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View Full Version : Traditional standard ukulele neck joint.



olgoat52
08-20-2010, 09:32 AM
Im new to ukuleles but was an apprentice luthier in the late 70's. A discussion came up in the technical forum about neck joints and I wondered what the expert opinion might be.

The research I have done todate on traditional neck joinery for standard and concert size ukes indicates that the heel end of the neck is butt jointed to the uke body with no dovetail, tenon or dowels.

I'm sure there have been many variations in the past as everything in luthiery has variations from builder to builder.

I know I was very surprised at this having worked extensively on steel stringed instruments which generate significantly more compression stress on the neck joint.

I site this site as one of the sources. (Great site. Lots of tips on building) http://www.ukuleles.com/BuildingHowTo/neck2body.html as well as the fact that serveral Uke kit instructions (like the one from Elderly Instruments and I believe Grizzly) use a butt joint.

What do the pros say??

Thanks

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-20-2010, 09:49 AM
Referring to the site you mentioned, David used epoxy on his neck joint. Never a good idea IMO in the event the neck needs to be removed for any reason. I also think dovetail joints are over kill on ukuleles, especially the smaller sizes. While many builders will be happy with a simple butt and glue joint, I do like to see at least some kind of mechanical fastener in the joint if for no other reason than it helps in alignment. Having built only steel stringed instruments I can imagine your surprise. There's only something like twenty pounds of string tension on a standard size ukulele.
Ask Pete about the similarities between ukuleles and guitars! :)

olgoat52
08-20-2010, 09:59 AM
Referring to the site you mentioned, David used epoxy on his neck joint. Never a good idea IMO in the event the neck needs to be removed for any reason. I also think dovetail joints are over kill on ukuleles, especially the smaller sizes. I do like to see at least some kind of mechanical fastener in the joint if for no other reason than it helps in alignment. Having built only steel stringed instruments I can imagine your surprise. There's only something like twenty pounds of string tension on a standard size ukulele.
Ask Pete about the similarities between ukuleles and guitars! :)

Chuck. Thanks for your insights. By the way, in case no one has mentioned it to you, :cool: your ukes are amazing. Don't know how they sound or play 1st hand yet but the workmanship blows me away.

Ahnko Honu
08-20-2010, 10:31 AM
I'm no luthier but always considered the Spanish Heal method as being traditional. I believe my R&L, and Waverly Street 'ukuleles are the only ones I have that use this method seeming less conducive to mass production but fine for a low volume shop. http://www.wsukes.com/necksides.html

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-20-2010, 10:35 AM
You are correct. It probably is the most traditional. I forgot about the Spanish heel, the repair persons nightmare.

olgoat52
08-20-2010, 10:38 AM
I'm no luthier but always considered the Spanish Heal method as being traditional. I believe my R&L, and Waverly Street 'ukuleles are the only ones I have that use this method seeming less conducive to mass production but fine for a low volume shop. http://www.wsukes.com/necksides.html

I'm sure you are right on that count especially for the very old instruments. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of the higher volume instruments fro the '50s, 60's, 70's. The spanish heel seems like it would be too expensive for those instruments. Kamaka comes to mind not that they are the be all end all.

Pete Howlett
08-20-2010, 10:43 AM
It's why the great classical guitar builder Jose Romanillos in the very last years of his professional working life redisgned the slipper heel so it could be taken apart. One wonders after nearly a lifetime of building why it took so long for the light to go on in his head :) I just cannot see any merit in the dovetail or slipper heel - to much messing around. With the slipper joint you have to work very carefully at your finishing arounf the heel don't you?. I can just about live with a butt joint - I met a maker this summer who uses hide glue in a butt joint :(( says he never had a failure. And yes, ukulele are not guitars. Some principle apply but most do not!

olgoat52
08-20-2010, 10:51 AM
It's why the great classical guitar builder Jose Romanillos in the very last years of his professional working life redisgned the slipper heel so it could be taken apart. One wonders after nearly a lifetime of building why it took so long for the light to go on in his head :) I just cannot see any merit in the dovetail or slipper heel - to much messing around. With the slipper joint you have to work very carefully at your finishing arounf the heel don't you?. I can just about live with a butt joint - I met a maker this summer who uses hide glue in a butt joint :(( says he never had a failure. And yes, ukulele are not guitars. Some principle apply but most do not!

I would have never guessed on the hide glue. That is pretty amazing. When you say some principals apply but most do not, is it that they don't apply or that they are just not worth the hassle of dealing with? That is a different perspective than I would have expected. Thanks

Pete Howlett
08-20-2010, 11:02 AM
Ukes are simple, guitars are complex. That's your starting point...

olgoat52
08-20-2010, 11:02 AM
Ran across this from the frets site on a Kamaka factory tour. A splined neck joint on kamakas. http://www.frets.com/fretspages/Features/Kamaka/KamakaViews/kamaka28.jpg

tattwo
08-20-2010, 12:55 PM
You are correct. It probably is the most traditional. I forgot about the Spanish heel, the repair persons nightmare.


Chuck is the Spanish heel not a good idea?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-20-2010, 01:20 PM
The Spanish heel is wonderful. Whether on not it's necessary is your decision. I personally like to build and finish the body and neck separately. Not only is it removable, and therefore adjustable, in my experience it yields a much cleaner finished result.
As in almost every aspect to building instruments, there is no right answer to your question. It's simply a matter of what suits you and your working style.

tattwo
08-20-2010, 01:26 PM
The Spanish heel is wonderful. Whether on not it's necessary is your decision. I personally like to build and finish the body and neck separately. Not only is it removable, and therefore adjustable, in my experience it yields a much cleaner finished result.
As in almost every aspect to building instruments, there is no right answer to your question. It's simply a matter of what suits you and your working style.


Thanks Chuck......I very much value your opinion

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-20-2010, 01:55 PM
I appreciate it Tat, but don't take my word for anything. I am extremely biased in my opinions and tend to be somewhat non traditional in my building methods. As a beginner you need to try many things to see what fits you. As you gain experience you can become more confident in your approach.

dave g
08-21-2010, 04:08 AM
You are correct. It probably is the most traditional. I forgot about the Spanish heel, the repair persons nightmare.

You just gotta build them well enough that they aren't ever going to need repair! :)

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-21-2010, 07:57 AM
You just gotta build them well enough that they aren't ever going to need repair! :)

Or sat on, or exposed to temperature extremes, etc........