Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Black Bean - Wondrous Timber

One of my sons is a woodworking teacher at a country high school, and has had the good fortune to work with an old friend from my basket-balling days.
Both Jeff and my son are good wood turners, but Jeff is the master.

I gave him a very unattractive billet of timber from the woodpile recently, because from one clean edge it showed some signs of promising grain.

I wish I had taken some pictures of the block beforehand so that a comparison could be made, but anyhow - here is the result of Jeff's turning magic:

Jeff P - you are THE MAN!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 4 - Sides - Bending and Fixing in Place

Bending the Sides to Shape

I use a small bending iron and an atomiser spray.

The heat from the iron and the sprayed on water act to steam the timber making it soft and pliable.

 Mango is surprisingly easy to bend and it took far less time than the sassafrass of my first uke.


The scrap pieces that were cut from the mould now come into play as clamps - holding the sides until dry.

I have positioned the end block in place with a mark down its centre line to keep it correctly positioned.  This will later be glued and clamped.

The waste-clamps are expanded by using nothing more than an expanding toggle, normally used for tensioning wire.  The top shaping blocks are forced apart with nothing more than a simple wedge - see below.

The end block is made from a small piece of Australian cedar - light but strong and with good acoustic properties.  It has been radiused to the same curve as the body at this point.

The two sides meet at the bottom of the body and are held in place by the glued end block.  As you can see, the two sides don't quite meet at the centre line.  I stressed about this in my first uke for a day or more but was never able to establish a clean middle join.
I don't worry about it now, and after the glue dries I will cut a wedge shape exactly in the middle and insert a decorative piece of African blackwood as a feature.

These two pieces will meet at a corner - a potential weak point in the body.  I have decided to strengthen the corner and eliminate the weak join with a small gusset that will also show through as a feature.  African blackwood again. This will come a little later.

I'll glue in the end blocks one at a time. Here, the bottom end block is glued into place.  The top block will come later on and it will have a mortice cut into it to house the tenon on the end of the neck.
Things are taking shape nicely.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 3 - Skins, Fretboard, Headstock


Just a quick refresher on the naming of parts of a ukulele so we all know what I'm talking about.

These two ukuleles are of traditional shape - the lower one is a concert size and the upper a tenor. They have different  length necks, and their scales for the fretboard differ as well.
The nomenclature is the same for all ukuleles no matter the shape - even for boat paddle tenors.............
 ........ and for the purposes of this little instalment, I'll refer to the timbers for the front, back and sides of the ukulele body as skins.


I have already thicknessed all of these parts so they are ready to have their edges dressed for jointing.
Both the front - the soundboard - and the back will be made up of a pair of book-matched pieces of mango that I cut previously.
The joined edges of these two pieces will have to be absolutely straight, so that they glue true and remain strong after the glue dries.
I have made a shooting board so that the edges can be planed truly straight.
Like many things in my workshop, it is made from leftovers and re-cycled material.

A formica covered plywood desk lid and some wormy old jacaranda make up the shooting board.

Here are the skins for the back being jointed.

In the first image, the side skins are being dressed on one side - the edge that will interface with the the top (the soundboard).  These edges need to be dead straight, as the soundboard will be almost flat.  It will have a slight radius, but we'll get to that later.

Fretboard and Headstock

Because the mango for the body has such a pronounced grain pattern, I want the fretboard to be as plain as possible.
I have a piece of African blackwood that will serve nicely.
It is rough sawn and needs to have one side dressed before I re-saw it to thickness.

Man this timber is tough on blades. I had to re-sharpen the plane blade in the middle of this.
This trued edge runs against the bandsaw fence and has to be straight, or the ripping will cut awry.

The result of this cut will see two pieces of different thickness - one for the fretboard, and the thinner piece will supply the headboard and any trim.

This timber is haaarrrddd, and it has to be cut slowly.

Off the saw, it is full of bandsaw marks and needs dressing. I have cut both of these pieces oversize to allow plenty in bringing it back to thickness by planing and sanding.

Here are the finished pieces, showing some very beautiful, but simple, grain pattern.

The relative thickness of each can be seen in this shot - fretboard on the left, headboard on the right.

I'll need a full day to make a start on building the curved sides of the body.
Next time..................

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 2 - The Mould

The Mould

To build up the thickness required,  it is usual to laminate pieces to form the mould.
Two pieces will suffice in this case because of the width of the starting material - meranti.

Glued and screwed together here is the finished mould in two parts - necessary so that they can be easily removed after the body has taken shape.

The waste pieces from the middle are important and need to be kept.  These will form the mating parts that support the sides and help them hold their shape until they dry and the glue is set.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 1 - Timber and Template

It is over a year since I last built a ukulele and it is time to address the building of a second.
It will be a different design this time - a boat paddle tenor, with a cutaway for the left hand.

Wood Selection
My last ukulele was made from sassafras with a western red cedar soundboard.  It resonated very well and had tons of volume.  This time, I am going to attempt to tone down the volume with a smaller body and a different selection of timbers.
I have been fortunate to have heard and played a couple of ukuleles made from mango during the year, and the sound was sweet.

I have sourced a few pieces that will serve  for the back and the soundboard, as well as some for the sides.  The piece that I will cut the sides from is a little wild in its grain pattern and I am unsure how well it will take to the bending required.

 In case it is a disaster I have a piece of camphor laurel that I will hold in reserve ...... fingers crossed.

Making a Template

I have used an existing ukulele as a model for the one that I will build.  Simply by sketching around its base onto a piece of craftwood, I'll have the basis for the back and the soundboard.
This is cut out and carefully sanded to make all edges as close to the curves of the finished product as possible.

Making the Mould

Once the template is finished, it is time to create the mould that will hold the body during shaping and assembly.  Since I want this to be able to open up along its mid-line when the body is finished, I'll make it in two halves that can be clamped together and separated as needed.
The template does the work now and the mould cut out and built up to thickness.

It needs to be deep enough to house the sides of the ukulele body, but not quite as deep as the sides, so that the top and then the bottom can be clamped on without fouling on the sides of the mould.  I'll get to that later.

I would normally use craftwood or mdf for the mould, but I am out of it so a couple of pieces of re-cycled meranti will serve nicely.

Cutting the Sheets for the Back and the Sound-Board

The pieces of mango that I have are only just going to be large enough to fashion the top and bottom of the ukulele, so I'll be most careful when I cut not to waste any.

I use my bandsaw for this and cut veneers around 4mm thick.  I leave plenty on these veneers as they will have to have the bandsaw marks planed and sanded out, and be brought back to their final thickness of 2mm.

Both the front and the back of the body will be made up of two book-matched pieces of mango that will be glued down their centre lines.
The sides will be made from a book-matched pair of rippings from a separate mango board.

That's enough for now.
Next time I'll finish off the mould and start the shaping process on the sides to fit them into the outline of the body inside the mould.  This is time consuming, but worth every minute of care in the process.