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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bending sides of mystery wood

The soprano I build for my daughter Li will have a top of the century old reclaimed wood from a boat. A boat that her grandfather swapped a 1950’s Zündapp motorbike for - I think I told you a couple of years ago and I’m certain you remember. 

The back and sides will be from this dark wood, of a species I shall not guess. Maybe Micke will email me if he sees this, he set me straight on that last reso in april. 

Anyway the wood is heavy, hard and felt a bit brittle. Not unlike plate glass. So I hesitated bending it directly on the form with the blanket, opting instead to bend it on the pipe and then setting the shape on the form. So I bent the sides close to shape and wrapped the first one in paper. It was some packaging paper I had around, but I think a heavier craft paper had been better. 

Then it went onto the form. I started with the waist as usual, clamping it down tight. Then I took the bouts one at a time, and it wasn’t scary or difficult as they were almost in shape already. 

And after drying out and cooling off it looked line this. A lot of resin had come out of the wood and soaked into the paper. I’m glad I chose paper instead of aluminium foil, not that I’m sure there would have een any sort of reaction. 

And here they are. The lower part with the more flatsawn pattern will be cut off and then the bookmatch is surprisingly good. And it’s got two eyes, staring evilly. Is that a word, evilly? Should be. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A few new projects

Many pics of my roaring start. The fall season will be busy. First pic is me resawing a piece of an old door. Spruce or pine, don’t really know, it is old, dry as bone and very tightly grained. It’ll be a top for a soprano with mahogany back and sides. 

Then I spent a gruesome couple of hours kneeling by the drum sander. It’s really hard work but in the end I had processed wood for three sopranos and a reso. 

Wait, this second pic was taken before that. I cut the parts for the reso very carefully from that wide mahogany sheet I made last weekend, laying them out to ensure maximum yield. 

Here’s the one piece rim for one of the sopranos. I bent it on the bending iron and will do that for another one as well. The third sop will have sides in two halves so I’ll bend those on the bender. It’s some dark hard wood so the bending blanket will probably be a bit easier. 

This is my last reso skeleton, maybe I’ll order some more. First I plane the dowels down so the skeleton is smooth and even. The sides will be a one piece rim because it is way easier to glue them on - I have a shopmade waist clamp that puts tension all around the lower bout. 

And that clamp is two dowels and two pieces of all thread. Other clamps may come in handy too. 

Then I laid out the centre points for the sound well and the sound ports. I did make a small mistake here though, glueing the guide blocks before cutting the holes with my rosette and hole cutter. The blocks were in the way but I persevered and conquered. 

I have used aluminium mesh for the grilles but this time I use steel. I think it’s better because it will be stronger, even though the holes are a bit larger. In the pic you can also see the rare appearance of epoxy glue in my workshop. 

And the last pic then, the top glued on. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Making plans

Trying to lay out various projects on available wood. At first I thought a few of them would come from my newly sawn mahogany slice but I found many interesting pieces in the stash so I’m thinking again. I have wood from an 1890’s sailboat, spruce from an old door, some dark tropical wood I got from somewhere and I don’t know. Maybe this autumn will be a journey into reclaimed vintage stuff. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Resawing, a personal best

Hola! Tonight I have a lot of pictures to show you. Pictures of resawing ancient wood with ancient tools. That’s right, your favourite kind of blogpost! In the attic above our cottage I have some mahogany planks. They’re from the 1960’s and from South America so it’s the good stuff. And they’re huge. I went up with a cross cut panel saw and took a meter off. Why a meter, I hear you (the voices in my head more like it) ask..? Because then I could make a one piece rim for a tenor. If I ever wanted to make a tenor.

Here’s the board. 40 cm wide. That’s 100x40 cm to rip. 

You know the frame saw I built with a blade from Bad Axe? Of course you do! It’s not a bad frame saw but for a board this wide the blade is a bit short. Hard to clear the sawdust from the gullets (the space between the teeth). Lucky me and lucky you then, last year my beautiful wife and me found this HUGE frame saw, this beast of a tool, at a flea market. The blade was rusty but the teeth in good condition. Price was 250 SEK. Google it. It’s cheap. So here I’m cleaning the blade. 

I also sharpened it with a couple of strokes on each tooth with a file. I left the set as it was, but maybe it should have been adjusted for a wee bit wider kerf. 

Then I planed all edges of the board and began slotting them with the kerfing plane. That is hard work, let me tell you. 

Next up was nothing less than my behemoth saw. I could really have used someone at the other end but the only option would have been one of my old parents. I didn’t want to risk their health, our relation, or my mahogany board so I did it on my own. The saw is heavy but cut fairly straight. And fast, probably due to its weight. 

Almost an hour later I got it apart. I was soaked in sweat and really tired but hey, not bad huh? The plan was to rip this board into three pieces, then rip a walnut voard of almost the same size into three or possibly four pieces but this one cut was enough for one day. And it’ll be enough for two or three ukes. 

But resawing something of this width is hard. The blade sometimes wants to bend in the wood, giving you an uneven surface. In severe cases it’ll ruin your yield because you’ll saw through into the next slice. Mahogany isn’t as bad as cherry but I got some humps. I planed them out roughly just to make sure no one laughs at me when I take this home on the bus tomorrow. I think if I set the teeth to a wider kerf this’ll help. If you know otherwise drop me acomment or an email. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Miniguitar done, Argapa 110

Back home after the vacation Johan and I put a gear in and cracked on with his guitar. In the first pic you can see the back being glued on. This also sets the neck angle by using a shim under the neck as the back locks the geometry in shape. 

Johan shaped the bridge with my Veritas apron plane. We cut the slanted saddle groove first and shaped the bridge around that. 

After making the fretboard and glueing it on, we put the bridge in place. 

And then finishing. The first coat makes a lot of difference, but the twentieth makes the instrument shine. 

Applying shellac also reveals flaws and glue spots that cannot be seen easily before, so we went back and forth with scrapers and steel wool between coats. And took our time. Johan was a natural at French polishing.  

And here we are. We are trying string sets out, and tunings. Or pitch really. Will it be E - e (not very likely), A - a, or B - b? Johan designed the fret position markers from a deck of cards. 

The first Argapa with a pin bridge! Nerve wracking but ultimately successful. 

And the headstock shape that’ll force the stamped marking down to the side of the headstock. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Piccolo done, Argapa 109

Last we saw of the piccolo was it hanging to dry in a run down cottage during a heat wave. But it got finished, I just forgot to post about it. 

From the kitchen this morning, it has Worth brown strings and it was a good choice. It sings, it barks, it goes plinkety plunk depending on how you play it. Just as it should. 

The neck is the subtle v-shape I prefer, in the pic exaggerated by the sunlight. 

The one piece, compensated bridge. 

And the headstock with its taper in thickness. I am very pleased. And I get to hang on to it for a couple of weeks, my buyer is coming to Stockholm at the end of the month. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Argapa 100 under the knife

I’m a bit behind in posting, but will catch up. These pics are from last week. 

My eight string soprano was made from mahogany, all of it. A great wood for most parts, but the bridge was a wee bit too soft for the string pull. They ate their way into the wood and it was time to deal with it. 

I rigged a cardboard protective layer. I was still at the cottage, hiding from the scorching sun. 

With my Japanese model making saw I carefully cut two slots just beside the holes. 

With a thin chisel of the mortise chisel kind I cleared the wood out between the saw slots. My plan was to laminate a few black maple purfling strips together with ca glue and fit that into the slot. 

And here it is in place. I planed it down together with the surfaces of the bridge. It was a bit high and will be better now. 

Cool innit. Looks like it was meant to be this way. 

I strung it up with a set of Aquilas and a set of Worth browns, so the strings wouldn’t sound the same. A bonus was the ebony/ivory thing going on at the bridge was carried over to the rest of the uke. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Piccolo progress

When the frets are in place and the nut ledge cut I turn my attention to the bridge. This setup in the first pic gives me the height, this time it was around 8 mm. 

I mark on a piece of tape the extended lines of the edge of the fretboard. This helps me place the bridge where it needs to be. 

Here’s the bridge with tape all around it. Before glueing, I drill the holes for the A and G strings. With brads through the holes the bridge won’t slip. 

The brads were replaced with sewing needles, remember this tiny house lacks most tools but is packed with sewing supplies. 

Then I use the divider to mark the location for the E and C strings. The divider is of course a Ken Timms tool. 

I drill the holes at an angle so it’s easier to feed the strings through to the soundhole. 

Ever wondered why Argapa headstocks have parallel sides? Then take one look at this pic and realize it’s the sensible choice. I need the tuner holes so I can hang the uke up during finishing, but I’ll ream them later. 

And here we are this morning. About halfway through the French polishing process. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On the road again

Vacation continues, and so does the hard work. I’ve gone south to the next cottage and I brought a field kit of tools and a half finished piccolo. 

But there’s always something I forget to bring. Remember the button fret markers last summer? Well this year I forgot the 1.6 mm styrene rod I use to make fret marker dots on the piccolos. I searched around and found this plastic paper clip which will have to do. 

With the sourdough festering in the background I drilled and filled the holes. 

Then I used my fret slot cutting jig to make the slots. I need to make a new one soon, this one has been around for a fair bit of time now. 

The nut location is determined by the first slot. I use a sharp chisel to create a ledge for the nut. 

There has been more progress but I’ll put that in the next post.