View Full Version : My First Build - The "Wood-E" Baritone

01-12-2016, 09:00 AM
Finally, at age 65, here's my first build, started November 24th of last year and completed it today. It has a curly maple 'e' in the headstock, so I call it my "Wood-E." The name and E inlay stands for several things. Woody was my dad's name. My last name starts with an E, and there are other things that led me to using the E that I won’t bore you with.

It has a bear-claw Sitka spruce top, Minnesota walnut back and sides, curly maple bindings and neck laminate, and Gaboon ebony head-plate, bridge, fret board and scratch guard. The fret board has a 16” radius with string spacing customized to my “specifercations.”

There are dozens of mistakes and flat-out wrong things I did on this, my first build. At one point, I thought I had blundered so badly that it would never become an instrument; but I was wrong. It is now completed. I have logged just over 100 hours of shop time; but a lot of that was re-measuring, figuring, scratching my head, sweeping the floor and waiting for glue to dry…and mostly, fixing my most recent boo-boo.

But I have to say, it plays very well. The sound is nothing like anything off the shelf—it sounds almost angelic with harmonics and a complexity of sound unlike anything I can explain. I hope to have one of my sons record a sound bite or two for the ‘tube one of these days. I’m still no luthier, but I’ve tipped my toe into the water; and with what I know now, you real luthiers need not worry about any additional competition from this end of the world!


01-12-2016, 09:41 AM
Really nice.

Good job!

chuck in ny
01-12-2016, 11:18 AM
a lovely and complex sound is a very good result. congrats.

Vespa Bob
01-12-2016, 12:21 PM
For a first build, I think that is excellent, I'm about to start my fifteenth and I've got a long way to go before I reach your skill level! I really like the elegant thin red trim on your bindings.
Thanks for posting and you know what they say - you can't build just one!


01-12-2016, 12:46 PM
Wow! One can only imagine your 10th or 20th build. Awesome job.

01-12-2016, 05:06 PM
Very nice. Really nice. You certainly put all the bells and whistles and pulled out all the stops on the first one. Cool. Hey why not? From what I can see you pulled it off and as for sounding angelic, all the better.... I guess the 'E' stands for excellent?

Just for curiosity's sake, and you don't have to answer if you don't want to, I understand, but what was the blunder that almost ended the project and how did you work around it? If you don't mind my asking.

01-12-2016, 08:37 PM
I get the impression many of us don't start making ukes when we are young, I guess at 20 or 30 its not high on the list of things we (must) do!

It's an impressive start Farp: bound fretboard, end graft, binding and purfling, rosette and inlayed head. You clearly have the skills to make ukes and as for making mistakes, we all have moments when things don't go to plan and we learn from them.

So I congratulate you on this handsome walnut/spruce uke and look forward to seeing the next instrument-you must surely already be planning your next move.

01-13-2016, 01:22 AM
Sequoia, I don’t mind at all—actually, it was a combination of mistakes. All along the way, there were things I did wrong, mostly by getting ahead of my mentor, including such things as gluing a top brace in the wrong place and having to chisel it off, etc.

At one point, I had thinned the head on the band saw and went too far on the back side. Adding stock back in to build up the mass necessary was a real puzzler. The major headache was how to make the joint, and I used the curve provided by the bench sander to put a curve in the mahogany. The matching curve in the maple was flat-out lucky. Using the ebony between the two with blackened epoxy provided a little wiggle room. The photo shows the result, with additional shaping done after the photo was taken.

At the same time, we noticed the kerfing for the back wasn’t deep enough. I had sanded the back on a 20-foot concave disc a lot, as my geometry was off and the sanding was needed to make a good edge surface to glue on the back. However, after the back was glued on, we noticed the kerfing wasn’t deep enough to allow routing for the binding in two areas. I had sanded the edges down too far. The result was that after the back was glued on, I had to chisel out a few inches of kerfing in two places and glue in replacement kerfing.

At the time—struggling with a neck that was missing mass in a most critical area, and having kerfing that was too thin to allow routing for binding, I was at a point where I thought it might just be better to start over. On both the body and the neck, there were major problems at the same time. But I lucked out with getting the kerfing out and replacing it without gouging the walnut, and I got lucky with the joint needed in the neck. Actually, the neck turned out to be very comfortable—and I have the only one like it, lol.

The luthier, Joe at Crow River guitars, who was showing me what to do, did a bang-up job in working me through my messes. I learned the hard way not to get ahead of him with instructions before doing something stupid like thinning the head before I knew where I was going. Crow River Guitars does some mighty fine work, and I am indebted to them for allowing me to invade their shop for several weeks.

One final thought—at one point in the construction, I asked Joe if my mistake was the first time that blunder had been done in his shop. He answered, “No mistake you make will be the first time it was done.” I felt better, lol. I appreciate all the kind remarks, but give the most credit to Joe at Crow River Guitars.