A Ukulele For A Gent (1 Viewer)

Micron

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As a result of my posts about making a guitar, Nautical Gent has asked me to build him a ukulele seeing as how I was thinking of building another one anyway. This time, it will be pretty much from scratch instead of a kit. We both thought it would be cool to document the build in a water cooler thread and that way, he can watch its progress. Maybe y'all will find it interesting too.

PULLEEEZE KEEP ANY POSTS ON TRACK!! I don't want to see this thread polluted with comments about religion, politics, etc. etc. the way some other threads end up.

NOTE: If you're dropping in at any time, if something doesn't make sense immediately, hang tight. I may be posting and it is likely that I can't put too many pictures and/or text in at any one time.
 
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Micron

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First, a paper template of one half of the instrument is made and taped to 1/8" hardboard. The outline is traced and the piece cut out close to the lines. Then it is drum sanded to the line. Because this represents the outside dimension, I take a compass set to 2 mm in width and scribe a new line 2mm inside the edge and sand to that new line. Now I have a template that conforms closely to the inside surface of where the inside of the uke sides will be.
PaperTemplate.jpg


The 1/8" thick template is used to draw an outline on 2 pieces of 3/4" thick plywood and they are rough cut with a jig saw. The template is then double side taped to the plywood and the router table is used to shape the plywood into 2 identical form halves.
formSide.jpg


5/8" holes are drilled close to the contoured edges of the form halves and then joined with glue and dowels.
JoinedForm.jpg

The reason for building the form will be shown later...
 
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Micron

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The top is going to fit within a single board of Sitka Spruce that was originally sized for a classical guitar. This means it doesn't have to be joined, so it will actually be stronger than 2 pieces that are glued together as is normally done.
20200314_222314.jpg


The back will be African Mahogany taken from slats that were meant for guitar sides.
20200314_222332.jpg


Here I show how the 2 sides are stacked in a book mark fashion and placed on a 1/2" thick board, backed up by a 3/4" thick board (against the radial arm saw fence). At the end is a thick board that provides a lateral stop. This ensures that the back plates will always register in the same place during the joint preparation phase. The edges are planed (this method is called shooting) and the halves brought together and held up to the light. If you can see light peeking through, more planing is required.
20200314_222958.jpg

When ready, the glue is applied to the thin edges of both plates. They are laid down so that the outside edges are raised slightly and special tape is applied in such a way that there is space underneath the tape at the joint. The supports that raised the edges are removed and the halves flattened out.
20200314_224522.jpg

I lay down a 1/4" strip on either side of the joint and cap that with a board and apply light clamping pressure. The tape actually provides enough force on the joint that there isn't anything else you really need to do clamping wise. However, I place 2 wedges between the plate halves and a clamped board to apply just a bit more pressure, then clamp down a bit more on the board I referred to as the seam cap.
20200314_224913.jpg

This will be allowed to set overnight, which is where I stopped for today's building session.
 

bob fitz

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Approximately, how many hours work would you expect to be needed to make a guitar?
 

The_Doc_Man

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So when you tune it, will your dog look at you accusingly? Or do you not tune using the old "My dog has fleas" method?
 

moke123

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My guitar met with an unfortunate accident about 15 years ago. This kinda makes me want to go shopping.
Looking forward to following this thread.
 

NauticalGent

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My guitar met with an unfortunate accident about 15 years ago. This kinda makes me want to go shopping.
Looking forward to following this thread.
Dont go sniping Micron from me...wait your turn!
 

Micron

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Approximately, how many hours work would you expect to be needed to make a guitar?
That question is probably broader than you think. Many factors would be involved. From a complete kit, maybe as little as 30. At the extreme end, you'd buy back/side/top plates and make everything else from blanks and/or billets. If that includes binding, purfling, rosette, kerfed binding, headstock plate etc. and you make it quite intricate/fancy, not inconceivable that you could push that to 400 hours. A factory? Probably as little as 4 hours for a real cheap one, and by cheap I don't just mean inexpensive.
 

jdraw

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FYI ( I'd never heard the term so........)
Purfling is a narrow decorative edge inlaid into the top plate and often the back plate of a stringed instrument. Inexpensive instruments may have no purfling and instead simulate the appearance with paint. Purfling was originally made of laminated strips of wood, often contrasting in color as a visual accent.
and this for orientation.
 

The_Doc_Man

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People talk about how I make them open the dictionary, but that one is new to me. Thanks for the new word!
 

Micron

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OK boys and girls, today I'll make bracing. First I drive a thin wedge between the grain of a billet of yellow cedar. I need about 6 mm but will start about 19 mm (3/4") from the edge as it will never split straight anyway.
20200315_115336.jpg


20200315_115715.jpg

After that, I plane/joint/rip (saw length-wise) to square it up. What I want are sticks with vertical grain running parallel to 2 sides.
20200315_115902.jpg


The point of the mechanical pencil on the right provides some sense of scale as to the size of the plane used to transform the brace blank into a pyramidal shape (8mm) for x-braces and 6mm round over for the other braces.
20200315_123055.jpg



A sample of the end profile on the short braces (these are about 3" long).
20200315_131339.jpg


The full set for the top. Note that the x-braces are notched out so that they can cross each other. In between is a 4mm thick x-brace plate.
20200315_140347.jpg


That's all for today I think. We're having company for dinner.
 

Micron

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Not a whole lot of progress today. Below are the back braces, constructed in the same fashion as the front ones. Many uke designs I've looked at don't call for a centre back brace but I made some just in case I go with it. These are about 2mm thick and are crowned and would fit in between the cross braces.
20200316_111250.jpg


The right side template (below) was introduced in post 2. The left one is new and is the outline for a body mold. It is taped to a small piece of 3/4" (19mm) plywood which is routed to match this new template, then flipped over and the other side is done. The second piece of plywood is taped to the first and routed to match. I separated them with 1/2 scrap material to give me a body mold about 2" (50mm) high and added a 1/4" thick hardboard bottom. See next pic for completed body mold.

20200316_185113.jpg


20200316_185221.jpg


Hard to see the white pencil mark but it denotes the orientation of the sides where they (hopefully) will meet at the lower bout. I say hopefully because if you don't orient one of them correctly when you bend the sides, there goes the match of the grain at the ends.
20200316_185459.jpg


Below is the bending form from post 2 clamped in my WorkMate. Next phase is to figure out how I'm going to attach things I need that will make the bending assembly conform to the form's shape. I pretty much have the ends figured out - tomorrow I'll figure out how I'm going to apply pressure to the waist. Once I do that, I should be able to upload pics of bent sides in my next post.
20200316_192449.jpg
 

kevlray

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I have done a little bit of wood working (mostly some simple cabinets). This is way beyond my skill level, yet I find it very interesting and informative.
 

The_Doc_Man

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My usual product when working with wood is that I am very good at making splinters of all sizes.
 

Micron

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Well, the last couple of days have presented their issues for sure.

Background: the sides go into a sandwich of spring steel slat/instrument side/silicon heating blanket/top spring steel slat and you apply pressure to that stack where required. I have what I need for bending guitar sides, but it turns out that a uke form is too small to work in it. So I made something I thought should work, and in a dry run, I heard a crack while I was tightening down the bout clamp.
It seems I forgot to remove the side slat that I had left in 👹 🤬 😭

Here's what I had taken a pic of before that fateful screw-up: 2 foil wrapped spring steel slats, the side to be bent and the heating blanket.
20200316_190122.jpg


After a break ( yikes, I mean rest!! ), I decided I'd use Cherry wood since I had some in stock and my research showed it is used on high end ukes
(saw one on line at $2,300 USD). The rest of yesterday and today was spent on making and joining Cherry back plates, thinning out Cherry sides for bending and fashioning an apparatus for bending that would actually work. I won't bore you with the details, but it was surprising how much trial and error it took to fabricate something that would work with what I had.

Cherry back glued together ( a wipe with a wet cloth brings out the grain for the pic ).
20200318_193939.jpg


The bending apparatus with a Cherry side in it. I'm NOT real confident that this was successful. Thought I heard a couple of pops even though I took about the right amount of time, had the right temp (295 F) and thinned it out to what should have worked (0.075"). I'll look later because I wanted to keep you in suspense.
20200318_193406.jpg
 

NauticalGent

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Never a doubt! Going to keep all these posts so when others ask where I got the ukelele from, I'll have a cool story to tell...
 

Micron

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Sides turned out real nice. Not a lot of spring-back and best of all, no cracks.

Head block needs an arc that conforms to the arc of the neck (block is sitting on top of neck in my vise). This is because the upper bout is not usually a straight/flat surface that is 90 degrees to the centre line. Pic after is the head and tail blocks being glued on to the inside surfaces of the sides.
20200319_112738.jpg
20200319_122400.jpg



Time to glue on the back braces in my go-bar deck while the blocks dry.
20200319_122245.jpg
20200319_122300.jpg


Lining is needed to join the top and back plates to the body. There are 2 basic kinds - laminated and kerfed and I've chosen kerfed and there is a reason for that. If you want a challenge, look up why you'd pick one or the other and that should give you a clue as to what I plan to do down the road. Since I have none and the nearest store that carries it is 20 miles away, I decided to make my own - 10 x 7mm with a slot about every 6mm that almost goes all the way through. Then I bevel it about 45 degrees.
20200319_192216.jpg
20200319_192228.jpg



A bit of glue and a couple of clamps will hold it in place. Got it in all the way around without any breakage!
20200319_204749.jpg


I routed a channel down the back seam on the outside (you'll see why in a later pic) so this will add strength to the seam. These don't go all the way to the ends because of the head and tail blocks.
20200319_163816.jpg



After notching the kerfing where the braces intersect, and trimming back the braces, the back is ready for gluing onto the kerfing.
20200319_234113.jpg



And here's why the back seam brace on the inside of the back. Hope you like that back seam inlay, NG!
20200319_234131.jpg
 
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