Summer Uke Build

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Blog series by onoitsmatt updated 03-03-2017 10:32 PM 19 parts 20427 reads 17 comments total

Part 1: Getting Ready for Summer (Concert) Uke Build

06-16-2016 08:09 PM by onoitsmatt | 3 comments »

I have been playing guitar for nearly 30 years and have been woodworking for about 16 years. For a long time, I have wanted to combine these two hobbies by building a guitar or two. About 18 months ago, I decided to commit to the idea, but realized I was such a hack woodworker, that I really needed to better understand what I was doing before trying to do something that requires the kind of precision a guitar build demands. To that end, I gave up power tools (except for a band saw and dri...

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Part 2: Bending the Sides

06-23-2016 10:14 PM by onoitsmatt | 2 comments »

I took the advice of Bob from his comment on my previous post and soaked the sides overnight. They were still too stiff to bend without tearing out and they did, in fact, tear out some more. So I smashed them between a couple of pieces of flat shelving I had laying around and let them dry that way overnight to get them flat so I could plane them a bit thinner. The next day I did plane them thinner and sanded and tried to get as much of the tear-out planed/sanded out to hopefully restore ...

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Part 3: Thicknessing, Jointing and Joining the Top

08-30-2016 07:46 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

I’m very late with posting this. It was 114 degrees in the shop, so didn’t spend much time taking photos. This all took place on Father’s Day 2016. For the top, I picked up a couple of 6’ planks of cedar fencing from the Orange Store. No idea what kind of cedar, but the wood was cheap enough and I managed to find two pieces that were straight grained and had good stretches that were clean and knot-free. They’ve been sitting in the garage for several months...

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Part 4: Cleaning up the sides

08-30-2016 08:02 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

The real drama in this build so far is in the sides. They split and splintered and were generally a bit of a disaster when attempting to bend. The two biggest factors in this were that 1.) I used Padauk without really checking to see how easy it bends. With the benefit of hindsight, I would’ve chosen a different wood. 2.) I didn’t use any kind of metal backing strap to support the wood from the top while bending on the iron. I have since picked up a roll of aluminum roofing sh...

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Part 5: Joining Back, Gluing Neck Block, Adding Rosette

09-23-2016 10:57 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

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 ...

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Part 6: Cutting Soundhole Making Radius Dishes

10-21-2016 07:16 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

Today’s update is a bit incomplete. I cut out the soundhole and sanded down the olive wood rosette to be a little more level with the top. I bought a drum sander in the interim as I just don’t trust myself to flatten and thickness the top with any accuracy. I’ll send the top through the drum sander sometime soon to get the finished thickness/flatness for the rosette and top. I put the back behind it for contrast in the photo. I also have started trying to figure...

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Part 7: Tail detail/Kerfed Lining/Top Braces

12-21-2016 01:30 AM by onoitsmatt | 2 comments »

I haven’t posted in quite some time, but haven’t had time to do much in the last few months. I have managed to get some shop time the last two weeks. I was prepared to abandon the project, at least for now, to focus on the start of a guitar build. Most of the time I’ve been spending on this has been cleaning up mistakes I’ve made, but having made them on the Uke, I feel better about starting on the guitar build. But instead I am forging ahead and just planning to...

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Part 8: Gluing Top Bracing, Roughing Back Braces

12-21-2016 11:57 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

Another vacation day today and so another day in the shop. Today I made a bridge plate. The only stock I had on hand that was already thin enough and hard enough to do the job was some cut-off wood from the uke sides (padauk). So I just cut it to size and routed a channel to accomodate the center brace (I also cut a notch in the center brace to overlap). I split the above brace accidentally while carving the notch, so I made a new brace and notched/used it. Then i glued up the ...

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Part 9: Not summer anymore but still a uke build

12-28-2016 11:35 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

So summer has become winter and I’m still not even close to finished with this. But I nibble away at it when I can. I had a couple of vacation days late last week that were intercepted by a sick toddler, so progress was slowed. I got a couple of hours in today and was able to get the top glued on and trimmed flush with the sides. I had been eyeballing trim routers and even suggested my wife get me one from HF for $20 for Christmas, but she instead came through with a new BBQ Grill...

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Part 10: Gluing the back... or not.

12-30-2016 08:55 PM by onoitsmatt | 4 comments »

Last night I picked up a bunch of #64 rubber bands from Office Max and decided to use them to glue the back on the uke. The back was radiused using the radius dish I made, so I thought I’d screw some 1” drywall screws part-way through the back side perimeter of the radius dish to use as anchors for the rubber bands. I tied rubber bands together to get them long enough. I decided 4 in a row was a good number, allowing enough length span the 2’ radius of the dish and...

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Part 11: Glue the back / go-bar deck

12-31-2016 09:15 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

Update from yesterday’s post #10The shelf lining that I used on the top sheet of plywood in the go-bar deck came loose overnight. There seems to be some kind of chemical reaction between the 3M spray adhesive and the material this shelf liner is made from. I noticed a bit of an oily residue forming on the shelf-liner after applying it to the plywood and thought there was a chance this might happen. So for anyone planning to use shelf-liner to provide friction on a go-bar deck, use wo...

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Part 12: The body is complete (except maybe binding)

01-01-2017 06:26 PM by onoitsmatt | 2 comments »

I pulled the go-bars off this morning. Using a chisel, I trimmed the excess wood from the back to be flush with the sides. It turned out pretty well. There’s a nice radius to the back and the seam appears to be snug and tight. I think there’s going to be a bit of a hiatus on this build, as the next step will be the neck and I don’t have a fingerboard figured out yet. I’m thinking of some local mesquite but still have to find it and get it ready. I have a doug f...

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Part 13: Neck Scarf Joint

01-07-2017 01:38 AM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

Today I was able to get the scarf joint for the neck done and I went to Rockler to see if they had any wood that would make a good fingerboard. I had a $5 off coupon and got a $6 piece of mahogany, but in reading up on it, sounds like hog may be too soft to hold frets. So may have to dig up something else. I will likely resaw some mystery wood I have in the stash and hope it works. The angle is 15 degrees. I marked that and used a great little saw I bought from Bob Summerfield a few mo...

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Part 14: Fingerboard Blank

01-11-2017 12:01 AM by onoitsmatt | 2 comments »

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a fingerboard blank. I have been reading up on woods that are appropriate for the purpose and only very hard woods will work. Ebony is most common with rosewood and maple being suitable substitutes. I didn’t want to spend any money on the fingerboard primarily because Mesquite is hard enough (harder than rosewood and maple) and is a very good alternative for me here in Arizona. I see it in heaps around town with some regularity. Yes...

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Part 15: Fingerboard and Fret Slotting Miter Box

01-27-2017 11:23 PM by onoitsmatt | 2 comments »

After having cut a few fingerboard blanks from a chunk of mesquite, I need to choose one and get it thicknessed and ready for use. I picked the best one and flattened it, squared up one side and thicknessed in on the drum sander to about 0.15” which is slightly thicker than it probably should be, but wanted to ensure I could cut the fret slots adequately deep and in case I cut them too deep, I can always sand a little surface of but I can’t add any surface if I start too thin i...

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Part 16: Cutting Fret Slots

02-03-2017 04:34 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

With my last entry, I had been attempting to make a template to accurately space the frets. After several failed attempts, I decided to just correct the template with the fewest issues. I had been somehow missing my mark by just a fraction of an inch. You can see below the lines and the cuts. Bear in mind, with the little miter box I made, I couldn’t see what I was doing when cutting, so was relying on feel. I marked each fret on the template and cut a little score on the edge of th...

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Part 17: Neck Mortise

02-17-2017 09:20 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

The last several days of shop time have been pretty much dedicated to building a neck mortise jig. This jig is designed to hold the uke body firmly while routing the neck mortise. The neck mortise has to be perfectly centered and perfectly perpendicular to the top. I built the front face with cams on both sides to fine-tune the left/right orientation. This ensures the rout runs perpendicular to the top. When cams are engaged, it flexes a thin piece of particle board that has leat...

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Part 18: Fitting the neck

02-25-2017 09:15 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

My initial attempt to fit the neck was a utter failure. The mortise and tenon fit pretty well, though the shoulders of the tenon were not flush with the body. So I tweaked and tweaked the shoulders some more trying to get a good fit. This resulted in breaking the heel of the neck, regluing, then cleaning up too much on one side, then cleaning the other to match, which invariably lead to more difficulties. After all of this, I wound up nibbling down the joint to where I really needed a new...

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Part 19: Rough Shaping Neck and Aligning Fingerboard

03-03-2017 10:32 PM by onoitsmatt | 0 comments »

Over the last few days I’ve been rough shaping the neck. I’ll spare the details of the scarf joint that puts the headstock at a 15 degree angle as I covered that on the previous neck blank I made. Here is the new neck with the scarf joint: Also vaguely visible in that photo is the headstock veneer I glued on. It is just some leftover Padauk that was used for the back and sides. It had already been resawn thin and will match the back and sides so makes a good choice fo...

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