Hiya, sorry for not posting in a while. I hurt my knee and lost, well, the spring in my step. But I have made some stuff in the shop. I bought the amp part for an old guitar combo amp for very small money, and needed a caninet for it. Luckily I had some boards at hand.
I went at them with a number 4 1/2 plane with a heavily cambered iron, as on a proper scrub plane. Going across the grain is super fast.
Then I cleaned up all the ends with the shooting board and my number 5 Record plane, which is upgraded with a Hock iron.
The the really fun part, dovetailing all the corners. I used the exaggerated 14 degree joint but I think I’ll work with a lesser angle next time.
I glued a 5 mm mdf board to a 4 mm plywood to give the front some rigidity.
And here’s a shot of me cleaning up the joints with my Veritas apron plane.
I took some 7x7 mm strips and stuck them together with brown paper tape, so they stayes together while I scored, sawed and chiseled out down to the middle. The aim of course was to make a half lapped lattice.
And here it is after putting the amp and speaker in. The really cool thing about it is it sounds great, both on clean and overdrive settings.
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!
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.
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.
I had an hour this morning so I continued sawing those neck blanks. First pic shows the second of a nested pair getting its headstock defined with the Pax rip saw. The left over wedge will come in handy, I reach for wedges all the time.
I have three sopranos on the bench so I stopped at four neck blanks. The last pair can wait a bit. They’re pretty rough so some (a lot of) planing is necessary.
I chose my no.5 jack plane for the bulk of the work. Long enough to be precise but nimble enough to adjust the surfaces quickly.
And here they are, really straight grained and pretty mahogany. They will be perfect for the ukes I’m working on.
But that’s not all. Remember the Fugly Traveller? Sure you do. I wnt to make some more and I need a template. With a sheet of 5 mm plexi / perspex I laid out all the lines.
And I cut it out on the band saw and cleaned it up with files. More to follow!
I need some soprano necks. I have a chunk of mahogany that I took home from the cottage and the larger scale workshop, remember the bandsaw there is up shit creek with no sight of a paddle. I’ve thought of pestering the wood shop teacher at Li’s school - I can see their bandsaw through a window when I walk past - but never got around to it. So tonight as I stood with a so far rejected neck blank of Spanish cedar I thought, feck let’s just saw this to necks and be done with it.
So I laid out six profiles, nested as they usually are.
I need holes later, to let a narrow saw blade turn, I found easier to drill them while it was still a large piece.
Then rip sawing between the pairs. I tried my other new old rip saw, the pointy one in the background, but it needs a bit of sharpening. So I let loose my trusty Pax saw which made short work of the task.
Then I cut the blanks to length with my father’s old cross cut saw. Despite the plastic handle it’s a great tool.
Then the only tricky cut so far, going between the blanks with a bow saw. I bought the blades and hardware from somewhere but went cheap and fitted them on an old frame I had. Li helped me take the pic.
Why not finish this one already, eh? Not much left and I’m back in Sweden.
With the headstock clamped in the front vise I bevelled the fret ends with... wait for it... the fret end bevelling file.
Go on and ask me why all Argapa headstocks have straight parallel sides. Anyone?
Then I rounded over the fret ends with the fret end file. Another excellent, albeit expensive, tool from Stewmac. If I wasn’t intent on taking ghis pic I’d have brushed the filings from bevelling off first.
For reasons the nut had to be a wee bit thicker on this uke. I found a blank of buffalo horn that fit, and the dark colour goes well with the fretboard and the rest of the uke. Behold in the pic; the half pencil.
I string all my instruments with fishing line leader. They’re solid fluorocarbon just like Worth strings. And having reels at hand really helps.
And it’s strung up, set up, tweaked, stamped and completed. I like it. If the customer changes his mind I wouldn’t mind keeping this one, not at all.
The blemish on the back of the headstock is from an insect bite. It appeared during carving and doesn’t matter.
The headplate is made from the cut out disc of the sound well. To get rid of the hole I split it and glued it back together with the stripey strip in the middle. I’m sure I told you this when it happened.
And the number to call if it gets too loud.
And the last pic; when I tried it yesterday I found the corners on the stringholder a bit sharp. So I took them out with a sanding drum on my Proxxon. It now matches the end of the fretboard, and it’s a design by accident that I will use again. Very classy looking.
A batch of pics from the last couple of days. I’m done with the finish, the result is a lustrous semi pore filled sheen. I like it and hope Daffyd will too.
In the first pic you can see my jig for marking out holes for the coverplate screws.
Then I put the saddle in the biscuit and the biscuit on the cone. It is held with a screw from beneath.
Then the string holder. The holes in the coverplates are a bit shit so I fit a wooden string holder on my resos. The break angle over the saddle is reduced but that is balanced by the fact that the strings don’t snap. In the pic you can see the wooden rabbet plane I used to make the profile on the string holder. Massive planes are often useful for tiny parts, just keep them sharp.
And here it is. Rosewood I believe.
But what holds the holder? Screws do. I use the string holes for a couple of cut off screws. This is the most intricate part of the arrangement, I have to make sure the holes for the screws don’t go into the holes for the strings (which are angled in two directions).
This is what it looks like from beneath. The screws are at the edge of the holes to prevent any movement of the wooden block. With the screws in place I also put a drop of super glue into the holes in the plate. Don’t know if that will matter at all but it felt good.
Ancient technology like resonator instruments deserve to be assembled with ancient technology tools. In Seeden we call this kind of screwdriver ”a Yankee screwdriver”. I suspect they’re called something else in Yankeeland.
Only tuners, nut and strings left, eh? Sadly I’m off to make a new Swedish embassy in a far away country now, so I won’t get to that until the weekend. Stay tuned will you.