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pakhan
04-17-2012, 05:51 PM
**Massive apologies for the typo- it should be Van Pelt!

After seeing Steve Van Pelt’s ukes on MGMs video, I knew he would be the go to guy for a new tenor ukulele. Steve is extremely passionate about building ukes and takes pride in his attention to detail and is constantly refining his lutherie skills.

Here’s a detailed look into the birth of Van Pelt ukulele which I'll post up over several days..

1. Steve’s Build Philosophy
2. Specs
3. Materials
4. Pictorial Build diary

Steve’s Build Philosophy

Secret ingredient is passion for the work. Seriously.

* Materials:
o I use only the best materials I can find.
o For bracing, I buy split billets of Sitka spruce from Alaska, then I split them the other way, so they are perfectly quartered and runout free.
o I sometimes make my own linings, but generally buy kerfed lining of spanish cedar or mahogany.
o Head and heel blocks are mahogany, but lately I’ve been playing with laminated blocks of Baltic Birch.
o Back seam reinforcement of spruce or matching to back.
o Of course I like my top/back/ sides perfectly quartered and runout free, but that’s rare with koa. Pretty easy to get one or the other, tough to get both. I’ll take 10 off quarter and no runout any day. Runout weakens koa far too much and looks horrible under finish. especially on the tops. I prefer all six pieces cut from same board. If it doesn’t look like a set has wood good enough for a top, I’ll use a softwood top.
o I like the highly figured koa, so that’s pretty much all I buy. I sticker it, weight it and keep it in a dry room with a fan for at least a year before using it.
o My favorite fretboard and bridge material can’t be shipped out of country, so my next choice would be MadRose or African Blackwood. I have some ebony, but find it heavy.
o For fret wire, StewMac 764, the small mando wire, and also have other options. I bed each fret in Hot Hide Glue while installing. Polished fret ends.
o For necks I like one piece Spanish Cedar. I have about two years worth of perfectly quartered neck blanks ready to use.
o I use both peghead veneer and backstrap. I believe the backstrap is extremely important to pick up the tension of the string pull.
o Polished bone nut and saddle.
o Black/pearwood/black purfling, 10/20/10. I find even the maple centered stuff too stark.
o I cut all my own bindings so I can book match and sister the bindings, top to back. Fretboard and headstock binding, too.

* Construction:
o I build in a humidity controlled environment and to your string preference.
o I install 2 carbon fiber rods in the necks. This allows me to use 1/4″ pulltruded rods giving me more room to carve a thin, fast neck. Volute or smooth transition neck to peghead.
o I use a cross dowelled bolt on neck, with glue.
o Waverly tuners koa buttons.
o I love the segmented rosettes, and can leave the cells empty, or fill them with similar, or contrasting wood. Ring rosettes are always a possibility.
o Endgraft inlay can be matched to sides, or match to headstock.
o I use Hot Hide Glue wherever I can, I’ll talk to you about the weather and the life this instrument will lead before choosing a glue for this build.
o My finish of choice is Cardinal UV Gloss, leveled and buffed to a mirror finish. Nitro lacquer also available. Satin finish for either adds the step of taking the gloss down with bronze wool and Howard’s feed n wax.

pakhan
04-18-2012, 05:30 AM
Cont....

Specifications

Tenor body and scale, built to respond to a light touch without sacrificing headroom. Good dynamic range.
All koa top back and sides from the set selected, from the fire tree.
Bindings are koa, cut from the same piece, bookmatched side to side and sistered top to bottom. Black/Pearwood/black 10/20/10 purfling on top back and sides.
Segmented rosette (8 segments) cut a little thinner than examples shown, Flamed Box Elder inlays.
Koa end wedge with Flamed Box elder inlay, purfled
Neck: one piece quartersawn spanish cedar, bolt on, with two carbon fiber reinforcement rods epoxied in neck. Hand carved towards the beefier side.
Flamed Box elder headstock veneer. Bound with curly koa and wood purfling.
Koa backstrap from same log as binding.
African Blackwood fret boards with edge of board combined fret board/sidemarkers at 3,5,7,10,12 and 15 out of Box Elder. 1-3/8" + nut, cut for Aquila strings. Fret board purfled and bound with koa. Fret board radius of 20", can also offer 12", 16" or nearly flat.
Fretwire, StewMac 764 small mando wire, fully polished fret ends. 14 frets to the body, 19 overall.
12 hole bridge to match final fret board choice.
Tuning machines: Waverly chrome ukulele tuning machines with factory koa buttons. Set # 4080.
Side Sound Port, bound. Top sound hole, bound.
UV poly finish, leveled and buffed to a mirror gloss.

MGM
04-18-2012, 06:57 AM
Now you know why i really like them....again my number one reason...How it sounded...first strum i knew this guy will be a great maker

pakhan
04-18-2012, 07:01 AM
Now you know why i really like them....again my number one reason...How it sounded...first strum i knew this guy will be a great maker

Absolutely. With that ipad recording you can really hear how responsive and complex the sound is! Thanks for that video!!

Steve vanPelt
04-18-2012, 08:03 AM
Now you know why i really like them....again my number one reason...How it sounded...first strum i knew this guy will be a great maker

Wow, Mike, Thanks!! Since your videos a couple weeks ago it's been a crazy whirlwind of activity. My order book is already full for the rest of the year. And I've started one for you.

I'm really excited about Terence's (Pakhan's) build, too. He's been a joy to work with and has come up with a few great ideas that I think will really add some interest to the design. For example, I just finished resawing the flamed box elder he asked to use for the headstock overlay, rosette, end wedge and fret markers. Pics on the way.

Steve

mds725
04-18-2012, 09:11 AM
Steve, Your ukulele sounded great in the MGM video. Do you have a web site or some other way for people to check out your ukuleles and pricing?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLpNuyeb_4g

Steve vanPelt
04-18-2012, 12:14 PM
Steve, Your ukulele sounded great in the MGM video. Do you have a web site or some other way for people to check out your ukuleles and pricing?

No website yet. I'm working with a graphic artist / web designer as we speak. We've pretty well nailed down a logo and are working on label. Then biz cards and finally website. Coming soon, thanks for asking.

Steve

Lexxy
04-18-2012, 12:25 PM
No website yet. I'm working with a graphic artist / web designer as we speak. We've pretty well nailed down a logo and are working on label. Then biz cards and finally website. Coming soon, thanks for asking.

Steve

I may be abit slow on the comments, but your ukes have incredible sustain (From MGM's video). oh, and they sound marvelous too.

pakhan
04-18-2012, 02:06 PM
Materials


36599
* Koa set: Tone wise, this set wins hands down. I don't know what it is, but I think it was in a forest fire or at least near enough one to do something wonderful to the wood. And I've had it here in my shop for 3 years, stacked and stickered, it's for sure ready to work. It's very light and very stiff and taps loud with lots of resonance and sustain.The pic is of an uke I built from a sister set a couple years ago so you can see it under finish.


36600
* Bracewood comes from Brent Cole at Alaska Specialty Woods on Prince William Island in South East Alaska. He sends me split billets of Sitka Spruce, which I further split, both ways, so the result is nicely quartered bracing, free from runout. When looking through the sound holes you can often see the silking on the carved tops of the braces.


36601
* Spanish cedar/ cedro neck: This is a nice piece of Cedro.

36598
* African Blackwood fretboard:

36602
* Box elder for end wedge, rosette, fretboard inlays


* Waverly tuners with flamed koa buttons, Flamed Koa backstrap for headstock.


* Big ol' heap of parts for the uke!

foxfair
04-18-2012, 02:31 PM
There is some awesome grain make me drooling!! nice koa.
Thanks for sharing.

Canoe Lady
04-18-2012, 03:27 PM
That is gonna be one cool ukulele! Keep us posted.

pakhan
04-18-2012, 05:16 PM
Thanks! I am very excited as the sister set of koa to mine was used on this uke:

36603

mds725
04-18-2012, 08:19 PM
No website yet. I'm working with a graphic artist / web designer as we speak. We've pretty well nailed down a logo and are working on label. Then biz cards and finally website. Coming soon, thanks for asking.

Steve


Are you planning to attend any upcoming ukulele festivals? How would one have a chance to look at your ukuleles up close and in person? (I realize that getting on your build list now is going to be hard, but still....) If it helps, I'm in San Francisco.

pakhan
04-19-2012, 05:03 PM
Build diary


36634366353663636637
* Pics of the roughed out neck blank. In the second pic you can see the medullary rays that will present on the exposed back of the neck, once carved.


36639

* Brace stock. Each billet is split in half, then in half again, and again, until it is near bracing size. Then a couple trips through the thickness sander, and finally squared up on the table saw. The braces will be further refined, tested, and selected for use prior to being glued into the uke.

pakhan
04-19-2012, 05:20 PM
Sorry folks, here are more photos of the bracing stock

3664136642366433664436645

pakhan
04-29-2012, 04:09 PM
3710437105


Sides bent!

foxfair
04-29-2012, 04:12 PM
3710437105
Sides bent!

The grain of back woods is stunning, and I am excited to see the final result.

cheers,

808boy
04-29-2012, 04:24 PM
Aloha and congrats on the upcoming uke.
mds725, I met him at L&L Kanikapila in Sac. with Kanaka916. Very nice guy with loads of talent. PM him for meet up............................BO.................. .

pakhan
05-19-2012, 03:45 PM
A few more updates on the rosette:

The material for the rosette we chose really works well!

Pic 1 is the two bookmatched pieces for the tiles, laid out ready to cut.
2 is the cut tiles sitting on the back in the lined sides
3 is the top, laid out using a protractor for the eight segments
4 picked out 2 sharp bits, a 1/32 and a 3/64
5 is the jig and tools used to cut the segments. At the top of the jig you can see the .080 piece installed to make the segments a little thinner.


3803038031380323803338029

pakhan
05-21-2012, 12:10 AM
Rosette cont..

6 first operation, cut the segment ends using the jig
7 cut the top and bottom of the segments with the circle cutter
8 segment outlines routed, then cleared out free hand using the Dremel 4000
9 pick out the bookmatched tiles, then fit each one to the segment cavities
10 segment tiles installed and sanded flush. Ready for the 32 mitered purfling pieces.

3805438055380563805738058

pakhan
08-15-2012, 08:45 PM
41769417704177141772

Rosette all ready

Shaping the back braces, with a little plane handmade by Stephen Boone. It gets to the bottom of the brace easily and carves thinner than paper shavings.

Some go bar shots of the braces being glued in.

Lexxy
08-15-2012, 09:05 PM
Beautiful.

MGM
08-15-2012, 09:12 PM
The Van Pelt made for us is almost ready and boy is it a knockout....can't wait for it....Steve. Helppppp. Uas

pakhan
08-16-2012, 02:40 PM
Do share the photos with us Mike!

mm stan
08-16-2012, 02:47 PM
Steve makes some of the finest looking and sounding ukes available...check out his site...and Dream ukes site too

Dan Uke
08-16-2012, 03:26 PM
Why is it taking so long? You started the thread in the end of April?

pakhan
08-16-2012, 09:29 PM
418274182841829

Actually it is very far advanced, I am just a bit slow in getting the photos up... here are some of the almost completed uke I had from Steve.... he says:

"I remember this happening the last time I built with this same koa. I pulled it from the mold and smoothed it out to get ready for binding. One shot of shellac and that curl seemed to come out of nowhere. It’s unreal in person, the curls look deeper than the top is thick. Beautiful color too."

Dan Uke
08-16-2012, 09:34 PM
418274182841829

Actually it is very far advanced, I am just a bit slow in getting the photos up... here are some of the almost completed uke I had from Steve.... he says:

"I remember this happening the last time I built with this same koa. I pulled it from the mold and smoothed it out to get ready for binding. One shot of shellac and that curl seemed to come out of nowhere. It’s unreal in person, the curls look deeper than the top is thick. Beautiful color too."

Your right!! It's further along and looking fabulous!!

pakhan
08-18-2012, 12:33 AM
thanks! really looking forward to this uke!

808boy
08-18-2012, 01:12 AM
Dang that's a stunner for sure......we are all excited for you.............................BO................ ......