Rick finished putting the frets in the second fretboard and then spent a good bit of time rounding and smoothing the fret ends with a tiny file. Here, I had stepped in to give him a few tips on use of the file.
Now we turned our attention to the side sound ports, first gluing in a veneer patch on the inside where the port would penetrate. The oval hole is then roughed out with a drill bit in the Dremel tool.
The drill bitt is traded for a small sanding disk and the delicate work of making the hole match the liner begins.
Sand a little and try the wooden liner, see where it does not fit, sand a tiny bit more-- wear a mask, this is a dusty business.
Finally the wooden oval just slips into the hole and it is time for medium superglue to lock it into place for ever. This looks a little rough, but with a bit of sanding it will prove to be an excellent tight fit.
Now with a nifty little curved carving knife the ring is carved down flush on the inside and this uke is ready to have the back put on (boxed up).
But before the backs can be attached the instrument must be sanded carefully to be sure the back will fit with no gaps. We will continue that job tomorrow.
The day began with Rick installing the tentalones on the back side of both ukuleles. A little glue, a careful positioning and lots of clamps, some modern, some just old fashioned clothes pins.
As he was doing that I was sanding the radius into the fretboards for these ukes. I begin with 8o grit and finish with 320.
The sanding block has the 12 foot radius cut into it. Stickit sandpaper does the rest. Takes about fifteen minutes to do the job and it is pretty good arm and shoulder exercise.
You can gauge your progress by drawing pencil marks across the fretboard. As the marks disappear you know you are getting the radius made.
After the radius is sanded in you must check to see that there is still enough depth in the slots to fully seat the frets. Here I am carefully checking each slot with a clever little device curved in the same radius. Ah ! perfect. the frets will seat well. I need the flashlight to see the tiny lines.
Soon Rick was getting his first experience in installing frets. First we cut them to length and lay them out beside the fretboard.
Then with glue and hammer they are tapped into their slots
And firmly pressed into the slots with this arbor press, Now the frets are curved just as is the fretboard, making the instrument easier to play.
A nice morning in the workshop, Rick and I did a bit of French Polish on Michael and Cazzie's ukes, lots more of that to do. And we got the sides on the new ukes. Also got the Maple of yesterday cut into sets of backs and sides for future instruments.
Before gluing the sides to the soundboards the necks must be attached and the butt blocks glued on. Now we are ready for the sides.
And now the sides are on, held tight by the glue on their lower edges and the partial application of tentalones. We will complete installing the rest of the tentalones tomorrow.
Spent the morning in the workshop attaching the necks, applying french polish and making good progress, After lunch I drove up the beautiful Skagit River Valley to that wonderland of wood
I needed some binding for all of the ukuleles on order but as usual I came away with some wonderful wood I had not expected thanks to the generosity of my friends there. And as usual I came away astounded at the technical perfection and the knowledge and science displayed there.
General Manager Eric Warner and I are examining a freshly sawn slab of a Mexican Ash species that they are sawing for the new "street tree" program begun by Taylor Guitars. Taylor has contracted with a large California tree maintaince company to purchase and use street trees that are suitable for acoustic instruments. They are excited about this Ash species found in many California streets. Pacific Rim is processing the wood for Taylor.
Then Eric showed me their " Wood Library" where they test and stock soundboard wood for discriminating luthiers. Each piece has been tested for sound characteristics desired, labeled and stored here awaiting orders for wood with specific tonal qualities.
Here is the device that does the testing. A steel ball is dropped down the white tube and strikes the soundboard. The woods resonance is picked up by the microphone and reported to the computer which analyses the sonic properties of that particular piece of wood. The results are then recorded on a computer, the wood receives its identifying marks and is placed in the library,
Here Eric is waking up the computer to show me the process. I was thoroughly confused and impressed with this scientific approach to tap tuning. It is no wonder that Pacific Rim is the leader in their industry.
So if you want to build a guitar with terrific treble sound and lots of sustain they can tell you that #1078 is the wood you should use. Truly amazing!
And they can even tell you what bracing material you should be using. This rack contains only bracing material that has gone through the same testing process.
Next I went to another building where Keven was determining the best use of large stacks of freshly sawn fiddleback maple. His decisions determine the fate of each set of book matched pieces. Some will work for dreadnoughts, some for parlor guitars and some only for ukuleles. those with the slightest flaw, a pinhole gap, a pitch pocket, a knot, are tossed into the scrap bin. Only the perfect pieces are kept to be dried and sold to guitar factorys.
Did I come home with some of this beautiful wood. Of course, how could I resist. I am able to cut from each piece of book matched wood, one half of a tenor back and one side. so two book matched pieces result in one tenor ukulele, all from the same tree, both with the same markings. And maple makes beautiful sounding ukuleles as well. I came home with wood for six tenors. plus lots of lovely curly Koa binding to accent them.
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY
No progress in the workshop this weekend, Marya and I took a break and joined our daughter and son in law at their summer home on beautiful San Juan Island.
We have all been vaccinated and it was wonderful to have a normal visit with loved ones at this magic spot.
But I did get in a bit of uke work on Cazzie's tenor. East Indian Rosewood has prominent pores which need to be filled if you want a shiny finish. I brought along the alcohol, a munica and the pumice and spent a few minutes "pumacing" her uke, filling those pores.
Pumice is a natural material and a very fine abrasive. A tiny bit of it is picked up by the munica dampened by alcohol and then rubbed vigorously over the wood. The wood has been prepared with several applications of french Polish (aka shellac diluted in alcohol. The alcohol softens and the munica with cleared pumice on it grinds off some of the shellac and fills the pores with it.
A pleasant place to do a little work, and now this uke will shine all the brighter.
Some folks call them Kerfing, whatever you call them they are the bendable triangular pieces that hold all acoustic instruments together. Rick spent most of his time this morning making them on the band saw.
I devised this little jig to accurately cut the slots which allow them to bend. Works great cutting the basswood strips.
Next they are sliced at a slant to make them a triangular shape and sanded smooth for uniformity.
And then they are put aside awaiting their vital use of holding together sides, back and soundboard
In the meantime the tone bars glued to the soundboard are curing under lots of clamps.
And soon Cindy's uke has all its parts ready to start assembly.
Joe's uke is a just a step behind. Here are its parts.
But don't worry Joe, your soundboard is just getting the patch around the sound hole glued on and clamped with the big bag of bird shot.
Thats about it for today. Stay tuned.
Lots of small steps yesterday and today. I epoxied the carbon fiber rods into a couple of necks yesterday. The clamps are used to keep the rods down deep into the groove. Otherwise they tend to want to float up.
I can never seem to use epoxy without creating a mess. but it will sand off.
Tops and bottoms, all sanded thin and ready for the braces and tone bars.
Here is Rick concentrating on his first neck carving.
Limited time today, but I had time to whittle the back braces.
Amazing the amount of shavings resulting from only six braces.
but when carved and sanded they are things of beauty. Not sure if it really makes a difference, but when these braces look graceful I always feel they will make the uke sound better. I touched up the curve on the left side, looks a little more graceful now.
And now completed, they are glued to the backs and clamped into the GoBar
As i announce yesterday, my old friend Rick Wright has agreed to help me build ukes. This was the fourth day he has been in the workshop and we are way ahead of schedule.
Rick is sanding the various parts down to final thickness as I am working on other things.
already we have the backs made and thinned , ready for their braces.
The sides bent and in their forms for drying.
Next, an entry hole is drilled to be able to grind out the sound hole to its proper size on the sander.
This is the safe way to make the oval sound hole, shaping by eye.
And so now, the backs, the tops and the sides are made, thinned and ready for their bracing. Remarkable progress with the help of Apprentice luthier Rick Wright.
I AM DELIGHTED TO ANNOUNCE---I HAVE AN APPRENTICE. My old friend and partner in a variety of adventures has committed to helping me in the workshop, thereby learning to build ukuleles himself. I guess we can call this an apprenticeship. Rick and I entered the ukulele world together about 12 years ago. We have played together in a small group, weekly for years now. He is an excellent musician and will become an excellent luthier after some months of helping me in my workshop. He has a world of experience with tools, woodworking and many other areas. Rick is seen here sanding the sides for #156 down to .o70, perfect for bending. Orders for my Kasha ukuleles has grown incredibly. With Rick to help me I will be able to deliver ukes to those eager customers much more promptly. We made some excellent progress today.
We are assembling the parts for two new tenors, one for Joe in New York, another for Cindy in Arkansas. We must glue together book matched backs and soundboards, thin all parts down to those very thin dimensions that create good sounding instruments.
This is Cindy's soundboard. A solid piece of Western Red Cedar with incredibly tight grained wood. Wood that I have had for fifty years. I think the tree was 1,400 years old when it was felled.
This is the book matched back for one of the ukes. The difference in color will disappear when sanded. One side was exposed to light and oxidized. This is in roughest form. a few minutes on the sander will perfect it.
These are sides , now cut to size but yet to be thinned to .070 for bending.
We also got the Rozette groove cut in the tops. In the next day or two the groove will be filled with the decorative "rope" purfling.
In the meantime the last back is being joined in the clamp.
A darned good start on a new build for your ukuleles Cindy and Joe. Rick helping in the workshop is going to be a major speed up in my ability to deliver quality ukuleles to you.
The final sanding is done on the two tenors for Cazzie and Michael. They are looking lovely.
And so now it is time to begin the finish process. First several base coats of dilute shellac rubbed on with a cotton ball. I applied one this evening and will do another in the morning. Then the polishing process really begins.
Everything darkens- the beauty of the wood begins to show and will intensify as the French Polish thickens with each application.
And tomorrow I will begin the build of two more tenors, one for Joe in New York and another for Cindy in Arkansas. Both will have East Indian Rosewood bodies. Joe's a Redwood top, Cindy's a Western Red Cedar top. Eager to get at them.