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Skitzic
05-02-2011, 06:30 AM
Hello luthiers!

Where do you get your neck blanks from, or do you make them yourself?

This may be a really dumb question, but can I just get a 2x2 from Home Depot and shape that?

Kekani
05-02-2011, 06:58 AM
In order:
Trick question (my necks don't come as blanks), yes
Not, no (well, depending on what the 2x2 is - quartersawn maple, yes; but I'd get different dimensions myself)

I'll go further and say I order flatsawn 12/4 Spanish Cedar from a lumber supplier.

-Aaron

Mandarb
05-02-2011, 07:05 AM
can I just get a 2x2 from Home Depot and shape that?

I don't know - can you?


Sorry, just jk - had a flasback to your shelf comment.

hoosierhiver
05-02-2011, 07:08 AM
Mainland sells uke necks with fretboards in all sizes.

http://shop.mainlandukuleles.com/category.sc;jsessionid=1B483BFB3BF7F94724B7B23C4A6 53704.qscstrfrnt06?categoryId=8

UncleElvis
05-02-2011, 07:10 AM
Mainland sells necks... and fretboards!

If you're looking to make a ukulele as a project, I'd say go that route.

If you're looking to learn how to make a ukulele, then hit up the Luthier's Lounge and read, read, read. It's absolutely amazing the amount of information that's in there.

Skitzic
05-02-2011, 08:08 AM
In my reading of the interwebs, I kept seeing references to 'neck blanks'. I assumed that was the technical term, but I'll just blame that one on newbie dumbness. :)

We don't have fancy lumber places around. The best I have is Lowes and Home Depot. I'm thinking I will hunt down something roughly the width I'm looking for, then just glue a few of them together to make it thick enough to pass as a neck...then sand it into a nice curve. It doesn't need to be super fancy, just hold together when I string it up.

Allen
05-02-2011, 09:51 AM
Build all my own. I use a scarf joint for the head stock and a stacked heel, because I really hate wasting wood like the one piece designs do.

For instance a 15" concert scale neck will start off at 600mm - 650 long, 70 mm wide and 13mm thick. Cut the scarf joint for the peg head, and 3 short pieces of 60 mm long from the heel end that will be stacked on on top of the other to make up the depth of the heel. If you mark them to keep them in the order you cut them off then when stacked on top of each other the grain lines up and becomes very hard to tell that it's laminated together.

Just did a run of necks and components for the Cairns Uke Festival course. Made 22 necks in a couple of days.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-02-2011, 12:53 PM
I use 12/4 Spanish cedar for my one piece necks, but that wasn't your question.

But look, the proper wood to use for the job will only cost you a little more money, maybe pennies, than what you'll get at the hardware store. My necks cost me about $5 each. This applies to necks, bodies, whatever. My suggestion to all new builders is to locate the proper materials first before they build. You might be proud of the uke you made from your grandmothers old pie cabinet but look at all the time and trouble it takes to get it to a workable state. You are going to be spending anywhere between 10 and 100 hours on this project no matter what kind of material you use. Why not start on the right foot. Having the right materials will be easier to work with and the finished result much more rewarding, and then you are more likely to build another, and another and so on.
The first thing to do is to learn what to look for in a particular type of wood and it's function in the instrument. Know at least a little about grain patterns and how wood is cut. Know something about the strength, stiffness and the weight of the wood. Learn about the importance of moisture content. I think armed with a little knowledge you could probably got to Home depot scrounge through the cut-off bins for KD redwood, spruce, doug fir, cedar, etc, and walk away with some acceptable wood that would give you a good start. Just stay away from framing material (2X anything.) It'll be wet, it won't be cut right and it'll twist, warp and split. Anyone who's ever built a deck or a dog house know this. I know you don't want "fancy" but 2X material isn't even functional for what we're doing.
Also keep in mind that anything you want is available on the Internet. The Spanish Cedar I buy is "mail ordered". So is all of my ebony, spruce, etc. Many wood suppliers will have a bargain box of odds and ends they'll let go cheaply. Thankfully we build ukes and use wood that was otherwise useless in the instrument building world. We can use scraps!
You'll find that building an instrument presents a lot of difficult challenges in itself. Don't make you wood selection a part of it.
Just my thoughts.

Mungo Park
05-03-2011, 08:26 AM
Chuck, some valuable insights here, I looked up your web site very nice and your instruments are wonderful works of art.
Cheers Ron.

ProfChris
05-03-2011, 11:38 AM
My suggestion to all new builders is to locate the proper materials first before they build. You might be proud of the uke you made from your grandmothers old pie cabinet but look at all the time and trouble it takes to get it to a workable state. You are going to be spending anywhere between 10 and 100 hours on this project no matter what kind of material you use. Why not start on the right foot. Having the right materials will be easier to work with and the finished result much more rewarding, and then you are more likely to build another, and another and so on.

Not necessarily Chuck. There is a real satisfaction to be had in recycling the pie cabinet (or whatever) into a musical intrument which actually plays music! Plus, if you don't have any real woodworking skills to start with, like me, your mistakes are cheap and enable you to improve your skills. I'm currently working on no. 8 - spruce top from a broken grand piano soundboard, and back, sides and neck from a mahogany shelf my parents were throwing out. I've spent money on a rosewood bass fretboard, which I think will make 4 soprano fretboards, but only because it will need that colour wood.

I know that if I bought the finest luthier materials I'd still be struggling to make a ukulele as good as a $150 Kala or whatever. Perhaps for no. 20 I might, but I'm more likely to search the local skips (dumpsters in American I think) for the satisfaction of finding a battered walnut coffee table.

The difference in my approach is that I'm doing this for fun. I don't ever plan to sell a uke, though I like giving them away (easy if you have less than $20 in materials in each one).

And I've learnt a lot of things. I can resaw tops, backs and sides by hand, and thin them by hand as well. OK, there's maybe 6-10 hours work in producing a soprano set, but done in 20 minute bursts it's very therapeutic. Hand bending on a hot pipe is frustrating as hell, but success is very satisfying. Plus I've got good at working out ways to salvage mistakes - with that much time invested you don't throw away a uke just 'cause your chisel slipped cutting the binding channel.

If the point is the finished instrument then I'd agree with you. But for me the journey is more important, and for that, recycling stuff is entirely appropriate. Plus you know your wood is properly seasoned - the grand piano was from the 1920s, and the wardrobe which supplies most of my necks to date was built nearly 60 years ago.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-03-2011, 12:53 PM
Well stated Prof, those are all very good points. The journey can be often more rewarding than the goal is.
Perhaps I was over zealous. But I just don't want anyone building out of 2 X 4s. That's where I draw the line! I do encourage anyone who shows any interest in building an instrument to first learn something about wood and how it works.
I see lots of home made stuff walk into my shop and the builder wants to know how to save it. Sometimes the best way to "save" it is to start over with a bit of knowledge and some better materials. I have to admit that I've finally gotten to the age where time is more important than money.

Skitzic
05-03-2011, 02:15 PM
Well here's my update, I went to Lowes and bought some red oak. It has a very nice color that will match my box nicely.

Don't worry Chuck, I looked at the 2 x 4's and even with my limited wood working knowledge I realized that was not going to work for what I wanted. :) I've been lurking on cigar box guitar forums for a long time, and I lurk here constantly...so while I'm still wood-working stupid...I think I can fake my way through this. I'm not looking for an awesome instrument that I can sell on ebay for tons of money, I just want something I can point to and say 'I made that.' and have it not sound like nails on a chalk board.

This is only the first attempt, I won't be crushed if it's an unplayable neck. That's part of the reason I plan to bolt the thing on instead of glue it...if it turns out a mess it's easily replaceable!

I made the rough cut of my neck from the plank and I've already learned 2 things. 1: the workbench I have really sucks monkey. And 2: I really need to invest in a band saw if I intend on doing this again.

And the learning begins!

BobN
05-03-2011, 03:11 PM
And 2: I really need to invest in a band saw if I intend on doing this again.

And the learning begins!

I use a "Japanese style" hand saw like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Double-Blade-Saw-Bs250d-10In/dp/B00004Z2X8/ref=pd_rhf_shvl_4
This saw has a ripping blade on one edge and a cross cut blade on the other edge. You can find it in Lowes.

Ken W
05-03-2011, 03:14 PM
I, like Allen and lots of others, build my necks with scarf joints and stacked heals. I like using local woods and often rifle through the red cedar at Lowe's. About a year ago I found a perfectly quartersawn piece of cedar 5 1/2 inches wide and 8 feet long. After letting it sit for six months or so I've used it to make tops, braces, and necks. I'm not a professional builder, but I do want my instruments to look and sound nice long after I'm gone.

Skitzic
05-03-2011, 03:32 PM
I use a "Japanese style" hand saw like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Double-Blade-Saw-Bs250d-10In/dp/B00004Z2X8/ref=pd_rhf_shvl_4
This saw has a ripping blade on one edge and a cross cut blade on the other edge. You can find it in Lowes.

This is good to know. Thanks!

realityguy
05-18-2011, 06:08 AM
I use a lot of wood that has been sitting around in my garage for 10-20 years so i know it is well dried and not about to split,check,warp,etc.Another option is cutting up old funriture back to wood..as in mahogany bookcases that have been sitting in houses for 20-30 years.
Anyway.I usually build my necks as one piece other than gluing on a heel block to the depth of the body in front.I like a start size of at least 2-3/8" wide(for the head) and 1-1/2+" thick minimum for the head to angle enough for the tuners,and keeping the strings in the nut slots.a minimum length of 18" should give you enough for a heel block also.So 2-1/2"widex1-3/4"thickx18long is a good size block..watch your grain layout as to what is top and side,and reject any pieces with twists,bows,warps,cracks,and wrinkles..The top has to be perfectly flat and not rock to opposite corners when laid down on a perfectly flat surface..or you'll have to make it that way before you start anything!
I usually build concerts and tenors(sizewise)..but those dimensions will work for sopranos..just to give you an idea of what you need for a "single block" of wood including scrap for the heel block.You can scarf,stack pieces,laminate necks together and use thinner 1" pieces..but be careful of the grain layout when you do it.Think first of what it'll come out looking like if you do it.I was going to make a neck like that of zircote with a light/dark high contrast colored wood..but I figured it would come out looking like a lot of mismatched grain/color so rejected the wood for that idea..just keep that in mind.
Yes..I do have a bandsaw for cutting out the neck profiles.It does make it a lot easier making them from one block.Maybe your local school woodshop or cabinet shop can do that quick cutting for you if you don't have one....sure saves a lot of headaches..;^)

DLC
06-05-2016, 05:48 PM
Hi ... Noobie question here ... what does ( 12/4 ) mean in reference to spanish cedar neck blanks?

sequoia
06-05-2016, 06:25 PM
Just a guess, but maybe a 12 inch long 4"x4" piece of wood?

Michael Smith
06-05-2016, 06:51 PM
I get my neck material at McBeath Hardwoods in San Francisco. I buy 8/4 rough mahogany. I go in there every few months to find "the board". Some of the slabs they have are 24 inches wide and 20' long. I really like the deep dark red mahogany and I'm sure the forklift driver hates my guts for wanting to look at a plank that is near the bottom of a huge stack then deciding the grain isn't just right. I really should bring a six pack of good beer for him to take home. I use a scarf joint and have never had anyone complain. Done well with a dark mahogany it is almost invisible. I don't stack the heal. I hate that look.

saltytri
06-05-2016, 07:20 PM
Hi ... Noobie question here ... what does ( 12/4 ) mean in reference to spanish cedar neck blanks?

twelve quarters, or 3" thick

Width and length are separately specified, so you might describe a board as "a 6' length of 12/4, 8" wide."

sequoia
06-05-2016, 07:34 PM
I get my neck material at McBeath Hardwoods in San Francisco. .....I'm sure the forklift driver hates my guts for wanting to look at a plank that is near the bottom of a huge stack then deciding the grain isn't just right. I really should bring a six pack of good beer for him to take home.

Thanks for the tip Michael. I live 175 miles north of SF and might make the trip... I used to work in a boat yard and one thing I can tell you is that you have to buy beer for the forklift operators. It is a given. Back then you couldn't go wrong with a case of Budweiser. Now however it would be a total insult. I now find that a 6 pack of Red Tail Ale is the current beer currency. You might just happen to find one in your truck. Beer: The gift that heavy equipment operators always appreciate.

Michael Smith
06-06-2016, 09:01 AM
Sequoia,

The better stuff is outside usually under the tin open building. Just ask one of the guys where the true mahogany is that is outside. The stuff in the fully enclosed wharehouse gets picked over. They are pretty nice guys there and will wack off a section of any board for you as long as they have an 8' section or. more left over. If I'm in my car a 5' section is all I can handle. The last one I got was 26 inches wide. Also If you want to look at other woods inside the warehouse bring a flashlight. It's so dark in there you can't see a thing. Don't go right before they are going to close as lumber will need to be moved to get to the good stuff.