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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Slow but unsteady

We’re having the worst heatwave I can remember. I have to stay in the shade and take it as easy as possible. But I made the bridge (twice) and glued it on (twice). I started finishing (twice) and stripped off the finish (once). 

And I made the six holes and reamed them for the set of Wittner Fein tuners I got from Germany. More about them later. 

And I took my Dobro tenor guitar apart to service it some. I wanted to make a bone nut and try different strings. Now it sounds better but I might change the strings to get a wee bit more tension on the cone. 

Here’s the saddle slot in the spider, it was super rough so I trued it up and recessed the screw. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Vacation time, continued

I’m back in Sweden, at the summer house with the best view. I brought the mock lute and a set of tools that’ll let me finish it. If all goes well..!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Luthier on the run

Believe it or not, even your favourite hardest working luthier needs a break now and then. So I packed a case with three ukes and went to Italy via Paris. In Paris I was invited to a uke jam in the 11th arrondissement, first pic shows the ukes putside the pub. 

I played alongside a pretty stern and extremely loud gentleman, so that was three traits we didn’t share. I’m lax, quiet and no gentleman. They went through songs as if there was no tomorrow, never pausing for beer. It was unlike any gathering I’ve been to. 

And here’s the view of today. The pool, the crossword, the fugly wanderer and the insane mountain behind it all. I’ll see how long I can lie flat before looking for the tool store. 

Bonus pic: in Paris I was happy to learn they really care for their metal heads. This is the Maison des Metallos, surely a home for worn out headbangers where they can be fed diluted beer and Carcass on low volume. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Piccolo, back glued on

Just a quick report of what I did this morning before running off to the office. 

I clamped the piccolo on the workboard with the matching solera insert. I shim the neck to get the correct angle, this is held by the back. Determining the height of that shim was very complicated so I store it in a safe place. 

With a mdf caul I clamp the back with slats of wood geld down by long screws with wingnuts. 

And after clamping I check for squeeze out around the body with a mirror. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mock lute soundboard and piccolo assembly

Having done the back of the mock lute I started on a spruce soundboard. I needed to access the innards of the body to reinforce some seams of tricky geometry, that’s why I build backwards this time. 

A sharp number 4 plane with a cambered blade rushes through the wood as if it was a thick dairy product. Butter or cheese. 

Then I made the rosette channel with my rosette cutter, easily the coolest tool I ever invested [rather heavily] in. Two cuts with a knife-like blade, then some routing with a narrow chisel blade. 

I bent a mahogany strip on my secondary bending iron. It’s a huge soldering iron with a tip for, I think, de-horning cows. It gets crazy hot really fast so I have it plugged in for a couple of minutes tops. 

After some fiddling it fit, the strip is 0.5 mm so four turns to fill the 2 mm slot. 

I glued with thin, and after that medium ca glue. Here’s me paring it down once the glue is dry. With a Narex paring chisel. 

Bracing in the go bar deck, after this pic I added a single brace across the bridge patch to secure the dome in the soundboard. 

And some miniature plane action. Of cöurse!

While the glue on the rosette dried I marked out a centerline on the cherry piccolo, and matched the neck to the body. Avoiding sandpaper means you have to have sharp scrapers so I had to build a sharpening jig for my Stewmac ultimate scraper. 

And here it is after assembly. The still square lute soundboard behind it reveals the jumbled timeline, but hey - it’s my blog and you can cry if you want to. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Piccolo neck carved, and progress on mock lute

I carved the neck for the piccolo in progress, as always my favourite task during any build. I started out by making recesses as entry and exit points. 

The rasp makes short work of it, at the heel and at the headstock end. This piece of cherry has a bit of figure to it, and is quite hard. 

Then with a couple of different spokeshaves (but mostly this small one) I connect the recesses, keeping the width and creating the slight v-shape that I favour. 

Ta-daa! It was over much too soon. Around twenty minutes and that was working slow on purpose to make it last longer. 

Then I bent a couple of walnut pieces to close the back of the mock lute. I’m not a hundred percent sure of my strategy yet, it will become clear in a few days. 

Here are the pieces clamped to the rest of the mock lute, the joints were ok but needed some adjustments afterwards. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Baron’s soprano in for service

My friend Robin is off to the UWC in the States, so he wanted me to polish up his soprano that I built so many years ago. 

I checked the frets to make sure they were all level. There was one or two that needed attention but no big issues. 

I checked by letting my tiny square straddle three frets at a time. A high fret will cause the square to rock. 

Then I taped the fretboard and made sure all were crowned properly and polished them. 

After cleaning the fretboard thoroughly with some naphta and scrapers I oiled it with linseed oil and restrung it. It barks as it should, one size löuder!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Packed up for MUMF

I’m writing this on the train between Sweden and Denmark, the picture is from the other night when I packed eight or nine ukes in a borrowed suitcase. 

I’m on my way to Wales, if all connections work out. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Yet another reso

Sorry for being absent! I have been travelling to benefit the Swedish state. But I’m back for a bit and needed to show you a few kitchen pics of my latest effort, the Argapa 107 soprano resonator. 

Hardware is from whatsitsname, in the US. Maybe Republic? I bought it long ago and can’t really remember. A good and reliable supplier, not like that wanker Colin who still owes me money for the cones he never shipped. 

The wood is ziricote, the neck is alder. It has the slight v-shape and knife marks, the way I like it. I’m finding it harder to enjoy those swooshy necks sanded to 12000 grit where the wood looks as if it was cast in a mould. But there might be laziness and denial involved, I’m no shrink. 

I got the ziricote from a dear friend in the UK, he’s a very talented builder and makes lovely instruments for lovely people. Check his blog out here:


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Another zero sanding piccolo

I had yet another request for a cherry piccolo, by someone who promised to play tango music on it. How could I say no. I couldn’t, and thought it’d be nice to bring it to MUMF in May, finished or half finished. 

The pieces I had kicking about were very uneven both in shape and in thickness. So I set out with scrub plane, jack plane and a few more planes. The jack plane has a new replacement iron from Hock and cut just beautifully. Of course it made me want to do this zero sanding style. 

It’s tricky to clamp the piece down so I used my planing board with stopping strips at two edges. 

I shot for 1.6 mm thickness. When it’s this thin it may want to buckle and crack so I put a lot of my albeit wee body weight on the plane. 

Then I marked out the contours for the front and back. A transparent template makes it easy to line it up with the grain direction. The outer line is drawn with a washer, offsetting the mark an exact distance all around. 

Then the long piece for the rim. This is even more difficult, you can only clamp the back end or it will buckle and shatter. I had to use a small block plane to get at the spots where the clamp was, going almost against the grain. 

But it was a success, 1.6 - 1.7 mm over the entire length and a surface almost as hard and shiny as a piece of glass. So I bent the rim on the iron and put it in the mould. 

Then after the rim had sat for a couple of days I reversed two clamps to spreader clamps and forced open the slot at the top of the mould, enough to get a saw in to cut the rim to length. 

I grabbed an offcut from the travel uke and ripped it to get an end block. I need to set the teeth of this saw, it tends to bind in the kerf. 

My wee bench hook is great for cutting and squaring small parts. Here I use it as a shooting board to plane the ends of the block. 

And here it is, glued and clamped in place. Now I’ll take a break to do some shopping, pack a bag and go to Africa for a few days. Day job is still painfully necessary. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Update on a couple of projects

When did I last show you the mahogany piccolo? It must have been when I carved the neck. Let’s catch up, even though I think it was visible in the background on a few pics last week when I worked on the travel uke. 

First pic shows the neck attached, the rim profiled, the lining strips glued in and the same strips sanded flush with the rim. 

Then the back braces were installed while the uke was on the solera. The braces have a gentle curve, which together with the more aggressive lengthwise curve of the body gives the back some compound geometry thingie going on. 

Slotting the neck and fretting was done together with the travel uke, and in the exact same way. 

Then I made a bridge and glued it on. This was a couple of days ago, meaning...

... we have the first coats of shellac on! I think it’ll be a fine instrument. 

 A few pics of the reso then. Since last time I have received information from a reliable source, it’s not cocobolo - it’s ziricote. Please forgive me for spreading fake news on the internet, and well spotted Mikael. 

Anyway, I put on a faceplate and a fretboard of the same wood. I think it looks really cool. Ziricote is hard to work and tough on tools so almost every step is a bit of a struggle. But we’re getting there. 

I tried using a scraper but it skidded around, just burnishing the wood. So out came the Festo ROS. When I can’t avoid power tools I prefer to use the best ones. 

Hardly a surprise, but ziricote is hard to finish. The shellac dries slower than on the mahogany piccolo and I must be careful not to rush the process. It will look quite dramatic. 

I have built this to my own specs, but I do have someone in mind. If it turns out good after all the hardware is grafted onto it, I will brush off my school French and write an email to a certain guy.