i got a call today from Phil in Virginia, a ukulele builder looking for some Western Red Cedar tonewoods. I have more cedar,Sitka Spruce, and Englemann Spruce than I will ever be able to use. Even an excess of Port Orford Cedar, So I inventoried some of my stash.
And there is lots more. Any of you luthiers looking for excellent ukulele tonewoods, give me a call.
Teri came for her new ukulele the other day. She lives in Cal. but has family in Washington, so she drove a little farther north to pick up her new Griffin Kasha tenor.
We had a lovely visit, even played a little. Teri's uke is a dead ringer for the one I built for Stuart Fuchs, even to the Yin/Yang on the fretboard. Water tank Redwood and East Indian Rosewood, A combination guaranteed to provide rich and resident tone. Her uke is a good one and I think she left a happy player.
And left with two. She could not resist the Bubinga/Bearclaw Spruce,
And so she drove out of town with two of the very best ukuleles that I have built. She is happy, I am kind of sad to see them go. You know it is like selling your children.
She carted them away in a couple of my wonderful gig bags made for me by Jesus jurado in Tijuana. the Bubinga/bearclaw Spruce is in the brown bag. The East indian/watertank Redwood is in the black bag. the house seems kind of empty of a sudden. Enjoy years of enjoyment and fine music Connie. Those are my very best!
These two ukes are ready for their new homes. One in California, one in Seattle. I am very pleased with both of them. The rich warm tone i expect from Water tank Redwood and East Indian Rosewood. Lots of volume, sustain and the intonation on each is spot on.
I have an order from California for another just like these two beauties, but I will not start it until I have finished my book on the life of JJ Donovan. I have been working on this book for four years and simply must get it done. I will get back to building ukes in a month or two. In the meantime I am a writer-not a luthier. It will be hard to stay out of the workshop. Don't give up on the blog, I will be posting frequently.
Teri's Ukulele is now done and strung up. It is time to install the MiSi pickup. First the uke is clamped to the work table and the location of the hole is carefully measured and marked.
the hole will be drilled with this Step Drill. I have found that it drills a perfect hole with no damage to the surrounding wood. This will have to go through to its maximum width, 1/2 inch.
And here we go. It is almost through now. Looking good so far.
Here is the pickup. The strap button, nut and washer will be taken off and the rest of the pickup will be placed inside the uke and the threaded barrel brought out through the hole. it is secured by clamping it to the butt plate with the washer and nut. The round thing is a capacitor which stores electric energy like a battery. It is charged by inserting a charger into the barrel end.
The big challenge is bringing the piezo cable up through a hole that you drill in the saddle groove.
Using a thin steel wire inserted into the hole and attached to the piezo cable, I have drawn the cable out of the hole from within. Now I must get the barrel out of the hole from within.
And that is done with a wooden dowel which fits snuggly into the barrel of the pickup. once adjusted the washer and nut are screwed on tight and the pickup is firmly bolted to the butt block.
Now the Piezo cable is simply laid in the groove of the bridge, the saddle placed over it and the job is done. Not simple, but not bad when you have done it a few times. Now lets string it up and enjoy some music.
It is a bit time consuming, but a necessary task if you want a good playing instrument. First you slide this tool over your fret, it is perfectly level and has sandpaper on the bottom. It quickly locates and lowers any frets that are a tiny bit high.
Then you mask off the fretboard and with 800 grit on a sanding block you smooth out the sandpaper cuts visible in this photo. when the fret is perfectly smooth to the fingernail, you polish it with these three rubber blocks impregnated with abrasive dust.
Here are the tools- first a tiny black rubber block with 800 grit sandpaper affixed. Then three grades of rubber polishers. red first, then green then yellow. Now those frets are smooth.
And the final test is done with this "rocker" device. Each surface is perfectly flat. Place it over three frets and try to rock it. If it rocks, the center fret is high. If it does not rock, all frets are level.
Getting close to the finish line now. Today I glued the bridges on both ukes and started the final fret work.
with the utmost care the perfect place for the bridge is located and the bridge is surrounded with blue tape to prevent it moving when clamped and glued and of course so that the finish can be scraped off with a razor blade so that the glue will stick. Connie's uke is ready for the glue.
The blue tape prevents the bridge changing position when the clamps are applied.
And now it is glued and clamped. A homemade clamping system that works very well.
Another necessary task is leveling the frets. This aluminum bar is perfectly flat on the bottom and is armed with a strip of sandpaper. A few strokes will rapidly inform you of any high frets. It will lower a high fret and true up the fretboard. Then any corrected frets are carefully finished and polished. Kind of tedious but necessary to have a smooth playing instrument.
Spent a couple of hours on the band saw today re-sawing some nice Port Orford Cedar that I bought from GR Plume Co's recent wood sale. Nice quarter sawn fragrant wood now cut into sets enough to make twelve ukuleles in the future.
this set up on the big Grizzley band saw does a nice job of re-sawing these Port Orford Cedar boards into sets of book matched soundboards for ukuleles.
Stacking them up on the table saw as they come off the Band Saw.
Got enough for twelve future instruments. Port Orford Cedar makes great sounding ukuleles.
I think these two ukes have had just about enough French Polish. Before the week is out I am going to string them up.
They are looking nice and shiny. I am eager to hear their song.
Luthiers are pretty ingenious people. Always dreaming up new ways to improve their craft. I recently learned a very neat trick for sanding down tiny areas and repairing scratches. Here is the story.
Somehow I had put a rather deep scratch in this soft redwood top. I carefully filled it with thick super glue and let it dry hard. But how could I sand the superglue perfectly flat without damaging much of the surrounding finish?
Here is the secret weapon. A piece of 1/4 inch thick acrylic with the edges carefully smoothed so as not to scratch-to which a tiny piece of stick-on sand paper is placed. I learned that the sandpaper could be much smaller than even the strip shown in this photo. I chose 400 grit sand paper
Now you can gently sand the super-glue down, seeing exactly where you are sanding. The acrylic plate keeps your approach flat so you don't sand deeper on one side than another. The patch of sandpaper could have been a third as large.
Now I have sanded it down almost flat, but you can see the adjoining finish is now beginning to be scratched. Time for another idea,
By putting strips of scotch tape on either side of the sand paper you limit your sanding to the thickness of the scotch tape.
That got it down most perfectly flat. just a little more sanding and then a coat of dilute shellac.
That scratch is gone
HIGH QUALITY BARITONE GIG BAGS - I just got two from my source in Mexico. These are first class canvas bags, heavily padded. The have a zippered pocket for your music, a strong shoulder strap, a handle. you can have one for $60.00 and actual USPS shipping to your location. Also have them in tenor, concert and soprano. You will love them