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Monday, August 14, 2017

Finishing the koa soprano

Just a couple of pics showing tve progress. There are five or six coats on, all so far applied without oil. But the muneca starts to drag now so I'll continue using oil to lubricate. 

The figure has popped quite nicely. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I thought about not making the bridge until I got back to the workshop, the slot is very difficult to make without the mini table saw. But then I thought, nah I'll give it a whirl. 

I made two lines with a knife, and carefully sawed with the tiny Exacto saw down in each. 

Then with an equally tiny mortise chisel I removed the wood between the saw cuts. First bottle of beer can be seen in the background. 

After a good deal of faffing the bridge was done, the sourdough rye pot bread was as well, and the second bottle of beer was under way. 

Measuring and laying out as usual, we've covered this many times...

...and the bridge glued in place with my favourite clamps (from metmusic in New York).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back braces, back and fretboard

Things are moving fast, I can't really keep up blogging at the same pace as I build the uke. Being at the no workshop cottage means I do everything by hand and that is a most welcome change from last year's batch building. 

In the first pic you can see the radius gauge I hastily made before going here, I couldn't bring the radius dish. So I shape the braces with a tiny plane. They're made from reclaimed wood from an old loom. 

I saw notches in the lining strips and then plane the ends of the brace to fit snugly. 

All three are done and glued in. Then I glued the back on, and by then the primitive conditions caught up with me - it went ok but was a bit stressful. I prefer my solera. 

And sitting on the porch I trimmed the edges and have sanded the body up to 600 grit. 

But I did forget something at home, my fretboard markers. So I rummaged through the cottage in search of something useful. Did I find a suitable replacement? You tell me. 

What's that I hear you grumble? Not enough saw action? Okay, have a look at the finished saws. More might follow. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fitting the neck

I started fitting the neck after some scraping and sanding. Close to the head I ran into some reversing grain so I had to use sandpaper more than I usually do for the final shaping. 

First I hollow out the heel a bit, with a gouge. 

And, demonstrating the versatility of the Zyliss vise, I clamped the neck carving jig with the jaws upside down and taped some sandpaper on it. Then I can drag the neck across, constantly checking the angles. Most of the hollowed out recess disappears during this stage but it being there prevents the neck from rocking. 

With low tack masking tape I mark out a centre line, which I don't have - this is a one piece top. 

And the jig I rigged up for a neck re-set a while back tells me I'm in the ball park. The jig was built for using on a neck with a fretboard but it works sort of. 

The drilling jig for the barrel nut and screw, also clamped in the vise. 

And the same jig used on the body for the matching hole. I had to enlarge this last hole a bit to get the neck perfectly aligned, but it won't matter. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Restoring a couple of saws

Something must've happened to my local fleamarket - I've scored several quality hand tools lately. These two saws I got for just 50 kronor (4 quid or 6 dollars). The smaller one is filed for ripping and the larger is for cross cutting. 

They were rusty and the handles are grimy and a bit nasty to touch. At least the screws came out effortlessly. 

I scraped off the old finish and will use Tru-oil. The smaller one looks better and is more comfortable. 

I put the blades in vinegar over night, this was supposed to get the rust off. Scrubbing with a brass brush, I saw that it had worked. 

Then I rinsed them in the lake and scrubbed some more. 

This is were we're at, two coats of oil on the handles and a light machine oil on the blades. The etching on the smaller saw appeared but was a bit damaged by the vinegar. The saw is English, I recognized the stamp but I can't make the name out. 

What's that I hear you grumble? Not enough ukulele action? Okay, have a look at this cedar neck. More to follow, I promise. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Resawing mesquite

Some of you know me well enough to know of my friend Brian Newman. Some of you knew him too, and loved him as I did. I built two ukes for Brian* and taught him to drink proper whisky (Ardbeg, of cöurse) and he showered me with gifts. The Dobro tenor guitar from 1935, the Kumalae ukulele, the very loud cowboy shirt and other stuff. He also sent me a rather large lump of mesquite wood from a tree he took down in the garden in Arizona. I have had it for a few years by now but never gotten around to resawing it, and I hadn't decided exactly what to use it for. 

But today a couple of things happened at the same time. I fixed my damn band saw with a new belt, and I got the urge for some fretboard blanks. And the mesquite was caught in the middle. 

The blade guide to the right of the blade is shot, the metal was crap and cracked. I made a rough fix for it and it held up, but I'll need to think of something more permanent. I did the sawing freehand with no guides, stopping every two or three cuts to plane the surfaces flat. The mesquite planes very nicely and I look forward to using it. 

At least 10 or 11 fretboards, and plenty of leftovers for matching bridges. The lighter sapwood seems as hard as the heartwood, so I can use the ones with shifting colour. 

* And there is Argapa 100, the soprano scale taropatch. It was Brian's idea but he never saw it realized. I think of Brian every time I play it. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Vacation is here

I'm around 18 hours in so far and vacation is goooood (said in Darth Sidious voice). First a couple of pics showing where I left the body of the koa soprano, backside is contoured and fitted with kerfed lining strips.

It's gonna be a beauty. Look at the figure. 

Then we went out to the cottage, I brought tools to work on a cedar neck. (Remember the last time I worked on necks at a cottage..? http://argapa.blogspot.se/2016/07/dead-in-water.html?m=0 )

At the cottage is my larger workshop, with a big ass vise, chilly temperature and zero sea view. So I thought I'd upgrade the banjo porch with a vise to work in style. 

To attach the vise securely I put four threaded insert nuts in the deck. Three are of brass, one steel but all have the same thread. 

It's easy to think the slot at one end is for a screwdriver, but don't make that mistake - it will maul the insert and make parts snap off. Instead you should use a screw with a nut halfway up, as in the pic. 

The slot actually cuts into the wood, making the insert go down into a tight fitting hole. 

And then we use the specially enhanced hex key to screw the vise in place. What, you don't own one?

At the cottage I found some alder neck blanks as well so I'll start by planing them flat and square. Dad's no.7 will do. Or will it, he must have used it himself. Probably on some epoxy residue because the blade is shot. My Japanese whetstone is soaking as I write this.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Demo video of the Argapa Fugly Wanderer

Just made a quick vid with some comparisons between the travel uke and a couple of real ones. You know that hard to get telephone effect you sometimes want on a recording? Well it is hard to get no more.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Travel uke ready for travel

After stringing up, tweaking, re-stringing and a rudimentary finish, it is done - Argapa 102.

Is it the boiled down essence of a four course cordophone? Is it a rip off of the Risa stick uke? Or is it just plain fugly? I'd say yes to all three questions. 

But it's kind of cute too don't you think. Almost exactly as I envisioned it, and made in little over one day. 

The small ramps were needed to get a better angle for the strings. The ferrules alone were not enough and the A string snapped a couple of times. So if I were to make another I'd incorporate something with the same effect in the underside of the soundboard. Or maybe in the bridge on top. 

And here's me with it in my pocket. I'll make a demo vid as soon as my sore throat permits. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Travel uke at full speed!

I continued working on the travel uke, too much fun to stop now. First pic, cutting lengthwise with my Pax rip saw to remove the bulk of the waste. 

Then I shaped the neck with my spokeshaves. The smallest one was a gift from my mate Patsy, a fine man. 

Then slotting for frets with my slot cutting jig, the one I use for my piccolos. 

Slots cut, frets pressed in, bridge made and glued in place. The holes on the side is for the tuners, I nicked the placement (as well as most everything else) off the Risa stick ukes. The string holes are fitted with ferrules of a tiny brass tube I bought at the hobby store. 

And it's done. As I write this it's actually stringed and tuned to pitch but I'll post the glamour shots and a video tomorrow. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Travel uke

I glued the sides onto the top on the koa soprano, and then I turned to that cherry blank I shaped roughly in the planer last weekend. First job was to handplane it on three sides, making it flat and shiny on the face and the edges dead square and parallel. 

Then I laid the pattern out. I'll use 280 mm as my scale length, same as on my piccolos. Say, I haven't built one of those in a while. Hmm...

Anyway here it is. Maybe you can see the pencil lines. 

Then flipping it over to excavate it behind the soundboard. I counted the turns on the brace drill so all holes were of the same depth and none went through. Drilling out the bulk makes it so much easier. 

And then onwards. You might think to yourself by now, why isn't he using a router? Well guess what, I am. A Record no. 71 1/2. Look carefully and you'll notice that the wheel is above the notch, I had to to get it deep enough. 

More to follow!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Prepping various parts

I didn't get a pic of the actual process, as I was on my knees in front of the sander, but Johan and I got the resawn walnut down to thickness. 

We did three side pieces so we have one to break when bending, but the third back can rest in its original thickness. 

And we found some one piece spruce tops! These we didn't sand, I look forward to planing them. 

And that koa soprano, I sanded the sides and will glue them to the top tomorrow. 

Remember the Dust-E-Whacker..?