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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Back braces and back

I made the back braces from some old spruce wood, salvaged from a loom. Planing in the nut and saddle vise from Stewmac, a great vise for this but I have to watch out so I don’t hit the jaws with the plane iron. 

Then I notch the kerfed lining to accept the braces. I use a Japanese modeller’s saw with very fine teeth. 

And I clamp them with my tiny Japanese brass clamps. 

The whole assembly goes into the radius dish, but of course the braces were roughly shaped before glueing. 

The back seam is reinforced with a strip of cedar, glued across the joint. Really fiddly to keep the strip straight, I ended up paring it straight[er] after the glue had dried. I want a chamfer anyway and I have really sharp chisels. 

The back is prepped with small guide blocks and the cross banding strip is notched for the braces. 

And it is glued in place with screw clamps, a caul, strips of wood and a few go-bars. Not much left now!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

New neck joint

Inspired by an exchange of posts at the ukulele underground forum, I decided to try a new neck joint. Hence the title of this post. One colleague described his method of screwing a hanger bolt into the heel and securing it with a nut inside the uke. A hanger bolt is straight and has a machine thread halfway and a wood thread at the other end. Some call it a lag bolt. 

To get the wood screw thread to hold in the end grain of the neck it’s wise to glue a dowel in. I chose an 8 mm beech dowel. Also I hadn’t a hanger bolt so I took two wood screws. 

I made a shallow slot to let excess glue come out, and the dowel went all the way down. 

Most steps were of course the same as always, here’s me relieving the face of the heel. Much easier to get a good match to the body this way even if most of the relief disappears in the next step...

... which is this. Draghing the body and the neck on the sanding plate, constantly checking the angles and the match between the surfaces. 

I fine tune the alignment with a strip of perspex with a scribed line. Aiming at good enough helps me reach perfect. 

I was going to set the uke on the solera to clamp it down but couldn’t be arsed, so I held it in an iron grip and drilled with my Proxxon and its angle attachment. I put one screw in place before drilling the second hole though so wasn’t overly reckless. 

And then it was done. A bit less stressful than drilling for the barrel bolt so I might use this method more in the future. It felt good to try on a uke that won’t leave the house in a while, it’s Li’s as you know. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Neck, cleaning and sharpening

I haven’t forgotten you! I was just busy with the soul numbing daily grind of the day job, the one grown-ups tell you not to quit. May they rot in hell. 

I put Li’s soprano on the bandsaw and cut the sides down to height/depth. Then I got cracking rubbing it in the radius dish. It’s not an even spherical radius, I rock it lengthwise to exaggerate the curve in that direction. Because I want to*.

And here it is with the kerfed lining strips glued in. 

Then I turned to the neck, one of the blanks I made a while back. You know, that post with all the saws in it. I mark out a centerline, and from it I set off the tapering edges of the finished neck. I shoot for 36 mm at the nut and 42 at the 13th fret where the neck meets the body. Why at the 13th, I [don’t] hear you ask. Because I want to*.

I use my tiny sliding bevel for the heel profile. All’s quite rough this far, the important decisions are all made once the knives come out. 

Before I set the saw to to blank I had to set the teeth on the saw. My saw set from ebay makes that an easy task. 

Then it rips really well. This is the smaller of the two saws I restored last year and it keeps getting better. A tool in use is a tool that shines, as we say. 

Then I make entry and exit points for the spokeshave...

... and carve the neck. This takes all of five minutes even though I try to make it last. 

I needed to thin the back of the headstock down, but the plane wasn’t sharp enough. So I took the iron out and soaked a couple of stones. As I waited for them to stop bubbling I chose a few more blades to sharpen. This lot took me a full hour on 1200 and 2000 grit, followed by the leather strop. 

But what of the cleaning? No point in showing you the bench even though I cleaned it for a long time before even taking that first pic. You wouldn’t see the difference I’m afraid, but I do and it’s there. 

* I could make outlandish claims about improved tone or volume but I’ll leave the bullshit for others to spread. I don’t need to explain the science or magic behind the Argapa ukuleles, they’re just what I want them to be - bad ass and lovely.