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hmgberg
12-29-2010, 10:40 AM
I am about to build a koa soprano and got a copy of Scott Antes plan for a "Martin, Early Style 1." The plan indicates that the sides should be thicknessed at .07" (1.8mm), and the top and back at .09" (2.3mm). From everything I've read elsewhere, this seems a little heavy for the top. How do these dimensions sound to you guys?

Bradford
12-29-2010, 01:50 PM
That is too thick. I would aim for something around 1.7 to 1.9 mm.

Brad

thistle3585
12-29-2010, 05:51 PM
On my first one, built using Scott's plans, I went with his dimensions but forgot to put the bridge plate on and it sounded every bit as good as the one's where I've gone thinner. I think its a balancing act between thickness and bracing. Now, I thickness sand the tops and backs to .090 and by the time I'm done finish sanding I'm usually at .070. I always figure I'll sand off about .020. I thickness my sides to .080. I've built about a dozen ukes and still trying to figure them out.

ksquine
12-30-2010, 03:32 AM
Ditto what Thistle said....I always leave myself a little extra for final sanding all those dings and scratches that happen during assembly.
I think those plans were made from measuring an actual uke so Scott's thickness is what the original is. I'd start at 0.09" and sand the assembled body down until it sounds good. Just tap it on the bridge area as you go and you can hear the sound change.

hmgberg
12-31-2010, 04:05 AM
Thanks guys!

Doug W
12-31-2010, 06:23 AM
Just tap it on the bridge area as you go and you can hear the sound change.
I am sure that from years of experience you know what sound you are looking for when tapping an instrument but is there any way to explain in words how you know when you have the sound you are looking for? I realize that there are books written on the subject and building some instruments in the presence of a master is the best way to figure it out, but what can you say over the internet to someone building their first uke.

Allen
12-31-2010, 09:23 AM
I first go by cross grain stiffness to decide how thin I'm going to go, though that's not always spot on either. I've used some Western Red Cedar that I could roll up in a tube at 2.5mm it was so loose across the grain, and some Tasmanian Blackwood that was just a bit too stiff for my liking at 1.5mm. Both make very good sounding tops but are braced differently.

The quick answer is that it's a balancing act between top and bracing. You've got a fair bit of room to compensate between the two.

When you've got the top to a thickness that you are comfortable to work with get your transverse braces glued on and your bridge plate if you are using one. Then start tapping the soundboard by holding the top up near the neck area and off to the side a little bit (you are trying to hold it on one of the nodes - an area the top doesn't oscillate) might take a little bit to find the spot. Or just hang the top off your finger through the soundhole if that is easier. You are aiming to listen and feel through your fingertips the top producing a musical ring that has good attack and sustain when you tap it around the bridge area. Don't worry about what note it is. Just that the top has some life to it.

On something simple like a soprano top with only a bridge plate at best most times there's not a lot you are going to do except taper out the edges of the bridge plate in order to change the response, but on larger instruments like tenors where you've generally got a lot more bracing to play with there is a lot you can do to shape the response you are looking for. You are still looking for the same sort of thing though in the top displaying a good and lively "ring" to it when tapped on the bridge plate area.

Obviously there can be a lot more to it than this and you will learn heaps more by building many instruments, but you'll end up with responsive top by just following those simple guidelines.

Pete Howlett
12-31-2010, 11:03 AM
Scott's plans are misleading. Google Grellier for free and accurate dxf and pdf files to suppliment the Antes drawings. Remember that Martin built their sopranos from no scientific or empirical research. Tapered tops and the resultant quackary of tap tuning was the result of thinning caused when binding was scraped back or heavy handed sanding which often favours the edges. These 'accidental' occurances have entered into the modern psyche of ukulele builders and have become exalted to a methodology... it's similar to the myths and stories surrounding the 'Stradavari' sound. What many do not realise is that most surviving Strads have been so heavily worked on over the centuries to the extant that none are as that great maker originally made them. It is my observation that many 'innovations' and 'practices' are the result of chance...

So for the new year, lets keep it real shall we? A good uke is about 26 sticks of good wood finely put together with love and care, light as a feather and tight as a balloon.

hmgberg
12-31-2010, 12:45 PM
Thanks for the link Pete! So, you selected L.A. as a destination for your first U.S. extreme build... maybe the east coast next time?

ksquine
01-01-2011, 08:40 AM
I am sure that from years of experience you know what sound you are looking for when tapping an instrument but is there any way to explain in words how you know when you have the sound you are looking for? I realize that there are books written on the subject and building some instruments in the presence of a master is the best way to figure it out, but what can you say over the internet to someone building their first uke.

Actually.....I don't know what I'm listening for
I just thin the top until the body has a good resonance. You can easily hear the top change its tap tone as you thin it. Same thing with the body.....if it sounds sounds like you're tapping on a table top the uke won't sound good. If it has a nice resonating thump with a bit of sustain, the uke will sound good. I don't go for any particular tone or note.
One more reason for leaving a bit extra is the rosette inlay. I'm not comfortable routing on less than .08". Also, trying to get fiber or plastic purflings to stay in a shallow rosette channel for glueing is pretty frustrating.