Griffin Ukuleles is really a one man band. Just one old guy who loves woodworking and discovered the joy of the ukulele pretty late in life. A few years back I discovered the ukulele and my fascination and obsession began. After I had made a few, and joined the local ukulele society B.U.G. (Bellingham Ukulele Group). Building ukuleles is a labor of love for me.
before we can progress further I had to glue on the butt plates and the bridge patch.
While the glue was drying, I had time to saw the angle in the sides. the uke is a little thicker in the rear than at the front of the body, and that is accomplished by sawing a taper towards both ends. the center of the side piece will be at the very bottom of the instrument.
Then I took the sides to the thickness sander and sanded them down to proper thickness before beginning the bend. Before bending I ran them under warm water in the workshop sink.
'this is an easy bend with the heat blanket turned up to 300 degrees and bending over the concert form. Now we will let them cool and set the shape.
It is going to fit
So lets glue it down, clamp it hard, and even put the tentalones in.
Is attaching the necks to the Soundboard A simple but exacting job.,
first you must cut out the place where the neck will fit right up to the drawn edge of the Soundboard. I do this with a fine blade in the jewelers saw.
then you must take great care to get the neck and the body lined up perfectly straight. No one wants a crooked ukulele. When that is done, a little glue and a clamp and they are joined. then you start thinking about glueing on the sides. I was all out of Tentalones, so that became the next project.
Basswood is cut and sized to go through my rubber band powered tentalone cutter. This home made device cuts the required slots perfectly.
The spacing is done by the boxwood bolt which slides onto the workpiece powered by two rubber bands. You can see its point inserted into the second cut.
then with a sharp knife, the wood is shaped, sanded and now it is ready to be used.
Late this afternoon I succumbed to the itch to begin another Ukulele. In fact two Concert Pinecones ordered by two ladies.
And it begins with a couple of pieces of Englemann Spruce, a hole, and a bandsaw cutting out the shape.
Then the soundboard must be sanded down to the proper thickness. Here it enters the sander.
And here it exits, a little bit thinner. Repeated passes thins it down to --
.125, nope it must be thinner than that, back to the sander.
Finally both soundboards are thinned down to .o90 the building thickness and it is time to whittle the Sitka Spruce braces.
But it was also time to quit for the day. Earlier I had completed a handful of Shakers. People are ordering these little guys in some cases so their grand children can accompany their grandma's ukulele playing. Who Knew?
Also earlier in the day I had installed strap buttons on Holey Moley, and decided to give a fair test to attaching the strap to the heel rather than the peg head. I have always resisted doing that, but Holey Moley is my experimental uke, so I figured I had better try it.
I found a scrap of soft leather, an old Mexican belt, and my hole punch, Job done, Now to see how it plays.
I just had to have a picture of this very nice Sycamore/Cedar tenor before sending it off to Ali in Bordeaux. I really hated to part with this one, loved the wood, loved the tone, loved the playability. I have a little more Sycamore, maybe I will build another for myself.
Today was odd job day. I resewed a small but pretty piece of curly maple getting two sides of a shaker with each slice. Then I made put together a few shakers just for fun.
Here are all the parts, pieces and tools required to make a shaker. Thin slices of wood, thin strips of maple veneer wrapped around an oval pattern. A clamp, some glue, a weight, and a whole bunch of dried berries from the Madrona tree "Arbutis menziezi". Exactly 25 berries in each shaker makes the rattle.
So here are the last three stages, clamped together as the glue dries- after sanding- and after getting the signature g. It is kind of a fun way to use scraps of wood that you hate to throw away. Besides, people are asking to buy them. Who knew?
Then I decided to get at some re-sawing that I have been putting off for months. A logger friend of mine, knowing I built ukuleles, told me he had been hoarding some fine cedar for years. He was kind enough to give me two chunks cut to the lengths I desired. Today I took it to the band saw.
First thing was to cut a flat bottom.
Now I need to cut this side so I have a perfect 90 degree angle,
Then i could set the fence at the width of cut I desired. This is the first piece, straight and true.
And here is the result. Sixteen pieces wide enough for tenor tops. Two more tops in the narrower pieces.
And lovely Cedar, fine grain, stiff laterally with great tap tone. I am delighted.
This depicts the current line up of work. In the case is Ali's tenor, heading off to France soon. Today I made a new and improved nut and got it installed, made a cardboard shipping box from a scrounged wheel box from the bike shop, and wrote my usual letter to a new owner. Now it is ready to ship. Then you can see the Concert Pinecone in its last week of French Polishing. When completed it is heading to Portland Ore. And finally you see Holey Moley recovering from a re-sanding of its back, requiring a restart of the French Polish there. I am kind of liking this nutty uke.
I have orders for a few more ukes, But I think I will take a few days respite, and clean up the shop before starting the next instrument.
This fun experiment has reached its conclusion. today I strung it up.
Now that it has all of its parts, I like its looks. Kinda big and fat, kinda goofy but fun and kinda stylish too.
Here is the clamping contraption I use to glue on the bridge. Seems to work fine.
and here are the new GraphTech tuners sent to me by the company as a sample. They are simple to install and so far are impressing me with their function. 4 to 1 gear ratio. super light weight, string winds on them nicely, turn solidly and easily, no slip back detected yet. The jury is still out, but GraphTech seems to have a winner here
The knock on these tuners has been that they are all plastic and look inexpensive. The reality is, they are all plastic and they are inexpensive. I think I will charge $30.00 to install a set of these in a customers uke. They are sure a huge improvement over friction tuners. And I don't think they look so bad. I will see how others like them on Holey Moley and also report in a few days on how they are functioning.
My goal for Holey Moley was to make it different and fun and a little wild while testing the Kasha bracing. I thought blue strings might add to that feeling. Here they are , Aurora colored strings. I strung it up re-entrant (hi G) cause a guy ought to have both tunings around. I am very pleased, Holey Moley has the bright harp like chime of some of the better concert Pinecones. I will be playing it a lot in the next few weeks as the strings play in. I will give you a further report, but I think the Kasha bracing has done it's wonders once more. In a word- I am pleased.
Today I finished Laura's #2019. I got it strung up and the MiSi pickup installed. Here was the process.
Ive learned the hard way that before drilling the string holes in the bridge you want to protect against slips. These un-used AARP cards that they keep sending me, are perfect plastic protectors.
First, stretch a string to determine just where the 1st and 4th string holes should be. Then mark that spot with a sharp awl to guide the drill.
Now with a small finger drill, expand that mark made by the awl in order to guide the final drill bit.
Then measure the distance between the two holes. In this case it was 1570. Divide that number by three and the distance between the frets is 523333. Mark off the location of the holes for the C and the E string and prepare them for the drill.
Select the drill bit for each string and drill the holes with an old fashioned hand drill. Its a good idea to also round out the edge of the hole with a round shaped diamond bit. This prevents string wear as the string exits the hole and turns sharply to the saddle. Now we are ready to install the strings.
But first we have to install the pickup. That requires drilling a big hole through the butt block exactly in the center. I use a "step drill bit" does a great, smooth job.
Lft. the MiSi pickup with attaching washer, nut and strap button. Somehow we must get that coax cable out of the uke through a tiny hole drilled in the slot of the bridge. A thin wire is inserted through the hole in the bridge, tied to the cable and the cable is then drawn through the hole from the inside of the instrument.
Now the pickup barrel is coaxed out of the hole and secured with washer and nut.
The coax piezo cable is laid in the slot and the saddle placed over it
The pickup is tightened up firmly, the strings attached, tensioned and tuned.
And this ukulele is ready to sing. the tools seen in the sound hole are applying pressure to the label as the glue sets, the last act in finishing the instrument. This ukulele did not disappoint. It is a good one!