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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. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Traveller mk II completed

Of course I use the regular wooden violin pegs for the traveller, but the geometry makes it a bit different. The pegs need to be both thinner and longer to work, you’ll see why in a bit. 

To get them to a consistent taper I use the peg shaper, an advanced sharpener not unlike those for pencils. In this case I went further to get them thinner too. 

And why do I need them thin then. It’s because of my reamer, to get a larger hole it would need to go further in and it can’t of course, the width of the soundbox prevents that. I could cut my reamer off but don’t want to mess with an expensive tool. 

Here they are, the pegs. Before I cut them to length. To the right is the carbon fibre tube that guides the strings. It’s not perfectly perpendicular to the sides. I guess it’s true then, only Allah can achieve perfection. 

Here it is next to the OG, number 102. This new one is number 105, I really should pick up the pace. You can see the extra bit at the nut end, it really does help and makes it a lit easier to play first position chords (which means playing at all in my case).

And from the back. If I ever build another I will make the recess first, then cut the board to length and width. I must remember that. 

As it wasn’t ever touched with sandpaper I included the code ZS for zero sanding. This uke will be for sale at or after MUMF in May. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Travel uke mk II, cont.

Worked on two different ukes in parallel yesterday, but will again limit the blogging to just the travel uke. 

First pic shows the carved neck. It was very different to carve one without heel and headstock; and not easier. For some reason the end was hard to get straight so I was glad I hadn’t cut it to length before carving. And I decided to keep it as a zero sanding project, all surfaces shaped with blades.

... which of course made it hard to finish the surfaces on the inside. But scrapers got me quite close. The soundboard ended up being 1.5 - 1.7 mm. 

Then I cut the neck to length. Keeping a few centimeters above the zero fret was my main incentive for building this, so I hope I kept enough. 

Carving the end grain with a sharp knife gives it a glassy surface I’d never get with sandpaper. Others might of course, I just never developed the patience needed for going through the grits up to several thousands. 

Here I’m cutting off the aris along the neck edge with another knife, leaving a minute chamfer. The difference is hardly seen but instantly felt. 

Then sawing the fret slots. This is where I worked on another piccolo as well, and I took some pics of installing the fret markers on that. But that’ll be in another post. 

Looking at the thin wall of end grain wood at the butt I was worried it was weak. It was too uneven to glue in a piece of veneer so I sealed the outside with shellac and poured in some superglue on the inside. Maybe it’ll help. 

Here it is, fretted. And the other uke as well, the all mahogany piccolo. I continued by planing a tiny bridge for the traveller, 5 mm high to give me 2.5 mm clearance above the 12th fret. 

The bridge and the string through holes. I lined the holes with lengths of brass tube, or shorts really. It was very very fiddly - they’re only as long as the soundboard is thick!

And the holes at the nut end, or zero fret in this case. These holes go through the neck at angles, I got three of them right and the fourth right-ish. 

To finish this one I only need to install the carbon fibre tube and the tuners, then some more shellac.