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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. 




Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Attaching neck, and a mesquite fretboard

I went hunting this weekend and when I got home I wanted to achieve something in the workshop. So I set out to attach the neck on the mahogany reso that is bound for Wales. I started out by scoring lines about 4 mm from the edges of the heel. 



Then I hollowed the heel out just a bit. It’s crucial for the next step that the middle is relieved so the neck doesn’t rock. 



I drag the neck on a sanding board of heavy metal. You can see from the trail of dust that the edges are affected more than the centre. 



And I check for alignment and squareness often. I want the centreline straight to the square, but I also take care to get the neck angle right. That’s not 90 degrees, more like 88.5. 



You may have seen my rather fancy jig for drilling the holes for the barrel nut and screw. Yesterday however I thought sod it and made the holes freehand with a cordless drill. And would you believe it, it was less nerve wracking and gave a better result. After checking the joint and alignment I didn’t have to do any tweaking. So I put some glue on the heel and screwed it on. 



But that’s not all. We are struggling a bit with a jumbled timeline. This mesquite fretboard I made some days ago, for the cavaquinho I cobble together for my mate. 



After pressing in the frets and glueing it on. Again, no adjustments or fret dressing needed. Might I be getting the hang of this..? No, begone foul hubris thought. Last time I thought I had things down it almost crushed me with a backlash from Hell and England. 




Sunday, September 30, 2018

Carving the neck for Dafydd’s reso

Hi all. I’m behind in blogging at the moment. I’ve made progress on a few ukes but to keep it organized I’ll just show one tonight. The mahogany reso will have a mahogany neck. I needed a peghead overlay o the same wood as in the body, but want to be very economic with it. So I looked at the circular piece I got from the sound well. Problem was it had a hole in the centre. I cut it diagonally to get the hole out, and glued the halves back together with a stylish strip of alternating wood veneers, maple and mahogany. 



It turned out really nice I think. 



Then onwards to my favourite part, the carving. I marked out the angles and widths and made starting cuts with a chisel. 



Then I ripped it close to the lines with my Pax rip saw. I gave the teeth on the rip saw a little extra set and it went much straighter. Should’ve done that a couple of years ago. 



And here’s a new knife. I saw someone on youtube carving with a knife with an extremely long handle. And I had a spare blade so I made one like it. Jury’s still out but it cuts well enough after a session on the water stones. 

I made the entry and exit points at the heel and headstock ends. 



And then I took the small wooden spokeshave that serves me so faithfully. With the initial carves made this last step takes me five minutes at most. I wish it took longer because it is immensly satisfying. 




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.