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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Fret work

Hi there! This’ll be a shorter post because I didn’t take enough pictures for a longer one. I am getting close to the final steps (wait I just remembered the stringholders, crikey) and tonight it was time to shape the fret ends and check that they’re all level. 

First pic is my wee array of files. From the top:

- Hosco crowning file for smaller fret wire sizes. This one is ok but it has regular file grooves and can produce some ”chatter”. Then the file jumps a bit and gives me grooves in the top of the fret. I can reduce the risk by holding the neck in a vise, and lubricating the file by rubbing a piece from a candle in the the scallop. 

- New fancy pants Z-file from Stewmac. I bought this used and would maybe have preferred the offset one. This is centered. It has a diamond coating in the scallop and that makes it much less prone to chatter. I haven’t used it much yet but I like it. 

- The fret end dressing file, also from Stewmac. This is a great tool and fairly easy to use. I haven’t messed up the edge of a fingerboard in a long time. 

- Three corner file with smooth ground corners. Also from Stewmac. This is akin to a traditional tool, the ad said and I reached for my wallet. I really like it because I can use it on different sizes of fret wire. And it’s based on a traditional tool. Like, an old one. When luthiers - sorry, I’ll get on with it. 

I dress the sharp fret ends with a few strokes. The trick is to start with the file in the corner between the fret and the fingerboard, then pushing it forward and rolling it over towards the top at the same time. You don’t want to push it in the corner, you run the risk of marring the wood even though the edge of the file is ground smooth. The other edge of the file is flat, also smooth but you get two sharp corners. I use these for the final, very careful stroke right where the wire meets the wood. 

I rub the ends with a fine grit emery cloth and finish by rubbing that cloth along the frets to polish them. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy new year etc, and updates

Fanx to all of you who’s been reading the blog, getting in touch and over all supported me and the beast that is Argapa ukuleles during 2020. Apart from some stuff it’s been a great year. 

The first pic shows me dividing the distance between two points in four, I wanted the string guiding tube and the tuners to be equidistant. I failed for some reason despite the divider, but the tuners got correct in relation to each other. 

The tuner holes are angled, thanks to my super jig. Looking like scrap wood (it is scrap wood) it tends to get lost among pieces of scrap wood. But I found it. 

Then my Record shoulder plane was enrolled for making the bridge. When in doubt, use a larger plane. 

I had to leave the workshop to be with my family, it was after all Christmas Eve, but I brought glue and clamps and fixed the bridge in the living room. 

And the shellac then. It has hardened and I gave it a quick rub with fine steel wool to remove swirl marks and blend it all together. Once I’m happy with the satin look I reach for my Festool ROS...

... and get working with polishing compounds. Different foam pads give radically different results. I suspect a person could learn quite a lot about lacquer, sanding and buffing. If said person could be, you know, arsed. 

Happy new year! Nothing new will happen with Argapa ukuleles. And that’s the point. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A new beginning at the end of the year

While I polish the ukes that are getting close to done I might as well start on a traveller. Not starting really, the blank is already hollowed out from the back. But I can start carving its neck, that’s fun. 

With a Mora knife I carve the entry point up at the heel end. I don’t have to make an exit point since there’s no head on these ukes. The walnut cuts like butter as long as the knife is sharp and the edge is of the scandigrind variety. 

There’s a lot of end grain going on up by the body but it’s no problem. One thing I do recommend is clamping whatever you’re carving securely to the bench. 

Then a few spokeshaves of different sizes make short work of shaping the neck. It takes about ten minutes but I wouldn’t mind an hour - this is my favourite task. 

And I got to use my new fret slotting jig. The old one was a bit worn out and the first replacement I made turned out wonky. Which is really bad when it comes to a jig. For positioning frets.