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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bracing and rosette work

I have had some odd hours in the workshop since the last post. Progress is steady but scattered over several instruments. The mahogany piccolo got a neck block and lining strips glued into the rim, and then I made a rosette and the soundhole in the top. 

After making the channel I bent the thin black maple strip for the rosette. Two full rounds in a spiral, with the ends feathered to zero. 

I usually glue rosettes with superglue but that stuff is nasty. So I went with regular Titebond. The acrylic caul causes the black strip to squish a bit, filling the channel completely. With superglue the strip turns rock hard right away and it’s harder to wing it. 

Then I helped Johan to carve and plane the braces for his mini guitar. He does some fine work when he wants to. 

Not shown: the reso got a neck. Johan’s guitar got the top glued to its sides. See you next weekend, I’m off to Ouagadougou for a bit. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Reso under way

The new resonator uke I’m building is clad with a dark wood that I got from my friend Stuart. He told me what it was but I get confused, maybe it was cocobolo. 

I’ve learnt the hard way the proper order in which to do things, but that didn’t help me avoid all mistakes. I’ll get back to that. But cutting out the large hole for the soundwell and the two wee soundports must be done first. The wood was extremely hard to cut. 

My rosette and soundhole cutter is from Micheal Connor in Australia, a great but somewhat pricey tool. 

Lining it all up, and adding tiny blocks around the edge to keep it in place while glueing. But before glueing...

... you’d better glue the mesh screens in. There is no way to do that cleanly once the top is on. 

And it would be even better to sand the edges of the soundports before glueing the screen in, don’t you think? I swore I’d never forget that, again. But what do you know. I forgot. I’ll take care of it. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Piccolo 104 done

Hiya! It’s been a while but I’ll blame a trip to Sudan. The piccolo is finished but we’ll start with pics of the last steps. 

The first pic shows me shaping the pegs in the, well you guessed it: peg shaper. When wooden pegs dry after being turned the can go a bit oval in cross section. The shaper takes care of that and ensures a perfect taper. 

A taper that matches the one of the reamer, if all adjustable parts are set correctly. I do the pegs first and then holes into which they’ll fit. My equipment comes from www.metmusic.com, one of my favourite webshops. 

Then I cut the pegs to length. The guide sets the height above the headstock, on the backside I let the pegs vary in length. The pegs for the G and A strings are longer because of the angle of the headstock. 

Note the leather saw stop, and think for a while of my poor thumb and the state it was in before I made the stop. 

Then the top of the pegs are filed round and smooth. I start with a pencil sharpener but a file does most of the work. 

The bone nut is cut to length, filed to height and marked with the divider for slots. The vise is from Stewmac, a great buy. 

After drilling the string holes I counter sink them with a round engraving bit. Looking at piccolos of different ages I can see each of these steps as the processes have evolved. I think the instruments get better all the time. 

Weighing in at 196 grams. If you ate it you’d want another one. 

Here it is, a full frontal!

I stamp them only after playing them for a while. This one is approved and a 100% Argapa. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bodies, bending, and more

Oooh err... maybe I have bitten off more than I can chew. But things tend to happen at variable speed in the Argapa dungeön and yesterday that speed was high. 

I started out by glueing the bridge on the piccolo. Then I glued the sides to the top of the cavaquinho. Then I bent the sides for the mock lute, and while the bending iron was hot I sort of started a resonator and a mahogany piccolo. I’ll show the pics. 

First task was drilling the outer string holes through the bridge and top on the piccolo. I put in some thin steel wire to stop the bridge from slipping around. The ruler in the pic is clamped to the neck, giving me some help in holding the bridge while drilling. 

And here are the clamps. You can see the wire at the right edge of the pic. The leather is to protect the wood. 

A quick pic of the cavaquinho on the solera, as the sides are clamped in place by the slats and the long screws, as seen in the epic post ”a hundred dollar screw investment”.

I asked Li to take a pic of me bending the reso sides. The steel and wood push thing helps me avoid burn wounds. 

And here they all are. The lute sides, the reso body, the mahogany piccolo sides and the piccolo with its bridge on. I want to have them ready for a festival in May. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bridge prep

After cutting off a wee length of the bridge blank I continue working on the height, the contour and the position. Scale length is 280 mm giving a string length for the G, E and A strings of 282 mm. The C string is longer to alleviate any differences in compensation. 

First pic shows lengthwise placing. 

Above is me drawing a couple of lines on low tack masking tape. The ruler butts up along the fretboard edge and the lines ideally are at equal distances from the edges of the body. 

More tape lock the position, and the string spacing divider gives the, well, string spacing. Divided. 

I mark the outer string positions by laying out a ruler on the fretboard where I want them, at appropriate distances from the edge. 

And here you see the gouge I use to move the point of the ridge back for a longer C string. Hopefully I’ll glue it on today. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bridge blank

I’ve made more piccolos than I’ve made any other size ukulele, and most bridges for those have come out of three bridge blanks. One of the blanks might still be kicking around somewhere but searching for it would take me longer than making a new one.

In the first pic you can see the length of cherry I chose, as well as the newly fretted piccolo. I forgot to take pics of pressing the frets in but there are posts on here covering that. I know there are a couple covering making bridge blanks, so please consider me a man of consistency rather than a predictable wind bag. 

To get an idea of the height needed for the bridge I measure thusly; a 3.5 mm drill bit at the 12th fret and the secondary ruler roughly at the string length. Which is the scale length (280 mm) plus compensation (~2 mm). I will make the bridge blank around 9 or 10 mm high and take each bridge down from there.

I score a line with a marking knife and run a chisel lengthwise on one side to get a starting groove for a rabbet plane. It takes very little to steer the plane if it’s set right.

Are my planes set right then? Not all of the time, no. But 95% of the time, yeah! This wonderful old Swedish plane called out to me at a fleamarket. Cheap and in good nick it was a bargain. Aggressive but very precise it rough shapes the blank in no time. It was a task I wanted to last longer, the sound of the plane biting into the wood was special.

As the bridge blank got lower it was harder to keep clamped in the vise, so I took a moment to make two shallow rabbets in the wooden jaws. This will help me loads when I’m working on other small parts.

I did this yesterday. Today I spent in Copenhagen, showing the plans for the new Swedish embassy to the ambassador and the staff. It was fun and all but I really wanted to come back home to continue working on this. Now it’s too late at night so I had to settle for making this entry. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bracing work

The cavaquinho will have steel strings, and I know this will means a higher tension. So I made the braces a bit larger than I would on a concert ukulele. 

They are made from quarter sawn spruce and the two outer ones I made lower and wider than the one in the centre. First pic shows how I rough shape them before glueing, but with the solera now free to move around (before the workshop overhaul it was mounted on a wall) I chose to save most of the shaping til after glueing. 

And my new go bars. The grey ones are fibre glass tubes from a collapsable wardrobe, sliced in half. The black ones are from a tent I found in the trash. Both kinds are stronger and more consistent than the wooden ones I used before. 

With chisels and a variety of tiny planes I shape the braces and bars. Tap tone shows promise. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Prepping for fretting

My piccolos don’t have a separate fretboard, as I’m sure some of you know already. This means the neck is set with an angle to get the strings clear of the soundboard and bridge. It also means I saw the fret slots after attaching the neck, since it might get shorter at the heel end as I’m making sure the surfaces match. 

This is the jig I’m most proud of. It’s held in place by the styrene rods that will become the fret markers. 

The first slot is where the nut will sit, it won’t be a slot for long. 

Paring down the fret marker rods. The neck has a lovely grain, it popped under the wash coat of shellac I put on before sawing. 

To properly seat the fretwire I relieve the edges of the slots with a triangular file. A couple of passes is enough. You can see the difference in the pic, slots to the left are done. 

Then I turn that first slot into a stepped ledge for the nut. The nut is held by the strings and a dab of glue. As always, my chisel is super sharp. Look at the cross grain shavings. 

Almost done. Here I come in from the other side to finish it off. The surface is crisp and shiny, no sanding is required. 

I really don’t mind abrasive tools for stock removal (as in a drum sander) or sometines rough shaping (as with the rasp on that neck blank), but for final surfaces an edge tool will always win. Here I’m chamfering the fretboard edges with a miniature plane. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Closing the piccolo, carving lute neck

Things happen at a comfortable pace. Before going away to dinner yesterday I continued in the workshop.

I mount the back braces in the lining before glueing the back on. Not common practice at all but it suits me. The body is clamped down on the solera with a caul at the soundhole, and the neck is also clamped down with a shim at the nut end to give it the correct angle. This isn’t visible in the pic. 

The back goes on and is clamped down with wooden slats that bend and conform to the shape of the uke.

I check for squeeze out on the far side with a mirror. Everything looks good.

Then I turned to the lute-ish neck. It won’t fit easily in my carving jig and the cherry wood was really hard to carve, so I tried a rasp. Not a tool I use often but I must say I understand now that many builders do. I roughed out the profile at the nut end in no time, and went on to the heel to get both an entry and an exit point for the spokeshave.

The heel would have been very tricky with just the knife. With the rasp it was fast and easy. 

Then on to the spokeshave. I did use a more massive drawknife as well to negotiate some reversing grain.

But the whittling knife was necessary to get rid of the rough surface left by the rasp. The pencil line at the heel is a guesstimated cut line but I’ll deal with that when the body comes together. The mock lute will have six strings so the headstock will be fun to solve.