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thejumpingflea
03-10-2009, 04:33 PM
Hey guys -

So I am going to try and undertake my first build soon. I will be getting a Stewmac (http://www.stewmac.com/shopby/product/5347), but I'd really like to use a different sound board.

So I have a couple major questions about this:

Where can I find instrument grade wood for a soundboard?

How do I cut / sand this soundboard to proper shape? (Stemac includes a template for a soundboard, so dimensions are not an issue)

And what should I use as a finish for the soundboard?

I am heavily leaning towards spruce, but I am also thinking of cedar or myrtlewood.


Thanks in advance guys!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-10-2009, 06:20 PM
Well now you're talking, it's about time. That is absolutely the best way to learn how to build. I can't wait for the endless questions!
As far as where to get sound board wood, look in your backyard. Maybe literally. You have access to some of the best spruce and cedar up there. (Ever hear of Port Orford?) As for the rest of your questions, and I know there'll be a million of them, you need a book at least. You may want to start off with Hana Lima's book. (Hana Lima can also supply you with Engleman spruce top sets) Mike Chock does a terrific job of describing the process along with great photos. I've turned dozens of people into uke builders with this book. But it does come up short in some areas and I know you are serious about this so you'll also need a copy of Cumpiano's "Guitarmaking". (Buy it second hand through Amazon.) Don't let the title mislead you, it's all the same techniques we use building ukes, just scaled down some. You read this book thoroughly and we'll be asking YOU the questions. The Internet is full of how to instructions and there are some good Youtube videos out there as well. Do your homework! And don't be overly concerned about mistakes; if you don't make them at first, you're doing something wrong. This is also likely the first of many ukes to come.
Congratulations, let the sawdust fly.

thejumpingflea
03-10-2009, 07:54 PM
Well now you're talking, it's about time. That is absolutely the best way to learn how to build. I can't wait for the endless questions!
As far as where to get sound board wood, look in your backyard. Maybe literally. You have access to some of the best spruce and cedar up there. (Ever hear of Port Orford?) As for the rest of your questions, and I know there'll be a million of them, you need a book at least. You may want to start off with Hana Lima's book. (Hana Lima can also supply you with Engleman spruce top sets) Mike Chock does a terrific job of describing the process along with great photos. I've turned dozens of people into uke builders with this book. But it does come up short in some areas and I know you are serious about this so you'll also need a copy of Cumpiano's "Guitarmaking". (Buy it second hand through Amazon.) Don't let the title mislead you, it's all the same techniques we use building ukes, just scaled down some. You read this book thoroughly and we'll be asking YOU the questions. The Internet is full of how to instructions and there are some good Youtube videos out there as well. Do your homework! And don't be overly concerned about mistakes; if you don't make them at first, you're doing something wrong. This is also likely the first of many ukes to come.
Congratulations, let the sawdust fly.

Thanks a ton Chuck. Spring break starts the 18th and this is what I will be doing.

I am meeting with a specialty wood store owner soon about some quality Puget Sound Cedar. I have this really exciting idea in my head that I really want to build. Using this kit and a cedar top from around here I'd like to build a northwest native American like uke. I would then most likely use a wood burner (http://www.toolsforless.com/product/731/Dremel_1550_VersaTip_Woodburning_Kit) to burn some sort of Haida art into the headstock. I could just make a stencil. That would be so cool to do.

So a large question I have that you can answer is; How do I know what wood I would need for a soundboard is good enough for an instrument? Is there an established *grade* of wood that I would need?

Thanks so much guys, your help is just AWESOME. :shaka:

matchubouye
03-10-2009, 09:05 PM
Thats cool that your going to make one!

Harold O.
03-11-2009, 03:59 AM
So a large question I have that you can answer is; How do I know what wood I would need for a soundboard is good enough for an instrument? Is there an established *grade* of wood that I would need? :shaka:

Waverly Street Ukes has a video showing all the cut pieces and explaining where he gets the top wood (fir). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69VFZRrfD9A&feature=channel

Yopparai
03-11-2009, 04:21 AM
I gotta respect a man that gets his sound board from a 2X6. That's my kind of thinking.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-11-2009, 06:05 AM
I gotta respect a man that gets his sound board from a 2X6. That's my kind of thinking.

I hear you. My neighbor built a stand up bass using nothing but hardware store materials. Doug fir 2 X 6s for the top that he carved, Philipine mahogany for the rest. It turned out great. Then there's always Taylor's renowned pallet guitar in which all the wooden components were fashioned from a forklift pallet. Ingenuity like this eliminates all the excuses.

Matt: Your "specialty wood store owner" should be able to guide you in the wood selection process. Generally, if at all possible you'd like to have instrument grade wood, that should be well seasoned, quartersawn, with pretty tight and parallel grain and be defect free.
Read the books I mentioned. There is a ton of stuff you should be aware of before you even begin. Not to worry you but for instance, if you take green wood from Puget Sound, mix it with a frozen uke kit from the east coast, build it on a rainy weekend, you could run into problems down the road if the sun ever comes out where you live, (which isn't likely anyway.)
Ah shoots, now I've worried you. Good. Now go do your homework. There are NO shortcuts to learning this stuff.

thejumpingflea
03-11-2009, 07:49 AM
I hear you. My neighbor built a stand up bass using nothing but hardware store materials. Doug fir 2 X 6s for the top that he carved, Philipine mahogany for the rest. It turned out great. Then there's always Taylor's renowned pallet guitar in which all the wooden components were fashioned from a forklift pallet. Ingenuity like this eliminates all the excuses.

Matt: Your "specialty wood store owner" should be able to guide you in the wood selection process. Generally, if at all possible you'd like to have instrument grade wood, that should be well seasoned, quartersawn, with pretty tight and parallel grain and be defect free.
Read the books I mentioned. There is a ton of stuff you should be aware of before you even begin. Not to worry you but for instance, if you take green wood from Puget Sound, mix it with a frozen uke kit from the east coast, build it on a rainy weekend, you could run into problems down the road if the sun ever comes out where you live, (which isn't likely anyway.)
Ah shoots, now I've worried you. Good. Now go do your homework. There are NO shortcuts to learning this stuff.

Thanks again Chuck. I am ordering both of those books you recommended today. I'll do my homework and when the book doesn't answer the question I'll post it here.

Oh and Chuck, the salmon is being shipped this week. ;)

sweets
03-11-2009, 08:40 AM
You just missed the start of a class at Sound Guitar Workshop (http://www.soundguitarworkshop.com/) where they're building the StewMac kit. They've been running them pretty constantly since last fall; maybe you could get on board for the next one.

By the way, Chuck ain't kidding about the weather around here. I braced my top (I'm doing the same thing as you with a Grizzly Kit) during the snow last weekend and now it's bending the wrong way.

thejumpingflea
03-11-2009, 09:02 AM
Wow, I had no idea there was something like this over here. I am definitely going to email them.

What soundboard wood did you end up using on that grizzly kit?

cpatch
03-11-2009, 09:50 AM
How do I cut / sand this soundboard to proper shape?
From the perspective of a woodworking hobbyist, a local cabinetmaking shop can help you out with the tricky stuff (for a small fee)...a bandsaw and a drum sander will give you a soundboard ready to cut to shape from almost any type of wood source. A coping saw lets you cut to rough shape, and then finish later with files and sandpaper (or go the power route with a laminate cutter or, if you're truly daring, a router!).

You should probably get the advice of an actual luthier though!

sweets
03-11-2009, 10:03 AM
What soundboard wood did you end up using on that grizzly kit?

It's some pretty nice Sitka Spruce that was sourced by my friend who has a little luthiery experience. If you haven't already, check out my thread (http://ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9271) and linked facebook gallery.

thejumpingflea
03-11-2009, 06:16 PM
I know you are serious about this so you'll also need a copy of Cumpiano's "Guitarmaking". (Buy it second hand through Amazon.)

http://www.amazon.com/Guitarmaking-Tradition-Technology-Construction-Steel-String/dp/0811806405/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236831323&sr=1-1

Just making sure this is the book you are speaking of before I pull the trigger. ;)

koalohapaul
03-11-2009, 07:47 PM
Aside from the already mentioned, don't be afraid to experiment, after doing your research. What you read or see online should be used as a point of reference, not law. One bit of advice. Change your variables in a controlled manner. I wouldn't mess with more than one change at a time, or it will be hard to see what's affecting what.

I'm assuming that you will be building more, after the Stewmac kit.

Building instruments is a lot like cooking. I usually stick to the recipe, when making a new dish, but I almost always adjust it to taste the second time around.

thejumpingflea
03-11-2009, 07:49 PM
Aside from the already mentioned, don't be afraid to experiment, after doing your research. What you read or see online should be used as a point of reference, not law. One bit of advice. Change your variables in a controlled manner. I wouldn't mess with more than one change at a time, or it will be hard to see what's affecting what.

I'm assuming that you will be building more, after the Stewmac kit.

Building instruments is a lot like cooking. I usually stick to the recipe, when making a new dish, but I almost always adjust it to taste the second time around.

That is a really good metaphor. I will keep it in mind. I am really excited for classes to end so I can get started on this! (Thanks a lot guys, how am I ever going to get ready for finals now?! ;) )

I'll keep this updated with my progress. Thanks everyone!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-12-2009, 06:18 AM
That's the right book Matt. Get it used. I've had real good luck with used books from Amazon, most are like new.

Bradford
03-12-2009, 10:00 AM
Compton's Lumber and Crosscut Hardwoods in South Seattle are two good sources of wood. Crosscut sometimes has luthier specialty woods. They are located just south of Spokane street and are on opposite sides of !st Ave. I go there a lot and the people are great help. One word of advice, don't kill yourself trying to find master grade wood. If this is your first instrument, your skill level doesn't justify it. Find something relatively cheap and easily obtainable, save the good stuff for when your skills improve.

Brad

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-12-2009, 10:07 AM
What Bradford said. One more thing to remember. Memeorize the phrase "quarter sawn". With a few exceptions, every piece of wood that will go into your ukes will be quarter sawn. Repeat those words like a mantra until you've got it. Next we'll work on the question, "Air dried or kiln dried?"

cpatch
03-12-2009, 10:24 AM
What Bradford said. One more thing to remember. Memeorize the phrase "quarter sawn". With a few exceptions, every piece of wood that will go into your ukes will be quarter sawn. Repeat those words like a mantra until you've got it.
And just in case you're wondering:

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-quartersawn-wood.htm

thejumpingflea
03-12-2009, 11:38 AM
Quarter-sawn

Quarter-sawn

Quarter-sawn....

Crosscut Lumber....


Ok so I got it in my mind set. I need to go to Home Depot and ask for plain-sawn wood with no grain. :shaka:


:D Thanks again for the tips guys.