So... I go this idea really way too late last Christmas. I was going to make my brother a Uke. I have been toting a Cigar Box around for a few years that I got from a shop in Alexandria. I always wanted to make a uke out of it, but I just didn't have the motivation. I thought if I gave myself a deadline, I would actually crank it out.
I didn't realize the time I would really need to spend to finish the thing... Lol.
I shot pics all along the way, and I thought I would share them here. I will try not to stall out half way through. Some of my stumbles might help others is what i figure.
The first shots are of the scarf joint for the neck and head stock. I have had the idea for the head stock design for a while. Basically a slightly modified "classical" head. The wood is from a high school basket ball floor that was probably put down in the 60's some time. It was chopped into sections and sold at a local wood shop for 4 bucks a sheet. I probably bought too much... A little cleaning and it is pretty nice Rock Maple. Some with some pretty sweet figuring!
I did some basic shaping on the belt sander after I stacked up the heel (sorry no pics of the heel being glued). I really wanted to retain the 'floor' feel of some of the pieces, so I didn't fill in the ribs on the bottom of the floor pieces. A friend of mine recommended marine epoxy for the joints. I regret that now for the scarf joint as it shows more than I wanted.
More to come...
After I rough sanded the neck, I worked on getting the fret board ready.
It is a piece of Brazilian Cherry wood floor that I had left from a project. It was probably the home of some endangered species, or shelter for some indigenous tribe before it was floor in my old house. I had already bought it, so the guilt didn't weigh too much on me for this project. Plus, it looks really nice! I used the fret calculator on StewMac.com for the distances. I played with scale length to get the bridge in a place I thought would make the best use of the sound board and look nice with the size of things. I think it was 14.5 in the end. I need to measure to remember.
I also thicknessed the piece I was going to use for the sound board. I used my belt sander again. Not ideal, but if I was careful it wouldn't get sucked out of my hand and into the machinery. I added a small brace that I ended up redoing. I was paranoid that it would not hold the tension that I wanted. The top was 2mm when I was done. If you are curious, the 'wood' on the back of these boxes is 3 ply. I sanded through one ply to get to the thickness that I needed. I also did the first lamination for the bridge. Again, I regret the choice of glue... but I sort of fixed it at the end.
I cut the sound hole with a hobby knife. Also worked OK. I have a hole cutter now that might do a better job. The plywood does not like to cut, so I needed to sand out some of the imperfections. About this time was when Christmas actually came. I had to show my brother some pictures and promise to get it to him shortly.
Next I wanted to get the fret board attached to the neck. I had pretty close to the final shape of the neck, so I figured I was safe. I had stolen some measurements from a Uke I already had, but I wanted to go a bit wider with the fret board. Not much, just 1/8".
The glue down of the fret board went well. I was concerned about shifting around with the glue, but it seemed to go on straight. I had read all kinds of tips for keeping it from shifting, but I just went for it.
I got mu tuners in during this time. I realized that the tuner shafts were a bit longer than I had expected, so I glued some scales to the side of the peg head. It looks really nice any way, and made the peg head exactly the right width for the tuners. I think that most "fancy" wood work was invented to hide one mistake or other.
Missed the order of things...
Now came the real commitment...
I drilled the head stock for the tuners. Sanded the fret board. Did the final sanding and shaping of the neck. I put abalone dots on the side of the fret board. I really liked the wood on the fret board so I didn't want to put dots on the front. I thought it looked cleaner this way.
I put a small cherry piece on the heel, just for looks.
All in all this was my biggest learning point in the project for sure. I could have solved all my problems with a decent set of brad point drill bits. The point of the bit would wander no matter how I marked the start. I marked all the points with a punch I had, but they still wandered a bit. Normally I wouldn't care too much, but the dots, and the tuners looked lame if the did not line up. I even had to wallow out a hole in the peg head to get the tuner where I wanted. I then had to glue in the ferrules for the tuner in question. Hopefully it holds. All in all everything was turning out pretty well.
After my disappointment with the glue I chose in the bridge, I wanted to re do it. I just didn't have much of the same wood left. So, I raided the scrap bin at the local wood store for something cool. I chopped up the piece I had already glued and laminated in the scrap piece. I hat to say I am not really sure what it was.
I knew what shape the bridge would be, and figured after all the shaping and sanding it would look pretty cool. For now I left is pretty rough, and a little tall.
I also glued in the nut. Another scrap from the bin at the wood store. I realize now, that I should have waited for this bit. Of course this was after I had gouged things up trying to shape the fret ends... Live and learn.
At this point I felt like I was getting close. Too bad it was almost the end of January... I got the tuners in, the frets in, and started the tail piece. I had a plan for the tail piece, but it seemed to change in my mind the whole time. I will get pics of that on the next post. Filing the frets was a learning experience. I should have taken the time to watch a few videos before I did this. I chewed up the side of the fret board a bit which was a bummer.
I re-braced the top because I was paranoid about long term longevity I trimmed down the braces, but I did not take as much care as i probably should have and nicked the top in a few spots.