Summer Uke Build #5: Joining Back, Gluing Neck Block, Adding Rosette

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Blog entry by onoitsmatt posted 09-23-2016 10:57 PM 1360 reads 0 times favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Cleaning up the sides Part 5 of Summer Uke Build series Part 6: Cutting Soundhole Making Radius Dishes »

In the last few weeks I’ve managed to steal a few hours to work on the uke and make a little progress. The weather is cooling a bit so that makes it easier to be in the garage for longer periods of time.

I jointed the back using the miter planer and glued it up. I started to make my own wood inlay for the back stripe, but it was just going to be too labor intensive so I went to Rockler and just bought some inlay strip for about $15. I bought a Veritas Mini Router to route out the channel for the back stripe. I believe it will be a handy tool for other delicate routing jobs on this build as well.

I also carved and glued-in the end block and a neck block. The end block is just leftover scrap from the neck blank I cut. It is straight-grained doug fir, which is probably not the best choice for splitting, but at least it won’t move much. The neck block is some scrap, I think it may be ash. A uke normally would have a neckblock as part of the neck itself with the sides glued into slots on either side of it. While this seems an easier way to do this, I have chosen to make a separate neck block where I will cut a dovetail joint to fit the neck. This is how a lot of steel string guitars are made, and I want to practice this joint before attempting it on a guitar. The neckblock looks way too beefy for this little uke, but I wanted it to be big enough to be stable after cutting the dovetail. I will likely pare away some of the extra heft after fitting the neck.

Also, I had planned to do some amount of gluing using hide glue. The neck block was my first foray into using hide glue. I tried gluing the block in yesterday but it kept sliding around due to the curvature of the neck block. I flattened it a bit and tried a different approach to clamping and got it to work today. I decided to use hide glue on the neck block because I’m fairly confident I will completely botch my first try at the dovetail joint for the neck. I should be able to heat-up/moisten this neck block and get it out of there for a do-over if needed. If I had used tite-bond or some other adhesive, this wouldn’t be an option. For those interested in hide-glue, I picked it up from Old World Tonewood for $5 for a jar of the stuff. I also bought some guitar tops and a back and side set to use for the upcoming guitar build.

I have been trying to figure out the best way to do the rosette around the soundhole. I didn’t want to do anything fancy, but wanted something to put there. Someone here on LJ’s recently posted a video of a guitar builder (Greenfield Guitars) where he used some spalted maple or something like that with interesting grain color and stuff going on. I decided to use some olive wood from an olive tree I cut down a couple of years ago. It has been sitting in my garage all this time waiting for a use.

So I found this log with a small branch bit on it. I sliced off a piece of this. I had forgotten how amazing olive wood smells when cutting it.

I cut this slice even thinner with the really fantastic saw I got from Bob Summerfield a few weeks ago. It did a bang-up job slicing off this real thin wafer of olive endgrain.

Then tried to find the most interesting “disc” of grain within the wafer I cut and using a compass, drew a circle around it to represent the outer edge of the rosette. I started cutting this circle out with a coping saw, but it was too brittle, so I broke down and used the band saw with a backer board for support.

I outlined the new rosette disc onto the uke top and cut a knife wall to the inside of that line. Then using the mini router, routed out a recess for the olive disc.

Then using CA glue I glued the disc into place. It cracked into two pieces while I was trying to sand some rough spots out of the edges of this disc. I decided it would go back together ok once in the recess and even if it didn’t the crack would add more character… or not.

Once this sets up, I’ll sand or plane the olive to be flush with the surface of the uke top. THen will bore out the soundhole out of the olive. I will likely still pick up some kind of plastic strip to glue around the inside and outside edges of the rosette to give it a little more definition and protect it from breaking apart.

Now that it is cooling off, I’d like to get a lot more done. I’ve started working on making some radius dishes and a go-bar deck as well, but it’s pretty boring stuff. I also had some fir 2×4 that I picked up a long time ago that I’ve split to make brace wood. I’ll start planing down these split bits of fir and get them cut/planed to size to make the top and back braces soon as well.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

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