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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Travel uke mark II

I have quite a lot to show you*, but to keep it relatively logical I’ll limit this post to one project. A project I foolhardily started today. 

I thought I should bring my Argapa Fugly Wanderer to the MUMF do in Wales, but if all I bring are ukes in my possession that means it would be prototypes of varying degree of success. For example, as I played my travel uke the other day it was obvious it’s too short at the nut end. So wanting to show a decent travel uke in May I have no option but to build another. 

I found a slab of cherry. 

I roughed it down with my no.4 Stanley, the one I’ve set up as a scrub plane. Maybe I should widen its mouth some, and let the transmogrification be permanent. 

In the pic you can see the characteristic undulating surface the heavily cambered blade leaves. 

After smoothing it out lengthwise with a no.5 jack plane I checked the surface with some makeshift winding sticks. 

Then I ripped it to width to get the outside contour in order. 

I took the neck down to its tapering width, checking it with the fret slotting template and a ruler to see where the bridge will end up. 

Through all this I protected the upper face with cork linings in the vise. It’s too easy to mar the surface. Don’t ask me how I know. 

Then I flipped it over and started hogging out the wood that’s not supposed to be there. It went slower than I remember from last time, but I didn’t want to faff around with a drill.  

Halfway down I started thinking about a drill. Here’s my Record router plane doing its best. 

* I’m not sure I have any readers but addressing a bunch, imaginary or not, makes me feel more sane. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Carving bigger necks

I did get to spend some time in the shop this weekend, and I had company. For the two experimental builds it is time for the necks. The neck blanks we chose are of alder and I put a couple of carbon fibre rods in each. The rods are 12.5 mm or so, and the grooves I made on the mini table saw were just under 10. So my no. 4 plane which is set up as a scrub plane took them down. Nasty stuff, carbon fibre. 

Then I thicknessed the headstock by sawing down with my wee rip saw. I tried making a groove with a rasp first, to enable me planing it down with some plane, but reached for the saw. The plane just wanted to break off the edges of the headstock. 

And you’ve seen this before I think. The small plane that once was a spokeshave. It isn’t much use for anything else than this but it does this really well. 

Then Johan learned to carve a neck with spokeshaves and knives. He was really impressed by it taking so little time, and I was happy for the company and that my methods suited him. 

But that poor plane from the first pic... don’t worry, the whetstones are soaking and the iron will soon be better. In fact I have a bunch of tools in need of sharpening. Tomorrow, I hope. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Carving a wee neck

The mahogany neck blanks from the last post were measured and marked, then one of them went under the knife. The glove / mitten is kevlar re-inforced, I’m sure you remember my various mishaps with the carving knives. 

I started out by roughly carving the profile at the nut and up against the heel. 

If your knife is sharp mahogany will carve beautifully. The heel was easy. Now I had an entry and an exit point for the spokeshave and put the neck in the carving jig. 

But the work with the spokeshave was fast so no pic from then. Instead a couple of glamour shots of the almost finished neck. 

Keeping a ridge for the v-shape reveals any flats or bumps. As you can see here the transition from the heel towards the middle of the neck isn’t good enough yet, so I kept at it until it was. 

I’ll try to concentrate on building this weekend. If band practice doesn’t happen. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Real necks

No. It was a shit idea and I shouldn’t have bothered. Those cedar neck blanks with the cocobolo layer looked corny and I messed up the geometry (hey - I’m only an architect).

Luckily I was able to buy some mahogany today, for example this piece of 52 x 52 mm. It’ll be so much better. 

There is a blemish in the wood but I was able to lay out two neck blanks ahead of that. One piece nested necks. No real wiggle room between the headstocks so I put on a new blade on the bandsaw. Anything to get it to cut straight. 

I went really slow and it worked great. To give you an idea of how small this saw is I placed a 150 mm rule on the table. To save the saw and the blade from any more work tonight I decided to continue with hand saws. 

This is the short rip saw I renovated last summer. It cuts well enough but I need to use it more to get it to really shine. A bit of oil on the blade helped it today. 

And here we are, an hour later I have two crisp neck blanks. I will admit I arranged the tools for the pic, but I did use all of them. And the mock lute got its neck attached too, I forgot to take a pic of that.