This winter weather makes the workshop seem ideal. Got a lot done today. It began with the last coat of French Polish on these ukes while the hot pipe was heating up.
Took the Bubinga sides out of the mold. This is a beautiful bend, ready to be attached to the soundboard
Now the pipe was hot. I bent the East Indian rosewood sides and got them in the mold. It went well. East Indian is quite easy to bend despite some wonky grain. It wanted to twist. The mold will straighten that out.
While the iron was hot I decided to bend the bindings I will use on #14 and 15. They will be ready when needed.
Then it was time to glue on the bridge. First I needed a saddle for the bridge. I have a piece of buffalo bone in the vise being shaped with a file.
Once that is fitted into the bridge it is time to get the bridge to its proper location. That is done with the use of this odd contraption.
Two strings are stretched across the instrument from saddle to zero fret. The strings are tuned to any note recorded on the Korb tuner. Then each string is fretted the 12th fret. If the note is exactly the same as the unfretted note you know the saddle is just right. If not you move the bridge and saddle until the notes match. Do this with both strings and you have the proper position for the bridge. Mark the spot with blue tape and proceed.
Once the notes match, blue tape records the perfect place.
now surround the bridge with blue tape and scrape off the shellac underneath it with a razor blade.
Glue it and clamp it and tomorrow morning we can string this uke up.
This morning I did the final sanding with 1,00o grit wet and dry and applied the final coats of French Polish. They are looking great.
Tomorrow I will attach the bridge to these ukes, make a nut and saddle from my buffalo bone stock, and see if i can string them up tomorrow.
In the meantime I have been making great progress on the next generation.
the fretboards are slotted and radiused. here is the sanding block used for the 12 foot radius.
can you see the gentle curve of the radius?
and finally I got the Bubinga sides bent nicely. Here you see the whole thing, The hot pipe in the background, The stainless steel bending sheet which covers the wood as it is bent over the pipe. The spray boggle to spritz water on the wood as it dries out in the bending process, The form which provides the shape one aspires to as you bend, and finally the press in which the wet and warm bent sides are placed and clamped in position to cool and dry overnight. Once again I got an excellent bend by using the old fashioned hands on hot pipe method.
Infatuated with the set of gold Gotah tuners I had in stock, Ron insisted on replacing the Peghed tuners I had installed in his Griffin baritone. I reluctantly agreed thinking I could break the grip of the glue and screw them out of the maple head stock, saving the Pegheds for another instrument. 'wow was I wrong!
I put a piece of protective leather around a Peghed and tried to turn with pliers. No luck Then I tried without the leather, only marring the aluminum body, again no luck. Finally decided to saw them off and drill them out;
The credit card was to protect the wood from the saw blade. The aluminum cut easily but the stainless gears inside stopped my jewelers saw. 'Finally got out a hack saw.
The central axel is broken off, the gears and housing removed. I was able to pull the post out but now what to do.
That housing is threaded and glued into the wood. The only solution was to try to drill it out. Using the smallest possible drill bitt I went at it.
GOT IT ! The casing is impaled on the tip of the drill bitt. Whew, Now to enlarge the hole to accept the Gotah tuner.
To avoid damaging the wood of the peg head I used five drill bitts gradually increasing the size of the hole until I got to the Gotah size. This worked well. No damage.
By this method I finally got them all out. I destroyed four excellent tuners, but learned how well they are made and how firmly Pegheds attach to an instrument if properly installed. I got the Gotahs installed and my customer is happy, but I regret murdering these excellent Pegheds. You can see the remains in this picture
Ron brought in an ancient mahogany Favilla Baritone that he found on the internet. The original tuners were slipping making it impossible to keep in tune. I had just bought some of the new Gotah UPT tuners.
It was easy to remove the old friction tuners.
. Here are the Gotah's. The one on the right is dis-assembled. The top piece threads down onto the bottom piece clamping it to the peg head. They have internal gears giving them a 4 to 1 gear ratio.
I had to drill much larger holes through the old peg head. This larger hole makes the Gotah an easy replacement. Old ukes Friction tuners usually had pretty small holes.
The tuners have a tiny sharp point protruding from the gear box to prevent the tuner from turning. You mark the place where the point is to be and punch a hole for it with a thin awl. see that tiny point on the right hand photo?
Once the hole is drilled they are very easy to install. They turn very smoothly and hold their position firmly. No slippage noted. I think they will be excellent to upgrade old ukes.
You adjust their tension with a very small phillips head bolt on the back of the thumb knob.
Oh, another application of French Polish on the tenors, the back braces finished and glued on the backs of the new builds. Practiced a little for a gig tomorrow, even saw the last quarter of the super bowl,, Ho-Hum.
All the braces are done, Guess it is time to bend the sides.
Lots of activity the last couple of days, Not all on my ukes, Been Installing MiSi pickups, strap buttons, helping a new uke builder from Anacortes, but I have made lots of progress on the tenors I am building. #112 & 113 are almost ready to string up, and 114 and 115 got their necks carved today.
Carving and chaos on a busy worktable
The maple neck fresh from the bandsaw. Now the carving and shaping begins.
A few strokes with a sharp spokeshave and you can see the tiger striping. This will be a beautiful neck.
Maple is tough wood. I had to resort to my rough old rasp to make any progress.
Burning in the identity marks after it is shaped
Two necks roughed out. There will be lots of refinements later in the process.
Last project for the day, whittling the back braces, three for each instrument. Nice spruce and fun to make.
Today I received these photos of nationally prominent Stuart Fuchs playing his new Griffin ukulele as he performed recently at the Brown County Ukulele Festival. I believe that is in Indiana. It was an immense honor to receive a commission to build a uke for Stu. It is an absolute thrill to see him playing it. this photo will hang on my workshop wall you can be sure
The tops are finished, tone bars, braces and all. Now the backs need their braces and it ill be time to carve out the necks. These are for ukuleles #114 and 115.
My friend Brian Hansen wanted to learn about French Polishing, so this morning he came to the workshop and learned the right way, by doing it. He did a great job putting three applications on each of the ukes I am finishing, He is a natural.
As Brian was polishing, I was whittling tone bars for the next build. Soon the floor in front of my chair was littered with shavings, but the 24 tone bars were finished.
here they are properly distributed. Now they must be carefully glued and clamped on.
while the glue dried on the tone bars I turned to installing pickups in two tenors brought back to me by customers. Here is Stu's ready to have the hole drilled.
The installations went super smooth. Here you see the piezo cable that I had just coaxed out through the tiny hole drilled in the channel of the bridge. The toughest part of the installation. It will be laid in the groove under the saddle to pick up the string vibration.
This was a busy and very productive day
Beth selected her East Indian Rosewood back. She chose #1 of the five I had shown her, and here it is in the clamp rig getting glued together. Most tenor backs are two pieced. She chose a pretty one and it has now been sanded down to its final thickness and is ready for its braces.
The Redwood soundboard has also been joined and thinned to final thickness so it is ready for is bridge brace and dozen tone bars.
The sides of both ukuleles are selected, cut to shape and sanded to their bending thickness. Here is one being trimmed on the table saw.
And now the whittling begins. I have a good beginning on the twenty four tone bars for these ukes.
The fan shaped bridge brace that the tone bars all attach to is a thin but strong piece of walnut. When completed the string knots will pull against this tough wood.