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Hluth
02-28-2015, 04:13 AM
I’ll soon be starting on a new design and will be posting the build progress. I’m not exactly sure where this build will lead, and will most likely make small changes along the way. This is made easier because I don’t do custom orders and there isn’t customer involvement to consider. My trend lately has been larger bodies and short, stiff upper bouts. This leaves little room for a sound hole, so I’ve moved it to the front of the body. The drawings are already made and here’s what they are:

Sketch: The sketch is made on ¼” quad paper that allows for drawing to ¼-scale, making it easy to know what the proportion and dimensions will be. This is an organic sketch, not copied from any other, but it’s still a pretty generic shape. I scan the sketch into my computer, and then import it into a vector drawing program.

Tracing: I do a vector tracing of the sketch that is perfectly symmetrical and scaled to actual size.

Drawing: All the details are then added. Some of the components--like the neck and head stock--can be copied from drawings of other designs and pasted-in to save time. I like to position my bridge 1/3 the total fan brace length from the waist brace; this puts the neck/body joint at the 16th fret. If the upper bout was more traditional in length it would probably land near 14.

Template: The body portion of the drawing is printed out and pasted on to chip board. This will serve as a master template for tracing and checking dimensions. Other parts of the ukulele can also be printed and used as templates, or pasted directly on the wood for sawing and sanding profiles.

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BlackBearUkes
02-28-2015, 08:31 AM
Loprinzi ukes and guitars has been doing a similar design, might want to check it out. Good luck.

Hluth
02-28-2015, 09:43 AM
Thanks. I couldn't find the ukulele you're talking about, but here's one I did about 5 years ago using a similar upper bout.
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Cfiimei
02-28-2015, 09:45 AM
Love that design, very organic. So the sound hole is on both sides of the neck joint? If so I would think finishing the inside of that area would be important. Can't wait to see how this build progresses.

Hluth
02-28-2015, 11:37 AM
Here's the kamagong ebony back and side wood for this ukulele. The other picture tells a little about its history. I bought the wood in a nearby town where it had been stored for years. It was originally used to make a very large all-ebony ox-drawn sled to move heavy objects in a Philippines jungle (no lie). The board in the picture is one of the sled runners and it measures 2.5" x 12" x 10 feet. In all, I must have at least 1000 lbs. of the stuff.

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rmeltzer
02-28-2015, 12:47 PM
That wood is amazing. Can't wait to see the finished product!

Hluth
03-01-2015, 07:41 AM
Here's another drawing with color and more details added.

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Just added purfling - big difference. I'll start the build and post every day this week.

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Hluth
03-02-2015, 03:40 AM
I'm about to put on my apron and start on this ukulele, but there are still some unresolved design preferences. This ukulele is going to replace my "kayak" model that I've been making since about day one. It featured sound holes on both sides of the fret board like the ones in my previous post. The photos here are of the Kayak and the heel block used with the sound holes. Now I'm thinking of using side ports instead. This will give me some easier to do trim options. The drawing shows what it will look like. A traditional sound hole isn't possible because of the way its braced. The last photo is a magnolia inlay I did for a customer last year, and it's an example of what I don't want to do. I'm working on some "organic" marquetry trim that I think I'll use on this one--more on that later.

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Sven
03-02-2015, 04:31 AM
I've always liked your sound holes on the kayak models and think the tenor drawing in post #7 look really cool. With only side ports I think it looks a wee bit electrical, at least in the full frontal in your last post. If you were looking for input. Otherwise, continue your extremely clean and nice looking work!

Cheers / Sven

Hluth
03-02-2015, 12:21 PM
Too late for the Kayak sound holes but I'm working on some other options other than sound ports.

This ukulele starts with heel joint I haven't done before. A new pin router template had to be made, but other than that no special setup was required.

Photo1: The Spanish cedar neck roughed to shape. I scrape the fret board surface concave with the lowest point being about .004”-.005” at the 5th fret. This builds in the amount of relief you would typically get with a truss rod.

Photo2: Template of the heel block printed out and pasted to the wood before profiling.

Photo3: the block roughed out to form the pocket.

Photo4: the fret board glued on to the neck and fit to the heel block.

Photo5: Completed heel joint.

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Vespa Bob
03-02-2015, 05:49 PM
Now that's what I call skill full work!

Bob

Hluth
03-03-2015, 12:35 PM
I came to my senses and lengthened the upper bout to accommodate a sound hole on top, that problem’s solved. It required that I redo some of the work on the heel joint. This brings up something that I think is important to doing good work. Sometimes things don’t go exactly right and you end up with a result that is different than you intended. Being willing to remove a top that isn’t exactly straight or routing out binding that has gaps is much better than thinking something is good enough, or a little filler will make it less noticeable. Once you start redoing even minor mistakes when there’s a problem, the solutions become easier with experience and the quality of your work keeps improving.
So, my “redo” put me about three hours behind but there is progress to show:

Photo6: The sides are bent and ready for gluing in the heel and tail blocks.

Photo7: A tapered pointer is inserted in the neck pocket to insure the neck will line up with the body.

Photo8: While the glue for the heel and tail blocks is drying, the top plate is matched and glued. One way to make the joint less obvious in light wood is to plane so the joint is in the early wood. Two late wood growth rings side by side really stand out in glue joints.

Photo9: Final fitting of the neck. The tapered joint holds it so firmly; it’s hard to shake it apart.

Photo10: Further neck and body alignment is accomplished by marking all around the body using a special square. This shows where the body is perfectly level with the surface of the fret board. After trimming to the line, the lining is glued in.


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greenscoe
03-03-2015, 09:42 PM
I'm watching this thread with great interest. The uke design looks great but its fascinating to see how you set about achieving the design.

I think the following advice is worth reading-its something I'm slowly learning to do:

'Sometimes things don’t go exactly right and you end up with a result that is different than you intended. Being willing to remove a top that isn’t exactly straight or routing out binding that has gaps is much better than thinking something is good enough, or a little filler will make it less noticeable. Once you start redoing even minor mistakes when there’s a problem, the solutions become easier with experience and the quality of your work keeps improving.'

Hluth
03-04-2015, 12:22 PM
This is the design and installation of the rosette before sanding the top to thickness. The sound hole still needs to be cut out and the inside edge finished with black fiber
.
Photo11: shown is the design I settled on after trying several others. The mahogany actually turned out to be curly koa.

Photo12: here are the three woods glued together into a pancake .060” thick ready for routing the spruce.

Photo13: the rosette glued in place. It was fit to where it was just ready to go in and needed a few taps with a hammer.

Photo14: Sanded flush with the spruce, and with the sound hole template showing its position.

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ModlrMike
03-04-2015, 03:48 PM
I'm really diggin' that neck joint. Not super complex, but elegant just the same.

Timbuck
03-05-2015, 12:16 AM
I'm really diggin' that neck joint. Not super complex, but elegant just the same.
Nice workmanship...But!
I'm thinking it's a bit heavy and over the top for a uke.

Hluth
03-05-2015, 02:13 AM
Nice workmanship...But!
I'm thinking it's a bit heavy and over the top for a uke.

Yes, but there is a method to my madness that has to do with how this uke will sound. The neck stiffness is moved inside the body rather than stopping at the front of the upper bout. This adds to the stiffness between the front of the body and the waist brace (which also needs to be stiff), and isolates the more flexible lower bout. The result is a greatly improved sound. I’ll be doing the sound board today and will elaborate on other things that factor into how it all works.

As far as it being heavy, I do some things to lighten it up (like rout out the underside of the block). I'm a little skeptical about an instrument having to be very light to sound good. This certainly adds to its volume, but at the sacrifice of some tone and sustain. Last year I constructed a ukulele using all the lightest materials possible as an experiment. The result was a loud, crazy sounding ukulele with no substance. There is a place for this sound among musicians, but as a luthier, I'm always trying to get the highest quality sound with good volume and with nearly flat top at the same time.

Hluth
03-05-2015, 08:27 AM
The sound board is almost ready for gluing to the sides.

Photo15: I drilled a hole behind the inlay before gluing it in so I wouldn’t have to pry it out along the soft spruce edge once it fit. It also tells me the thickness of the inlay vs. the spruce when thickness sanding.

Photo16: All the bracing is glued-in. I use this gauge for brace thickness. Years ago I used deflection testing with a dial indicator, but got to a point where I had a sense of how thick to make the braces. The gauge helps tell me where I’m at.

Photo17: This is the completed bracing. It also shows my two bench chisels. I made the one on the left when I was involved in blacksmithing (the blade is made from an old file). The one on the right is a Veritas chisel made from the latest alloy tool steel—it set me back almost $100. They both keep an edge equally well, which tells me that good old straight high-carbon steel is still just as good.

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sequoia
03-05-2015, 09:00 AM
I drilled a hole behind the inlay before gluing it in so I wouldn’t have to pry it out along the soft spruce edge once it fit. It also tells me the thickness of the inlay vs. the spruce when thickness sanding.

What a great idea to be able to see the top thickness under the rosette as you thickness. I always have this fear....

Nice clean work. Lovely. No bridge patch/plate needed?

Hluth
03-05-2015, 09:07 AM
I used to use bridge patches, but since the bridge will span the three center braces I don't think one is needed.

Hluth
03-05-2015, 01:00 PM
“Light Weight” can mean several things when talking about a ukulele. It can mean that the entire instrument is light, or the bracing is light, or the top, or back and sides are light. I really do believe a light weight instrument, especially if the back and side wood is light and porous, has less chance of sounding good than one that has a balance between light and heavy, or to be more specific, a balance between flexible and stiff. I read an article where Trevor Gore wrote he had discovered that thicker sides result in greater response in the back and top of a guitar. That goes straight to my point: The more you isolate the top, the more response you are going to get out of it. From what I’ve seen, it is popular to build light tops in ukuleles from heel to tail, causing it to go concave around the sound hole and convex behind the bridge. All this does is take energy away from the tone bracing and distribute it elsewhere. Making an instrument stiffer between the front of the upper bout and the waist brace goes a long way in isolating the tone bracing and making it more responsive. Beyond this, here are a few things I think make ukuleles more responsive with better tone and sustain:

1. Make the body larger. Traditional ukulele body sizes are smaller in relation to their scale length than other fretted instruments like guitars and mandolins. This means that the strings have less to work with in a ukulele and tone is lost in the process. Making the body larger improves sustain, and the quality of the tone.

2. Avoid using “suspension bridge” tone bracing. Scalloping the bracing from a high point over the bridge invites top distortion and does little to improve the function of the bridge. Tone bracing should be of one thickness and scalloped only at the ends.

3. The thickness of the braces should cause the top to be in equilibrium with the string load. Braces that are too stiff will inhibit string energy, and those that are too light will cause unnecessary top distortion and favor one half the string cycle over the other.

Here’s the work I got done this afternoon:

Photo18: the top is glued on and the pocket cut out to accept the neck.

Photo19: Larger than usual lower bout, and stiffness in upper bout.

Photo20: Back thickness sanded and ready for bracing. The ebony is very dense heavy wood and it had to be sanded down to less than .065 to compensate.

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sequoia
03-05-2015, 05:25 PM
2. Avoid using “suspension bridge” tone bracing. Scalloping the bracing from a high point over the bridge invites top distortion and does little to improve the function of the bridge. Tone bracing should be of one thickness and scalloped only at the ends.

3. The thickness of the braces should cause the top to be in equilibrium with the string load. Braces that are too stiff will inhibit string energy, and those that are too light will cause unnecessary top distortion and favor one half the string cycle over the other.

A lot of food for thought there Hluth. I don't think anybody would argue with the third statement, however I have a question on number 2; I'm not sure exactly what "suspension bridge" tone bracing is. Could you explain. Also, not sure what you mean when you say, "scalloping the bracing from a high point over the bridge invites top distortion...". Did you mean to say under the bridge or maybe bracing suspended over the bridge plate under the bridge? Sorry, I'm confused. And also, isn't top distortion "normal" as that is what creates the sound? Perhaps you mean excessive or asymetrical distortion that continues uncontrolled and thus becomes "sustain from hell" or a top that doesn't damp itself?

Sorry, I'm not a "real" luthier, but I struggle with these concepts and I like thinking about them. This is what makes a uke tick so to speak and I love experimenting. I also like seeing pictures of how people brace and looking inside ukes. Fascinating.

greenscoe
03-05-2015, 08:29 PM
Great to see the progress.

I don't see any use of a mould, solera, or any kind of support for the box: that's a new one on me. You must be very confident that you bend accurately, glue on the end blocks true and retain the correct shape as you glue on the top. As I said previously, its interesting to see how you work: makes me look very messy.

Hluth
03-06-2015, 02:51 AM
A lot of food for thought there Hluth. I don't think anybody would argue with the third statement, however I have a question on number 2; I'm not sure exactly what "suspension bridge" tone bracing is. Could you explain. Also, not sure what you mean when you say, "scalloping the bracing from a high point over the bridge invites top distortion...". Did you mean to say under the bridge or maybe bracing suspended over the bridge plate under the bridge? Sorry, I'm confused. And also, isn't top distortion "normal" as that is what creates the sound? Perhaps you mean excessive or asymetrical distortion that continues uncontrolled and thus becomes "sustain from hell" or a top that doesn't damp itself?

Below are a couple of pictures of what I call “suspension bridge” (sorry it’s my own term). I also meant “under the bridge” (although I’ve considered building an inside-out ukulele just for fun). The only time I’ve experienced “sustain from hell” has been with very light-weight instruments, but I can see how a bridge in absolute equilibrium may be the cause. I error towards a little top distortion with my bracing and don’t like to see a bridge that doesn’t rotate at all when under load and at rest. I think this rotation is what drives the dampening you talk about occurs. But too much rotation will result in a loss of sustain, and that’s not good thing either. Active top distortion obviously does create the sound through compression and rarefaction (what you call “normal top distortion”). You have to look at how much the strings are actually moving the bridge. For example, if the height of a string fundamental is, let’s say .002” when a string is active; then the change in length of that string (this is what drives the bridge) will be much less when the scale length is factored in. This is a different occurrence than top distortion with the bridge at rest.

Update: I just checked two ukuleles I have in stock, one with an almost dead flat bridge and top, one with slight rotation, and they have the same quality of sound and sustain. Not very scientific, but it has me rethinking whether or not bridge rotation really dampens sound, or has anything to do excessive sustain.

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Hluth
03-06-2015, 03:10 AM
Great to see the progress.

I don't see any use of a mould, solera, or any kind of support for the box: that's a new one on me. You must be very confident that you bend accurately, glue on the end blocks true and retain the correct shape as you glue on the top. As I said previously, its interesting to see how you work....

I make so many different body styles that building molds for them all would take too much time. If I ever settle on one, I've promised myself to make a mold and a bending form. I bend by hand using a template and have worked hard at developing techniques to align the neck with the body before gluing on the top.

Hluth
03-06-2015, 12:14 PM
The back is glued on and it's time to start thinking about the binding and the end graft. I plan to carry over the theme I started around the sound hole for them.

Photo21: before gluing the back on

Photo22: ready for binding

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A side note: I'm really not a veteran contributor to any kind of forum, but I'm caching on little by little. I kinda wish we had real nametags.

here's mine: Jerry Hoffmann hoffmannlutherie.com (http://hoffmannlutherie.com/)

Pueo
03-06-2015, 12:54 PM
Mahalo for sharing Jerry, your stuff is so cool!
I played an 8-string D-Style at the last UWC and fell in love. I really look forward to being able to own one of your instruments someday. I love the innovation and aesthetic in your work. That Philippine ebony is something else as well!

Hluth
03-07-2015, 05:35 AM
I played an 8-string D-Style at the last UWC

Ukulele World Congress--the Woodstock of the ukulele world. Don't miss it!


No progress, but at least I’m where I was at the end of the day yesterday. When I carved the bracing, a little voice in my head said “you’re making it too thin”. Being in a hurry, the other voice said, "it will be okay". So, I glued on the back, and after sleeping on it I realized that it’s not okay. So I removed the back, fixed the bracing and glued it back on. For me this is about a two hour job; this is how I do it:

Photo23: A heated knife is worked into the seam and moved along it (I can separate about 1” of seam with each heating). It helps to heat along the edge of the back too.

Photo24: A smaller blade is used to separate the end of the brace.

Photo25: The top is off and the glue will be scraped and sanded off the ebony, and sanded off the lining in a radius dish.

Photo26: Now I can sleep tonight knowing the bracing is the way I want it.

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Real Name Jerry Hoffmann http://hoffmannlutherie.com

greenscoe
03-07-2015, 09:31 AM
Fans or back braces?

sequoia
03-07-2015, 05:19 PM
Just out of curiosity, what was the final thickness on that spruce top?

Hluth
03-08-2015, 03:37 AM
Fan braces. Top is .073 thickness, 10" wide

Hluth
03-09-2015, 12:54 PM
The binding got done today. I wanted to do something that could be done pretty fast, but still have more of an impact than regular binding and end graft. Instead of using bwb purfling I used .060” thick black fiber for a bold look that went with the rosette. The end graft is a simple inlay that picks up the curly koa used in the rosette.


Photo27: Before routing the binding channel and doing the inlay, I spray the edges with lacquer (you can use shellac) to prevent the glue used for the binding from getting into the pores of the wood. A few passes with the scraper, and all the glue and lacquer is easily removed.

Photo28: The binding is made wide, and then cut leaving the material for the points at the graft.

Photo29: The koa inlay piece is shaped and taped in position with double-stick tape as a template for cutting the inlay outline.

Photo30: The inlay after installing the binding, and scraping flush.

Photo31: All the binding scraped flush and ready for sanding.

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sequoia
03-09-2015, 04:00 PM
I like the bold line look using the black fiber stuff for purfling. I've been thinking of doing this too. Now I know what it looks like. Bold... Is that maple binding and where is your binding joint? It isn't over the end graft that I can see. Did you make a single continuous binding strip going all around the body?

greenscoe
03-09-2015, 09:11 PM
'I wanted to do something that could be done pretty fast, but still have more of an impact than regular binding and end graft'

Looks great/so subtle and many of us would make a complete mess of it if we tried something similar!

Hluth
03-11-2015, 05:40 AM
The binding is maple and is all one piece. The bottom binding is joined at the upper bout.

Hluth
03-11-2015, 05:45 AM
The head plate logo inlay, head stock binding and fret board binding are all done. Still a little more to do, but I should have the ukulele ready for finishing today.

Photo32: Coming together.

Photo33: Using a Wagner safety planer to mill out a portion of the heel stock for the heel cap. Wagner planers are no longer available but there is another version made in Taiwan being sold (the one on the left). This thing’s a real disappointment. It’s nicely made on CNC equipment, but the aluminum is too soft and the cutters won’t hold an edge--I doubt they were even heat treated. It’s a Good thing it only cost $35.

Photo34: The head plate inlay is maple and in keeping with the theme for this ukulele of not using traditional shell inlays.

Photo35: Routing the binding channel in the head stock.

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RPA_Ukuleles
03-11-2015, 07:06 AM
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Jerry, I love how your logo echoes an M style uke. In fact all of your design work is really fantastic. I've always appreciated your sense of form and balance in all your BP work. It's evident even in your fabrication methods and tooling/jigs. It was no surprise to read on your website that you are a former type designer. Keep up the beautiful work.

One thing tho, I just can't sanction your use of CorelDRAW, I'm a die hard Illustrator man. hahaha

Hluth
03-11-2015, 10:55 AM
I beginning to hate Corel Draw and am far from figuring it out. My first vector program was Micrografx Designer (I loved that program), and I started using it way back in in 1988 when I was using Windows 3.1 because I couldn't afford a Mac. haha. I faithfully went through all the upgrades until Corel bought out Micrografx. I stuck with it until last year when an OS upgrade made it obsolete. I should have taken out a loan and bought that Mac.

RPA_Ukuleles
03-11-2015, 11:14 AM
Well I bought a Mac in 1988 for just over $6K. A friend (who also bought one) and I figured the other day if we had just bought $6K in Apple stock instead, neither of us would need to be working right now. :(

Hluth
03-11-2015, 11:32 AM
I use a pin router for making my bridges and can have one routed out in as little as five minutes. For fretting, I turn my drill press into an arbor press. All that’s required is a leg under the front of the table extending down to the base and a fret-setting bit I made.

Photo36: The pin router template and ¼” thick ebony.

Photo37: After routing with a 1/8” down-cut bit.

Photo38: Drill press arbor setup.

Photo39: Cutting fret tangs for use a with bound fret board.

Here are some dimensional specs for this ukulele:

Body size: 10”x13”x2.75
Top Thickness: .073”
Back thickness: .063”
Side thickness: .075”
Waist brace: .25” x .50”
Three center fan braces .23” x .25”x 6.75”
Outer fan braces .23” x .19” x 6”
Upper bout back brace: .25” x .44”
Lower bout back braces: .25” x .50”
Fret board thickness: .210”
Fret board + neck thickness .765”
Bridge thickness .25”

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Hluth
04-09-2015, 09:50 AM
Here are the pictures of the finished uke. I should have a video of it being played in about a week.

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greenscoe
04-09-2015, 10:49 PM
It's been good to watch you build this and see the techniques that you employ. The instrument looks great: I especially like your endgraft/binding design and the rosette. I prefer a classical guitar style heel but your novel neck joint was to my liking, so if the one leads to the other, then so be it.

You don't say whether you are pleased with the way the uke sounds. You set off with specific objectives so I'm wondering whether you feel you achieved your goal?

I look forward to seeing/hearing the video.

Hluth
04-10-2015, 02:23 AM
You don't say whether you are pleased with the way the uke sounds. You set off with specific objectives so I'm wondering whether you feel you achieved your goal?

The sound of an instrument can be pretty subjective, and can be dependent on your experience, who’s listening and if you are the one who built it. With that being said, the sound turned out to be what I expected, plus a little more. You can hear an instrument while you’re building it and know a lot about its voice before it’s strung. The larger body and the overall structure are the leading influences on this one’s voice. The body size broadens the range, and sustain, and the structure adds depth and clarity to the tone. You can really feel this ukulele in your left hand, and the whole instrument is working to produce the sound.

My goals were:

1. Come up with a new body design to round out the selection I already have.
2. Aim for a larger sound similar to my ML style ukuleles
3. Build within a $1500 - $2000 price range.

Changes I’d make on the next one will be a larger sound hole to shift the tone balance toward the treble end a little, and the use of more traditional trim details that include more purfling and inlay. The trim I chose was good but came a little short of what it could have been with a little more effort.

hollisdwyer
04-10-2015, 04:30 AM
There's a lot to be said for classical simplicity. The wood choice alone speaks volumes as to the quality of the instrument as does the craftsmanship.
Not that I don't appreciate creative trim (I loved the fingernail markers you put on my ML Tenor late last year).

greenscoe
04-10-2015, 04:52 AM
I'm glad to hear it's turned out well!

Hluth
04-15-2015, 03:22 AM
Here’s the video/sound sample of the finished ukulele. I also included a picture showing the top of this ukulele. Early in the build I wrote that I can get great sound without distorting the top. The bridge is almost dead level with the top with no “wave” or rotation under load.

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https://youtu.be/Ra0rQ3gnDBQ

Dan Uke
04-15-2015, 08:03 AM
Here are the pictures of the finished uke. I should have a video of it being played in about a week.

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Hard to tell from the pic but how thick is the heel block? I'm just curious how easy it is to access the upper frets.

The uke looks really nice! Did you use reverb for your recording or record too far away as there seems to be a lot of echo? Would like to hear more of a dry recording.

Hluth
04-15-2015, 08:47 AM
The heel and fret board is 1.25" thick where it meets the body, and you can reach more frets with your thumb under it. The video was shot with a Sony NEX-6 camera in video mode using the built-in mic and no effects. You might be hearing a little echo from the room it was shot in.

Dan Uke
04-15-2015, 09:15 AM
Thanks for the reply. Only heard good things about your ukes!