View Full Version : Arch top soprano for Daniel

06-21-2010, 12:53 PM
I am starting to build an arch top uke for Daniel. It will be a concert size body with a soprano scale. Here are some pics of me making the top. The one picture shows me holding the top under a light. You can see how the thickness is graduated.


06-21-2010, 03:21 PM
Just curious Brad; about how long does it take to carve the top inside and out with those Ibex planes?
And perhaps more importantly, how do you know when to stop? I don't see any marks.
I've always wanted to carve an archtop guitar.... even have a couple of maple blanks.
Just never got back to it.

06-21-2010, 07:10 PM
I had bookmatched and profiled the top a couple of weeks ago. It took me two hours to carve it today. I take it to about 80% carved using a 4" angle grinder with a 24 grit disc. That takes about 20 minutes. The next 15%, I use the fingerplanes, that takes about an hour. The remaining 5% is done using scrapers and sand paper. The maple back will take about 50% longer. Keep in mind, I have been doing this for 25 years, it used to take me two days to carve a mandolin top.


06-21-2010, 07:42 PM
I like that picture where you can see the graduated thickness. Pretty cool!

06-21-2010, 07:46 PM
That's one of the reasons I didn't follow through on the project. It was going to take forever to hand carve and chisel through that rock hard maple.
I also considered a router free hand and marking out land areas for various levels on the blank. But would still leave a lot of carving to do.
Do you use a pneumatic or electric right angle grinder?

Steve vanPelt
06-21-2010, 11:30 PM
Great pics. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

06-22-2010, 08:17 AM
I use an electric angle grinder. As power tools go, they are pretty cheap. I f you have a router, step routing is a good way of eliminating a lot of the excess quickly. Also, if you lay out your topo lines carefully, it can give you an accurate basic shape to work with. I'll step route the maple back and take some pics of Daniel's so you can see the process.


06-22-2010, 10:30 AM
Here are some pics of how I step routed Daniel's maple back. It weighed one pound when I started and now weighs eight oz., so it is about 50% carved. It took me about a half an hour, so it was time well spent.


06-22-2010, 12:19 PM
Thanks for the post Brad. I'm re-inspired and may give it another go soon.

06-29-2010, 05:02 PM
Here are some pics showing how I finished carving the back. After step routing, I move on to the angle grinder, which takes things to about 80% carved. Then out come the fingerplanes. With bigleaf maple, it is easiest to carve across the grain. I like to finish carving the inside of the top or back first, and then shape the back to the proper thickness and shape using the inside as a guide. The one picture shows me holding the back under a bright light with a straightedge across it. The shadow created by the ruler allows you to see the curve of the back. I use this technique to eliminate any bumps or hollows while carving. All told, it took me about three hours and twenty minutes to carve the back.


08-30-2010, 06:10 PM
I can't believe it has been over two momths since my last post on this. I'm seriously behind on this project. Anyway, here are a couple more pics; sides are bent, end blocks installed, linings for the top in and the top glue on.


08-31-2010, 08:53 AM
I'm changing my name to Daniel lol
I like your f-hole shape....very classy

Matt Clara
08-31-2010, 12:18 PM
I can't believe it has been over two momths since my last post on this. I'm seriously behind on this project.

It's because the "fun build" has been taking up too much bench space, isn't it. Sorry about that. Hey, while we're on the subject, if you don't like my fretboard (or if it doesn't work for any reason) let me know, and I'll crank out another.

Nice work on the arch top, btw. I have some douglas fir blanks I picked up a while back with an arch top or six in mind ($20 for three 2" thick quarter sawn douglas fir blanks--the grain's not the tightest, but I figured they'd be a good place to start).

08-31-2010, 05:30 PM
Hey Matt, The things you sent have arrived in Seattle, wife will bring them to me on Thursday. Doug fir makes very good tops for arch top instruments. It is stiffer than spruce so it can be carved a bit thinner. Paired with maple back and sides, you can make a nice looking and sounding uke. The F holes on the arch top are Daniel's design, and he is being very nice about my being slow.


10-19-2010, 03:40 PM
Now that the Uketoberfest in Eugene is over, I can get back to this. Here are some more progress pics. The top has been glued to the sides, tone bars are glued in, the top of the body and soundholes are bound. I'll attach the neck next and then glue on the back.


Vic D
10-19-2010, 04:01 PM
Mondo cool. I love the cutlass style f holes.

10-19-2010, 04:42 PM
Looks great Brad ! It was really nice to meet you and your wife at Uketober fest . Your Ukes looked great and sounded wonderful


10-19-2010, 05:34 PM
Thank you very much Perry, it was wonderful to meet and talk to you and the other UUers there.


11-11-2010, 02:19 PM
Got the back and the neck on.


11-11-2010, 02:27 PM
Looks Great!!

Vic D
11-11-2010, 02:35 PM
Looks fantastic... love the f holes, the neck.. the whole shabang... ... do want.

11-11-2010, 03:54 PM
That looks Fantastic Brad. The neck looks beautiful is that maple ?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
11-11-2010, 04:03 PM
Very nice Brad. Don't you just love binding the insides of f-holes? :) What kind of reinforcement patch is that that you used?

11-11-2010, 05:40 PM
Excelient work Brad! Can't wait to see this completed...This coming winter I'm going to ruin some good wood trying to make one of these!

11-11-2010, 08:28 PM
Thanks everyone, the neck is maple with ebony. Chuck, the shape of these holes were fairly easy to bind, regular f holes are not so much fun. The reinforcing patches are gauze and Titebond, probably not really necessary with these holes as they lack the wings of the more conventional shape, but force of habit.


12-07-2010, 05:59 PM
I'm getting close to stringing this up and seeing how it sounds, then comes the sunburst and finish.


12-09-2010, 03:24 PM
I'm getting close to stringing this up and seeing how it sounds, then comes the sunburst and finish.


That is wonderful! Please post pics and sound clips when it's all done!

12-09-2010, 11:48 PM
I'm getting close to stringing this up and seeing how it sounds, then comes the sunburst and finish.


WOW already! Can't wait, will have to wait, for the finish! Thanks for posting.

02-11-2011, 03:26 PM
Finally got a chance to string it up, here is a sound sample. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc4xb5ng0Bo


02-11-2011, 08:52 PM
Great stuff Brad. First I've seen this thread so was a nice surprise.

Can you give some idea behind going with the soprano neck / scale on the concert body? It certainly works, but I had assumed that a longer scale length would be my first consideration. Now you gone and made me have something else to ponder.

02-12-2011, 02:24 AM
That is a very desirable looking instrument!

02-12-2011, 08:01 AM
The customer wanted a soprano scale length and I've seen a video of him playing, he is very good. I talked him into going with a concert body, because I've built them before, but have not attempted a soprano body archtop yet. The design works well with the neck attached at the 14th fret, bridges on archtops tend to be a little higher on the body anyway.


04-25-2011, 01:08 PM
Here are some pics of the sunburst. It will be ready to rub out in a week and shipped shortly there after.


04-25-2011, 01:28 PM
Here are some pics of the sunburst. It will be ready to rub out in a week and shipped shortly there after.


wow...Brad, that looks wonderful, and difficult to make as well...haha...
thanks for sharing.


05-13-2011, 04:48 PM
It is finally ready to ship!


Vic D
05-13-2011, 04:56 PM
Beautiful instrument.

05-13-2011, 05:00 PM
My oh my. very nice, indeed.

05-13-2011, 05:01 PM
My goodness. That is WAY beautiful! Awesome job Bradford, that is just killer.

05-13-2011, 07:17 PM
Seeing that just gets me all wound up with anticipation again, Brad! Stunning!

Vic D
05-13-2011, 07:46 PM
I do so want to reach into this monitor and snatch that uke away from Daniel... beautiful just doesn't touch it, this uke has mojo.

05-13-2011, 07:54 PM
Hey bbycrts, I just ordered some Port orford cedar from Northwest Woods. I have some, but it is a little wider grain than I like, so I decided to get some more. Anyway I'm starting to gear up for your build.


05-13-2011, 08:40 PM

06-04-2011, 09:43 AM
I'm the Daniel and over the moon about the instrument. It sounds great, too - very crispy. I can't thank you enough, Brad!

Here's (http://www.ukulelenclub.de/Forum/UseBB/topic.php?id=10025) an alternative story of the the birth of the uke.

I'll post a vid after practicing a bit.

06-04-2011, 09:57 AM
Thanks Daniel for posting that, I am looking forward to your video.


06-05-2011, 11:53 AM
Man that is sweet. Looks great.If you go into any kind of production mode you should fabricate yourself a router duplicator for carving out your tops and backs.

07-14-2011, 09:41 PM
Wow Brad,.....i love your take on a sunburst archtop uke! Reminds me of a commission i had done by a luthier 1 1/2 years
ago for me,....as i liked a 17" archtop i bought used from the same maker,....Bill Gagnon. This was before i left work!
Glad i did it though,....but commissions like this are off the table for now,.....just not forever! lol

Because i only play for myself, and at home in an easy chair,.....i decided to go with a small 15 inch body. No pickup
for home play needed (it's plenty loud anyway!),....and no pickguard as i play fingerstyle. My 17" model had the most
wonderful 3-D quilted maple for the back and sides, with some nice silking on the spruce top. Bill had to look to the same
supplier to get something similiar,....and i chose a burst finish once i saw some pics he did on another guitar.

The pics give you an idea as to why this is one of my favorite guitars! The only change i made was to fit a pair of ebony spacers in place of the knurled action adjuster screws. I've found it produces a much fuller "woody" tone this way. I also
use D'Adarrio phospher/bronze lights on it, as great acoustic sound is what i was after. It's all there and more! The later pics show that change on the bridge off the guitar.

"Eye Candy", even for a guitar,....is still worth sharing! lol:



Love the silking and wood bound F-holes!


07-14-2011, 09:47 PM
A few more pics:

The 5 piece neck is comfortable AND beautiful!




A cord tailblock connection, as per Bob Benedetto:


07-14-2011, 09:53 PM
Back of the headstock:


These are the ebony spacers that just slip snugly over the threaded
posts and take the place of the knurled ones. I got the action the height i wanted and measured the space between the top of the base and lower part of the bridge the strings rest on. Then the ebony spacers were made "that" thickness.




I might suggest you play around with the wooden spacer idea on a ukulele build also,....as i think the more solid connection between the strings thru the bridge transmits more energy and drives the top better. I could hear a pronounced improvement, and will leave the setup this way.

Eventually i plan on making a one piece lightweight bridge for this, like i did 20 years ago on an old Kays carved spruce
archtop with ply sides and back. I had to take the back off anyway, to repair a cracked top parallel brace. This guitar had a very long 26" scale, and i only planned on using light guage strings. I suspect someone in it's history had used heavy guage strings, and combined with the 26 inch scale string tension created the problem with the brace.

Anyway, while the back was off a trimmed the braces a bit and was amazed at the volumn, sustain, and tone it produced. I also refretted it and played it a few years until financial needs crept in. A dealer at the Saratoga Springs, NY
guitar show snapped it up immedially for $450.00 I had only paid $125 for it from a music store,....because of the brace problem.
Still wish i had THAT one back. I had my life's blood into it! About the only 2 things i didn't like was the baseball bat-like neck it had,....and the narrow 1 11/16"nut width. (not a good width for fingerstyle work)

07-15-2011, 07:57 PM
Hey joejeweler, thanks for posting the pics of your guitar, it is lovely. I prefer the smaller bodied archtops myself. One nice thing about nylon string arch top instruments, the action is high enough that you do not need an adjustable bridge. I may borrow your idea for my mandolin bridges though, I am always looking for ways of removing metal from the bridge.


05-23-2013, 11:07 PM
I'm the Daniel and over the moon about the instrument. It sounds great, too - very crispy. I can't thank you enough, Brad!

Here's (http://www.ukulelenclub.de/Forum/UseBB/topic.php?id=10025) an alternative story of the the birth of the uke.

I'll post a vid after practicing a bit.

Oops, sorry, I seem to have forgotten to post the video here.
But now: Here it is: