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View Full Version : Bolt on necks are for "Girly Luthiers"



Timbuck
11-17-2012, 03:56 AM
Last week while I was suffering with severe back pain, I put together a neck and body on a soprano..My concentration must have been lacking a bit co's when I got round to fitting the bridge today ..I realised that I'd fitted the wrong neck :mad:..and it was out of line with the top of the uke..Not a lot! I could have made the saddle a little lower than normal to make it work..but it was just not right..So I decide to remove the neck and start again with the right one...if this was a bolt on neck then it would have been a dead easy to fix..But it's a dovetail glued well in with Titebond..I don't have steaming set up anymore co's I got rid of it a couple of years back in a clearout.. so I used a method I dream't up last time I had to do this..It works like this.
First remove fretboard with hot scraper heated up on heatgun and be carefull not to gash your hand on the scraper edge (Like I did) http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0002-16.jpg
Next drill a 5mm hole into the heel.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0009-11.jpg
Here is a close up of the hole it go's down to about 7mm from heel end just enough to go thro the male dovetail spline
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0006-10.jpg

Timbuck
11-17-2012, 04:10 AM
Next I cut off a short length of 5mm brass rod (aluminium or copper is better) then I got it good and hot with a propane torch
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0012-8.jpg
Then I filled the hole with water and plunged in the hot rod
The result was steam generated within the inside of the joint :D
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0013-6.jpg
I did this 3 times and the glue became a white running mush...soon after with a few waggles and a bit of thumb pressure out it came..Now it's down to mrs Timbuck to rescue the French polish...and I'll see what I can do to put the job right.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0017-7.jpg

Harold O.
11-17-2012, 05:44 AM
...and now you have a no-miss fingerboard indexing pin.

In the way-back days I played a lot of 8-ball. It got to where even if I missed an impossible shot, I took solace in recognizing that there was a impossible solution to the impossible shot and I could see it. Even though I didn't make it, at least I saw it.

Looks like that's what happened with this impossible situation. Only you made the shot.

connor013
11-17-2012, 06:39 AM
Can't help but wonder now how many holes live underneath my fretboard...

Just teasing, Ken.

Rick Turner
11-17-2012, 07:00 AM
Bolt-on necks are for luthiers who respect their future customers pocket books!

We can reset a neck angle in less than half an hour with no damage whatsoever to finish...

Timbuck
11-17-2012, 07:15 AM
Bolt-on necks are for luthiers who respect their future customers pocket books!

We can reset a neck angle in less than half an hour with no damage whatsoever to finish...
OK Rick Don't rub it in..At least you can say We!. ;)

jcalkin
11-17-2012, 09:09 AM
In the dimmest days of guitar repair books the same trick was done by working a butter knife into the dovetail, dripping in water, then heating the knife with a torch. Jesus, its been so long that I can't even remember the author's name, though I can picture the cover of his book(s).

Anyone who still uses a dovetail deserves all the grief that comes his way.

tomas13
11-17-2012, 12:27 PM
mr. timms,
thank you for your integrity, innovation and positive inspiration in the little niche of ukulele building.
tk

Allen
11-17-2012, 04:10 PM
That never would have happened with a Spanish Heel.;)

BlackBearUkes
11-17-2012, 04:20 PM
Funny thing about the Spanish heel and ukuleles, almost all vintage ukes like Nunes, Kumalae, Kamaka and so on are built with the Spanish heel. These are the ukes that are the most problematic when it comes to high action and being almost unplayable. If these makers had simply used a bigger neck block arrangement, maybe they would still be playable and have better intonation. As it is, most had little or minimal neck blocks and when the hide glue gave up, the neck rose and all the trouble began.

The older Martin ukes with a larger neck block and the tappered dovetail (like Timbuck uses) turned out to be a much better system of neck attachment for a uke.

southcoastukes
11-17-2012, 05:23 PM
Funny thing about the Spanish heel and ukuleles, almost all vintage ukes like Nunes, Kumalae, Kamaka and so on are built with the Spanish heel. These are the ukes that are the most problematic when it comes to high action and being almost unplayable. If these makers had simply used a bigger neck block arrangement, maybe they would still be playable and have better intonation. As it is, most had little or minimal neck blocks and when the hide glue gave up, the neck rose and all the trouble began...

Duane, let me give you a different take on Spanish Heel construction. I haven't seen as many of the old ukuleles as you have, but the typical Spanish Heel gives a lot more glue area than you get with a dovetail. Hide glue will give way with time (as it should). It would be hard to beleive, however, that the strain of gut strings on a Soprano Ukulele would cause a joint like that to fail. One the main advantages of this traditional construction is that it offers such a stable platform to build around. Almost all Classical Guitars still use it - Flamencos as well, with ultra low action.

We come at the Ukulele from a Cuatro background - the early Ukuleles were built with the same outlook as the Cuatros. Play in the first positions, mainly vigorous strumming, and thus, get the action up off the soundboard.

All modern Cuatros are still built with the Spanish heel, and the majority of them still have that sort of high action you describe on the original Hawaiian Ukuleles (durissimo). Modern Ukulele players have the same sort of reaction you describe when they pick up one of the Cuatros with a traditional neck set: "almost unplayable" - and this is with new instruments - they're built this way on purpose. Nunes, do Espiritu Santo et al were not a bunch of screw-ups.

We love the Spanish Heel - feel it is the most stable and reliable of all, but we set it for modern ukulele action (soave).

BlackBearUkes
11-17-2012, 08:37 PM
Duane, let me give you a different take on Spanish Heel construction. I haven't seen as many of the old ukuleles as you have, but the typical Spanish Heel gives a lot more glue area than you get with a dovetail. Hide glue will give way with time (as it should). It would be hard to beleive, however, that the strain of gut strings on a Soprano Ukulele would cause a joint like that to fail. One the main advantages of this traditional construction is that it offers such a stable platform to build around. Almost all Classical Guitars still use it - Flamencos as well, with ultra low action.

We come at the Ukulele from a Cuatro background - the early Ukuleles were built with the same outlook as the Cuatros. Play in the first positions, mainly vigorous strumming, and thus, get the action up off the soundboard.

All modern Cuatros are still built with the Spanish heel, and the majority of them still have that sort of high action you describe on the original Hawaiian Ukuleles (durissimo). Modern Ukulele players have the same sort of reaction you describe when they pick up one of the Cuatros with a traditional neck set: "almost unplayable" - and this is with new instruments - they're built this way on purpose. Nunes, do Espiritu Santo et al were not a bunch of screw-ups.

We love the Spanish Heel - feel it is the most stable and reliable of all, but we set it for modern ukulele action (soave).

Dirk, I am well aware of the Spanish heel in classical guitar construction (and I have to say it is not as common as it once was with a lot of modern builders). Those guitars also use the extended foot on the bottom of the headblock to help with long term stability, but I don't ever remember seeing this extended foot on a uke. Most of the vintage ukes that used the Spanish heel construction used a neck block shaped like a V with the smallest portion of the V glued to the back. Others used a smaller straight block, but still had very little glue area on the back. This unfortuantely made the neck to body joint weak and often failed as the uke got older. I personally don't use the Spanish heel for any instrument but understand how it is favored in some circles.

Allen
11-17-2012, 08:53 PM
Everyone that I know who builds with the Spanish Heel in ukes uses a "neck block" that has at least a block the size of a block you would find in a bolt on or dovetail neck. Why would you go any smaller?

Timbuck
11-17-2012, 10:40 PM
Before we all get into an augument over what is what......I have done a survey of what went wrong with this one....I have found something must have moved when I glued on the back co's it's way out no matter what neck fits it..So it's my fault :mad: To fix it would require removing the back piece.. putting it back in the mold with the neck fitted (Spanish heel style) and a new back glued and clamped in postion...I also notice it has developed a sagging belly that I'm not too happy about....But I've learned that when a uke has problems like this, it's best to scrap it before you have a mental breakdown ...So it's going on the fire. :eek: The neck is OK by the way...apart from a small hole that needs plugging :)

jcalkin
11-18-2012, 04:01 AM
How we build is totally personal from the moment we become intrigued with how instruments are made. Once we begin, its also an evolutionary process. I'm glad there are still classical guitar makers, but they have always struck me as goofy and useless instruments, despite enduring many sessions with classical and flamenco records plus a couple concerts. I still view the Spanish heel as a failure to evolve, but there is no reason anyone else should care what I think. However, I am coming to enjoy the sound of nylon strings, and I owe it to playing the uke. So I find myself with a nylon-strung guitar in progress, but with a bolt-on neck and pre-1917 Martin X bracing. I blush to admit that I view the guitar as an American icon, and that the Spanish never made a guitar worth playing. I accept it as a failure of the mind on my part, but one that makes me smile. Luth on, folks, however you do it.

hawaii 50
11-18-2012, 09:29 AM
Hello..
I am a very happy owner of a Rick Turner Compass Rose Koa tenor uke..i have many other nice ukes..my CR only one with a bolt on neck..i plan to keep my uke forever..My CR sounds as good or better than most of the other ukes i have or tried out..and if i do need a neck reset to me>> looks like bolt on neck is much easier to work with..and i am guessing a neck reset is only reason you would remove the neck>>looks like the neck and body were finished seperate from each other so no break in the finish if you remove it..

looks like a hard and messy job(in the pictures included above..) Lol

i am not a luthier but i am the one buying the ukes..only my 2 cents

ksquine
11-19-2012, 07:59 AM
Geez, I hope using a bolt on neck isn't too girly. I'd look awful in a dress :rolleyes:

Pete Howlett
11-19-2012, 09:59 AM
I've tried dovetails,splines and dowels - would never in this life, or the one to come use a Spanish heel. I now bolt my necks on and have spent the day re-jigging for my fireflys so they have bolt on necks too....

Rick Turner
11-19-2012, 11:14 AM
I teach my courses with the Spanish heel, and it's because it's a very fast way to assemble an instrument. It also teaches something of the history of our craft. However, in what we build here...be they ukes or acoustic guitars...I favor the cantilevered fingerboard and a bolt-on neck. Just different things...

Re. old ukes falling apart, etc... Well, a lot of the quickly built instruments of the past were pretty much slapped together with really funky hot hide glue, and I suspect that with many, the glue was starting to gel by the time clamp pressure was applied. I know that too many had ill-fitted joints with a wish factor...the builders were wishing that HHG would fill gaps...which it is terrible at. Well built Spanish heel HHG assembled instruments should be good for several lifetimes; the main problem being that with guitars and ukes, there is a slow tendency for the entire geometry of the instruments to change enough to raise the action toward unplayable over many years' time.

Don't forget, dovetailed neck joints were a convenience in factory settings at one time...

And bolt on necks go back at least into the 1820s...

So what is traditional?

ukegirl13
11-19-2012, 04:17 PM
Well, at least you didn't drill through the neck while drilling for a bolt-on neck! ;P Just a side thought...can you put a strap button right in the middle of the curve of the heel?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
11-19-2012, 04:51 PM
Bolt on necks are for "Girly Luthiers"......

If this be so, I'm happy to embrace my feminine nature.

southcoastukes
11-19-2012, 05:36 PM
... guitars also use the extended foot on the bottom of the headblock to help with long term stability, but I don't ever remember seeing this extended foot on a uke. Most of the vintage ukes that used the Spanish heel construction used a neck block shaped like a V with the smallest portion of the V glued to the back. Others used a smaller straight block, but still had very little glue area on the back. This unfortuantely made the neck to body joint weak and often failed as the uke got older. I personally don't use the Spanish heel for any instrument but understand how it is favored in some circles.

Thanks for the insight there, Duane. My handling of old Hawaiian Ukuleles was very brief and long ago - I wasn't looking at the construction in those days. Still, I wonder if an intended higher action could have been a contributing factor to what you found. What say you?

southcoastukes
11-19-2012, 05:46 PM
Everyone that I know who builds with the Spanish Heel in ukes uses a "neck block" that has at least a block the size of a block you would find in a bolt on or dovetail neck. Why would you go any smaller?

Based on Cuatro experience again, I'll make a guess here. We also use the extended foot Duane refers to. Even though we started from a Cuatro point of view, our instruments have ended up being quite a bit more substantial.

I still have the feeling that there were a lot of similarities between the Cuatro and Hawaiian Ukulele construction. Cuatros I have seen do not have as as much of a foot as ours, but less than what Duane refers to on guitars. I also still feel that the Portugese in Hawaii did what they did for a reason.

In the case of traditional Cuatros, there is pretty much no concession at all to durability. Tops (and backs) are often ridiculously thin, and as mentioned, there's less heel than you see on a classical guitar. Overall, it's a bit lighter than most modern Soprano construction, and this on an instrument around the size of a Baritone.

I would surmise that the Portugese Hawaiians looked at things in the same fashion as Cuatro luthiers. In other words, sacrifice all in the pursuit of a light build. There certainly isn't all that much tension to deal with, and after all, if it gives way, they (or their sons) could always build you another light weight beauty.

Dan Uke
11-19-2012, 06:37 PM
You Ladies better not get Tim (Ukeeku) to review your bolt on ukes!! Here's his quote for a Lichty uke, "a bolt on neck is the kind of thing I expect of a builder who does not trust that they have made a good enough joint to hold the neck joint."

Lalz
11-19-2012, 11:25 PM
Out of respect for us female forum members, I'd suggest avoiding to use the term "girly" in a derogatory manner. Thanks.

Sven
11-19-2012, 11:50 PM
And do refrain from using the term "luthiery" about women. That would be mean.

Lalz
11-20-2012, 12:30 AM
And do refrain from using the term "luthiery" about women. That would be mean.

Way to gaslight someone Sven... UU is supposed to be inclusive and make all their members feel welcome. This type of jokes doesn't.

Sven
11-20-2012, 02:05 AM
What? It was meant as a joke. I think I get the meaning of the term gaslight, if I'm right it wasn't my intention. I understood your post and agree. But don't be too sensitive.

BlackBearUkes
11-20-2012, 04:24 AM
Thanks for the insight there, Duane. My handling of old Hawaiian Ukuleles was very brief and long ago - I wasn't looking at the construction in those days. Still, I wonder if an intended higher action could have been a contributing factor to what you found. What say you?

I don't think the high action was always intended. Because of the very light construction, lack of neck block, no fingerboard overlaying on the top plate, lack of stiffness in the thin sides because the linings were sometimes just a whisper of broken wood glued in a hit and miss style, these ukes moved toward high action soon after they where made. Many had little or no fret wear or marks on the fingerboard from playing. The hide glue used was also not of the highest quality. Put all those things together and the uke suffered.

Harold O.
11-20-2012, 04:39 AM
...refrain from using the term "luthiery"...

I'm not a luthier. I'm Baptist.

Lalz
11-20-2012, 06:14 AM
What? It was meant as a joke. I think I get the meaning of the term gaslight, if I'm right it wasn't my intention. I understood your post and agree. But don't be too sensitive.

Gaslighting usually means belittling someone's opinion (either by making bad jokes or telling them to "stop being so sensitive") when they point out that something is offensive. I get that you don't mean it in a bad way, but it's rude.
Anyway, let's shake hands and forget about it :cheers:

Millbrook
11-20-2012, 06:32 AM
Out of respect for us female forum members, I'd suggest avoiding to use the term "girly" in a derogatory manner. Thanks.
I second this comment. It is not hypersensitive to refrain from needlessly putting other people down, it is just basic respect.

Timbuck
11-20-2012, 07:08 AM
This is where the term originated http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-20-2012, 07:40 AM
Bolt on necks are for "Girly Luthiers"......

If this be so, I'm happy to embrace my feminine nature.

Chuck, do you wanna come over and listen to the new Indigo girls album?

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-20-2012, 07:50 AM
Bolt-on necks are for luthiers who respect their future customers pocket books!

We can reset a neck angle in less than half an hour with no damage whatsoever to finish...


Bolt on necks are for "Girly Luthiers"......

If this be so, I'm happy to embrace my feminine nature.


You Ladies better not get Tim (Ukeeku) to review your bolt on ukes!! Here's his quote for a Lichty uke, "a bolt on neck is the kind of thing I expect of a builder who does not trust that they have made a good enough joint to hold the neck joint."

Saying what Tim (Ukeeku) said about bolt on necks is like saying a house is badly designed and built because the builder used metal hinges on the doors instead of rolling a rock across the portal Fred Flintstone style.

What an unbelievably ridiculous "arm chair woodworker" comment Ukeeku,... you bell end.

ukegirl13
11-20-2012, 03:57 PM
You Ladies better not get Tim (Ukeeku) to review your bolt on ukes!! Here's his quote for a Lichty uke, "a bolt on neck is the kind of thing I expect of a builder who does not trust that they have made a good enough joint to hold the neck joint."

Yea, yea, I'm not even going to comment. :p ;)
Oh! But I just did!

Rick Turner
11-20-2012, 04:16 PM
Perhaps Tim could chime in on why he thinks dovetails are better than Spanish heel, bolt on, dowel, or mortise and tenon neck joints. Perhaps there should be a list of features:

Ease of making the body and neck as separate pieces
Ease of final assembly
Ease of repair
Aesthetics
Tone

And "Demonstration of intricate craftsmanship for it's own sake" does not count for doo-doo. It's a uke, not a piece of performance art...

Might as well insist upon hand felling the tree, hand splitting the wood, and pit sawing to bookmatch...

soupking
11-20-2012, 04:26 PM
You Ladies better not get Tim (Ukeeku) to review your bolt on ukes!! Here's his quote for a Lichty uke, "a bolt on neck is the kind of thing I expect of a builder who does not trust that they have made a good enough joint to hold the neck joint."

Anything you say or do may be used against you at some point by Nongdam... I don't have a dog in this fight, but I see no reason as to why Tim has been dragged into this. He's not challenging any of the luthiers here at this time, just stated an opinion about a year ago or some such. Furthermore, he posted Mr. Lichty's response to his criticism in plain view for all forum members to see on the original thread. What is the point of bringing this up, Nongdam? It's trolling, plain and simple. I think that you make posts of substance most of the time, Non, but this is bad form and quite grotesque, in my opinion...

Dan Uke
11-20-2012, 04:45 PM
If its trolling so be it as I am not sure what it means but I'm sure its valid as is everything on the internet. The review was Mar of this year and its very fresh to me as I didnt get my customs until recently and saw that they both had bolt on necks. I made a comment in Oct and he responded. As a reviewer of ukes, his website is viewed and we value his opinion. You dont need a dog but independent reviewers carry more weight on what theywrite and say. Thats my opinion...

soupking
11-20-2012, 04:53 PM
If its trolling so be it as I am not sure what it means but I'm sure its valid as is everything on the internet. The review was Mar of this year and its very fresh to me as I didnt get my customs until recently and saw that they both had bolt on necks. I made a comment in Oct and he responded. As a reviewer of ukes, his website is viewed and we value his opinion. You dont need a dog but independent reviewers carry more weight on what theywrite and say. Thats my opinion...

That's not the point, homie. You're pulling up useless stuff and dragging him through the mud when he had nothing to do with what is being said here at this time. I don't care if your ukes were put together with duct tape- it's bad form. You should probably just lay off and, really, stay off the Luthier's Lounge board altogether, considering you're not a luthier. We all know you want an MB and a Compass Rose with 14 frets to the body, and I'm assuming they know it, too. It's creepy. The only reason I'm jumping in is because you have no reason in bringing this up. Again, what's the point? Tim goes to all these NAMM shows and bends over backwards for the sake of hooking us up with pics and info, and you crap all over him to try to be buddies with these guys. Why? It's ridiculous.

ukuloonie
11-20-2012, 04:59 PM
Great points everybody but I think the original thread statement
has taken a interesting turn and not really going anywhere.
urr and it's starting to get a little bit warm in here and awkward.
Sorry guys.

Dan Uke
11-20-2012, 05:04 PM
Ok soup..I'll stay off LL..I'm glad you pay attention to my posts...happy :p

soupking
11-20-2012, 05:15 PM
Great points everybody but I think the original thread statement
has taken a interesting turn and not really going anywhere.
urr and it's starting to get a little bit warm in here and awkward.
Sorry guys.

No reason for it to be awkward in here at all. I'm cooler than the other side of the pillow right now. Keep it going, by all means. I just have to jump in, in this case, to stick up for people who didn't even introduce themselves into the discussion in the first place. So please do carry on.

Rick Turner
11-20-2012, 08:30 PM
I think that anybody's opinion of bolt-on vs. any other kind of neck joint is valid here, whether they've posted to this particular thread or not. I'm personally quite happy to see others' opinions stated here...and I'm happy to agree to or debate those opinions. My early posts were, obviously, pointing out how invasive Ken's procedure is in having to reset the neck angle of an assembled dovetail jointed neck. So if someone...anyone...has expressed an opinion that anything except a dovetailed neck is an indication of inferior craftsmanship, I think that bears discussion here. I strongly object to that inference. I think such an opinion is bordering on stupid. And at the same time, I think that Ken's reproductions of early Martin ukes are simply the best that I can imagine; I have nothing but immense respect for what he'd doing...which is...reproducing 1920s Martin ukes. I am not interested personally in building that way. I've repaired too many vintage instruments NOT to notice what goes wrong...not to notice where they are hard to maintain...where they are hard to repair...where they are hard to restore. But that's me.

And yet, I'd love to have one of Ken's ukes...for my personal collection...and I'd play the thing, too. Nobody whose work I've seen comes close to his repro perfection.

I can love it and not be drawn to doing it...

Dan Uke
11-20-2012, 08:38 PM
I watch sports center too so I quote stuart scott as well

Rick Turner
11-20-2012, 10:43 PM
And I don't watch sports but clearly remember that Arnold Palmer played on the 49ers and drove in home runs while scoring "love/40"...or whatever..."hat trick?" when with the Montreal Canadiens. Or did he get caught doing it with someone at White Water in the pool in a basement with a famous husband? Oh, it was a hazing ritual in Florida. No...a snowboarding accident that killed Sonny and Cher. Oh, not Cher? Oh well, too bad... Almost had ya!

Dan Uke
11-21-2012, 06:25 AM
And I don't watch sports but clearly remember that Arnold Palmer played on the 49ers and drove in home runs while scoring "love/40"...or whatever..."hat trick?" when with the Montreal Canadiens. Or did he get caught doing it with someone at White Water in the pool in a basement with a famous husband? Oh, it was a hazing ritual in Florida. No...a snowboarding accident that killed Sonny and Cher. Oh, not Cher? Oh well, too bad... Almost had ya!

Thats an epic statement Rick! You just have to know a few lingos and you sound like a pro! That's like us noobs knowing a few words like radius dish, soundport, HHG and we go on LL! hehehe

Timbuck
11-21-2012, 08:37 AM
Earlier today in the workshop.. I had another look at this reject soprano..It's neck angle way out about 4mm up at the nut end :(..but the neck was ok it was the body that was out...After some studying I decided that the soundboard was the main problem, it was pulling the neck block inwards and it was dished as well most likely caused by the pulling action.....and I decided that it would be best to make another bird box or burn it :(...Then I heard someone singing ???.. it was Cliff Edwards singing the theme tune to Disney's Pinocchio"...I know i'm talking a load of bollocks but "Jiminy Cricket" (My conscience) was sitting on my shoulder and talking in my ear
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/jiminy.jpg
...and he said "Come on Ken this is not like you, you don't normaly give up that easily"..."You can fix this one" Alan would have fixed it...Chuck would have fixed it...Rick would have got one of his lads to fix it...Pete would have done it right in the first place....Ok! Ok! Ok! I get the message I said....So I boldly took up my hot scraper and deftly removed the uke top and binned it.....Then I set about making a new top... It only took about 4 hours work and I'd made a new top, Fitted braces and a bridge plate and glued it back on the uke... and now the neck fits spot on... and nobody will ever know about the issues i had with it...unless "you lot" spill the beans.:rolleyes:
Pic's of the completed uke to follow shortly, after French Polish is re-applied.

ProfChris
11-21-2012, 11:11 AM
I'd love to have one of Ken's ukes...for my personal collection...and I'd play the thing, too. Nobody whose work I've seen comes close to his repro perfection.

Ooh, Ooh! I'm going to be one-up on Rick 'cause my wife is buying me one of Ken's ukes as a Christmas present (or a late Christmas present if it's not done in time - no pressure Ken, as I promised).

As I will never build a uke as good as Rick, I just had to boast here and now. Probably the only time I will have the chance.

I only have two contributions to the dovetail debate: (a) it's how Ken builds them, so it's right for his ukes (and the devices he has made to cut the joint are remarkable), and (b) I've built both Spanish heel and bolt-on but know I don't have (yet? maybe never?) the skills to do a dovetail neck. So I'll be impressed just by those facts every time I play mine.

Pete Howlett
11-21-2012, 10:36 PM
Ken I can't pm you so I have to contact you this way. You know that little patent MArtin tuner I sent you a year ago? Can you please send it back to me. The guy wants that wrecked 3K back - in a worse condition than your little one and he' sold it!!!

Timbuck
11-21-2012, 11:34 PM
Pete...I made a couple of drawings of that tuning peg...and sent them back to you complete with said item 3 Days after receiving it.....and thats the last I know about it..I wondered why you never said anything more about it...Fear the worst :confused:
Here are copies of the Drawings I made.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0022-7.jpg
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0020-8.jpg

ukeeku
11-23-2012, 03:23 AM
You Ladies better not get Tim (Ukeeku) to review your bolt on ukes!! Here's his quote for a Lichty uke, "a bolt on neck is the kind of thing I expect of a builder who does not trust that they have made a good enough joint to hold the neck joint."


Saying what Tim (Ukeeku) said about bolt on necks is like saying a house is badly designed and built because the builder used metal hinges on the doors instead of rolling a rock across the portal Fred Flintstone style.

What an unbelievably ridiculous "arm chair woodworker" comment Ukeeku,... you bell end.


Perhaps Tim could chime in on why he thinks dovetails are better than Spanish heel, bolt on, dowel, or mortise and tenon neck joints. Perhaps there should be a list of features:

Ease of making the body and neck as separate pieces
Ease of final assembly
Ease of repair
Aesthetics
Tone

And "Demonstration of intricate craftsmanship for it's own sake" does not count for doo-doo. It's a uke, not a piece of performance art...

Might as well insist upon hand felling the tree, hand splitting the wood, and pit sawing to bookmatch...

please read this in a calm level voice.
since the review of the Lichty (http://ukeeku.com/2012/03/07/lichty_tenor_review/) I have learned a lot of things about this subject. My personal view is that the Spanish heel is a sign of a more confident builder, and saying that it is stone age is a bit over dramatic. I see it more like furniture building. Would you rather a straight nailed drawer box, or dovetailed?
Here is my main thing about it. Since the sound of an instrument is the whole thing, a dovetail has more contact with the body, for me it translates to better vibration up the neck, as silly as that sounds. Does that make mechanical or bolt on necks bad? Not at all. many respected builders, that I love, use mechanical neck joints. Building an instrument is an art, choices are made for billions of reasons.
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR SNARKY: If you are concerned about repair ease, I call you on that. why are you expecting to repair it?
Looks: it makes no difference, and for final finish? I think it is a tighter joint to the neck, if done right, hence sign of a confident builder.
In the end for me it is a about a solid connection to the body.
I love what I do, and that Lichty review was brutal to do. Writing it was hard, and the aftermath has been harder.

Futch
11-23-2012, 03:32 AM
Here is my main thing about it. Since the sound of an instrument is the whole thing, a dovetail has more contact with the body, for me it translates to better vibration up the neck, as silly as that sounds.


It does sound silly. Why would you want the neck to vibrate? Surely it should be fairly inert, so as to transfer as much of the string's energy to the top as possible. Why would you wish to waste the energy of the string in making the neck vibrate?

Pondoro
11-23-2012, 04:44 AM
It does sound silly. Why would you want the neck to vibrate? Surely it should be fairly inert, so as to transfer as much of the string's energy to the top as possible. Why would you wish to waste the energy of the string in making the neck vibrate?

The neck does vibrate. As you say it absorbs energy, which is why some guitars have graphite composite necks. The less the neck vibrates the longer an electric guitar sustains.

The neck/body joint itself should be very rigid in any well-built and undamaged uke, regardless of the attachment method. Since dovetailed, Spanish Heel, bolt on and glue-on ukes have all survived for years it proves that all of these designs can be made strong. But each design will contribute something to the overall sound. That "something" is probably difficult to quantify and probably gets into personal preferences and aesthetics.

It would be really great to have an expert luthier make identical ukes with the different neck attachment methods and then tell us if he/she can hear any difference. But as soon as that happened he/she would take pains to tell us that the soundboard on "uke A" was slightly more responsive than the soundboard on "uke B", or "I wish I had changed the bracing just a bit on uke C." So it probably wouldn't prove anything.

I would guess dovetailed joints got invented when labor was a lot cheaper than hardware. As labor rates go up and hardware gets cheaper bolts start to look more attractive to the person who needs to make money, whether they are a builder of custom one-off masterpieces or they own a sweatshop cranking out 1000's of ukes.

I admire the person who can make a dovetail, but I've built three ukes and all used bolt-on necks. I hope I do not have to repair any of them.

Dibblet
11-23-2012, 04:48 AM
It does sound silly. Why would you want the neck to vibrate? Surely it should be fairly inert, so as to transfer as much of the string's energy to the top as possible. Why would you wish to waste the energy of the string in making the neck vibrate?

The vibrating part of the string makes contact with the instrument in two places so it would seem likely that only 1/2 the transferred energy is transferred to the bridge the other 1/2 to the fret or nut.

If you really want to reduce the vibration of the neck you could mount the frets in rubber strips inlaid into the fretboard and see what difference that makes.

Timbuck
11-23-2012, 04:55 AM
Just to put things straight...I have made a few of my own design ukes with bolt on necks and they don't sound any different to dovetail neck jointed ones (as far as I can tell)..they are just quicker to take apart and put back together..I only do dovetail joints on Martin replicas like what Martin used in the old days...If I made a Nunes replica it would have a spanish heel joint like Nunes ukes did back then...and so on :)

Pondoro
11-23-2012, 06:29 AM
The vibrating part of the string makes contact with the instrument in two places so it would seem likely that only 1/2 the transferred energy is transferred to the bridge the other 1/2 to the fret or nut.

If you really want to reduce the vibration of the neck you could mount the frets in rubber strips inlaid into the fretboard and see what difference that makes.

If the bridge moves more than the nut then more energy would go into the bridge. I'm guessing that the reason soundboards are thin is so that the bridge can move them and put lots of energy into he soundboard.

Rick Turner
11-23-2012, 07:28 AM
You guys clearly have zero experience with the Howe Orme style of bolt on neck where the ONLY contact between neck and body is the head of two small bolts that adjust neck tilt and a metal pin and clip at the heel. Howe Orme guitars of the 1890s absolutely rival their equivalent dovetailed Martin contemporaries. And that's with a neck joint that you can see through...literally.

This intellectually vacuous concept that more contact means better tone is absurd. It makes "sense"...or rather it seems to, but under close scrutiny and by being open to other concepts...and through understanding real engineering, the concept falls apart. And then, once you get out of your head about it and actually experience hundreds or thousands of guitars and ukes and see, feel, and hear some made in ways that are counter-intuitive to that mythical thinking, you start to understand the mechanics and acoustics of the instruments much better.

What you want for maximum "tone transfer" is a rigid neck with very low damping. That drives most of the string energy into the top, maximizing dynamic response and sustain. The neck joint has very little to do with getting tone into the body. A non-rigid connection there can hurt, but as long as the joint is solid, it makes no difference whether there is 6 square inches of contact or .6 inches or even less. All points of contact should be solid, but the amount of contact doesn't matter.

And going to more "normal" instruments with bolt-on necks (more normal than the Howe Ormes), Collings, Bourgeois, and Taylor guitars certainly rival the best known of the dovetail instruments.

You've got to know the real history of fretted instruments to know some of this stuff; you have to be open to hearing with your ears, not your eyes and your preconceived notions.

But, of course, if you want to believe that ukes or guitars sound better because someone put more time into them, then that's what you're going to believe. Might as well believe that an instrument with a lot of fancy inlay sounds better...

Pete Howlett
11-23-2012, 07:31 AM
Amen Rick...

Timbuck
11-23-2012, 09:38 AM
Found a photo of one Rick...I like it :cool: over a hundred years old as well.
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/howormsjoint.jpg

Rick Turner
11-23-2012, 12:42 PM
Ah, yes, that is one. Very close to "000" Martin in size...about 15 years before Martin made them. Incredible sounding guitar...when Martin Simpson played that very one, he looked up at me incredulously and said, "Is this really one of the three best guitars I've ever played?" "Yes, Martin; it is..."

I first saw and played a Howe Orme guitar when apprenticing in Boston in 1963, and that right there showed me the way to build acoustic guitars and taught me that dovetails are an interesting throwback...in a sense. Then I discovered Stauffer, Schertzer, and very early Martin guitars. Hmmm.... "Clock key" neck adjustment... Cantilevered fingerboards... Hmmm.... The H-O's sound better; they're bigger, more modern guitars, but that adjustable neck thing is just killer. And so that's how I build my few acoustic guitars unless I'm making some sort of reproduction. It works. The guitars have killer sustain, especially of the upper partials. They're loud. I build mostly to get a slight bit of Maccaferri or archtop mid punch, but that's mostly in the top bracing. I could do a scalloped brace top for a more dreadnought-like sound, but I don't want these to sound like Martins or Gibsons. The luthiers I show these to hate them...they can't stand seeing hardware (avoid banjos and resos!). The guitar players I show them to get it. 15 second neck reset. Owner fixable action. No need to change the saddle top height over the top in lowering or raising action. Great playability, great sound. And...No dovetail needed... And, yes, it's easy to put on the neck. Easy is NOT necessarily bad.

soupking
11-23-2012, 03:29 PM
Rick, I think it goes without saying that everyone on UU has the utmost respect for you, and that goes for ukulele fans, players, and luthiers alike. What is it about the Howe Orme design of the cantilevered fingerboard and adjustable neck that you find qualify in producing better ukuleles, specifically? I think we "get" that you find these attributes to make better guitars. But why ukuleles? Is it just the same concept as the guitars, but scaled down? Is the idea that your ukes will sound better off-the-bat? Or down the line? Or both? I know that I, for one, appreciate immensely your contributions to Ukulele Underground, and I know countless others do, too, so I thank you for that.

- Matt

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-24-2012, 06:33 AM
One thing that i always find interesting with Rick's analysis of things is his ability to differentiate between myth and fact. In my experience, most people who are advocates of HHG are usually also advocates of the other things usually associated with HHG, namely dovetail neck joints.
That Rick has found (through his own empirical observation and listening to his mate at Martin and others) that HHG (may) contributes to sound while also saying the dovetails do not (and all the rest of the dovetail myth eg better workmanship etc), makes a stronger case for both- at least for me.

Listen with your OWN ears as Rick has done, not the words of an anonymous internet writer or a marketing gimmick that tries to outsell the competition with false propositions- that is called politics and unfortunately it is how you win elections, and spread woodworking deception.

hawaii 50
11-24-2012, 10:14 AM
please read this in a calm level voice.
since the review of the Lichty (http://ukeeku.com/2012/03/07/lichty_tenor_review/) I have learned a lot of things about this subject. My personal view is that the Spanish heel is a sign of a more confident builder, and saying that it is stone age is a bit over dramatic. I see it more like furniture building. Would you rather a straight nailed drawer box, or dovetailed?
Here is my main thing about it. Since the sound of an instrument is the whole thing, a dovetail has more contact with the body, for me it translates to better vibration up the neck, as silly as that sounds. Does that make mechanical or bolt on necks bad? Not at all. many respected builders, that I love, use mechanical neck joints. Building an instrument is an art, choices are made for billions of reasons.
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR SNARKY: If you are concerned about repair ease, I call you on that. why are you expecting to repair it?
Looks: it makes no difference, and for final finish? I think it is a tighter joint to the neck, if done right, hence sign of a confident builder.
In the end for me it is a about a solid connection to the body.
I love what I do, and that Lichty review was brutal to do. Writing it was hard, and the aftermath has been harder.


Ukeeku

i am a buyer and player of nice ukes..but i always check out this forum first as i am very interested in the building and repair of nice ukes i have no dreams of becoming the next great builder..they are already Here..

i am still kind of new to the UU..and i have read some of your reviews..and agree/like all of them..but after reading this thread..i am wondering how many ukes or other stringed instuments you have built or repaired?

this bolt on neck topic kind of interesting..as it seems like many of the top guitar luthiers are going to bolt on necks..

as you say above>> more confident builders use a dovetail joint..How do you know which is better for sound and overall build quality..

waiting for your reply Thxs

jimmybookout
11-25-2012, 06:10 AM
I think it is sad that folks make "all in" comments about things they don't understand. This notion that the neck attachment method makes the difference between a good instrument and a bad one is simply incorrect. And it is naive at best to think that a string instrument (especially a steel string guitar) is not going to need a neck re-set in it's life. I invite anyone to watch a luthier disassemble a dove tail joint to re-set a neck and not CRINGE at the work and admire the skill it takes to do it.

Jimmy

Timbuck
11-25-2012, 08:43 AM
here is a repair job site you can cringe at http://harmony.demont.net/kamikazie.php?page=003

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
11-25-2012, 09:26 AM
Every joint and connection on an instrument is made with a future repair in mind. Every connection should be made repairable. That's old school lutherie 101. That's why we use permanent glues such as epoxy and ca sparingly. Stuff happens.
I started using cross dowel bolt connections on my necks in the early 1980s as a hobby builder because it seemed easy. As I built up my confidence I also experimented with other methods. As I started making more and better instruments the advantages of the bolt on connection became very apparent to me. Not only does it offer me endless opportunities to make adjustments and corrections as I build, the finishes are also much, much better. Any future repair man will also give me a nod of thanks, as resets and even neck replacements are relatively easy. How you choose to do your neck connection will affect every other step in the building process (how you attach the tops and backs for instance) and I believe I build a better ukulele than I used because of the bolt on connection. My experience only.

Dominator
11-25-2012, 10:37 AM
Bolt on necks are for "Girly Luthiers"

I'm proud to strut around the shop in my skirt:).

Rick Turner
11-25-2012, 10:46 AM
There are certain joints in an instrument where epoxy is really fantastic and IS reversible. I do all neck lamination for guitar and bass necks with epoxy; I never expect them to come apart. I glue fingerboards on with epoxy, and getting them off with heat is no more difficult than with a Titebonded fingerboard. In both cases, the fact that the glues do not have water in them is a major advantage. I would never use epoxy for doing, resetting, or repairing a dovetailed neck joint because that is a place where you do want relatively easy reversibility.

As for how the cantilevered fingerboard contributes to tone, it's that the fingerboard is not damping the top, and the upper bout of the top is free to vibrate. For me, that contributes to our own "signature" tone which I personally like. It's a more guitar-like tone with our ukes, and that is very intentional on my part. With the guitars, I believe I get longer lasting sustain, particularly of upper partial harmonic content, and that contributes to very even sound up and down the neck. The classical guitar maker Alejandro Cervantes, who is also an incredible player said to me that one of my instruments was the first steel string guitar on which he felt he could play classical repertoire because of the need to use the bass strings all the way up the fingerboard and have tonal voicing that really held together without the notes going "thunky". I find an almost "woofer/tweeter" relationship between the lower bout and upper bout of the instruments with that "tweeter" area really contributing to the overall sound rather than being merely relegated to the task of supporting the neck and fingerboard. And this is very, very different from the various approaches to modern guitar design...Smallman, for instance, who has utterly given up on the upper bout as a tone producer.

So I'm just taking some of what I've learned about guitars and scaling it down for ukes. For me and for my clients, it works. It's certainly not the only way to build good instruments, but these features have helped me to find my own place in the acoustic instrument world.

Pete Howlett
11-25-2012, 12:13 PM
And I guess that is where many of us would part company with you Rick in that we are trying to get the idea of a 'ukulele voice' into our instruments. I'm not sure I agree with your theory regarding the elevated fingerboard unless you have a strutting sytem in that area that is effectively contributing to the responsiveness of the top - but hey, I'm British and know nothing! As for the bolt on vs dovetail debate as this seems to have become I can see no real justifcation for one or the other only on the basis that either may provide the kudos of the traditional or modern sale spiel. In the end it is all down to personal preference and what you are selling. My mate who makes homage to Martin and Gibson guitars (very well I might add) uses dovetails, hide glue and cellulose finishes and sells on that 'vibe'...The fact that Ken is so unpretentious about what he does and is aiming to 'reproduce' a classic is no less or more than you Rick who is moving forward with a mere backward glance at tradition. Me? Just look at my Fireflys that sit alongside my ultra Hawaiian tenors - there's a conundrum for you...

Adendeum
My personal guitar - a 6 string pseudo harp design defies explanation... it outplays a dreadnought with that pure definitionn of a 1940's L0.

Rick Turner
11-26-2012, 05:25 AM
Pete, my bracing system for the upper bout is very different in that there is hardly any bracing there in the guitars I build; that area of the top is quite lively. The pressure of the neck on the neck block is transferred to the sides and back by way of "flying buttresses"...carbon fiber rods that "fly" from the upper portion of the neck block down to the waist not touching the top at all. The top is not responsible for supporting the neck or fingerboard. I've tried to separate (as much as possible0 the concepts of structural bracing from "tone bar" bracing and deal with structural issues as engineering/architectural problems. I think this leaves me more free to use top braces primarily to control tone.

The ukes are a bit different...I have a carbon fiber topped transverse brace just above the sound hole. I have built ukes with the flying buttresses, and I probably will do more of them in the future as "extreme" models, but nearly all of the regular Compass Rose ukes just have the CF assisted brace.

Pete Howlett
11-26-2012, 07:19 AM
There you have it! I thought ypu'd be doing something very 70's in the upper bout. Far too sophisticated for me:)

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-26-2012, 07:32 AM
... I would never use epoxy for doing, resetting, or repairing a dovetailed neck joint because that is a place where you do want relatively easy reversibility.

...Smallman, for instance, who has utterly given up on the upper bout as a tone producer.


Interestingly, last I heard, Smallman is epoxying on his necks. Not certain on his neck joint but I think he does a mortise/tenon with locking vertical dowel pins (like Somogyi)

Allen
11-26-2012, 08:39 AM
Last I heard Greg Smallman was using a adjustable neck. I was at a conference a few years ago where he discussed and showed us how the internals of his guitars were put together.

Pete Howlett
11-26-2012, 10:26 AM
Last I heard this was a ukulele forum ;)

****
11-26-2012, 10:28 AM
Hi,

I believe Smallman uses a milled carbon fibre Epoxied fingerboard and an adjustable neck system
where the neck angle /action can be adjusted

Rick Turner
11-26-2012, 10:58 AM
There is much to be learned about uke building and design from guitar makers...steel and classical. Most, if not all of our building techniques come from the same technical world that produces guitars and braghinas.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-26-2012, 11:10 AM
There is much to be learned about uke building and design from guitar makers...steel and classical. Most, if not all of our building techniques come from the same technical world that produces guitars and braghinas.

Yep. eg- alot can be learned from looking at the relationship between the cross diapole of fan braced guitars and ukes.

And to further infuriate the uke Gestapo- here are some neck to body xrays showing the use of nails in a Tenor viola from 1664 by Andrea Guarneri, a most celebrated Cremona maker.

Nails and bolts, dovetails and spanish heels- the wheel goes round and round...
4577845779
pics from the website

http://orgs.usd.edu/nmm/Violas/Guarneri3354/3354GuarneriViola.html

Rick Turner
11-26-2012, 11:26 AM
Maybe Guarneri had a Senco nail gun and an Ingersoll Rand compressor! Yeah, lots of traditional violins had the necks nailed and glued on. They were cranking the things out...Strad signed over 1,100 violins in his lifetime. Maybe some after he kicked the bucket, too! Like Salvador Dali signing blank pieces of paper for future prints...

Rick Turner
11-26-2012, 11:28 AM
You'll also note that the center seam on the back of that Guarneri is off-center in the lower bout! Way to go!

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-26-2012, 11:32 AM
You'll also note that the center seam on the back of that Guarneri is off-center in the lower bout! Way to go!

Hahahah- Im sure he designed it like that and that it was in no way an accident and if it was it was a designed accident for better sound production for playing not quite parallel thirds........ :o

Rick Turner
11-26-2012, 11:34 AM
Yeah, sure!

And the Pope isn't Catholic, either...

And bears don't s..t in the woods...

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-26-2012, 11:48 AM
hee hee

I once saw a Catholic bear its wood. Scared the pope out of me!

Rick Turner
11-26-2012, 12:09 PM
I saw a bear galloping across the highway last night up in Yosemite Park...

OK, off topic here...

Pete Howlett
11-26-2012, 09:07 PM
I just love US wildlife sightings... most I ever see here in the UK are Red Kites and badgers and not a single witicism to be had out of either!

Rick Turner
11-26-2012, 10:37 PM
Well, Pete, come on over! In our area: deer, raccoons, opossums, bobcats, mountain lions & the usual small ground critters. I'd love to set a nice herd of wallabies loose in the mountains above Santa Cruz, but that's probably not going to happen...

consitter
11-26-2012, 10:47 PM
Well, Pete, come on over! In our area: deer, raccoons, opossums, bobcats, mountain lions & the usual small ground critters. I'd love to set a nice herd of wallabies loose in the mountains above Santa Cruz, but that's probably not going to happen...

Weird! On another thread, I just posted about raccoons getting into my garbage last week. Also sighted an 8 point buck walking down my street...yep, I said street...I live in the middle of town. Only a town of about 20,000, but I would still figure deer wouldn't live there.

resoman
11-27-2012, 04:39 AM
Since we're pretty off track here....I'll contribute
This guy was living in my "front yard"a while back, hangin out with his buddy.....beep beep
45807

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-27-2012, 06:01 AM
45820

Dedicated to angry luthiers everywhere

Timbuck
11-28-2012, 03:43 AM
Here is the "Bad Boy" getting it's final polish of Beeswax before I string it up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ1p_AQtkuE&feature=plcp

Success!...I't's finaly back together again..Sounds and plays great...I'm glad it didnt go on the fire now. :)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0011-11.jpg

Dan Uke
11-28-2012, 05:01 AM
Here is the "Bad Boy" getting it's final polish of Beeswax before I string it up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJ1p_AQtkuE&feature=plcp

Success!...I't's finaly back together again..Sounds and plays great...I'm glad it didnt go on the fire now. :)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0011-11.jpg

Hi Ken,

It's great that you are making videos...I saw the Mrs. playing and singing...She's great!! What size uke is she playing?

tobinsuke
11-28-2012, 06:13 AM
To gaslight someone is to try to make them think that they are going crazy (from the excellent old movie of the same name). I don't get it.

stuben
11-28-2012, 07:47 AM
We're all glad you're not throwing Ukes on the fire Ken. Tried to PM you, your box must be full.

Timbuck
11-28-2012, 08:00 AM
We're all glad you're not throwing Ukes on the fire Ken. Tried to PM you, your box must be full.
It aint full "I switched it off" :)....Some folks think I do this for a living. ;) I still have an E-mail address if you click on the link below.

Timbuck
11-30-2012, 03:57 AM
I made a couple of vid's with this uke featured ..for sound samples etc:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaKix1Uje5M&feature=plcp
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2ydkTSpC8A&feature=plcp