Sunday, May 27. 2007
Here are some photos of my new Islander model concert ukulele. This is the first prototype. It is built with golden, slightly figured Honduras mahogany and has curly koa bindings, b/w/b top purfling, an ebony fingerboard, nut, saddle and tie style bridge, an abalone rosette and gold/black Gotoh deluxe friction tuners. It is finished in a natural looking tung oil and wax finish. It has a clear, bright and resonant sound with good loudness, sustain and intonation. Here is a recent note I wrote while building this model.
Monday, May 21. 2007
Detail of a slotted headstock on a rosewood and spruce tenor ukulele. The ebony faceplate is inlayed with a customer specified design in mother of pearl.
A recent clear morning found this'n blissing out, warming and stretching his wings in the sun.
I have some really pretty instruments shipping soon. Minoru's Honduras rosewood and Adirondack spruce 14 fret tenor has an understated elegance, Joel's koa and cypress tenor with curly maple binding is very precious looking and Jimmy's Indian rosewood and Swiss spruce 14 fret tenor is classic.
My first Island style (Islander) concert prototype is ready and i'm offering it for sale for $995 + shipping. The contrast between the mildly figured golden Honduras mahogany body and the curly koa binding is very classy and the instrument speaks with a bold voice ! I'm thinking about introducing a product based on this Islander prototype, intended to be available from stock and designed to provide a standard (no optional features), affordable (compared to my customs), nicely built product for the serious player.
I also have a model A4v5 koa 14 fret concert and a koa 12 fret tenor almost finished and coming available in the next week or so. Both have a natural tung oil/wax finish and pegheds. The concert has curly maple bindings and the tenor has ebony bindings. Both are nice !
Sunday, May 13. 2007
Here is a picture of my new Island model concert ukulele prototype in Honduras mahogany with curly koa binding and ebony trim. The body shape is patterned after a concert built by the Hawaiian builder Leo Nunes but the rest of the design is mine. I recently wrote a note showing how i tooled up to build this new model.
Today I fretted it, made an ebony saddle and nut and strung it with a set of Ko'olau Gold strings i had lying around. It has had a sealer coat of tung oil but is otherwise unfinished. I'm going to play it a while and then think about top tuning. Right now it has a big, clear, sweet and full voice.
Friday, May 11. 2007
The 1st prototype version of the Leo Nunes style concert in mahogany looks cute. I bound the body in curly koa this evening, with fineline b/w/b top purfling. The curls in the koa subtly clue for the original rope binding. The koa will actually come up lighter than the mahogany under tung oil and wax, especially as the instrument ages. Its ready for a fingerboard and bridge. The body style is taken from Leo Nunes. Internally they are my design. I'm going to be offering a limited number of sets (5) of three ukuleles (a standard, a concert and a tenor) in this style, all built in your choice of Honduras mahogany or koa with your choice of top binding and rosette in rope or paua abalone, ebony back binding, ebony fingerboard, ebony tie bridge, peghed tuners with ebony heads, in a tung oil/wax finish. They'll only be available as a set of 3 ukuleles. The price is $5750 for a set, with delivery in approximately 6 months. A deposit of $1750 reserves your set. These are a bargain at twice the price ! I reserve the right to revise or withdraw this offer at any time.
Minoru, Jimmy, Joel, Masako - a week to 10 days and your instrument will be on the way. I also have a couple of 14 fret long neck A4v5 concerts in koa and a 12 fret standard scale tenor in koa nearly ready, for stock, all finished in tung oil/wax. Email me if you are interested.
Minoru (your next tenor), Yoshi, Warren, Charlie and Dave ... you're up next. Most tops and backs are profiled, a few necks are done, a couple are already on their soleras ... more soon.
Wednesday, May 9. 2007
Here is an interesting note at White Lotus Aromatics about the production of rose otto in India and Bulgaria.
I have, in the past, made stringed instruments entirely 'freehand', without bending forms, soleras, side moulds or other tooling. Building in this way allows a lot of design freedom but isn't particularly suited to the production of a model series. So most builders use some simple tooling when building a series of similiar instruments. In this note, I'll illustrate how I produce the moulds and forms for a new model, a Nunes style concert ukulele. This model isn't meant to be a historically accurate reproduction. Instead i'm borrowing some of the design clues, particularly the body shape and size, from Leo Nunes but hope to give it my own sound and feel.
After developing a full sized paper design/drawing of a new instrument, a body outline template is made in thin plywood, heavy cardstock or other suitable material. The template will be used during production of the forms and whenever building an instrument so it should be accurate and durable. It is useful to write basic instrument measurements such as sound hole size and location, body depth, scale length, side length, bridge location and other information on the template for convenient future access.
Before i build the first model of a new instrument, I produce a side bending form, a solera and body moulds. For an instrument the size of a Nunes concert, these can all be produced from a single 1" x 8" x 6' board of poplar, aspen, clear pine or other similiar wood. I'm using aspen because nice, straight and clear boards are available inexpensively at my local Lowes store.
For this instrument, i cut 4 lengths of aspen long enough to accomodate the body lenth of the concert plus a couple three inches. After sanding flat in the drum sander, these 4 pieces are assembled using a few small judiciously placed pieces of double sided carpet tape into a single block of wood.
The body outline is traced on to the block of wood using the template, and the block is sawn to shape on the bandsaw.
The pieces are then separated with a flat knife and the tape removed.
I cut small spacers of aspen on the bandsaw then assemble, glue and clamp the body mould pieces. The bending form pieces are assembled, glued and clamped. Be sure to align all pieces squarely.
In the Spanish style of building, the instrument is constructed on a dished workboard, or solera. The solera is assembled from aspen, glued and clamped. When dry, it is reinforced with cross braces glued to the bottom. Any required dishing is carved in the area of the lower bout.
The body mould parts are keyed to the solera with dowel holes. Here you can see the holes being drilled using the drill press. These dowels allow the builder to accurately assemble and easily disassemble the mould as necessary. Next, the upper bout of the mould will be cut to provide room for passage of the neck.
Holes for the insertion of small clamps are drilled in the side bending form. I use forms like this with a special purpose electric heating blanket and stainless steel slats to bend sides.
Here you can see a Honduras mahogany soundboard for the Nunes concert that i've just profiled on the bandsaw.
My forms and moulds are ready. I'm going to build the first one in the series using some nice slightly figured old growth Honduras mahogany. The soundboard is profiled, it has been inlayed with a Paua abalone rosette, and it has been graduated. In this photo you can see it face down on the solera on a piece of waxed paper, ready for bracing.
Clamping fan braces to a soundboard has always been a little tricky because commonly available clamps aren't very effective. When i make the solera, i install pronged T nuts to accept 1/4" threaded rods. The T-nuts make it easy to quickly attach and remove a clamping deck to the solera. In this photo, you can see the deck on the solera, and the fan braces held firmly against the sound board while the glue dries by bamboo skewers, available at most grocery stores.
Here you can see the body mould attached to the solera, the neck glued to the soundboard, and the sides fitted and glued to the foot of the neck and the tailblock. It is ready for back and top linings.
I this photo you can see the top linings. A section is held in place with bamboo skewers while the glue dries.
Fast forwarding just a bit ... the back linings have been glued, the back profiled, graduated, braced, fitted to the sides and glued. When the glue is dry, i'll remove the instrument from the solera and cut the ledges for the top purfling and body binding.
More soon ...
Following a recent note on the construction of a Spanish style neck, here are a couple of photos illustrating the last few steps. After the 1mm thick backplate is veneered to the back of the headstock, I profile the headstock shape using a Bosch Colt palm router, a template, and a carbide router bit fitted with a ball bearing follower. The template is temporarily attached to the headstock using double sided carpet tape. The locations of the tuning peg holes are marked and then are drilled on the drill press. I first drill a small hole using a 2mm bradpoint bit, and then drill to final size using a 8mm bradpoint bit. I start the hole from the front and finish it from the back to ensure no tearout.
In the first photo, you can see the neck clamped to a bench fixture i use to hold it securely while i route the headstock. I carve the heel by hand. In the second photo you can see a finished neck, gouge, kiridashi and sanding block. The back of the neck will not be shaped until the fingerboard is glued and the instrument is almost finished.
In the next note, i'm going to illustrate how i 'tool up' for a new model. This neck will go on the first prototype of a Nunes style concert ukulele.
Thursday, May 3. 2007
I build in the Spanish style, a custom i've inherited from my background as a classical guitar maker. In the Spanish style, a guitar or ukulele is built around the neck. Most ukulele builders don't follow the Spanish style of building. Instead, they build the neck separate from the body and join the two using bolts, a special mortice or dovetail joint or some other method.
I started a few necks this morning and took some photos to illustrate the process. I got distracted this afternoon by some other things so i'll follow up in a day or two showing you the rest of the steps.
Here you can see two neck blanks, dimensioned appropriately for a 14 fret long scale tenor ukulele and a 14 fret long scale concert ukulele. They are quarter sawn Honduras mahogany. The neck profile is laid out in pencil and the customer name and customer requested nut width is written on the neck blank. I have a master drawing of all the different necks i build with, and use it as a reference when laying out the blanks.
When i purchase planks of Honduras mahogany or Spanish cedar for neck blanks, I generally cut up half of it right away into an assortment of sizes, anticipating future needs. The rest of it goes into storage for unexpected needs or becomes, for a time, the top of a work bench. As a result, most of the neck blanks i use have been sitting around the shop for a while and have had ample opportunity to come to terms with their fate !
If you use carbon fiber or another form of neck reinforcement, now is the time to dado slots for the insert, glue it and resurface the fingerboard surface. These two necks are reinforced with a rectangular 1/8" x 3/8" epoxy/carbon fiber composite beam at customer request. I occassionally use this type of reinforcement on my 14 fret long scale necks, mostly when requested. I generally don't use it on my 12 fret standard scale necks.
Does it make a difference to the sound of the instrument ? I think i can hear a difference. The CF reinforcement makes the neck stiffer and the sound less nuanced but more focused. But it is a subtle difference and an untrained ear could easily miss it. These neck blanks have been dadoed on the table saw, and the slots filled with Honduras mahogany strips either end of the carbon fiber beam.
The neck blank is now clamped to an angled reference surface on a sliding jig and the head is cut on the bandsaw.
The rest of the neck is freehand profiled on the bandsaw. The cutoff is saved and resawn into tailblocks, back braces, and 2mm veneer.
The edges of the neck are marked out in pencil and the neck is cut to approximate width using a sliding jig and the bandsaw. The slope of the jig ensures that the foot of the neck is tapered.
Here the bandsaw blade is being withdrawn from the completed cut. The fence is now moved to the other side of the blade and the neck blank repositioned on the jig to cut the other side.
Here you can see the taper of the Spanish foot.
A registration pin is inserted in a well known location to facilitate the next operation.
In the Spanish method, the foot of the neck is slotted to receive the sides. Here you can see a simple sliding jig used to slot the foot, using a tablesaw. The registration pin keys in the slots in the jig, ensuring that the slots in the foot are correctly positioned and the correct width ( ~2mm ).
The slots are cut at approximately 2.5 degrees.
After smoothing the face of the headstock, the faceplate is glued. I resaw my ebony faceplates from fingerboard blanks. My koa faceplates are bookmatched from leftover portions of koa top and back plates. If the headstock requires an inlay, it is easiest to do it before glueing it to the faceplate.
Here are some bookmatched koa faceplates drying. They will be dimensioned to about 60mm x 135mm x 2mm and glued to the headstock of their respective necks. I try, whenever possible, to use wood leftover from the top or back plates for the headstock to ensure a harmonious match with the instrument.
The ebony faceplate is now dry. Next the neck will receive its backplate, a 1mm thick veneer of Honduras mahogany glued to the back of the headstock. When this is dry, the headstock will be shaped.
In a following note, we'll shape the headstock, relieve the top of the foot for the soundboard and carve the heel. More later ...
Wednesday, May 2. 2007
I put a nice new Olson bandsaw blade on my 18" Jet bandsaw this evening and cut out a few quarter sawn Honduras mahogany ukulele neck blanks. Here are 3 after the first stage of profiling. Next i'll smooth the front and back of the headstock, veneer them with a 2mm face plate and 1mm back plate, finish the headstock, taper the edges to approximate finished width, cut the slots for the sides in the foot, and then hand carve the heel. I'm going to do a photo essay soon to illustrate how i make a neck, from start to finish.
What do i do with the cutoffs from the neck blanks ? I resaw them into 2mm thick veneers, tail block and back brace material.
I think i'm going to take a break now and sit down and read my new copy of Nasser Shirazi's excellent new book on building the Kamanche (the Persian spike fiddle) which arrived in the mail today. Thanks Nasser ! The kamanche is a fabulously expressive musical instrument in the hands of an Ostad. Nasser has also published an excellent book on the construction of the Setar, a Persian long necked lute.
As a rule, we luthiers are 'waste not, want not' folk and many a wonderous bit of wood is to be found hiding in the cutoff box or on a top shelf waiting for use. Here a short end of an 8/4 board of old growth tight grain Honduras mahogany is being resawn into backstrips. The backstrip is the narrow, long cross grain strip of wood glued inside a guitar or ukulele over the center seam of the back. It serves two purposes. The first is to reinforce the joint. The second is to help the back retain an arch. It is usually glued to the back with the help of an arched caul.
In the first photo, you can see slices being sawn off the end of the board. In the second photo, you can see these slices, after sanding the edges using the drum sander, ripped into backstrips. In the third photo you can see a bundle of cross grain Honduras mahogany backstrips ready for use. When making these, it is only necessary to sand one face. The other face is generally shaped and sanded after glueing. I prefer using a bandsaw to a circular saw whenever possible. Circular saws can easily hurt. About the only use for a circular saw in my workshop is the production of kerfed lining, slotting the foot of a neck and dadoing a neck blank for a reinforcement rod.
Tuesday, May 1. 2007
I usually make the cross bracing used for strengthening the back of guitars and ukuleles out of quarter or rift sawn Honduras mahogany. The bottom of the back cross brace is arched to impart an arch to the back. They are also tapered in height, wider at the bottom than the top.
After first dimensioning the mahogany brace using the bandsaw and drum sander, i shape the arch on the bottom using a drill press, a template jig, and a small microplane rotary shaper with a template follower. In the first photo, you can see the jig and cutter. The square brace is placed on top of the jig and against the stop, and the jig is passed by the cutting head. The follower on the bottom of the microplane rotary shaper follows the curve of the jig. One of the benefits of the microplane is that it produces shavings rather than dust, and is therefore relatively clean to use. This kind of small scale home workshop shaping using templates is quite easy using the drill press.
After shaping the arch, i taper the braces on both sides on the drum sander using 2 special sanding platens made for the purpose. In the second photo you can see a bundle of finished cross braces ready for use.
Soundboard cross braces are made in a similiar fashion, using spruce. They are tapered like the mahogany cross brace but the bottom is straight rather than arched. All the soundboard doming in the Spanish building system i use takes place below the sound hole.
(Page 1 of 2, totaling 17 entries) » next page
All content is copyright 2005 .. 2011 William King. All rights are reserved. Some music clips are copyright by others and are used with permission.
Index and bookmarks
Here is a date sortable index to the notes. Also, you can bookmark any note while browsing by right clicking on the title of the note, and then selecting 'bookmark link'.
Chantus Music links
Syndicate This Blog