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Monday, January 23, 2017

A few glamour shots

First I want to show the gloss on Argapa 100. I modified my shellac finishing method, it got a bit awkward in the middle of the process but the result is good. 

I took a bit of a leap with the string spacing at the bridge, but it works perfectly. Quite easy to imagine the strings colliding but I don't think they ever do. 

And still, the flat bottom shape that I made nine years ago on my first soprano to facilitate glueing the end block. I like it, it's mine and I won't change it. 

Andy's reso, number 95. With pinstripe fret markers. 

The Dr. Who motifs on Kris's uke, no. 96 (a very nice number, you can turn it upside down).

The behemoth mother of pearl inlay project and f-holes for Brian, a.k.a Popmonkey. 

Brian's again, and Argapas 98 and 99. The latter is for Mike Krabbers and the first is for a hitherto secret customer. 

The pearl inlays on Mike's uke are made from the scraps from Brian's fretboard. The shark bite is Mike's own. 

And the last, Argapa 101, with the domino fret markers. To the right in the pic you can see a part of the very well managed register of all ukes I've built. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The greatest of days..!

I started the day by just repeating the steps from yesterday. Each reso took maybe 30 minutes to set up; bridge, coverplate, nut, nut slots and then strings. Stringing one up is almost always a bit disappointing, when it first comes under tension the cone knows not at all what to do. It makes muffled groans. But already after a few minutes under the load of the strings, strings that are stretching to find their pitch and tension, it wakes up. The difference is quite big and most welcome. 

After doing five resos I squeezed in Argapa 100 at its destined place in the increasingly long line of instruments. Then I made the last reso, stamped all headstocks with logo and serial number and got the wine and crisps out. Li was at the grand premiere. Remember Li was at the beginning as well, check this link out:

And this type of shot was harder than ever to take, I had to stand on a chair. 

The Argapa 100, and the first soprano taropatch I've made. Same mahogany as the first soprano, and a few others. Peghed tuners to save weight but the headstock got pretty heavy anyway. 

And here they all are. Once the strings have settled I'll make a demo vid, and then it's time to flood the market! Five are going to the UK and one to the US. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Putting it together

So, is it time for that label "finished instruments" yet? Or is it completed instruments, I can't remember and that says something about the amount of time this batch has taken me. 

After last weeks aggressive fret offensive it is finally time to install some hardware. The tuners went in without any issues, and in the first pic you can see the jig I use to mark out the holes for the cover plate screws. 

I make holes with an awl, then drilled them all with an electric drill. Time is of essence so power tools are allowed. 

I put all biscuits on the cones and made a bridge for one of them. I decided to finish this one so I finally could evaluate the new skeletons. It's quite hard to foresee all lengths and angles before you string one up. I reached for the strings and saw I'd forgotten the nut. 

When I ordered bone saddle blanks a while back I got a few of these ready made guitar saddles for free. Not something I need so I'll use them for nuts. It's much faster to plane them than to sand them so here's the first one in my planing jig for small parts. 

Once it fit I roughed out the shape. 

And went at it with a hacksaw. The vise in the pic is from Stewmac, expensive but really indispensible once you're used to it. The hacksaw cost a fragment of what the vise did. 

And another favourite; the half-pencil. I slide it across the frets to get an idea of how deep the string slots should be. 

Going forward a bit, the strings are on and the angles look good! Neck angle, strings' break angle, they all came together. I need to lower the action a bit at the nut but will wait for ghe cone to settle before I decide upon the bridge slots. 

I'll complete the other five and make a video of them all. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fret work

I decided to bite all remaining bullets and dedicated the available time this weekend to dressing frets. This I thought was the last chance to let a few of the six ukes drop out of the race and be finished later, I really need to ship one or two so I can get money for some stuff. 

But I chose not to. I've forgotten the order between them and don't fancy choosing between the people who've waited so patiently for such a long time. 

If you remember me fretting these you'll remember the nicely bevelled fret ends that I made with the new file holder. That's great but the fret ends do have sharp edges and a bit of burr, so I need to round them off with a fret end file. One of the tools from Stewmac that might seem expensive but is nigh impossible to live without once you've tried them. 

And do the maths - 7 fretboards, 14 frets on each, 2 ends on each fret, 20 strokes on each end... It took a long time. 

My improved fret pressing clamp left the frets almost completely level. I found one or two that was a wee bit high but chose to press them in some more rather than filing them at the top, you get a flat surface that needs to be dealt with using a fret crowning file and it is somewhat boring and nerve wracking at the same time. 

But the frets need to be polished anyway! The fret erasers from Stewmac are quite good. I like them but many people don't. I bought the whole set of grits, ranging from 180 to 1000 in five steps. Each eraser takes me about 20 seconds. 5 erasers on every fret, that's 100 seconds per fret. 14 frets on every board, 7 fretboards... My shoulders hurt. 

But now they're all done and I moved on to laying out and making the screw holes for the cover plates. And my lovely wife helped me with the secret Argapa detail (that ensures the superior sound and performance of my resos) while I was polishing frets, so that's taken care of too. What's left now is
- tuners
- nuts
- fiddling the biscuit (no smutty innuendo intended).
- strings

Saturday, January 7, 2017


As I mentioned in the previous post, I might be deceiving myself but I honestly think there's not much left. Now usually when I say that to myself I will have forgotten tuners, nuts, secret Argapa way of ensuring majestic sound, and stringholders. Well today I made the stringholders and I am on top of the tuner issue and the secret Argapa whatever. 

First I cut the blank to lengths using my wee saw and the bench hooks. I could have used a rule and a sliding bevel but I eyeballed it to relative perfection. 

Then a relief cut to make them conform to the convex shape of the cover plate. By now they were utterly impossible to clamp so I risked my fingers by holding them while carving. 

A few strokes on a piece of 60 grit paper took care of the last fraction of a mm. I got nervous after taking the pic so I masked the shiny cover plate with tape so the sandpaper wouldn't mar the surface. 

I drew the shape of the holes and drilled the holes for the screws that will secure the stringholder. After making the first one I ended up drilling a dedicated hole for a third screw in the centre. This was easier than the old method but it doesn't show in the pics. 

And before screwing it on I drill the string holes. No jig for this either, just aiming to get the angles sort of right. They were 99% perfect, all 24 of them. 

And here they all are in the last pic. 

But first, here's my list for future reference:
1. Make the blank and the string holders as shown in the pics in this post. 
2. Sand the surface of the plate between the existing holes. 
3. Drill a hole between the two middle holes. 
4. Clamp a holder onto the burr around that hole, making a mark in the wood. 
5. Drill for the screw. Thread the hole with the screw, then cut the screw to length and fasten the holder. 
6. Drill the holes for the other screws in the outer string holes. 
7. Remove the holder, mark out and drill the string holes. Countersink them and check the clearance under the ledge. Plane if necessary. 
8. Cut off screws 2 and 3 and attach the holder. Add some ca glue from the underside. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wrapping up

The great resonator project of 2016 spills over into 2017 I'm afraid. But delusional as always, I think there's not much left. First pic shows me applying the last or possibly second to last glaze coat, and it does seem to work better than ever. A thinner cut of shellac appears to be the trick. 

Here are the two I did yesterday, one of cherry and one of walnut. Both take the finish well. 

And here's the group photo, I've done the remaining four resos and the Argapa 100 today. Can't wait to buff them out and install the hardware!

And speaking of hardware [writing, I am not talking to myself as I write this... wait, who said that?] I have to finish that stringholder blank. I planed the surfaces with my no.1 plane, and the corners got so sharp I cut both my hands on them. Now with blood and the brown shellac gunk on my fingers I look like an old junkie. Good thing I'm not going to town on errands - oh shit I am. 

Anyway I eased the corners a bit, hopefully without making the shape all mushy. It would have cut into any players strumming hand so I had to. 

And happy new year to you all. Fanx for reading this blog, both of you. Feel free to share, like, retweet or whatever you young people do to promote a cranky old bloke's cranky old diary.