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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Third piccolo (Robban's) underway

I missed the perfect photo opportunity today when Robban was over to
try the half-ready piccolos in his fancy briefcase. We agreed on me
trying to build a shorter one so he wouldn't have to get a new bag.

Here is the beginning of the end result; sides bent and the length
shortened some 5 or 6 mm at the shoulders, and then the headstock will
be shorter (and wider for the pegs to fit).

This time it only took 25 minutes to bend the sides, with less water
and no cracking at all. Cherry is very nice to work with.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The first two cherry piccolos so far

As I've revealed before, one of them gets a fretboard. Both are boxed
up and the tops and backs have been cut flush with the enormous
chisel. I'll start a couple more before I continue too far, a bit of
overlap really helps.

Drawings would help as well, and I'm actually making drawings as the
work progresses. Some of my customers have let me know they're eagerly
awaiting these ukes, and one has to be adapted to an existing
briefcase. So length of headstock and body depth will be decided when
I see the briefcase.

Don't forget - if you want some proper work done, I am an accomplished
architect as well as an amateur luthier.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back glued

First cherry piccolo boxed up. Like the cherry soprano I built for
Mange, this one also surprised me with the lengthwise rigidity of the
cherry. It was quite hard clamping it down and I hope it won't be a
problem this rather tight arching in the back. It will however pull
less hard after I trim the back down to the contour of the sides.

Fret slots with new jig

Crikey! I think it works!

Styrene strips (see post about side markers) will be fretboard
markers, and are in place already serving as positioning brads.

Fretting jig, cont.

It might be done. It might work.

Nothing is for certain.

Fretting jig for piccolo

Now what is going on here? I'm attempting to make a jig for cutting
fret slots in situ, after the neck has been attached. It's for making
sure the 12th fret comes in the right place. I do hope I'm not totally
wrong about this.

Jig will be in perspex and I'll most likely be using a hand saw for
cutting. The glue hardens in daylight, hence the position near the
window. And it smells really strong.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Side markers made simple

I found when playing the new tenor that it was harder to see the
fretboard markers. Something to do with body size and depth. So I
wanted to retro fit side markers, but had none.

But my local model and hobby shop sells styrene strips for model
building, and I found round section strips of 1.6 mm diameter, and
drill bits the same size. So, drill holes, add a drop of ca glue and
you're sorted.

The supply I got will last a lifetime. Or at least two hundred ukes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tenor no. 4 done

The presentation vid has been on YT a few hours, and this pic doesn't
really do it justice. But just to make the traditional "it's done"
entry - it's done!

Sounds good btw. Really good.

Arching sides on piccolo

I threw together a sanding jig for the arched back that will be on my
line of piccolos. The prototype had, as the original I saw, a
completely flat back. But I've decided an arch would be better. No
dome though, a smaller curve lengthwise will suffice.

But I am being harassed by the customers! They write snide remarks on
forums and nag about these toy ukuleles! I tell you, some people...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Walnut for Andy and Markus!

Finally, got hold of some decent wood for you guys. Stay tuned.

Edit! I am a sad git, completely oblivious to the fact that Andy ordered an alder ukulele. Excuses have been made and Markus will get a huuuge pineapple from all that walnut.

Friday, December 4, 2009

First coat of oil

It is far from done, Melker! But I'm trying a different approach to
the oil finish. Will try to make the bridge this weekend.

Robert. I will also do stuff on the piccolos.

Ronald. I will asses the material me and BaronK nicked to see if it
will suit our plans.

AndyF. I'll glue up a nice neck. The rest of the wood will be bought
during the week (hopefully).

Markus. I'll start on your pinapple mold.

Wife. I haven't forgotten about you. Or the kids.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Glueing fretboard

Finally got around to glueing the fretboard. It takes a while to get
the bar frets right, and even though I settle for less frets than
other builders it feels like there are sooo many of them.

Two hidden brads ensure the board doesn't slip during glueing (I
really hope).

Sunday, November 29, 2009


After installing the bar frets I levelled them with a sharpening block
which isn't any good for sharpening tools. But it's alright for this.
Then I started crowning each fret with a small file with a 1 mm
concave radius. I aim for low, smooth frets, and I'm beginning to get
the hang of it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Planing a fretboard - pure therapy

Today was a shit day. Yesterday was even shittier. In fact, the last
days have been the worst two of my professional carreer. With the
brilliant exception of today's lunch break with BaronK.

I was going to work late tonight to get some projects done but figured
it would kill me and then give me swine flu.

So I went home, had dinner with my family and then went down and
planed the rosewood fretboard that's going on Melker's tenor.

My mood got better as the board got thinner and smoother. When it was
time for the scraper I was really happy. And who wouldn't be - look at
the nice multicolored shavings!

Best 20 minutes in 60 hours.

Zyliss vise turned upside down, plane was the Little Victor that I
like so much, and my scraper has two of the corners rounded off for
working on larger surfaces like soundboards.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Piccolo necks

After shaping them on the bandsaw, a few cuts I make by hand. One of
these will have an island style neck like the prototype, the other
will get a fretboard.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Progress on many ukes

Leaning on the bending iron is Melker's tenor, in the vise soprano no.
7 is being fitted with nut and bridge, and on the table are two
piccolos in the early stages of construction. One has been fitted with
linings and has it's top glued. The other one I bent today and it has
just a neck block yet.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bridge on soprano 7

Preparing to glue the bridge, with slip-stop brass wire.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sides glued on wenge tenor

The wenge sides gave me a bit of a hard time, so I glued them before
making the end block. I'll put that in place before the linings.

I'm considering tentalones, separate small blocks instead of a kerfed
lining strip. Must do a bit of research.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bracing, little by little

I sneak down between the rest of the duties to glue a brace or two. I
also did some work on the neck, made the recess where the soundboard
will fit.

It is great fun.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tenor no. 4, bracing

Melker's tenor took a leap forward as I started bracing the
soundboard. Now I'll enjoy the feeling of assembly that I get when I
build my tenors. It's mostly because of the spanish heel, but now the
parts have been ready for a while and it will feel even more as if I
just glue a kit together.

Experience so far has made me try a slightly larger bridge plate on
this one, the soft cedar top is also very thin.

Sanding done, and some praise of dad

When you attempt to build in spite of the fact you live in an
appartment, it's a huge advantage to have a father that doesn't. These
hours of sanding produced a lot more noise and dust than the amount I
could cope with at home. Also my dad has kept an eye on the kids, and
he had sandpaper for me to nick.

Anyway, 18 of the 23 pieces are really good, a couple of the others
will do after a little extra sanding. Also six sides were done, in
addition to the ones I managed to thin at home.

I'm running out of excuses to postpone the building of the piccolos.
Just a soprano and a tenor first, then...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thickness sander pushed to limit

With a stack of 23 tops / backs that need to reach the desired
thickness, the lack of a proper motor becomes obvious. But that also
means the setup is portable enough to bring to my dad's yard and let
the dust hood be off.

A bit risky without cover, but easier to feed the wood through.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Piccolo frenzy

Enjoying a few days off work, I manage to bookmatch a few tops and
backs for my growing first batch of piccolo ukes. It would be neat to
have one-piece tops but my resawing capbilities are limited to
approximately half the necessary width, so bookmatch it is.

They gonna be mighty purdy tho'.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Table saw for slot cutting

My miniature saw that I cut fret slots with. On top you can see two
blades, one millimeter and a half millimeter. The thicker is for
cutting slots for bar frets, the thinner is for regular fretwire.

I do other cutting as well on it, kerfed lining, resawing of really
small pieces etc.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Setup and ready to go

Robin was by today, and we both agreed it needed a much higher string
action - his manner of playing is much more forceful than mine. So he
reluctantly left it and I've made a higher saddle and also a higher
nut with deeper slots.

So now, finally, it's gonna be his.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's done.

The finish needs to cure a bit longer, but the ukulele is done. I am
very pleased with it, in the pic you can see the screen showing the
demo vid I put up on Youtube. With any luck it also appears to the
right on this page.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First coat of oil

This part of the process doesn't cease to amaze me. The first coat of
oil really makes the wood come alive with a rich dark set of nuances
and also brings out the shimmering streaks that give all kinds of
illusive effects.

And to share this magic moment with you lot, I give you the usual: a
pic of oil drying.

These last few days have taken this uke from half done to almost
finished, and I know Robin is impatiently awaiting the result of my

To the left in the picture you can see Thomas' soprano and compare the
raw wood with the oiled.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Robin! Look!

How come the busiest weekends are the most fruitful building-wise?
Today I suffered the ancient swedish (and most likely heathen) ritual
called "höststädning med bostadsrättsföreningen", and then managed
to play for a few hours with some pals before it was time to head home
to put the kids to bed. Not a free minute.

But..! After the smoke had cleared I still had managed to finish the
fretboard, glue it without it slipping away, AND get started on the

I am really pleased with myself. Still fighting a week-old migraine-
ish headache and a workshop so cluttered I have to stand bent sideways
at the hip to reach the bench. But things could be a lot worse.

So could this uke. I have this feeling it's gonna turn out awesome.
Robin, you might have to host a glöggfest this winter. That could also
be a good time for the prémière of the Good Cop / Bad Cop ukulele

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fretboard sides tapered

For some insane reason this post refused to go onto the blog for quite some time. So here it is with the sides tapered. I did the taper with a low angle block plane.

And the bridge got done as well!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Shiny spot at end is superglue. Caliper came off unharmed. Slots are
cut with modified miniature hacksaws, a wooden block clamped square
guides the blade.

This is a task that is hard to start, but it's fairly easy once you
get going.


Poor, poor Robin..! No posting for a looong time. So tonight I'll
attempt some slot cutting. Still waiting for my new thinner saw blade,
so I'll make the slots with a hand saw. When I made my last tenor I
clamped this caliper to the board, it was hard work stopping it from
readjusting itself. So. This time I simply superglued it to the wood,
and I'm ready to measure and mark.

Hopefully I can get it off.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fretboards planed

Next to a couple of ukuleles, my minuscule planer looks quite massive.
It's not, but did a fine job planing the fingerboards today. The long
one is rosewood and the shorter one is African walnut. Both are really
goodlooking and would go nicely on both the mahogany uke and Robin's
with the cedar top. But as I suspect Robin wants rosewood I've more or
less come to the conclusion that the more neutral look would balance
the fact that three woods are visible already (mahogany, cedar and the
ash stripe).

It's not a wild mixture really, and the rosewood is quite lively as
well, but, you know, enough is enough.

Robin; we're definitely going somewhere with this one.

(Also, check out ShapeWriter app for your new iPhone. It kicks butt
when you're writing in English. You have to copy and paste and stuff,
but it's faster than doing this with the typepad. Use free version.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thomas' soprano

It's one step behind Robin's uke, but progress is steady. They're
similar but not identical, so it's not as nerve wrecking as when I
built the pair for Rawbert and Rockonald.

Robin's soprano boxed up

Back is on, heel cap is being glued.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More mahogany

Not very well hidden, more of my dad's stash of 40 year old honduran
mahogany lies behind a sofa. I have given him an offer to trade it for
more contemporary african mahogany. He remains sceptical.

The planks in the photo are 45 centimeters wide, 3 centimeters thick
and... 4 meters long!

Wenge neck, cont.

After some quality time on the stationary belt sander it looks like
this. I have a feeling this could be ultra sleek and still hold up,
but a certain thickness is needed for playing. I know this after my
tenor no. 2 came out too thin, neck-wise. (On the other hand; the
soundboard was too thick.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Safety first!

I recommend all aspiring builders to get a proper pair of shoes before
you attempt anything crucial. A pair not designed specifically for
these things simply do not work.

And they could jeopardize the future mojo of the uke your building.

Do. Not. Take. Any. Chances.

Melker's tenor

At dad's workshop again, for some smokin' wenge action. Neck is
roughly shaped and the cedar top is planed near final thickness.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Built for speed

Sleek neck profile, wafer thin top, braces and patch reduced and
trimmed in situ. It's already loud, and I think it will suit Robin.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cedar top mock up

This is exactly what it's gonna look like...

Robin, you got the spruce blocks btw.

Neck carving, and the tools to do it

Started shaping Robin's neck (really the neck for Robin's ukulele). I
use a rasp, a file, a draw knife, a japanese kiridashi knife, my home
made small carving knife, the Little Victor plane and a small Ibex
finger plane.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Group photo

Four small toy guitars. Numbers 1, 5 and 4 with the piccolo thrown in.

This represents half of the ukuleles I've built since December last
year, the rest consists of three tenors and two sopranos.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cherry soprano done!

The mess in the workshop is awful but the cherry uke looks really
nice. I suspect the sophisticated sheen doesn't come across the grainy
pic though. I'm gonna try and make a Youtube presentation tonight.

Wenge neck roughly shaped

It's tough on tools, but it will be interesting to work with. Took
this out with my small bandsaw.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Linings in place

At least along the soundboard edge. Once I get them planar I'll start
with the tops, one cedar and one mahogany.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cherry uke, finish

Third coat of oil drying, the surface gets more and more convincingly

Blocks and linings

So one got spruce blocks and the other one got mahogany blocks. One of
them will have a cedar top, so I have to decide which one is which.

Kerfed linings are made and I glued some.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chisel, 2

I defy anyone that doesn't get goose bumps from this pic. Shaving is
cross-grain. The resulting surface underneath smooth as a china plate.

Oh the joy of sharp tools.

Now where are those kids... School starts in 5 minutes...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sides cut to length

Every morning I swear that I'll go to bed earlier. So no blocks
tonight. But Robin's or Thomas' sides are shaping up to be quite nice.

Must decide on wood for the blocks. On the walnut uke I used spruce.
It is easy to work with and seem to go well with mahogany too. But
mahogany blocks are elegant.

Bridge redux

Whew. This took its' fair amount of time. This time I use brads in the
saddle slot to stop it sliding.