View Full Version : a couple of questions..

cursley ukulele's
02-27-2011, 01:06 PM
evening all

ive been building ukes pretty much freehand, but i want to take some of the guesswork out of it.. ive seen the solera things and wondered how people are making them or if they are bought? ive got pretty limited kit, but want to make one with the dished bit in it (please forgive my lack of education in this area) as i want the option to acheive the slightly curved back..

also im assuming using a solera will act as a body or neck jig which will reduce the guess work and huge amount of sanding/fitting/sanding/fitting of neck/body joint?

anything at all that i should know if im asking about a basic building tool or sites for my level of experience would welcome... im just putting my 4th uke together which is a solid cherry tenor with a 'butterfly' soundhole and 'loveheart' personal soundport and am just realising im basicaly just bumbling through the process... i NEED more structure to my building...

cheers in advance...

ps, how do you post pictures?

02-27-2011, 01:21 PM
Pete Howlett has several good YT videos on a form of solera (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3kiyC7KoY4&playnext=1&list=PLB318AB6E9FFB910B) he uses in his traveling classes. You might take a look at that. I also found Cumpiano's descriptions and pictures in his book , "Guitar Making Tradition and Technology," of the ones he uses to build classical guitars interesting. Rather than dish out the solera, Cumpiano uses a thin piece of cork around the perimeter and of course glues on shaped braces to force the back into shape. Although I don't think he is doing any arching, DaveG's YT videos are also instructive on the use of a form of solera to build.

02-27-2011, 09:42 PM
I use a solera with a dished out area in the lower bout to build all my ukes. I use a Spanish Heel style of building, so the neck join is part of the instrument from the get go.

I've got several designs of Solera's but in simple terms get a piece of quality plywood about 3/4" or 19mm thick large enough to accommodate the body and neck all the way to the nut. Pencil a centre line that will represent the a line from the middle of the nut to the tail block. Pencil in the body outline and then dish out the lower bout to an appropriate depth for the size of instrument you are building. I use a combination of finger planes and then a sander. Do not dish out the board all the way to the sides. You want it flat where the linings will sit.

Once done to your satisfaction then pencil in the centre line again as it will have been removed with your dishing out. You can add lines that will designate where the neck will be and even trim to that line or just a little proud if you like. You can add some sort of support for the sides if you like, or just go free form. You will probably want to add a "Strong Back" to the board to keep it straight and some sort of method to clamp it in a vise or feet to sit on your work bench.

Now when it comes to building, the neck needs to be finished at least part way from the body up through the heel and into about the middle of the neck, as it's going to be very difficult to get good access to this area once the sides are glued into place. I make sure that at the heel is fully finished and sanded almost ready for finish before glueing anything to it.

You can now brace the top if that is the way you like to go, or glue the neck to the top first. Either way the top is set down on the workboard / solera so that the centre line of the top corresponds to that on the solera. Now you can glue the neck to the top using the guide lines or profile you made to assure that the neck is lined up to the centre of the top.

Then is just a matter of fitting in the sides to the neck, gluing in a end block, installing linings from sides to top, bracing back, shaping sides to conform to arch on back if you want, then installing linings. Do a bit of clean up for final fit of back and then get out the glue and close up the instrument.

I love this way of building as it assures a perfect neck fit. However it is different to building the components separately and it's a little bit to get use to. Seems to take quite a bit of time to make progress on the build, but suddenly you have an instrument in a day once all the hard work is done.

Just remember that if you do use this method and put a radius on the top, you are most likely going to need to put a set on your neck to get good action. I've done so many now that I've got my system dialled in. I put a 3.5 mm shim under the nut area of the neck just prior to glueing on the back. What this does is splay the upper bout just a little. Once the glue is set on the back you have a neck that is both lined up to the centre of your sound board, but also has a set so that you can get nice and low action if you want.

Hope that made some sense.

cursley ukulele's
02-28-2011, 12:24 PM
@sweetwater, thanks mate, ive watched petes videos, but i love the idea about the cork ring.. real lo-fi, thanks again..

@allen, wowsers! that made alot of sense, i think you addressed 90% of my issues.... fingerplane\sander for solera, neck finishing ive done this time due to major fiddly sanding last time!! but most of all is the shim under the nut area, i needed a little tweak on my neck angle this time and the layered veneers make up approx 3mm, so when the instrument is clamped to new (to be built) solara it'll give me the same amount of 'lift' at the saddle.. so do you only dish the lower bout or a little at the top as well? or is this straying into arched?

many thanks again to both of you... i read alot here, but dont post much as i dont really feel i have anything to add really, all i have is endless questions!! and i know this can come across as people just dipping in for info rather than being a part of the community.. so thanks again..