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Sunday, March 29, 2020


Hi all! Hope your days in quarantine don’t feel totally wasted, and that you’re staying safe. I’ve worked from home for a couple of weeks and will continue to do so. As everyone says, I’m not worried for myself but it’s important we all do what we can to protect those that are at risk. 

But for the weekend I rented a car and drove to the cottage with my boy Johan. There we finally got the chainsaw log mill up and running. It’s a quality product from the nice folks at Logosol, a great example of a Swedish innovation-driven company. 

In the first pic my brother makes the first cut on a wee test log. 

But we moved on up from the first log and got to processing amuch bigger one. It was straight and fairly even in thickness so I opted for resawing it in quarters. 

The first cut took a while. 

The halves were cut to quarters and then boards were sliced off from the sides, alternating the position between each cut. This gives boards of different widths, but the effect was somewhat negated by two circumstances. First, the core not being in the centre. The Southern side was predictably wider in growth and that gave us a more consistent yield. Secondly, we cut off the bark edge of the boards after slicing them all. Then we decided upon three widths for the boards so they were in groups rather than all different from each other. 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better looking pile of boards. No commercial mill produces 100% quarter sawn lumber. But...

... of course I forgot to take pics of that pile. Sorry!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Traveller finished

Nah, let’s get this over with shall we. A quick and ultimately quite futile attempt at clearing the bench, and a felt mat cast out over the debris, and we’re good to go. Strings, pegs, carbon fibre tube, and the wee tool box - all is there. 

The pegs are staggered in length. I mark the first one and cut it with a tiny saw. 

I round over the end with a file, then drill the string hole with a 1.5 mm drill in a pin vise. The wedge in the pic is only there to protect the bottom of the soundboard. 

And after all of them have been cut, filed and drilled through, I make the countersinks with a small ball router bit. Details like this are super important. I didn’t do this on my first ukes, they were a bit crude. I blame my eagerness, I wanted to be done with them as quickly as possible. 

I insert the strings from the face of the fretboard, tie the knots and pull them tightly into the countersunk holes. 

And here it is. A fugly traveller of a single piece of walnut. The pegs are spaced a bit too close to each other but it works for someone as ham-fisted as me. 

From the back you see the reason for the carbon fibre tube, it alleviates the risk of the strings breaking in the holes through the thin soundboard. The pegs are angled to get closer to 90 degrees to the strings. And staggered to not interfere with the next string. 

Number 117. Up for grabs!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Start to finish

Hi my friends! Not all that much to show today but I want to post sort of regularly. I worked abroad for the better part of a week so the first coats of shellac had time to fully cure. Today I took the bits and drips in the surface down with steel wool. 

And pressed on with the shellac. This is a sort of rustic specimen of a crude model but I want a fair amount of coats before it’s done. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Fitting pegs

This is no secret: most of the odd design is nicked from the Risa Stick uke and that goes for the tuners too. I drill the holes at an angle using a guide block. 

Then I ream the holes. It’s a bit too easy to fudge the angle when reaming so I check with the guide block a few times during reaming. 

A keen reader of the blog remembers why the reamer has such a short, sorry handle. For un-keen readers; check the post in which I finished the uke for Chris recently. 

I can’t ream quite as much as I do in a headstock since the tip of the tool hits the opposite wall. So I need to shave the pegs a bit more than usual. Luckily I have a wonderful peg shaver from Juzek tools, bought form metmusic.com. 

All four pegs were straight in the grain and it went well. I’m used to at least one of them splitting and more or less disintegrating. 

Under the shaver the shavings stick out like bristles on a brush. 

And voilá. Here they are next to the carbon fibre tube that turns the strings around. Maybe I spaced the pegs a bit too close together. I will increase the distance a wee bit next time. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bridge for the traveller

A post with a bunch of pics, revealing all my secret techniques. A scrap piece of walnut was found and planed flat. 

My new Shinwa gauge and a 3.5 mm drill bit gave me the height of the bridge. This is something of a trick shot, it took a while to get them all to balance while I held the camera with one hand. 

A few minutes with the Record rabbet plane and the profile for the integrated saddle was done. 

Then I saw the blank was long enough for two bridges, if I was careful/lucky. I have another uke blank waiting so I took the chance. 

Clamping the wooden ruler with small clamps gives enough pressure to hold the bridge down while I position it. The unorthodox shape means I could use a square against the side. 

The compensation on these piccolo scale ukes is important. In absolute terms I use the same as on longer scale ukes, that means a greater compensation relative to the nominal string length. I set the break point for the C-string back a bit further still. 

Two of the string holes are drilled through the soundboard and will help to locate the bridge, also stopping it from sliding around in the glue. 

And here we are. Since everything is open and accessible it’s super easy to place the clamps. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020


Time to put the frets in. I do this differently from when I’m fretting a uke with a fretboard because I can’t get at the ends with bevelling files in the same way. Let me show you. My darling wife helped me by taking the pics today. 

First I cut the tang off at a 45 degree angle so it won’t stick out if the wood shrinks in the winter. This is still a whole length of fretwire. 

I shape the end of the fret with a file. I aim for a parabolic shape. It’s quite quick, like eight or ten strokes. 

Then I lay it flat in the slot it’s destined for, leaving a distance at the end that is big enough to split between both edges when it’s installed. I cut it off flush with the other edge, then I shape that end in the same way as the first one. 

I press the tang in with the Iron Thumb öf Death. Just lightly so it doesn’t rattle off and away in the Crud öf Death that covers the floor. 

Then some old bloke pops in and presses the fret in with a copyright-violating tool that resembles Stewmac’s press ”Jaws”. 

This pic shows how evenly the frets go in. I hardly ever need to level them with files, if I’m careful to use consistent force with the press. 

Next up, the bridge! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Travel uke, another one

I found a travel uke in the rubble on the bench, and thought I should finish it. Most of it is done in terms of shaping. This won’t be a zero sanding uke, the grain in the neck was quite strange and sandpaper was the only way out. Does this mean I can’t leave any knife marks? Hmm. 

Checking the neck with the fret slotting jig confirmed the dimensions were good so I could crack on with slot cutting. But first I needed to fix the jig to the neck. 

This I do with the future fret marker dots, still in rod form. I drill holes with a 1.6 mm drill in a pin vise...

... and glue in the styrene rod from the model maker’s store. A store that is now closed, bastard e-commerce shutting down the shops of my youth. And bastard youtube keeping the young away from model making. 

With the rods keeping the jig in place I found this way of keeping the uke in place. I use the same jig on my piccolos but they have headstocks with parallel sides that go in the vise. 

This is actually really hairy. If I cut the rods off too close to the surface in the first pass, the material buckles and create a small pit in the dot. I use multiple passes and shave off the last fraction with the chisel resting flat on the board. 

Speaking of pits, remember that difficult grain in the neck? I got some tear-out on the front so I put superglue in and hit it with accelerator. When I scraped it flush it doesn’t show a lot, and the small pit won’t catch the A string. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Argapa 116 finished

Good mooorning Vietnam..! Long time no see. This morning I set out to finish the one that’s been on the bench like forever. The shellac finish was finally good enough and has hardened. This is how I started out. 

Note the handle on the reamer. 

I rounded off hhe fret ends with the special file. Cost a lot of money that file, but it is a fine tool and worth every öre. 

Then I reamed the first hole for the peghed tuners. It is tricky to get the holes perfectly sized, thinks I. But I got there. 

Here it is with all four tuners installed. 

Note the handle on the reamer... after installing the first tuner the handle wouldn’t turn without hitting it. So I had to cut the handle shorter. No biggie but extremely annoying. Yes biggie actually. 

Then I marked out where to drill the string holes through the bridge, starting out with the A and G string positions. The inner two are marked with my Ken Timms divider, that I’ve shown you before. 

I countersink the holes with a wee round router bit in the pin vise. 

The bone saddle, compensated for the C string. I did some tweaking for the E string later too. 

I made the bone nut and filed the string slots with the aid of my nut vise. The same reasoning as for the fret end file applies to the vise - costly but worth it. 

The offset tuners and the scruffy peghead edges. They’re meant to remind Chris of me, his somewhat scruffy pal. 

And ta-daa! It is done. Bine inlay and all. It sounds big, or as we* say at Argapa: one size löuder.