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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Neck making, continued, and a template

I had an hour this morning so I continued sawing those neck blanks. First pic shows the second of a nested pair getting its headstock defined with the Pax rip saw. The left over wedge will come in handy, I reach for wedges all the time. 

I have three sopranos on the bench so I stopped at four neck blanks. The last pair can wait a bit. They’re pretty rough so some (a lot of) planing is necessary. 

I chose my no.5 jack plane for the bulk of the work. Long enough to be precise but nimble enough to adjust the surfaces quickly. 

And here they are, really straight grained and pretty mahogany. They will be perfect for the ukes I’m working on. 

But that’s not all. Remember the Fugly Traveller? Sure you do. I wnt to make some more and I need a template. With a sheet of 5 mm plexi / perspex I laid out all the lines. 

And I cut it out on the band saw and cleaned it up with files. More to follow!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Neck making

I need some soprano necks. I have a chunk of mahogany that I took home from the cottage and the larger scale workshop, remember the bandsaw there is up shit creek with no sight of a paddle. I’ve thought of pestering the wood shop teacher at Li’s school - I can see their bandsaw through a window when I walk past - but never got around to it. So tonight as I stood with a so far rejected neck blank of Spanish cedar I thought, feck let’s just saw this to necks and be done with it. 

So I laid out six profiles, nested as they usually are. 

I need holes later, to let a narrow saw blade turn, I found easier to drill them while it was still a large piece. 

Then rip sawing between the pairs. I tried my other new old rip saw, the pointy one in the background, but it needs a bit of sharpening. So I let loose my trusty Pax saw which made short work of the task. 

Then I cut the blanks to length with my father’s old cross cut saw. Despite the plastic handle it’s a great tool. 

Then the only tricky cut so far, going between the blanks with a bow saw. I bought the blades and hardware from somewhere but went cheap and fitted them on an old frame I had. Li helped me take the pic. 

Not quite done but enough progress for tonight. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Resonator finished

Why not finish this one already, eh? Not much left and I’m back in Sweden. 

With the headstock clamped in the front vise I bevelled the fret ends with... wait for it... the fret end bevelling file. 

Go on and ask me why all Argapa headstocks have straight parallel sides. Anyone?

Then I rounded over the fret ends with the fret end file. Another excellent, albeit expensive, tool from Stewmac. If I wasn’t intent on taking ghis pic I’d have brushed the filings from bevelling off first. 

For reasons the nut had to be a wee bit thicker on this uke. I found a blank of buffalo horn that fit, and the dark colour goes well with the fretboard and the rest of the uke. Behold in the pic; the half pencil. 

I string all my instruments with fishing line leader. They’re solid fluorocarbon just like Worth strings. And having reels at hand really helps. 

And it’s strung up, set up, tweaked, stamped and completed. I like it. If the customer changes his mind I wouldn’t mind keeping this one, not at all. 

The blemish on the back of the headstock is from an insect bite. It appeared during carving and doesn’t matter. 

The headplate is made from the cut out disc of the sound well. To get rid of the hole I split it and glued it back together with the stripey strip in the middle. I’m sure I told you this when it happened. 

And the number to call if it gets too loud. 

And the last pic; when I tried it yesterday I found the corners on the stringholder a bit sharp. So I took them out with a sanding drum on my Proxxon. It now matches the end of the fretboard, and it’s a design by accident that I will use again. Very classy looking. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Final steps on the resonator

A batch of pics from the last couple of days. I’m done with the finish, the result is a lustrous semi pore filled sheen. I like it and hope Daffyd will too. 

In the first pic you can see my jig for marking out holes for the coverplate screws. 

Then I put the saddle in the biscuit and the biscuit on the cone. It is held with a screw from beneath. 

Then the string holder. The holes in the coverplates are a bit shit so I fit a wooden string holder on my resos. The break angle over the saddle is reduced but that is balanced by the fact that the strings don’t snap. In the pic you can see the wooden rabbet plane I used to make the profile on the string holder. Massive planes are often useful for tiny parts, just keep them sharp. 

And here it is. Rosewood I believe. 

But what holds the holder? Screws do. I use the string holes for a couple of cut off screws. This is the most intricate part of the arrangement, I have to make sure the holes for the screws don’t go into the holes for the strings (which are angled in two directions).

This is what it looks like from beneath. The screws are at the edge of the holes to prevent any movement of the wooden block. With the screws in place I also put a drop of super glue into the holes in the plate. Don’t know if that will matter at all but it felt good. 

Ancient technology like resonator instruments deserve to be assembled with ancient technology tools. In Seeden we call this kind of screwdriver ”a Yankee screwdriver”. I suspect they’re called something else in Yankeeland. 

Only tuners, nut and strings left, eh? Sadly I’m off to make a new Swedish embassy in a far away country now, so I won’t get to that until the weekend. Stay tuned will you. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

One and a half finished instrument

Here’s a few pics of the cavaquinho! 

Spruce soundboard, walnut back and (one piece) rim, alder neck, mahogany binding and rosette, mesquite fretboard and bridge. 

The hand on the headstock is a pre-hispanic Mexican stamp design that I found in a book. It is appropriate on this instrument for a number of reasons. But apparently  an Irish shamrock would’ve been good too, fanx ancestry.com. 

But I did say one and a half, didn’t I. Well the mahogany reso is in the finish stage. So far the base coats of shellac has been applied, these are the four or five first and they’re done with no oil on the muneca. I’ve found that after those I need oil, and with the oil the finish starts building nicely. But with too few base coats it’s a hassle to progress to the polishing phase. 

It does look quite sharp I think. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Stringing up the cavaquinho

After stressing out over the finish for a couple of weeks I decided to leave well alone and intall tuners and stuff. First up was dressing the fret ends. 

Then I made the nut, marking the rough height with the half pencil. It’s still one of my favourite tools, so stupid yet indispensable. 

Sometimes I’ll plane the nut and saddle to minimize dust, but it is tough on the plane irons. So I used a file instead. 

The bridge pins came with a small gemstone at the top, I removed those with a soldering iron and a needle. Since I have a piezo pickup I made a step in the bottom edge of the saddle, to get it to look better at the ends. I could have recessed the piezo element a bit, or made a slot that didn’t go across, but remember I made the slot with a saw and not the router. 

Full body shots coming soon! It sounds, as they say, amazeballs. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Fretboard on

I promised Dafydd an ebony fretboard for his patience, and that means I have to ship it before that brain dead shit scenario of Brexit. I slotted the board and made marker dots of 1.6 mm styrene rod. Next pic will show the advantage of this. Frets went in with a bit of force, ebony is quite unforgiving. I made sure the profile was exactly how I wanted it before placing it on the neck, I prefer to whittle the neck down to match the fretboard than the other way around. 

Actually when I think back now I profiled and placed it before istalling the dots, I drilled into the neck through - wait, let’s go to the next pic shall we. 

Like I said, I placed the fretboard and clamped it. Then I drilled through two of the holes into the neck. Installing the dots I let two of them stick out as you can see, making for two anti-slip brads. It went nowhere during glue-up. 

And the glue-up can be seen here. The bead of squeeze out glue hides the very tiny ledge of the neck edge sticking out. I took that down with my sharp knife. 

The advantage of taking the neck down to fit the fretboard rather than the other way around is that the fretboard will have straight sides. If it’s wider than the neck you could trim it down but it’s tricky to do so at the overhanging end on the soundboard. That’ll result in a slight splay past the neck joint. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Prögress on Dafydd’s reso

Believe it or not, there’s not much left on the mahogany reso I’m building. So much is set in the skeleton and the hardware so setting the wooden parts in between feels a bit like an assembly task. 

But it is a fun task. In the first pic I’m trimming the overhang with my widest chisel. Having the uke in the vise really helps the precision. 

The heel is trimmed flush, also with the chisel. You know by now I really dislike abrasive methods and much prefer edge tools. 

Glue is applied. Since it’s a one piece back I don’t have to fret too much about center lines and stuff, as long as it doesn’t slide around too much it’s an easy glue up. 

I ought to make a caul for reso backs. Usually I use another skeleton as one but as y’all know this is my last one. It worked though, I have enough clamps.*

Then I needed to plane an ebony fingerboard. Most planes sort of skidded right off but my toothed plane with the steep iron angle chewed away at the board as if it was paid to do so. The plane is a gift from my friend Chris who builds ukes in his shed in Suffolk. 

Getting rid of the tooth marks was easier than I thought. I first tried my scraper plane but this wee offering from Stewmac was actually better. 

Once I was pleased with the thickness and the consistency I gave the top side a coat of renaissance wax. It’ll be a very nice fretboard once it’s in place. 

* Famous last words...

Monday, October 22, 2018

Cavaquinho bridge

It was time to make the bridge for the cavaquinho. Among the fretboard blanks I made from my mesquite log was the scrap piece that is inevitably left over after flipping a quarter log left and right on the bandsaw. It wasn’t even or smooth in any way so it was in for some planing action. 

First I cut a bit off with an old backsaw. 

Then I established a reference surface. In the pic is my no.3 plane but the no.5 was also used. 

Because I was lazy I chose to cut the saddle slot by hand instead of on the mini table saw. I made the groove with different saws but started by scoring with a marking knife and then deepening the slot with chisels. 

The angle was a bit of a guesstimate and I hope it’ll work. Then I made the chamfers and brought it to final thickness / height. 

The transition to the wings were carved by hand with a chisel that was almost wide enough. 

The underside is arched to match the soundboard, made so by rubbing the bridge on a concave sanding block. (The chisel in the pic is really wide but wasn’t sharp enough for carving the wings.)

Laying out with tape, ruler and pencil. Just like always. 

And clamping it in place. What I failed to show you was inserting the piezo pickup strip in the saddle slot, and pulling the cable down through a hole in the soundboard. The jack is in the endpin. 

And here the jack goes in. A miniature tele plug connects it to the piezo. I put some shellac around the hole because it’ll be there when I finish the instrument.