Learning Ukulele 50 Sites Top 50 Ukulele Sites Argapa Ukuleles - one size louder: 1/1/15 - 2/1/15

Friday, January 30, 2015

Necks please!

I thought about more neck related puns and believe me, I came up with a few. But I am a benevolent and mild online presence and decided to spare you. 

Yesterday I finished carving the two piccolo necks I'm working with. In the pic you can also see the lined bodies awaiting the necks. 

Wait..! You can also see tools*. So let's take the tour. Starting at the bottom we have the small wooden contour plane from Lee Valley. Above, and lying on the neck profile / fretting template, a Miller's falls cigar spokeshave. Then my new carving knife (I misplaced the first and made this). Past the necks is the Veritas apron plane, and to the right of that an item listed on ebay as "a luthier's plane", but I suspect it's a brass spokeshave with sawn off handles. The my no.1 smoother, a Lie-Nielsen. On the carving jig is a flat soled Ibex finger plane, and the larger carving knife, from Frosts in Sweden. 

For some reason I didn't use chisels this time, that's a first and I didn't notice until now. 

Here's the Spanish cedar neck on Phil's reso, with several layers of shellac:

Here's the Swedish alder neck on Phil's reso, with several layers of shellac:

*) "Tools" to be groaned in a Gollum voice. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Drilling for tuners

The two resos are doing some progress. Frets are levelled but not re-crowned and polished, but that's something I'd rather do another day. So this morning I made the holes for the spring loaded pegs I'm using. 

First pic shows the layout. No fancy jigs, just a square and some eyeballing to get it right. 

The bushing is 8 mm in diameter, and needs a 6 mm hole to sit in. The headstock is around 10.5 mm thick. With a bradpoint drill and a depth stop very securely fastened, I drill with a cordless drill, some care to get it straight, and a clear plastic sheet to prevent the depth stop marring the face. 

I start by going in reverse to cut the fibers, thus ensuring a clean edge and no tear out. Then I drill down to the [very securely fastened] depth stop. 

The shaft of the tuner is 5 mm. Lacking a stepped drill, I start with a 3 mm in the center from the brad point. With that as a pilot hole the 5 mm drill bit doesn't wander. 

Job done. Bushing sits perfectly. 

(But why making the holes now?)

Well this is why - first coat of shellac drying as I type this. I used the brush in the pic, making a thick coat in several passes. This coat will serve as a base for levelling, maybe pore filling if that's needed, and it also shows any flaws that I might have missed until now. 

The mahogany to the right looks more purple than it is...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Home stretch on finish, #78

Very little work remains on the number 78! My customer has waited patiently and still does, but there ain't gonna be much more of that. 

The french polished shellac finish has hardened well and I was able to rub it with some burnishing cream to a fairly good gloss. 

As always the area around the bridge was hard, but a breeze compared to the nightmare that was the fretboard end. Why did I do that to myself?

I really liked this set of koa wood, but it did not behave like any other. It was hard to judge thickness and flex during the build, but it seems fine now. And look at that grain pattern. 

I pore filled with chalk as I've shown in a recent post. The result is good. I'm willing to say now that I can make a decent finish. (And let others debate the toughness of shellac.)

As you can see in the last pic it's bot completely flat. But quite good I think. And that's what counts around here. 

The only thing remaining is adjusting the saddle and some peg soap on the wooden tuners. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I cut the slots in the fretboards for the resos. Philly Phil's inlay was sorted before, and as predicted it was really hard to choose the position of the frets. I managed but will plan a lot more carefully next time I make a big ass inlay. 

Phil D's board was inlaid after slotting. We agreed upon shattered mother of pearl, as I have done a couple of times before. But I chose a bubinga board, and inlaying in lighter coloured woods is tricky. 

First pic shows the shards. 

But the shards need to have edges perpendicular to the faces. Needle file, dust mask and dust extraction crucial. 

Then as I discovered recently (the easy inlay post, remember) a drop of superglue and then scribe around the edge. 

You should be able to see the lines. 

Now a pic of the finished article would be cool, but all went well except I forgot to take that pic. I routed out the cavities, glued the MOP in, and ran it through the sander to get everything level. Then I fretted both boards, filed the fret ends and bevelled them (as you do).

Beneath this line it gets interesting again. 

I aligned them on the necks, which were still a tad oversize in width and glued them on. Then I carved down the neck so it matches the exact profile of the fretboard. It's much easier for me to do it this way, and the last chance to correct any minute discrepancies in the sideways angle of the neck. I just have to be careful not to touch the fretboard with the carving knife.