Chrimbo 2018 Project No.1 - A different take on a ukulele - sorry, long posts.....

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KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
edited November 2 in Making & Modding
Greetings folks,
I have two guitary projects lined up for christmas this year. Again, one each for my two boys (who are still enjoying last years 3/4 scale Fender-alikes). This is the first one, and will be going to my youngest, 6yr old Isaac. For a long time he (through no 'help' whatsoever from Daddy) has liked the idea of a three-neck guitar (I blame Mr Vai), because he is 6. So my initial plan was to attempt a 3-neck electric uke. However, I thought it would still be too big/heavy for him, and frankly by the time all the electrics and tuners were added in it was going to cost a fair bit too. So plan B was a 3-neck acoustic uke. Unfortunately I couldnt work out the aesthetics of placing 3 necks on a short acoustic body - the ratio was just wrong however I tried it. So, I am down to 2 necks. And a design Im happy with.
The neck closest to the floor will be tuned as a guitarlele (6 strings, 5 semitones up from a standard e-E tuning), and the other neck will be that of a baritone uke.
Having 2 necks has brought with it several unique problems to solve, and Im very grateful for any help Ive received on the forum here.
Construction-wise, the back and sides are Scottish hornbeam from a local mill, the top spruce of some sort, aand the necks a sandwich of rippled maple and padauk.
Bracing pattern has effectively been created as I went along, and the neck attachment a butt joint with clamping force provided by bolts and a captive nut in the neck (the pictures will make this clear)
I'll try and explain my thought process as I go along, and welcome any questions/criticisms on the way.
Oh, and I plan to finish the back and sides in a PRS Prism-type finish - you know, the DiMeola rainbow one.

So, first up is a photo of the hornbeam plank. Nice straight grain sections for the sides and a little ripple here and there with darker grain for interest.

https://i.imgur.com/SY4yUEf.jpg

The back plates made up into a 4-piece back and thicknessed to a little under 2mm on my trusty performax 16-32.
https://i.imgur.com/WvczydY.jpg

The spruce cross-grain joint reinforcements glued and being trimmed with a lovely HNT Gordon plane. Three reinforcement strips instead of the normal 1 because of the 4-piece back.
https://i.imgur.com/Cq0mORB.jpg

Sanding an arch on the reinforcement, with masking tape protecting the plates
https://i.imgur.com/qU5rKe0.jpg

Laying out the back braces, and marking the position of where I need to cut slots to accept the braces. 
https://i.imgur.com/OXzzYZ7.jpg

Cutting the slots. I had a bit of trouble aligning these, and they are certainly sloppier than I would like.
https://i.imgur.com/n7EuKK9.jpg

A little brace carving jig, after the one I used at Baileys. Straightforward to use - place prepared brace blank in the jig, use pattern following bit in laminate trimmer router to carve arch. One side of the jig for rear, one for front arch.

https://i.imgur.com/LZ31MYv.jpg

I will post up a little more later on, but right now, small children to pick up from school.
Thanks for looking, 
Adam
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Rightyo, a couple more images. And we shall revisit the back plates later :(
    The top has been joined, roughly thicknessed (again to a little under 2mm) and the single-strip black-white-black rosette ring installed and trimmed back. Here I am using the same laminate trimmer with its circle cutting attachment to cut out the soundhole. Cutting the rosette 'pocket' is the same process, just not as deep... I did a test run on a spare bit of spruce beforehand, and on the top plate drilled a hole at the centre of where the soundhole will be. This is for the laminate trimmer's locating pin. 

    https://i.imgur.com/CaeKLzC.jpg

    Cutting the 'rosette' ring and dry fitting the strip. Because the soundhole is on the centreline of the uke rather than the centreline of a neck, there is nothing covering the place where the ring closes back on itself. This means a bit of fettling to achieve a near invisible join in the ring. I did not manage invisible, though......

    https://i.imgur.com/uWqlTbx.jpg

    And trimming the strip once glued in. The join isnt too bad, but more obvious in the flesh, so to speak.

    https://i.imgur.com/JjqeiiY.jpg

    Soundhole cut out, a few braces installed and the bridge patches. Now the problems of two necks become more apparent. Firstly, the x-braces are quite widely split, to accomodate the width of the body as well as the relatively short length. Also, the bridge patches are not ideally placed, but need to be there ddue to scale length. If this was a 'normal' pinned bridge as on a guitar, then further design would be needed, but this is a classical-guitar-style pinless affair, so not so much of an issue. Either way, I had to slot out the patches to accomodate the x-braces and finger-braces. Again, the slots are a little too sloppy. And please dont look closely at the x-brace lap joint.....

    https://i.imgur.com/hN3F0le.jpg

    Ok, criticisms are most welcome, as are comments/queries.

    Adam

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  • PVO_DavePVO_Dave Frets: 1463
    Enjoyed the 3/4 guitar thread, so will watch with interest :) 
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Thanks Dave - glad you remember it!
    Anyway, this should be the last post for a while - I have nightshifts to get back to normal from, and hopefully get a little more work done this weekend.

    So, here is a poor photo of the plans drawn up on lining wallpaper (another Mark Bailey trick), along with the brace stock and bubinga fretboard - resawn from a plank of the stuff, well quartered and straight grain, Ive had for about 12 years. Plenty more if anyone fancies some bubinga fretboards....

    https://i.imgur.com/oztPvAi.jpg

    Gluing up some of the top braces - one can never have too many clamps. And to be honest, I could do with a few more of these cam clamps.....

    https://i.imgur.com/7HJNFCa.jpg

    Lower face braces. Again, there is too much glue squeeze-out. I haven't managed to finesse this aspect of building yet, and leads to a scruffier-than-desired inside look.

    https://i.imgur.com/RbM8UAH.jpg

    Having a stab at rounding off the braces. This is actually quite a bit of fun, and to be honest I am not sure how well directed my approach is. You can definitely hear the pitch/tone/resonance/decay etc of the tap tone alter as material is removed. At this stage in my acoustic building, I am trying to develop a memory for how things change rather than aim for anything specific. You can see where I have drawn the soundhole reinforcement braces,  the top centreline, and just about the neck centrelines. Also, not mentioned earlier is that the bridge patches are from the same piece off wood as the top, rotated 90 degrees with a thickness of a bit over 1mm

    https://i.imgur.com/NpDBl4Y.jpg

    All the top braces are now installed,  and Im well on the way to shaping them. Once roughly shaped (chisel, teeny thumb plane and sandpaper), finished off up to 400grit. The 400 grit isnt really necessary, I just like smooth wood....

    https://i.imgur.com/aNbuigg.jpg

    Now, onto the necks. As I mentioned earlier, they are made up from some rippled maple I had a couple of planks of. I picked the plank with the least amount of cupping/twist. Quatersawn wasn't absolutely necessary here as I was laminating them, and there would be a good degree of support from the straight-grained padauk and CF rod reinforcement also.

    Here are the laminations being glued up. Of perhaps interest here is a plank of bubinga that the clamps are resting on. As well as the kitchen worktable (the garage/workshop too cold at this time of year to reliably glue things together), I used a few dead-flat planks as workboards for certain gluing operations. Not necessaary here, later on.

    https://i.imgur.com/tivnKu7.jpg

    Cleaning the glue up and levelling with an old Stanley 5 1/2

    https://i.imgur.com/84LHrhk.jpg

    Clamping to workbench for cutting the scarf joints (I used a tenon saw here)

    https://i.imgur.com/bVMmC1b.jpg

    The sawn joint and once cleaned up. You can begin to see the ripple in the maple here. The scarf joint provides a strong gluing surface, despite the appearance of end-grain.

    https://i.imgur.com/YlRYLiJ.jpg

    https://i.imgur.com/74IMmI3.jpg

    The finished up bits-of-neck ready to be glued

    https://i.imgur.com/DPFOTlT.jpg

    And the glue/clamp set up to give plenty of clamping across the glue line whilst preventing slippage. Definitely one for a dry-run with all the clamps and no glue to start with. And that is a useful lesson for pretty much all guitar building - always do a dry run first.

    https://i.imgur.com/GZO5dMf.jpg


    cont. on next post
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    The scarf joint glued on, as well as the heel stacks, and cleaned up. Now receiving the slot for the square CF reinforcement rod - again using the Makita laminate trimmer. This is a very usefull tool. I plane straight one edge exactly parralel to the centreline, and this along with the rod when in place, will act as reference points for the rest of the neck build.

    https://i.imgur.com/saMW0ao.jpg

    CF rod test fitted, but not cut to length.

    https://i.imgur.com/J6vpZeq.jpg

    Now, to accurately square off the heel end of the neck in preparation for attaching to the body. I used a jig built from plans purchased from Obrien Guitars - many videos on YouTube about it. It looks complex, but it's actually not too hard to use. Normally it would be used with templates to rout out mortice and tenons and adjust the angle on both the neck and body. Here, though, I am just using it to square off for the butt join. I had not used this jig before, having built it a while ago, and the first test piece turned out well. The templates (whether for dovetail, mortice or tenon etc) sit in the rectangular recesses, and the router, with a guide bushing, cuts away. Toggle clamps and a registration strip dead centre on the vertical board behind the neck keep everything squared off. Pictures better than words.

    https://i.imgur.com/QIglGdy.jpg

    https://i.imgur.com/aXM5QO7.jpg

    Test cut on scrap - pretty good

    https://i.imgur.com/WyFqYPy.jpg

    Moving on, I have drilled (very carefully, with lots of testing and brown-trouser-timing) for and installed captive bolts in the neck heel, complementary holes in the neck block through which the bolts go and hold the neck secure. I have used a piece of birch ply here, with weight relieving holes, to try and prevent the attachments from twisting and giving me 2 necks out of the same plane. Again, it actually seems to work and the photo explains better than my words. The only difficulty will be in tightening the hex bolts through the soundhole when the body is complete.....

    https://i.imgur.com/v7dYCUL.jpg

    A quick mock-up of how it will look

    https://i.imgur.com/13SX2cq.jpg

    And back to the back plates..... Despite taking care with the arching/acclimatisation of the wood etc, I had to remove the old braces and glue completely because the arch disappeared, and in fact reversed a little, after a few days. Anyway, here are the replacements being installed. This time a couple of strips of mahogany instead of spruce because thats what i had lying around. As it happens, I think I have made a better job of it 2nd time anyway.

    https://i.imgur.com/orH1Fy1.jpg

    https://i.imgur.com/ws7VlyW.jpg

    https://i.imgur.com/6eC3s47.jpg

    And finally, for now, the intended recipient, helping me out trimming some braces on another project - a cocobolo (I think) classical

    https://i.imgur.com/r8AIVaF.jpg

    Apologies for the huge post, but thanks for looking :)

    Adam




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  • PlukkyPlukky Frets: 276
    Best dad in the world...
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Dont know about that, Plukky, but thank you :)


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  • Cool project - looking good.
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  • BigMonkaBigMonka Frets: 1513
    This is absolutely mad, and I love it!
    Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman, in which case always be Batman.
    My boss told me "dress for the job you want, not the job you have"... now I'm sat in a disciplinary meeting dressed as Batman.
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  • olafgartenolafgarten Frets: 1408
    Can you adopt me? 
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Can you adopt me? 

    Only if you are as cute as my Isaac, and can sit still on my workbench!
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Rightyo, time for an update. Things have progressed nicely (for the most part, and I have quite a few images, so will upload over the next few days. Hopefully I won't bore you too much...

    First up, the new back reinforcement strips have been profiled and trimmed with notches to accept the braces. Here is a dry fit of the braces, and you can see the arch clearly. So far, the arch has held up well this time around.

    https://i.imgur.com/6jPKDIC.jpg

    Next up, the braces have been glued and in the middle of profiling them. Some nice spruce shavings. I alternated here between the thumb plane you see, and a couple of paring chisels, whichever seemed to suit the wood better at the time.

    https://i.imgur.com/5LwQkJS.jpg

    Next up, I am gluing up the neck and tail block. These were awkward, and perhaps my choice of clamp was poor, but I struggled with slippage when pressure applied. Now, these are fairly critical steps to get correct - having the blocks lined up square to midlines and outlines. After the first block was (eventually) successfully glued, and for future reference, I placed a couple of very small nails into the gluing surface of the block and snipped them at about 1.5mm. This embedded easily in the spruce top and effectively removed any 'clamping slippage'.

    https://i.imgur.com/YkhRIc0.jpg

    And now with the tail block attached. The keen-eyed will notice my son's Warhammer models to the left and a 'How-a-LED-is-wired' reminder on the back of the bench for when I do my pedal builds.

    https://i.imgur.com/En5Mnfm.jpg

    Ok, good for now. Next post will include some side-bending shenanigans :)

    Thanks for reading, and as usual, any comments welcomed.

    Adam
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    On second thoughts, I'll save the side bending for later, instead here are some fretboard-making photo's.

    The choice of fretboard material for this project was based upon 'What do I have lying around in my stash that would work nicely?'. I looked at some maple (nice figure, but nowhere near quartersawn), afromosia (dead-on quartersawn, but a bit boring to look at), padauk (not bad, but hellish red sanding dust), stunning piece of rippled ebony from D Dyke (too good for this project....), and in the end I settled on a piece of bubinga I have had for several years that has fairly straight grain, well quartered for stability and plenty of it should I muck it up.

    So, I machined the blanks down to 7mm-ish and roughly the correct size, drawing a centreline. The exact position of this line, in the method I am using, is not important. The drawn centreline will act as a datum for cutting the fret slots and positioning on the neck, which will also have a centreline drawn on.

    To fret, I use a Stew-Mac mitre box with fret-saw and scale template. As it comes,  the template has no centreline marked, but this was easily scored in using a Veritas wheel marking gauge. Now all I have to do is line up the two lines and the frets will be cut (slowly........) perfectly perpendicular to the centreline of the neck.

    Fretboard in place, d/s taped to the template, mitre box screwed to a scrap of wood and clamped to the bench. Some frets already cut, and fretboard taper marked roughly.

    https://i.imgur.com/xOsOctJ.jpg

    A couple of hours later, and the two uke necks alongside the yummy ebony bass fretboard for the bass guitar. Other bits here include the 2 necks, back and top of the uke, a piece of padauk that I think will become the bridges, and my trusty shooting board.

    https://i.imgur.com/PkIW4pe.jpg

    To prevent the fretboard from slipping when glued to the neck, a couple of small nails are placed through a fret slot. In order to stop the fretboard from splitting when this is done, a couple of pilot holes are drilled.

    https://i.imgur.com/yPd0y7c.jpg

    Moving on a bit, both fretboards have been glued on, as have the headstock veneer and tuner holes drilled. I have also re-marked the centreline and drilled holes to accept the fret markers. Using a lip-n-spur drill bit helps here to keep things centred and accurate. However, it also helps to have a sharp drill bit. I will buy another for the next project. Some things it is worth spending money on, and I have come to the conclusion that drill bits are.

    https://i.imgur.com/g34htlt.jpg

    Fret markers glued in and now onto sanding the radius. Again, there are several methods for doing this, but I am using a sanding block and various grades of abrasive, up to 1200 grit (higher grits used with a soft backing pad).

    https://i.imgur.com/VFBKuBX.jpg

    I had to redo a couple of dots as they were sanded through. One of the perils of using thinner shell dots from cheap eBay sellers. Base of hole trimmed with small chisel.

    https://i.imgur.com/kv3xq4j.jpg

    Ok, that is enough for today, I reckon.
    Thanks for reading,
    Adam
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Ok, time for another update. Not so many words tonight :)

    Back to the body. Here's the top glued to the sides, the sides arched (for the second time), back kerfing glued and notched for back braces, and the neck and body blank for the other project (WIP to follow).....

    https://i.imgur.com/jL2ttG0.jpg

    A close up of the uke, and the cobbled-together bridge clamping caul. The tape will keep the cauls in place whilst the rest of the body is constructed/lacquered and the tabs should facillitate removal through the soundhole when complete.

    https://i.imgur.com/mW51WAY.jpg

    Back being attached to the sides - lots of rubber strip clamping. On the trial run, I heard an unpleasant 'crack' (I must have put too much pressure on one part of the back), and sure enough one of the braces had split. I wicked glue into the split and clamped up for a couple of hours before re-wrapping. A minor setback.

    https://i.imgur.com/snbnrEE.jpg

    Jumping ahead, back/top trimmed, binding channels routed and binding strips bent. I ummed and ahhhed about what to do with the binding. Having purfling strips on the side is a lot more work (you have to bend strips on their long cross sectional dimension - just want to kink all the time), but I think look better. So thats what I did. 3 strips per edge, 12 in total.

    https://i.imgur.com/gKcTDug.jpg

    And all taped up. This stage took me about 2-3 hours. The strips have to be trimmed where they meet so there is no overlap nor a gap. Applying glue to all the gluing surfaces of 3 strips at one time is messy work. And uses a lot of masking tape (in my hands anyway).

    https://i.imgur.com/BDyyLYC.jpg

    Head and tail wedges from off cuts of the macassar ebony back from the re-do of my Bailey acoustic. There are 8 mitre joins (which means 16 cuts) between both ends of the body - I am happy with about 3 of them..........

    https://i.imgur.com/kQvOyrd.jpg

    Body now fully sanded (with thorough checking of deep scratches etc) to 320 grit in preparation for staining prior to clear lacquer.

    https://i.imgur.com/tiVmJYa.jpg

    My first attempt at hand blending colours (water based Crimson Stunning Stains). I was aiming for something approaching the PRS Prism finish (as in Al DiMeola signature guitar). I failed miserably. Blending stains is not straightforward, and whilst doable, not in the timescale I have before Christmas.

    https://i.imgur.com/pVF4FTY.jpg

    So I opted for block colours. I really like this scheme, and whilst it won't be everyones cuppa tea, it should satisfy a 6 1/2 yr old!

    https://i.imgur.com/nvBcEae.jpg

    There's very little of interest on the body for a while as multiple clear coats (thank you Mr Steve Robinson) are applied. That mask, by the way, is superb - I cannot smell a thing through it when I am spraying.

    Next post, more on necks and bridge building.

    Cheers once again for looking, hope the posts arent too long winded!

    Adam
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  • PVO_DavePVO_Dave Frets: 1463
    Great updates Adam :) 
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Thanks Dave - ive tried to take more photos this time, for personal use mostly. Also helps me to remember how i overcame certain problems, some of which were self-caused!

    Adam
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  • BillKatBillKat Frets: 1120
    Great stuff Adam, and exhibition standard Dad-ing there : )


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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    Ahhhhfucketyfucketyeckdangblastit. 
    Well, it was all going so well until I started installing the frets. A combination of (I think) fret tang being a little thinner than the fretsaw cuts a slot for, a homemade fret-bender that stopped bending and started twisting before it packed in alltogether, and me being too tired.

    The end result?

    Almost none of the frets are seated properly, a good portion of the fret ends wont stay down despite superglue (which has built up a little too much to allow further enthusiastic tapping), and quite a few glue runs over the fretboards.

    I think I can salvage the necks so far, but it isn't going to be a standard Im at all happy with. Perhaps using the radius sanding block to re-radius the frets prior to re-crowning (and given the teeny-ness of the uke frets, doesnt leave much room) will help to give me a usable instrument.

    Given time, I think it would be an excellent practice run at removing a fretboard and re-doing it. But I have 2 weeks left, so maybe not.

    Apologies for the grumbling, and I will, in time, put up some images of the neck carving etc :)
    Any suggestions for recovering the necks gratefully received.

    Adam
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  • Bummer.  Hope you can rescue it somehow.
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  • KalimnaKalimna Frets: 484
    I think it will work out ok, thank you. But im now undecided whether to just bolt the neck in place and only glue the fingerboard. This way i am left with the option of removing neck easily at a later date and replacing whole fingerboard.
    Food for thought.

    Adam
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