View Full Version : Continued success

Pete Howlett
08-26-2017, 03:03 PM
Learning a new skill for someone like me (past 60, PD limited and an old fart basically) is always a challenge. However, like the time when you first hand bend a set of sides without fracturing them, I have had that moment when you mentally fist-pump the air because you have 'got it'. Turning on my $7000 CNC router is no longer an adrenalin thumping rush, but a matter of fact, "Hey, let's do some work today" experience!

So let me share a couple more projects with you:

Side port cutting jig: I had mocked one up before I got the machine and it got misplaced in the workshop. An ideal opportunity for me to develop the protoype that was 'lost'. This jig is used in conjunction with a hand held plunge router and top bearing trimmer cutter. Side ports in 2 minutes flat!


I had abandoned the electric ukulele when I sold my beloved Elu pin router. I bought the CNC to make logos (the cost over time of out-sourcing this would be the same as my investment in a machine... in theory anyway) but found I had other ideas for it! So I resurrcted the Firefly design.

I bought $1300 worth of 20 year old Korina in 7' square billets for this project and after 5 weeks have 'got it'! This electric body is entirely machined on the CNC router using a multipurpose hold-down jig that enables me to flip the body for cutting the front pockets after I have machined the back access pocket... For caution I run my machine slowly. The back access pocket takes 5 minutes including fixing and repositioning of the blank on the spoil board jig. At last, a neat and appropriately shaped access port.


The front pockets and profile take 42 minutes and I have a few refinements to make but overall, I am pleased with this result.


I have to mind the machine when doing the backs but while the fronts are under way, I can be doing other things like shaping the neck which is done using jigs on a router table and a dead-head sander.

I also have revisited my passion for making small boxes.


but as this is a luthiers' forum I'd better find a project appropriate group to show these in eh?

What I have learned - I am truly a kinaesthetic learner. I learn best when I am showed how to do something and interpret the world through pictures. I cannot calculate or process written instructions and as long as I know where the emergency stop is and can figure out what 'up' and 'down; really mean, I am OK :)

08-26-2017, 07:49 PM
Looks good and sounds like fun. Are you going to be building any accoustic ukes with the new toy?

08-27-2017, 06:50 AM
Hey, us old farts rule! I built a CNC machine a few years back to carve our violin necks, fingerboards and tailpieces. Just recently I started using it to carve ukulele bridges, fret boards, headstock covers, etc. I was amazed to discover that a truly tiny bit will survive carving fret slots in hardwoods! I've been using a V bit to carve position markings (which in my case includes a little whale's tail), then filling with epoxy resin mixed with graphite. I like the polished black on white look.

I think we learn best however we best learn -- which is something our school systems entirely fail to take into account. You are a great example, Pete, of figuring out how you best learn so that you can figure out what it is you're trying to figure out and then figuring out how to do it! Your results speak for themselves!

08-27-2017, 08:56 AM
Pete, I really like the side port jigs! It sure beats my idea- tracing the hole with a pencil and then cutting it out with a Dremel. Ha!
I would love to own a CNC machine someday. Hopefully I can afford one before I croak. :p

I can also really appreciate the though and skill that must go into making your small boxes. I love seeing them, so I hope that you will show us some more.

Pete Howlett
08-27-2017, 11:29 AM
The sound port toos are 30. I have 6 for sale. About $50 including postage to US.|

As for the boxes... I love the CNC for this - it is something I tried to do many years ago witha pin router but couldn't execute ti to the accuracy I now can so my 'other job' is box making with three design awaiting jigs and fixtures to make it all work with the machine. This new tool has really inspired me :)

Bob Orr
08-28-2017, 06:17 AM
Hi Pete it is great that you have found your mojo and renewed enthusiasm again given your problems with you health that you have previously mentioned. An inspiration to us all. Where there is a will......

Cheers, Bob

08-28-2017, 06:50 AM
Pete -

Thank you for sharing your process and the photos of the fruits of your labor and experience. I love how polished and precise your work is.

While not a luthier myself, I am continually inspired and impressed by what you have created.


Pete Howlett
08-28-2017, 12:27 PM
I was cook at a barby today. Someone asked for a sausage which was only browned 75% of its surface. I said he could wait until I got an even colour to which he replied, "Do you take the same care over cooking as you do your ukulele?" You betcha! Everything needs to be done to the best standard, absolutely everything. If I didn't try my best I'd feel like a fraud. Thanks for the praise... have to ask, "Is there any other way?"

08-28-2017, 01:13 PM
I've noticed that most of the top luthiers have a leaning towards OCD.... I never used to be like this but! I think I'm starting to become a victim of this serious condition.:confused:

08-28-2017, 06:05 PM
Would you guys stop making so much noise. I'm reconstructing a 2mm by 2mm chipout with bits of wood, sawdust and CA and you're distracting me. OCD? Who, me?

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
08-29-2017, 08:13 AM
nice side port jig- i might make one...one day

08-29-2017, 07:53 PM
I hear ya. I'm dealing with a similar chip out thing myself. But here is is the thing: CAD/CAM is the wave of future and there is no going back. It really is the way to go. I cannot afford it and thus I must deal with inevitable human error. I think Beau Brannon once said, " Perfection is over rated." I think that is a great statement. Even with computers, you still have to build a great sounding uke that is artistic but maybe not perfect.