed and those that have not?
Did you wonder why two fret slots were left empty? Because a hole is drilled in them to accept a tiny brad that will hold the fretboard in its proper place when it is glued and clamped to the neck. The fret will be put in later and cover the brad hole.
The fret boards are glued and clamped to the necks.
And after a few hours, and a little work with a rasp, they are beginning to look like ukuleles.
Got the fretboards done today and the frets installed. Always a slow and tedious process. Also finished the French Polish on the triplets, Time to string those babies up.
The triplets are pleasantly shiny and the raw fretboards are just set on the instruments for looks.
Above is the sanding block used to put the radius in the fret boards. takes a bit of arm labor and a little time, you can see the progress on the board with the Yin/Yang. You sand until the entire arc of the radius has been sanded. Doing so shallows the groove for the frets and you must take care to have them deep enough to seat the frets fully. How do you know?
Here is the cleverest gadget I have seen in a long time, new from Stewart MacDonald. It fits into the fret slot and indicates it's depth. My frets require that the first bottom line must disappear in the slot. each edge is shaped to the approximate radius. I use a 12" radius so use the 10-14" side shown on the bottom. It not only measured the slot depth after you have completed the sanding, but ----
But, if you hold a flashlight behind it it will indicate whether or not your radius is completed. you might have to sand some more.
See the light shining under the center section. That means the job is not yet done, a little more sanding required to get the perfect radius. So simple, So ingenious, So handy. The guy who invented it is really clever.
Now knowing my slots are right, and having deepened a few with a hand saw, the fretting process begins. Here is the equipment and here is the place. Each fret is cut, tapped in, and then firmly seated with the arbor press after receiving a little glue. Takes a while.
Oh! it wasn't really that bad. Got the end cap on the foot and the fretboards ready to go. Take a look.
After flattening and lowering the Mahogany foot I cut the necessary pieces to cap it off. The cap itself, and a dark and light pair of thin veneer pieces to match the purflng on the binding
Sandwiched together, they are glued and clamped.
A few hours later the glue has set and I can begin the carving of the "Hook". a signature feature of my ukuleles. this will look very cool once it is finished.
'the work table is pretty full with the french polish hardening on the triplets, the foot caps setting up on the two new ones, It is now time to taper the fretboards and get them ready to install.
They are tapered on the table saw, 1 1/2 inches at the nut, 1 3/4 at the 14th fret, and then the dip cut on the small bandsaw.
The marker dot locations are carefully plotted. Then to prepare for drilling the holes, a sharp awl is used to mark the spot and guide the drill.
Next a small finger drill is used to start a larger guide hole. This is all to prevent the large final drill bit from straying to the wrong place.
At last, the old fashioned hand drill makes the larger and final seat for the mother of pearl marker dots.
And the gold hued mother of pearl dots are set into the holes with a little glue. these will look nice with the gold colored frets that I will be using. The next step will be sanding the radius into the fret board. That will have to wait until the glue sets under the dots.
one more day for French Polish for the Triplets, they are really looking good, The bulk of the day was spent on the two blondes, Alan's #139 and Glenn's #138. First thing was taking off the tape to see how the bindings look.
Couldn't be better. This is #138. Maple binding on Maple body. The finish will make the tiger stripe pop.
The next job was inlaying a piece of spalted maple into the end piece of each uke. You first must clean out the slot, then fit a piece of wood into it. Once that is done it is glued in and held with tape while the glue sets.
And when the glue sets the piece is faired down and blends nicely with the body.
Now they need heel caps and fret boards. That will be easy. The fretboards are already made, just need to be tapered and the frets installed. These ukuleles are coming together nicely. Being stuck at home has its advantages I guess.
Don't panic my friend, somehow the name paul came into my mind. Your #138 will get which ever peg head plate you choose. Sorry about my early morning name error.
Spalting occurs as the very early stage of decay in wood. Big Leaf Maple develops these wondrous black lines and color changes. Each piece is different and a wonder of nature. When the wood is dried the decay stops. When caught early enough the wood remains strong. When French Polish is applied it becomes truly beautiful.
I recently found a chunk of delicious spalted maple in my wood stash and sliced it up for peg head plates. My friend Kurt at Bay Engraving worked his wonders with his laser machine and now I have a wonderful array of plates to choose from. Glenn and Paul, buyers of #138 and #139 can choose their favorite.
Spalted maple with the big g is my signature peg head. Each of you decide on your 1st and 2nd choice. The first one to reply gets his choice. They are all beautiful and fascinating.
in the workshop all day, got a lot done.
First was another application of French Polish to the triplets. They are very, very close to being finished. Next for them, The bridge, the strings, the tuner and the pickups.
Next was cutting the slots for the binding. This is always a challenging task but it went perfectly today and soon I found myself glueing on the bindings.
I was able to get the bindings onto the mahogany uke. A pretty brown binding that blends perfectly to make this a good looking tenor.
It is time to put the back on #138 & 139. It begins by finding where those back braces are going to cross.
If you clamp the back in its proper position you will be able to mark exactly where the cross braces are going to be.
Now with a sharp blade cut out the notches and test the back for fit.
The fit is good. Brush glue on the edge and the tentalones and clamp her down tight. I always clamp the instrument back down to a flat installation jig. That way I assure that the back and neck will be flat.
Four or five ho.urs later I took the clamps off, trimmed the edges with the router, and these two ukes are Boxed.They are looking good. The next challenge will be installing the binding. One of the triplets is seen in the background. They are almost finished with the French Polish. Then comes installing tuners and bridge and saddle, and pickups.
I put side sound ports in all of my ukuleles. They send sound to the player.
First, a veneer patch is glued inside the instrument. The grain of the patch opposes the grain of the side, thus protecting the side fr0m a split at the sound port hole.
The hole is begun by simply drilling lots of little holes with the Dremel , then with a sanding drum in the Dremel, the oval hole is carefully shaped to accept the wooden oval ring.
When fitted in it is fixed permanently with super glue. And that is all there is to it.
Several applications of French Polish later the triplets begin to shine once more, and better than ever.
And they are getting close to the completed point. Each application now adds richness and depth to the finish. Each is East Indian Rosewood, but very different in appearance.
And the next build is progressing well. Here I have been trimming the Mahogany down to my markings.
And now planed to the proper side heights, the tentalones are glued to the edge.
Done ! Now the next step will be the side sound port installation and then they can be "boxed up" with the addition of the backs.