Learning Ukulele 50 Sites Top 50 Ukulele Sites Argapa Ukuleles - one size louder: 2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Neck blank for lute uke

Merry whatever, and a happy another!

I’m making another lute inspired ukulele. Someone asked me nicely and I couldn’t say no. I have some special tuners on the way so I made a neck blank with that crazy lute angle. 

Here’s the piece. I started out by severing the headstock. 

Then I made an angled joint with a straight tenon for some added long grain glue surfaces. 

Checking the fit. Decided to accept the looks of it. I really need to look at a few pictures of real lutes before going far. 

Glued and trimmed flush. The headstock will be an open box, like what you see on a violin. The tuners come from Wittner, internally geared just like pegheds. 

And I attached the neck to the piccolo I’m working on. Not much remaining now; frets, back braces, back, bridge and tuners. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Neck shaping

After making sure the headstock and the upper surface (the fretboard surface, but there’ll be no separate fretboard) are straight, true and parallel sideways, I lay out the width. 42 mm at the heel, 35 at the nut. 

In the first pic you see me transferring the centre line down to the heel with a saddle square from Veritas. It could be regarded as an answer to a question no-one could be arsed posing, but it’s really a useful tool. 

Then I choose the angle for the heel. I might keep these straight, or carve them into concave curves later. I’ll saw them straight to begin with that’s for sure. 

Making a small nick with a chisel helps guide the saw. Going into the end grain like this is tricky at best so I’ll use any technique to facilitate. 

It’s also a good photo op for one of my best chisels. 

With my small rip saw I cut the neck blank to its tapered width. Nowadays I go very close to the final dimensions, which means carving is faster. 

I start at the heel and the nut, roughly making the profile with a carving knife. My kevlar glove helps me keep all fingers attached. 

The headstock was a bit thick (remember the crap bandsaw?) so I took it down with a number 4 plane. 

The neck is actually finished now. I carve way faster than I blog. More to come in a day or so. 

Fanx for reading!

Thursday, December 14, 2017


My customer for the piccolo sent me a small piece of wood he got from a relative. My task is to incorporate it into the cherry uke. It’s snakewood and not totally solid, so I won’t use it for anything structural. 

First attempt is inlaying a strip across the headstock. If it goes south I’ll grap another neck blank. First I used the strip as a guide for the marking knife, then I used chisels to make the groove. 

Had I thought more about it beforehand I would have matched the snakewood strip to a narrow Berg chisel for cleaning the bottom of the groove. Now that chisel was a teeny bit too wide so I used some miniature chisels. Hm. As I write this my miniature rabbet plane. I could have used that. 

Despite tool confusion I got a perfect fit and glued it in. I think it’ll look very nice when it’s planed flush. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Prepping spruce tops

The mini guitar and the cavaquinho will be quite similar, walnut back and sides and spruce tops. The walnut was thicknessed in the drum sander but I won’t miss the chance to hand plane the spruce. It just gets so much better. 

I ended up taking the tops down to just below 2 mm, the instruments will have a greater string tensions than a concert ukulele so I’ll need to think about bracing soon. 

Spruce is soft so I threw on a wash coat of shellac to protect it from dings and scratches, and went on to making the rosettes. Johan did the heavy lifting on the one for the guitar, the groove is 2 mm wide and houses four layers of mahogany purfling strips. When the superglue had set I took it down with a Berg chisel. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Double necker done, on to ukes

Great news - the ekectric guitar is done and as of yesterday; delivered. It’s a tone monster. At rehearsal it really shone. 

The P90 for the tenor neck got a hand cut ring of black acrylic. Horrible material to work with but the result was good. 

Lars chose to go with the natural finish, we’ll see how it holds up. 

Gibson speed knobs blended well with the black and chrome theme we got going. 

And apparently it’s not that cumbersome to wield. 

Then some resawing of wood for future ukuleles. I got this set from my friend Stuart, maybe enough for a guitar back but with some creative parting it’ll be enough for a bookmatched back and front for a reso. 

A matching fingerboard blank will supply the sides, I’m splitting it with one of the saws I salvaged this summer. 

And then a lump of cherry was sliced for a piccolo and yet another lute ukulele. Stay tuned for progress on those. 

Maybe I can wait with buying a new bandsaw. This works ok but it is a lot of work. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Progress on the double necker

I know - it’s cracked up to be a ukulele building blog. I apologize, making this twin neck monstrosity has just been too much fun. 

Let’s see some pics. During the most exciting phases where a pic really would’ve been worth something, I naturally didn’t whip the camera (phone) out. Sorry ’bout that but what can a poor boy do. 

First pic shows the successful drilling and routing job, I fit the pickups in a cavity each and then used a really long drill bit to connect the holes. It means I don’t need a pick guard to hide channels for cables. 

Then I bit the bullet and power sanded the body for an hour. I’d made the arm rest bevel and the belly cut with planes and draw knifes but really needed the help from my Festo ROS. 

The necks will be attached to the body with machine screws going into these steel inserts. The inserts are fiddly to get in straight but makes for a rock solid joint. 

I don’t have any idea of what colour Lars wants, so I just dropped a wash coat of shellac as a sealer for starters. It looks a bit like an old Peavey guitar now!

And then the black magic. Wiring the pots and making guesses about what goes where. 

Tuners are at the post office and strings are upstairs. Not a long way to go before playing it. And then perhaps a complete disassembly to paint it. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

The bandsaw of woe

Out at the cottage and the larger workshop I fired up the bandsaw to resaw some cherry for a piccolo and another uke. I was happy since I fixed the drive belt a while ago, and when I tested that the saw worked fine. 

I jerry rigged a fence since I don’t have a real one. First cuts went well, I sliced off sides for several ukes. Then I started on wider boards, for some one piece backs and tops. 

Here’s from when things turned south. The blade started wandering, ruining a good chunk of fine wood. I saw the reason - the blade guide had snapped. It was made of cast shite metal and I hate it. I super hate it. I did get one top and one back but the rest I’ll resaw by hand. I hate my bandsaw. 

But home again at the new bench I pushed on with the double necker. Time to make the neck pockets and let them decide the places for the hardware. Most people use a router to make neck pockets, and so do I of course - I’m a modern bloke. I use my Record 70 1/2. It is immensly satisfying digging in. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Neck work

Good news - the workbench works great. It’s a true joy working at it. Maybe it’ll make me build more and faster again, thus revitalising this here blog as well. 

This week I’ve snuck down to work on the tenor neck of Lars’ double necker. I can’t continue with the body for it without preparing the neck pockets to see where everything ends up. 

The truss rod is installed and the fretboard made. I had a bit of a hard time with the frets, not being used to radiused boards, but it turned out ok in the end. 

Glueing the fretboard on in the vise, with some clamps and wedges for good measure. 

The board was straight along its edges and the neck was still wider so I put tape around first to stop it from slipping too far out of alignment, but didn’t bother with brads like I do on ukes when the neck is already attached to the body. I’ll plane the neck to match the fretboard and deal with alignment when I do the neck pocket. 

At the nut end, I trimmed the fretboard end and blended it together with the headstock with a Japanese gouge. 

Then I spent some time levelling and crowning the frets, but didn’t reach for the camera (phone) since my hands got so dirty. 

This weekend I’ll resaw some wood in my larger workshop at the summer house. November or not, I’m going out. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rebirth of a workshop

It was long overdue - a complete overhaul of the dungeön. I have designed and planned anew workbench for ages, in truth I have designed several but never gotten around to building one. So a couple of months ago I sent the drawings to my favourite carpenter, Lövsättra Snickerier, and they weren’t slow line me. The bench has been ready for a while and the delivery was on Friday, at last. The first pic shows the state of the workshop at eight o’clock Friday morning. I should have cleared it out but things kept happening every evening of the week so I had two hours to handle this Ragnarök of a mess. 

I worked like I was on fire and when Gustaf showed up at ten I had cleared out enough junk to start putting the parts of the new workbench in place. Below you can see cupboard that will house shelves and trolleys on wheels. 

Next to the cupboard is the centre part with drawers and shelves and a space for my Record vice. And after that comes a wee shelf that’s there because I needed an open end to receive my tail vice. 

The worktop is 48 mm birch plywood, laminated together with an overlap in the corner to get a massive and heavy unit locking the diferent oarts together. You can also see the speakers, it’s not only a workbench. It’s also a sound system. 

Argapa the angry ape and Lego Motörhead approve of their new domain. 

And after 20 hours of sorting and cleaning and re-organizing, I even got the time to install some frets for one of the necks in the insane double neck fantasy guitar. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Resawing a fretboard

The new workbench hasn’t appeared yet, so I did some cleaning of the old one. Since my last post I have sort of accepted two orders and made plans for another build on top of those. I still think the new bench will solve most of my problems but we’ll seewhen it gets here. 

Today I had an hour to spare so I dug out the bubinga I used for the fretboard on my mate’s tenor guitar last year. He’ll need one on the double neck I’m building. 

I scored a line around the blank but didn’t bother with sawing a kerf. I could’ve done it with the Proxxon table saw or a kerfing plane but wanted to try the wee rip saw I salvaged this summer. 

So I just got going. I flipped the board frequently to keep myself on track. 

The gunk is from the blade, I get less of that every time. The old Swedish proverb is ”a used blade shines” and it’s hard to argue. 

The bubinga has a problematic grain so I whipped out my toothed plane that I got from my mate Chris. He built it himself and it’s just what’s needed in cases like this. 

Here’s an attempt at showing you the blade. The grooves that are left in the surface are easy to get rid of by alternating direction, or with a cabinet scraper. I did both. 

Here’s my Veritas cabinet scraper taking care of the tooth grooves. 

Then it was time for slotting. I prefer not to use double sided tape directly on the wood, tear out and possible glue residue are enemies of Argapa. So I put masking tape on the fretboard blank and the slotting template and put a row of super glue drops on one of the layers. The aim is to get the strips of tape to bond, they’ll hold the board securely but will be easy enough to remove. 

It turned out my super glue has aged. Or something. It didn’t hold but luckily gave after the first slot of the two needed for the nut groove. So out came the double stick tape, but..! I let the masking tape be where it was. 

And that worked. Both masking and double stick tape were easy to remove, and the fretboard is ready for profiling and contouring. And fretting of course. And inlaying. Haven’t given that much thought, but surely I should put something on there? 

Sunday, October 15, 2017


My workshop is in disarray. A new workbench is on its way but before that I have a hard time finding the motivation to clear up. Every time I have used a tool I hang up eight on their dedicated hooks, and there’s still a four inch layer of tools covering the bench and all other surfaces. 

But some things get done. I’m building an electric guitar for my friend Lars, and am in the process of glueing up the body blank. Pine from my own back yard, seasoned for years. I plane the edges of the boards and glue them up one by one. 

When I ran out of longer clamps a length of rope came in handy. 

And here’s my son planing wood for neck blocks. It’s so much fun building with him, I have to act cool though so my enthusiasm doesn’t scare him off. 

Here they are. Johan wants to tweak the shape of the rim a bit before glueing them to the top, I’ll do that on the hot pipe but wouldn’t fret if it was only me. 

And here’s a shot of the double neck electric. Almost done, obviously.