Friday, January 27, 2012

Baritone Uke Videos

I get a lot of questions asked about my baritone ukes, so I thought that I’d make (with the assistance of Amanda) a few videos of the current build and point out some features that I think, make my baritones special.

Hope you find first of the series interesting.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Tricks

If you goggle “bending curly koa” you’ll find quite a number of horror stories about sides snapping on the curls. Great! The koa for John’s guitar is the most expensive back and side set that I’ve bought and it’s prone to snapping when you bend it! The general advice is to have the sides a little thinner than normal and bend them dry, just moisten with a spray.

Now, I have always soaked my sides, so I thought that I’d have a practice of dry bending. This is where the baritone uke comes in- If I’m going to bend a set of sides, I just as well have something to show for it. So, I bent a set of maple sides for the uke dry and was remarkably surprised at how easy they bent. One thing leads to another and I find myself building a uke!

Here are the sides, end blocks in and linings being glued in place.

I’m using a marquetry strip down the centre of the back.

And a cocobolo rosette (no prizes for guessing where the wood came from).

Oh, the koa- 2mm thick, bent dry, a few sprays of water for a bit of moisture- no problems!

So you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So what I have been up to so far this year?

So what I have been up to so far this year? I finished polishing Brendan’s twin-point mandolin this week and now it needs a good two weeks to harden off before it goes back together and is shipped off to Ireland. I know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the shellac really brings out the beauty of the wood like no other finish!!

Standard III is having its finish applied too; this one has my open pour satin shellac finish which, is quicker to apply and harden. Working on the two mandolins at the same time brought home to me how much quicker it is to build my Standard mandolin (compared to the twin-point) which is of course, why I can keep the cost down. It should be completed and up for sale within the next few weeks.

I love the look of this 3 piece back with the laminated neck!


Although each of my instruments is custom built, it makes some sense to do common tasks at the same time. So for example, with my next three instruments, I’ve prepared all the wood for the bracing in one go.

Also I prepared 3 neck blanks, which although very different, will all have carbon- fibre reinforcements, so whilst setting-up the router for one, you just as well do 3.

John’s guitar neck is made from really nice Brazilian mahogany and will have two carbon-fibre strips and an adjustable rod. This quality of mahogany is getting harder to find, it has a lovely rich colour which will complement the Koa body nicely.

Alan’s mandolin neck is made from some beautiful flamed maple with black and red laminations. When I have to plane highly figured wood like this, I remember why I paid a small fortune for my low-angle Veritas plane; it doesn’t get a lot of use but when you need it, you’re glad of it!

Another little used but very useful tool is the Wagner Safe-T-Planer; it’s a bit like a fly cutter. You see that I’ve used it to thickness Alan’s neck from the back- it can’t be planed because of the heel. When you first use it, it frightens the life out of you- feeding wood into this spinning block of sharpness with your hands- but you soon get used to it and it works remarkably well without grabbing.

Alan gets two lengths of carbon fibre.

The third neck is a “Spanish” cedar one for a baritone ukulele that I’m building. This will be available for sale, via my website, in a few months time. This gets just one length of CF. To be honest, on a relatively short, four nylon string neck you don’t need anything to reinforce it but I know that customers feel more confident with a neck rod. I chose cedar for the neck for its light weight- on a small bodied instrument you can’t have too much mass in the neck, else it will be neck heavy.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Happy New Year to you all!

First thing’s first- Happy New Year to you all! I’m back in the workshop and firing on all cylinders- let’s get some instruments built!

Brendan’s Mandolin Part IX

Brendan’s mandolin has gone through the set-up process, prior to being French polished. You can see the tailpiece that I’ve made for it below. I’m really pleased with this design for my tailpieces- I feel that it’s the last piece in the jigsaw as far as my twin-points go.

The under-saddle transducer has just been fitted. There’s always a nerve wracking moment with each instrument and for this one, it was drilling the hole through the soundboard- making sure that I’m in the middle of the reinforcement patch and missing the cross-bracing.

The pick-up is a passive Headway unit, which works really well; you need an external preamp, but that’s much more preferable to having a 9V battery inside the mandolin. The wire is routed through the bridge, so the only outward sign of a pick-up is the jack socket.

Standard mandolin III

Standard mandolin III is almost complete and ready to be set-up “in the white”. Hopefully it should be up for sale in about 3 weeks.

Next batch!

And in between all of this I’m preparing the tonewood for the next batch of instruments- John’s koa steel string, Alan’s cocobolo twin-point and a maple baritone uke! That should keep me out of trouble for a while!

Labels: , , ,