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bigphil
11-04-2013, 04:47 PM
I see a lot of first builds on here, so I thought I'd document mine here as well. I've picked up a lot of great info here to help me along the way. This being my first attempt at a ukulele I didn't have many of the necessary tools and fixtures. So that's where I started. Here are my body mold, radius dish, side bender and go deck. The radius dish concept came from this site and my side bender is light bulb powered, I didn't want to invest in a heat blanket.

bigphil
11-04-2013, 04:58 PM
It will be most all walnut. Here are pics of the thicknessed and joined top and back and the material for the sides.
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I was a bit concerned about bending the sides but it seemed remarkably easy. My bender worked flawlessly. Here are the sides "cooking" and just out of the bender. I used some thin pieces of tape to mark the waist location of the sides.
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I made up the mold cauls and some simple expansion clamps with threaded rod, some washers and nuts. The sides are trimmed here and in the mold.

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Then the neck and tail blocks were glued in.
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orangeena
11-04-2013, 09:45 PM
Looking great Phil. I assume the neck will be a bolt on?
Max

bigphil
11-05-2013, 02:23 AM
Thanks Max! I actually am a bit farther along than shown so far, the neck is going to be glued with a tenon and mortise. I just fitted that this week, stay tuned for more pics.

bigphil
11-05-2013, 06:38 AM
I thought that bloodwood trim would make a nice contrast with the walnut. Here is the back strip. I purchased the inlay strip from L. M. but I thought the outer bass highlight strips were too thin on this piece so I glued on an additional 1/32" piece on each side before laying it in the back.

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Finished back panel, rough cut...
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bigphil
11-05-2013, 07:52 AM
I'm sure most all of this is old hat to the folks who have been doing this for years but it was mostly new to me. I've made a few dulcimers but this is a different animal. Anyway, here is my set up for making kerf linings. First cutting the kerf slots on the band saw. I slotted both edges of the board.
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Then I made a cut down the center.
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And finally cut the strips free from the board.
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bigphil
11-05-2013, 11:18 AM
After posting a question on this forum, I was convinced that quarter sawn spruce was the way to go for the bracing. No need to argue with experience. Here's the back bracing on the go deck. 15' radius dish.

60653

bigphil
11-05-2013, 11:24 AM
I put the linings in my side bender to preshape them, here one is cut and fitted in the sides and another is laying on top of the mold.
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With the prebent sides, clothes pins seemed to make suitable clamps for gluing the linings.
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ksquine
11-06-2013, 07:55 AM
Nice looking walnut

bigphil
11-06-2013, 11:47 AM
Thanks, there is a neat burl on the back. I'm planning to use more of the burl for the headstock laminate piece.

bigphil
11-06-2013, 01:04 PM
As I already said, this is all pretty basic stuff for the experienced guys around here. This next task had me wondering if I bit off more than I could handle. The rosette inlay. I planned a bloodwood inlay surrounded by thin basswood strips in a non-concentric arrangement. In hindsight, I probably should have used thicker wood but I had ordered veneer thickness bloodwood. I believe that is 1/42" thick. I ultimately found I could not route it to shape without it splitting all to pieces so I glued it to a 1/64 aircraft birch ply backer to get it to work. That was only one of the issues I worked through before I got it done...

Here is the top routed and the bloodwood veneer. I already edge glued the veneer to get a wide enough piece for the inlay. The basswood was cut to a thin strip then wetted and shaped around a can with a hobby iron. Similar to shaping bent sides of the uke.
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I split the formed bass ring into two pieces and using CA glued them in place. I used an Xacto knife to trim them fairly close.
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I know when inlaying shell or other types of material it is quite common to color epoxy with saw dust to match the base material but I didn't want to rely on filler. I wanted this to fit! It took quite a number of tries to get perfect but I finally did pretty good I thought. Here is the completed inlay. The gap in the white ring will be covered by the fretboard so that wasn't of great concern.
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Here's another shot with the sound hole routed.
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bigphil
11-07-2013, 09:35 AM
Once the rosette was done, I was ready to start bracing the top. First I cut these two patches, one to brace the rosette area and the bridge patch. They are also walnut but will be cross grain relative to the top.
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I wanted a very slight radius in the bridge area but flat at top so I again used Dave Higham's method to make what he calls a trough thingie. Except mine is only curved at one end through about the center then transitions to flat.
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Then the glue up on the go deck.
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Chris_H
11-07-2013, 09:44 AM
for gluing thin pieces, like your bridge patch, and the backing for your rosette, especially when clamped with a small point of contact clamp like a go-bar, IMO, it is a good idea to use a 'caul, for clamping the pieces. The caul can be a solid block of some sort, sized and shaped to match what you are gluing. The clamp presses the caul. The cauls I use for pressing bridge patches have a radius sanded into them. The difference in integrity between a glue joint that is pressed by 'small points', and one properly pressed, adequately backed with cauls, is significant. The glue film inside will be much more evenly spread, potentially less glue, at least better distribution. Without cauls, it is still probably not going to fail, but... it is just better to use cauls. Just my opinion..

bigphil
11-07-2013, 01:22 PM
That sounds reasonable to me, thanks for the tips!

bigphil
11-08-2013, 05:30 AM
After the patches it is on to the rest of the top bracing. Everything was pre-cut and fitted. Here it is again on the go-deck.
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bigphil
11-09-2013, 11:02 AM
Once the braces are dry, I carved them to shape, here working on the top.

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Here are the finished top and back.

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bigphil
11-09-2013, 11:13 AM
Then on to more tool/fixture making. I wanted to glue on the top and back in the mold so I needed to modify it to add the clamping cauls.

First I glued up some ply strips and drilled them, some have been cut in separate pieces here. Still need to finish cutting them apart.

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Then I drilled the top of the mold to insert threaded rods which will hold the cauls. I'm taping the holes here.

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I cut pieces of 1/4" threaded rod and screwed them into the threaded holes
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I also had to add a bottom so I would have a surface to bear against.
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I added cork pads to the cauls to keep from damaging the top and back when clamping pressure was applied.
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Just about set to glue on the top!

jcalkin
11-09-2013, 11:23 AM
Looking good, Phil. Nice and clean. The crotch figure in the back is very pretty.

bigphil
11-09-2013, 12:27 PM
Thanks John! There is a lot of new ground here for me but I did a lot of study before getting going. I have high hopes for the figure in the back. I've done some "test" finishing of other slices from the board and I think it going to look really nice.

bigphil
11-11-2013, 02:01 PM
All the tooling is now ready so I glued on the top!

60807

bigphil
11-12-2013, 05:06 AM
That worked just as anticipated. :)

Here it is out of the clamps.

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And a couple snaps after I trimmed the edge.

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bigphil
11-13-2013, 09:22 AM
I'm getting started on the fretboard. This is the macassar ebony blank after I cut it to proper thickness.

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Here is my setup for cutting the fret slots. Probably a bit primitive by some standards but it works. I made up the miter box especially for this task. Just run the saw all the way down against the top of the miter box produces the perfect depth cut for the frets.

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Here we go, all done. :)

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Kamanaaloha
11-13-2013, 02:14 PM
i am not a luthier...but I know pro work and set-up when I see it! Dude going through all this affords you the experience to hone your skills...and refine wherever possible...and re-use what you have already made!

So very awesome! kudos from a neophyte!

bigphil
11-14-2013, 12:43 AM
i am not a luthier...but I know pro work and set-up when I see it! Dude going through all this affords you the experience to hone your skills...and refine wherever possible...and re-use what you have already made!

So very awesome! kudos from a neophyte!

Thank you, I appreciate your comments!

bigphil
11-16-2013, 04:30 AM
Next I got started on the neck. I'm making a laminated neck, mostly because I want the back strip to match up with the entire length of the neck. So the colors of the laminates will be repeated. The red center will be cut from 1/4" thick bloodwood and the main outer portions are of course walnut. I didn't think the soft basswood would be sufficiently strong for neck construction though so I used 1/32 birch aircraft ply for the white strips. Here are all the materials, the patterns are glued onto the walnut board so the grain will be reversed in the glue up.

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Here are all the rough cut pieces.
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Finally all stacked up and glued.
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mr roper
11-16-2013, 05:09 AM
Great. You sure this is your one, Phil?

bigphil
11-16-2013, 06:46 AM
Great. You sure this is your one, Phil?

Yep, I'm sure. First uke. As I said in prior remarks, I have built some dulcimers, so instrument building is not completely foreign to me. I'm also a model airplane enthusiast and have built "lots" of those. Working with most kinds of wood has some overlap, but there is still a lot to learn doing this the first time. I also left out coverage of some pretty good flubs. Stay tuned, I'm going to have to confess to something. I made a pretty good one this week. :(

connor013
11-17-2013, 03:07 PM
A bit late to this thread, but this is fun one to follow, Phil.

Nice clean work, too.

Gonna be a sweet uke, for sure.

Cheers.

bigphil
11-17-2013, 04:48 PM
A bit late to this thread, but this is fun one to follow, Phil.

Nice clean work, too.

Gonna be a sweet uke, for sure.

Cheers.

Thank you! :D

bigphil
11-18-2013, 12:06 PM
Here is the neck blank after a bit of shaping and sanding.

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I'm planning to use a mortise and tenon joint to attach the neck. The heel end of the neck with the tenon.

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Here the body had been routed to make the mortise.

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It all fits together!
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bigphil
11-19-2013, 08:03 AM
I've read that some builders include carbon fiber to reinforce their necks. I don't know if this is absolutely necessary since the pull on ukuleles is in the 40 lb range, but better safe than sorry I always say. I also had the carbon fiber on hand from my model airplane hobby so I'm putting it in.

I routed a couple grooves just outside the laminations. Here are the CF tubes laying in the grooves.

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After epoxying in the CF, I rough sawed the neck to shape. It's starting to look like a ukulele! :)

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Timbuck
11-19-2013, 08:53 AM
Looking Great, love the rosette....I notice that the "Tuxedos show Club" is selling beers:D at 25 Cents ...That beats the UK prices by a long shot:(

bigphil
11-19-2013, 01:57 PM
You're not supposed to be reading the paper Ken. LOL :D

bigphil
11-20-2013, 04:14 AM
Sometimes not having proper tools makes this project a great deal more effort. Like a spoke shave for example, which I don't have. I did 90% of the neck shaping from the rough sawn shape to this with an exacto knife and a little help from a drum sander... Glad that's over with! :)

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orangeena
11-20-2013, 04:20 AM
That is a lovely thing Phil. I will try a neck like that next time I think. Did you have to use any special glue to ensure the pieces don't separate? I imagine they could be of woods that expand/contract at different rates.

Max

bigphil
11-20-2013, 01:45 PM
That is a lovely thing Phil. I will try a neck like that next time I think. Did you have to use any special glue to ensure the pieces don't separate? I imagine they could be of woods that expand/contract at different rates.

Thanks Max! I'm sure different species and probably more specifically different densities of wood expand and contract at different rates when exposed to temperature and humidity extremes. I would guess this is more of an issue in cross grain situations though. The neck is comparatively short and all the grain runs in the same direction too so the differences in expansion or contraction are probably not of great concern in this case. I used aliphatic resin type glue, nothing special. I've seen lots of guitars use this type of construction though with no problems so I'm not concerned about it. Actually if you were just considering the walnut pieces, gluing two slabs with the grain reversed as I did makes it more resistant to twisting and a well made glue joint is stronger than the base material so this gives you a better neck than a solid one would.

Thanks again for your comments!

bigphil
11-21-2013, 02:44 AM
With the neck pretty well wound up it's on to more work on the fretboard. I'm getting started on the position markers. These are going to be bloodwood dots.

I used a piece of brass tubing that I cut make shift teeth on for the dot cutter. I chucked it in the drill press and cut these dots from 1/8" thick material.
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Then I carefully layed out and drilled the fretboard in the usual locations.

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bigphil
11-22-2013, 07:42 AM
Here's the fretboard cut to width and with the binding glued on.
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One more snap of the fretboard laying against the neck, here you can see the white basswood accent strip against the walnut. Nice contrast. :)
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lauburu
11-22-2013, 08:26 AM
Nice work. Does the fretboard sit on top of a basswood veneer or is the basswood connected only to the bloodwood(?) binding?
Miguel

bigphil
11-22-2013, 09:49 AM
Nice work. Does the fretboard sit on top of a basswood veneer or is the basswood connected only to the bloodwood(?) binding?
Thanks Miguel! The basswood is only on the binding. I purchased the bindings that way from Luthiers Mercantile. Basswood is pretty soft so I'm not sure using a laminate under the entire fretboard would be a good idea. I would be concerned about possible failure of the soft layer and the fretboard coming loose. That's the same logic (at least to me it's logic) that I didn't use the basswood in the laminated neck, I thought it would be weak so I used birch aircraft ply for that.

I'm getting pretty close to doing the binding around the entire body and I'm a bit concerned that the bass strip may come loose from the bloodwood when I bend the bindings. It's isn't shown in the photos yet but I bent a small piece of binding for the end of the fretboard which will have a reverse curve and the bass piece came loose in a couple places where the bend was most pronounced. I was able to glue it back down in that case but it's kind of got me concerned.

Tips anyone?

finkdaddy
11-22-2013, 10:47 AM
Ok, mister. Your high quality, "first uke" build is starting to really piss me off!:mad: You think you can just waltz in here and start showing pictures of some amazing ukulele that your building for the first time?!? I'm on #20 right now and none of them look that clean and professional.
Some people. Jeez.:rolleyes:

I'm kidding, of course!!!!! Your uke is looking amazing and you should be very, very proud. I can't wait to see how it all comes together.
Keep up the great work!

~Fred

bigphil
11-22-2013, 02:21 PM
I'm kidding, of course!!!!! Your uke is looking amazing and you should be very, very proud. I can't wait to see how it all comes together.
Keep up the great work!

Thanks Fred, stay tuned, I'm getting to the flubs... I appreciate your comments!

bigphil
11-23-2013, 07:33 AM
It's not all fun doing this project. I've alluded to some flubs I've made along the way and it's time to come clean on one of them. Fortunately this one was not catastrophic.

Here's a pic of the fretboard trimmed to length and with all the "finished" parts stacked up together, looking like a ukulele. Note the sound hole end of the fretboard is now bound like the long edges. Well that's where I didn't think things through very well. In prior photos you can see the long edges of the fretboard with the binding glued on. So how was a guy to then cut it to length and leave the binding long enough to make the miters on the end. Hummmmmm.... I considered giving it a go but the end trim was planned to be the curved sweep shown which makes the miters probably not going to be precisely 45 degrees. The more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that I'd never be able to get the miters to fit like I wanted them to.

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So I sanded the binding off the long edges and did it all over after trimming it to length. :(

You can also see my headstock laminate and the intended monogram inlay V. Here's another close up picture of those parts.

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My last name starts with V... I actually had planned to make both my initials PV sort of interlaced. After cutting and breaking this combination several times, I decided letters with straight sides were my forte. The combination of the fairly brittle bloodwood and thin cross grain sections were a combination that I couldn't seem to master. I was also starting to doubt how successful I would be trying to inlay the combination into the laminate. So I settled for just the V. The laminate wood is more of the same crotch/burl that is on the back of the uke, should be very nice when the finish is applied. More to come on that too...

bigphil
11-25-2013, 06:32 AM
The inlay is progressing. Here is the routed/carved recess in the headstock laminate.

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And the cut letter inserted...

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bigphil
11-27-2013, 03:39 AM
Here I've glued the inlay in headstock laminate and sanded it flush. I wet the piece with alcohol to show the grain. Cool! :)

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I'm also getting started on installing the frets. It takes a bit to get back in the swing of fretting. Going well though, just taking my time...

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bigphil
11-29-2013, 06:22 AM
And we have frets! :)

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Steveperrywriter
11-29-2013, 05:40 PM
And we have frets! :)

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This is fascinating stuff, BP.

Syeve

bigphil
12-02-2013, 02:58 AM
This is fascinating stuff, BP.

Thanks Steve

bigphil
12-02-2013, 03:18 AM
There are probably logical reasons for the assembly sequence that each builder uses to suit their construction process or tooling or what ever. In my case, I had planned the laminated neck and back strip to have a matching line run the entire length up the back of the uke.

I, of course, wanted these to be precisely aligned, which is why I wanted the neck done and fitted to the body before gluing on the back. Thus if I needed to make minor adjustments of the back to get the stripes aligned, I could.

So now with all that done, it's time to glue on the back! Here we go, in the clamps...

61459

bigphil
12-03-2013, 02:24 PM
Those of you who are lucky enough to live in the land of ukuleles, Hawaii, don't have to same issues we do on the mainland. Oh there are some locations here that make it through the next few months okay, like Arizona, or maybe Texas, southern California, or Florida.

I'm not in any of those places, I'm in Iowa. Here they invented this foul season that is not only cold but it will snow all over the place and its just not good. Especially if your shop is in the unheated garage like mine is. I can do a few things in my indoor airplane building facility but any sawdust producing power tools my wife isn't going to allow inside.

So anyway, the point of all this rambling is that my ukulele building is going to slow WAY down over the next few months until the garage becomes tolerable again.

I still have some things done that I will be posting over the next few days but progress is going to slow way down. I can't finish the uke until spring because my spray booth is also out in the garage and it's too damn cold to consider that kind of work.

Stay with me though folks, I'll get it done eventually!

bigphil
12-05-2013, 10:59 AM
Here are a couple more pics which just about bring me completely up to date on where I am on this project. First a disaster, here is the residue from my beautiful back. People here told me not to use my "good" wood for the first build attempt. I didn't listen... Opps! As it turns out, I didn't have the sides properly shaped to receive the back. Oh I could hold it snugly against the radius dish... What an idiot! This of course left tension in the glue up and my beautiful curved back turned into a shallow concave dip rather than the desired convex curve. I suppose most people would never have noticed the difference, but I would have hated it until I died, so I couldn't leave it. I routed the back off. I've read about folks "removing" parts but it seemed to me I was going to ruing more by trying to "unglue" it that to just make a new one. So that was the approach I decided on.

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This actually happened long enough ago, that I've let it go and actually have purchased a beautiful new board that produced this back! The figure in this board is outstanding, so I'm back on track. Sort of...

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I've been trying to get it curved again. Previously I just put it on the go deck for a week or so and then glued the bracing on. That seemed to hold it pretty good and probably would have been sufficient if I would have spent more time shaping the sides before attempting to glue on the back. So I was looking at Ken Timms video about the heat method he uses and thought I'd try something like that.

So now I've managed to get the glue joints compromised where the back strip is set in by applying heat to it. He warned me about this but I already had it screwed up...

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Now since it is already cut to rough shape my plan is to split it in half again and remake the center strip. All without loosing much more than the width of the seam separation. I'm hoping I can salvage the back. If not, I'll have to wait until spring to continue on that. As I mentioned above, no power sander in the house... :(

bigphil
12-07-2013, 03:45 PM
Here is one more pic I wanted to show everyone. My headstock. I put some finishing epoxy on this to fill the pores and to show the grain. This is the only area the epoxy has been applied to, but check it out! It's going to be pretty neat!

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Sven
12-07-2013, 08:40 PM
Cool. Are the sides of the headstock parallel / paralell? I first found that to be easy since it went readily into the vise, then I stuck to it as a design feature.

bigphil
12-08-2013, 03:20 AM
Cool. Are the sides of the headstock parallel / paralell? I first found that to be easy since it went readily into the vise, then I stuck to it as a design feature.

Thanks! No, actually the sides are slightly concave and slightly wider at the top end. There are other photos back a page or two that may show that a bit clearer.

Timbuck
12-08-2013, 08:17 AM
You're doing OK there Phil...Reminds me of all the cockups i've done in the past...I've smashed them up, Sawn them in half, Burned them, and made them into bird boxes :o .....Only scrapped two this year so far.....So i must be getting better at it:rolleyes:
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/C.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/user/shiregreenbod/media/C.jpg.html)http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/PICT0050.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/user/shiregreenbod/media/PICT0050.jpg.html)

bigphil
12-08-2013, 09:47 AM
That's a sad thing to see Ken. I've seen your component bins full of parts though, so presumably you will have more in process and hopefully no real attachment to any particular one. I have no thoughts of making this a career so I need to make this one at least presentable. I appreciate your help, tips and videos! Lots of good info! It's things like that, that have made this adventure for me possible at all! :)

bigphil
12-10-2013, 08:15 AM
Here are a few more details I've been able to finish without creating too much mess or in short forays out to the garage before my fingers get numb.

I've got the side position markers done on the upper side of the neck. First I made another tube plug cutter and bored out the plug "dots" from bass wood.

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I then carefully laid out the locations and drilled holes to receive the dots.

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I seated a plug in each hole and wicked in some thin CA to retain them, carefully trimmed them pretty close, and finished up with sanding. DOTS!

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Les Corley
12-13-2013, 07:11 PM
Thanks Big Phil for taking the time to document this build, I think it will be extremely helpful for a lot of people so keep those pics coming. It's going to be awsome

bigphil
12-18-2013, 01:46 AM
Thanks for your comments Les. I've slowed down during the cold months but I'll still have periodic posts. I'm not expecting to get finished now until it gets a good bit warmer here in Iowa. Stay tuned for updates! I've just about got the back flub fixed so I should have pics of that soon.

bigphil
05-14-2014, 02:22 PM
So winter has finally passed and I've got most of my model airplane projects pretty well done. So I'll be turning my attention back to the uke build.

I fooled around with the replacement back until I ruined the back strip trying to heat set the 15' radius shape. I've already made yet another back and glued up the bracing. Since this has all been documented, no more pics of that. I also greatly refined the shape of the surface of the body that receives the back so it will better retain the domed shape. Finally last night I got the body buttoned up. Here it is in the clamps.
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After drying over night I ran the flush cutter around it and here is the closed up body, both sides.

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With that done I'm getting ready to bind it and add the end graft. So I got out my primitive but functional light bulb powered bender. The bindings were securely taped together and put on the bender to cook. Hopefully they come out in one piece and in the correct shape.

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More to come...

PiterCh
05-16-2014, 11:23 AM
Hello,
your relation is very helpful, I am learning a lot watching and reading your work. I hope read more, soon:)
I am not sure that I understand the problem with the deck, but the new one is more beautiful!
Piotr

bigphil
05-20-2014, 04:08 AM
I am not sure that I understand the problem with the deck, but the new one is more beautiful!
Piotr

The problem was initially that I hadn't properly shaped the sides and when I glued the back on, it had a depression or a dip in the middle. It should be dome shaped not caved in. So I cut that one off and did a lot better job of shaping the sides. The second back, I tried to set the shape of by using heat, similar to how the sides are bent, this compromised the glue joint and the back strip separated and the two halves of the back pulled apart leaving a gap at the seam. It all finally came together on the 3rd try.

Bending the bindings was giving me a lot of anxiety but I got several good suggestions from a well known Hawaiian builder. :) Turns out this all went without a hitch. Here are the bindings in the body mold to hold their shape until I get them installed.

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Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-20-2014, 06:57 AM
Here are a few more details I've been able to finish without creating too much mess or in short forays out to the garage before my fingers get numb.

I've got the side position markers done on the upper side of the neck. First I made another tube plug cutter and bored out the plug "dots" from bass wood.

61761

I then carefully laid out the locations and drilled holes to receive the dots.

61760

I seated a plug in each hole and wicked in some thin CA to retain them, carefully trimmed them pretty close, and finished up with sanding. DOTS!

61762

Hey Phil, please give some more info on your plug cutter. With the exception of pearl, I cut all of my wood and recon stone dots with a brass tubing but yours has some kind of notch filed in the end of it.

Timbuck
05-20-2014, 07:52 AM
Hey Chuck! they are called core drills ...according to a guy on the Mandolin Cafe forum they are not expensive .. You can see the thread here (scroll down to #16) http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?60006-Early-f-4-fingerboard-side-dots ..This is a pic of one drilling a 2mm dot from orange tinted glass http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/core_drill_diamond_zps62a1e112.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/user/shiregreenbod/media/core_drill_diamond_zps62a1e112.jpg.html)

bigphil
05-20-2014, 11:06 AM
Oops see next post

bigphil
05-20-2014, 11:14 AM
Hey Phil, please give some more info on your plug cutter. With the exception of pearl, I cut all of my wood and recon stone dots with a brass tubing but yours has some kind of notch filed in the end of it.

Mine aren't near as fancy as what Ken has shown. I wanted to use things I had on hand, model airplane materials have a lot of useful ukulele building stuff. Anyway, I just selected a piece of hard brass tubing and cut it to length. I thought teeth sort of like a saw blade would allow chips to clear a little better. I made the "teeth" with a dremel cutoff wheel. I just eyeballed the teeth spacing and admittedly had to try a couple times to get reasonably spaced teeth. I used the same method with the marker dots on the face of the fretboard, the larger tube was easier to make teeth on. That is pictured earlier in the thread. These are of course are throw away tools. Something more robust would be better suited to repeated use. I cut extra dots when I made those so as far as I know, I'm done with them now. :)

bigphil
05-20-2014, 11:24 AM
I have some slow progress being made "behind the scenes". I have the end graft ready and I'm working on my binding router set up. Trying to do this as inexpensively and simply as possible yet with as much reliability as possible to hopefully NOT ruin the body while trying to make it pretty. Stay tuned, this might take a couple days... ;)

bigphil
05-23-2014, 05:43 AM
I had a lot of anxiety about routing the binding channels since I could have ruined a lot of work. I prepared as well as I could, and did a lot of practice cuts before trying it on the uke body, and it all went great!

Here is a fixture I made for cutting the channels. This is not my concept but one I found online, except I made mine instead of buying it. Pretty simple and worked great. The base of the fixture is screwed to my router table while the top portion can be adjusted to expose more or less of the router bit. Height of the cut is controlled by the depth adjustment on the router. You can't see it in the photo but the amount of the router bit exposed is controlled by a simple screw mechanism. The two wing nuts on the top lock the position. I'm using a piece of foam insulation which the body of the uke lays on while routing. This serves to raise the body slightly above the height of the cutter and also is soft so prevents marring the nearly completed front and back. In use, you push the body down tightly against the ledge on the fixture, so the depth of the cut is constant.
67015

I made the cuts in two passes, first about 1/2 the needed depth, then again to the full depth. Here are photos of the completed cuts. First on the top.
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And the bottom.
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bigphil
06-01-2014, 04:07 AM
The bindings are going on although it is taking a lot longer than I had anticipated. I started on the bottom side which in my case is the most difficult because the bindings must meet seamlessly at both ends. I don't know of a method to determine the precise length of the binding except to start gluing it on there, and then finish the final seam when you get to that point. So this must then be done by hand, no sanding jigs or fixtures to perfect the joint... Maybe the old timers have methods, but I did it by hand... Fortunately it worked out fine. I used rubber bands for "clamps" which also seemed to work fine except for the occasional SNAP. These photos were taken only to show the process, in practice I had to put MANY more bands on especially in areas where the fit was not exact and more pressure was needed to bring them into snug contact with the body. I've read that bloodwood tends to relax after removal from the bender. I kept them in my body mold but still had some spring back...

67283
67284

Forging ahead!

bigphil
06-03-2014, 12:27 PM
The bindings are done and leveled! Here are a couple pics. Definitely room for improvement but I'm satisfied. It's hard to expect perfection on your first and probably only build. Many people who KNOW what they are talking about have told me this...

Anyway, here's the top...

67357

And from the side, the bass wood stripe set off the bloodwood binding nicely I think!

67356

Now on to the end graft.

Sven
06-03-2014, 02:51 PM
Basswood is easy to work with, so that basswood stripe is a great idea. I'll nick it. Some of my best ideas are nicked.

bigphil
06-04-2014, 05:10 AM
Nick away! ;). It's not really an idea I originated, just one I "nicked"... :)

bigphil
06-04-2014, 06:16 AM
I completed the end graft this morning. I made the inlay piece from scraps of the bindings so they would match well. No real magic here as far as technique or methods go. I carefully measured and held the graft inlay in place, then marked the shape on the body with a SHARP scribe. I used an Exacto knife, and very small chisel and my Dremel router to remove the material. Then just glue it in, sand it flush and here is the result.

67367

67368

bigphil
06-05-2014, 11:15 AM
On with pore filling. If you've been following along you'd know I stopped in to see Chuck Moore last month while in Hawaii. He's a fantastic guy and freely shares his methods and techniques. One of the tid bits he shared with me was his pore filling technique. Some may already know he uses CA glue for this. I was anticipating a long drawn out process for this until I tried his method. I've got the entire body done in less than a day! He has told me there will soon be an article published in the Guild of American Luthiers magazine, so anyone who is interested will soon have all the details. I'll guarantee if you try it, you'll be amazed at how easy, fast, and what amazing results you achieve. My entire body is already smooth as glass. Ready for a base coat of shellac and then the lacquer.

This shows the CA just after I wiped on the initial coat.
67442

Here is a view of the completed top.
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67439
And the back...
67441

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
06-05-2014, 12:11 PM
Good job Phil. I can pore fill a body (3 coats) in 2 hours and that includes an hour and 20 minutes of drying time. The best thing is that you'll never have any shrink back. The down side is that CA glue can irritate your eyes and nose so you've got to be protected and work in a well ventilated area. I've shared my method with many builders. Those who have achieved the best results have followed the procedure exactly. I've seen others do it their own way and end up with very poor results. If you botch it up with drips or runs it's hard to recover from. It's not for everyone. Make sure you top it off with shellac before applying your finish to achieve the best adhesion possible. The article should be out this month and hopefully will explain everything in detail.

bigphil
06-10-2014, 01:49 PM
Hey Chuck, the Chipmunk flies... :)

In between airplane stuff I spent a little time making the bridge and improving the appearance of the bridge pins today.


Here is the bridge blank, Massacar ebony, smame as the finger board. I've already cut it to thickness and cut the slot for the saddle here.
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I drew the pattern for the bridge based on my Kanile'a tenor. Most other dimensions were also derived from that instrument. Then glued the pattern on the blank with spray adhesive.
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A couple minutes at the band saw yielded this. I cut just outside the lines on the pattern.
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I use this handy protractor sander in building my airplanes. It allows both end angles to match perfectly.
67649

Then I finished up the curved side on the drum sanded bringing it up exactly to the line.
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bigphil
06-10-2014, 02:00 PM
Apparently you can only attach 5 images per post so to continue...

After drilling pilot holes for the bridge pins, I removed the pattern and cleaned it up.
67651

I then radiused the edges. You can do this with remarkable precision by sanding "facets" first, then blending into radii. I sanded the edges first at 45 degrees at approximately the desired size of the radius. Then sand the corners of the first angle off, finally blend to a smooth radius. Produces a very consistent size radius across the feature.
67652

I purchased bloodwood bridge pins to match the rest of the trim on the use. I wanted to add accent dots in the center. I first chucked the pins in a drill to spin them and marked the center with an Exacto knife. Then I drilled them for the accent plugs. Plugs were cut with a brass tube similar to the dots on the fretboard. Plugs are basswood.
67653

Finally they were glued in with thin CA and sanded smooth. I polished them up pretty good with progressively finer papers and shot a couple coats of lacquer on the heads of the pins. I left the shank portion bare... I think they might tend to stick more if finished...
67654

Dan Uke
06-10-2014, 02:07 PM
Phil, I'm very impressed with your first build. You really tackled some tough stuff. It would have been nice if you added purfling aroung the back to match the center strip. Can't wait to see the finished product and hear a sound sample.

bigphil
06-10-2014, 02:24 PM
Phil, I'm very impressed with your first build. You really tackled some tough stuff. It would have been nice if you added purfling aroung the back to match the center strip. Can't wait to see the finished product and hear a sound sample.

Thank you! I was pretty intimidated with the prospect of routing on my body even for the binding so I passed on the purfling. I intentionally purchased the bindings with the accent strips to in part make up for the lack of purfling. Actually I hadn't finalized how I was going to go about routing the body for the binding until I got to that step. I was doing a lot of internet research considering alternatives. On a couple of dulcimers I've done in the past, I actually made hand cutters and spent a loooooong time dragging those around the outside of the instruments to hand cut purfling grooves. I don't think I owned a router in those days... ;)

bigphil
06-24-2014, 04:40 PM
It's been a while since I posted any progress, I've been held captive by the humidity. I have gotten the neck glued to the body and finally was able to start spraying today. Five coats so far. I'm going to do some leveling and add more when the weather permits. Doesn't sound like it will be very soon though. I am pleased with how it's going though! :)

Here' a couple snaps.

68176

68175

hawaii 50
06-24-2014, 04:54 PM
Looking good Phil...

bring it with you on your next trip here....
hope you can do a sound sample....are you keeping it for your self? :)

bigphil
06-25-2014, 01:07 AM
Thanks Len! I will post a sound sample when it's finished, still a ways to go. The finish process takes a while especially if a person doesn't have humidity controlled spray facilities.

I am keeping it myself and will consider bringing it along to Aloha land next time. I generally take the opportunity to bring back ukes on Hawaiian trips though rather than taking one along with me. We both know what I'm sayin'... :)

bigphil
07-22-2014, 04:41 AM
It's been a while since I posted but not because I haven't been busy, rather because I've been developing an appreciation for how difficult it is to do a high gloss finish. I've already sprayed the uke and buffed it out only to find I buffed through at the location where I had the bridge mask. So, I sanded off the top face and resprayed it being careful to protect the edges of the area where the bridge will be glued on. I buffed that out yesterday and found I burned through near the bottom of the sound hole. CRAP!!!!!!!

Third time is a charm they say... I'm learning, I will NOT do that again!

I also discovered my choice of finish is apparently not the first choice of some of the more experienced builders on this site. I'm using the KTM-9 water based finish. Again, while this may not be the first choice of the pro's it doesn't require use of a respirator, it is easy to clean up, it is fairly easy for amateurs to use, and is environmentally friendly. While I'm not as good at photographing as the pros either, the results are pretty amazing too.

Anyway, before I start again to try to get the top right, I thought I'd put up a few pictures.

Here's the front, you can't really see the burn through and the bridge is just laying there for the photo, it's not glued on.
69257

Turning it around shows the sides and back. The bloodwood bindings and back strip came out really nice I thought.
69258

Here's a shot of the back, lots of curl in the wood.
69259

And finally, here is a shot of the end graft. I thought this came out pretty nice too. Eventually I'm going to install a Baggs pickup so this will be drilled for the jack/strap button.
69260

Since I've last posted I also have the frets all leveled and polished and the nut made. So if I could ever get my act together on the finish, it wouldn't take long to finish up. I will have to wait out the cure again though so stay tuned...

bigphil
07-29-2014, 04:13 PM
I finally got the top buffed up without going through the finish. I rubbed it out by hand this time, surprisingly not that hard if you sand with fine enough paper first. I leveled it wet with 1000 then smoothed it with 1500. Looks pretty nice if I do say so myself. I then turned to getting the bridge glued on. I couldn't find the proper size of deep throat clamps locally so I made the ones pictured from an idea I found online. Just a "C" shaped piece of plywood with a bolt tapped in to exert clamping pressure. Worked great.
69505

I've already drilled the bridge for the string pins and used these holes for alignment on the top. While you can't see them in the photos, I used short pieces of brass tubing to align the bridge. I figured the brass should break free from the glue fairly easily.
69507

I also installed the tuning machines today. You can see the crotch burl peghead laminate and the bloodwood monogram inlay here. I'm pretty pleased with how this all came out.
69506

I only have to ream the pin holes, and finish the nut and saddle, then string it up. Tomorrow I should know if it was worth all the effort. Stay Tuned!

ericchico
07-29-2014, 04:41 PM
Just stunning! You can get lost looking into that Walnut.

bigphil
07-30-2014, 03:10 PM
Just stunning! You can get lost looking into that Walnut.

Thank you Eric!

bigphil
07-30-2014, 03:36 PM
Look, I did it!
69537

It was a long journey and I've learned so much. Mostly that folks who make a living doing this are underpaid, to appreciate the effort involved you really have to try it.
69538

I'm sure things would get easier if I were to do this again and again, and I would get better at it so I wouldn't have to do so many details over and over to get them right.
69539

The experience was very gratifying and it really sounds wonderful too. I'll post a sound sample soon.
69540

At this point, I don't know if I'd build another one although I have a pretty good start on an early mistake. Maybe a concert could be made from that. It won't be for a while in any case. I hope some of you benefited from my pictorial documentation of this build. Certainly not that I'm an expert or there aren't far more qualified folks around here to ask, still I went through the process and found methods that worked for me. Many times with the help of the folks around here. Maybe YOU can do it as well!
69541

Stay tuned for a sound sample. :)

Steveperrywriter
07-31-2014, 06:36 AM
Gorgeous.

The finished project really looks good, and here's the thing: Nobody can tell by looking at these pictures about all the uncomfortable places you had to go to get here.

hawaii 50
07-31-2014, 06:47 AM
Nice Phil...
hope to see it on your next trip here....:)

PereBourik
07-31-2014, 06:55 AM
Beautiful result Big Phil. I especially like the eccentric rosette.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
07-31-2014, 07:16 AM
Looks great Phil. You did a nice job on that finish. Buffing through can be a real PITA. I like to run my wheels relatively slow at about 800 RPM. And keep the body moving as to not generate too much heat.
BTW, when I was seriously researching water borne finishes a few years ago I ran across some information that claimed that these finishes are not entirely without their health hazards. I can't remember the specifics but I think it's good to advise anyone to wear a respirator when spraying anything.
What are you building next? :) (And if you say nothing, you just ain't human!)

Dan Uke
07-31-2014, 02:18 PM
As to water based borne finishes, I don't like them and I've read Rick Turner call it wishful thinking. They sometimes leave a hue or have cloudy areas. Mike Doolin used to be one of the top instructors and proponents of KTM-9 and stopped and switched to polyester finishes. They are not as durable and if you have high acidic content like me or maybe don't take care of your ukes, it wears off quicker, especially where my forearm rests on the uke. I would pay extra for a nice nitro-cellulose finish.

I am not a luthier but tried 3 ukes with it.

bigphil
07-31-2014, 03:49 PM
Looks great Phil. You did a nice job on that finish. Buffing through can be a real PITA. I like to run my wheels relatively slow at about 800 RPM. And keep the body moving as to not generate too much heat.
BTW, when I was seriously researching water borne finishes a few years ago I ran across some information that claimed that these finishes are not entirely without their health hazards. I can't remember the specifics but I think it's good to advise anyone to wear a respirator when spraying anything.
What are you building next? (And if you say nothing, you just ain't human!)

Thanks for the complimentary words Chuck, I don't know if there is any higher praise. :)

You're probably right on the respirator! I was running the buffer at about 750 RPM and tried to keep moving. Experience plays a role here or lack of it I should say. I let the wheel go into the edge around the sound hole and it didn't take long. I've said it before, CRAP! Ah well, hand rubbing builds character.

I think I can still qualify as human too because I'm of course still building "something". I can't just sit around... I'm working on a Hall's Springfield Bulldog racer.
69579 69580
This project has been being ignored for a while during the uke build and before that while doing the Chipmunk. I've shown you pictures of that one previously which is flying great I might add. Flew it yesterday. The Bulldog has most of the wood work complete, there are LOTS of fiberglass fairings to make now. I need to make foam molds which are then covered in fiberglass, then the foam washed out with acetone leaving the fiberglass part. These fairings will go around the wing struts both ends, landing gear both ends, around the tail feathers. Each side is a mirror image too so no two alike. By the way, while you can't really see it in the photos, the curved surface of the fuselage is "planked" with about 1/4" wide pieces of balsa which run lengthwise. There are also stringers that are spaced about 1/2" apart, you can see some of these near the tail where the planking ends. So each piece had to be fitted together and between all the stringers. I thought ukulele building was tedious work... ;)

It will be powered by a 5 cylinder radial engine, should be cool when finished. Those who are thinking to themselves that you can't play music on this have never heard one of these engines running. Music to my ears!
69581
So do I still qualify as human? :)

Oh yeah, here is a photo of the actual plane for those who aren't familiar with old airplanes.
69582

hawaii 50
07-31-2014, 07:11 PM
Thanks for the complimentary words Chuck, I don't know if there is any higher praise. :)

You're probably right on the respirator! I was running the buffer at about 750 RPM and tried to keep moving. Experience plays a role here or lack of it I should say. I let the wheel go into the edge around the sound hole and it didn't take long. I've said it before, CRAP! Ah well, hand rubbing builds character.

I think I can still qualify as human too because I'm of course still building "something". I can't just sit around... I'm working on a Hall's Springfield Bulldog racer.
69579 69580
This project has been being ignored for a while during the uke build and before that while doing the Chipmunk. I've shown you pictures of that one previously which is flying great I might add. Flew it yesterday. The Bulldog has most of the wood work complete, there are LOTS of fiberglass fairings to make now. I need to make foam molds which are then covered in fiberglass, then the foam washed out with acetone leaving the fiberglass part. These fairings will go around the wing struts both ends, landing gear both ends, around the tail feathers. Each side is a mirror image too so no two alike. By the way, while you can't really see it in the photos, the curved surface of the fuselage is "planked" with about 1/4" wide pieces of balsa which run lengthwise. There are also stringers that are spaced about 1/2" apart, you can see some of these near the tail where the planking ends. So each piece had to be fitted together and between all the stringers. I thought ukulele building was tedious work... ;)

It will be powered by a 5 cylinder radial engine, should be cool when finished. Those who are thinking to themselves that you can't play music on this have never heard one of these engines running. Music to my ears!
69581
So do I still qualify as human? :)

Oh yeah, here is a photo of the actual plane for those who aren't familiar with old airplanes.
69582



Hey Phil..

I am not a flier like you but I was going to check out the Biggest Little Airshow in Hawaii in Aug... at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor....people from the Mainland and Japan and the locals...2 day event...

looks like fun.....1 to 5 scale planes etc....

bigphil
08-06-2014, 04:06 AM
Here's one final photo of my label.

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Here's a quick sound sample too, I'm playing Aaron Keim's - Roxy's Waltz. I recorded both parts which are played together here (https://soundcloud.com/veedubbayou/roxys-waltz).

ericchico
08-06-2014, 04:25 AM
Sounds great Phil. The name on the label is catchy also.

flyer
08-06-2014, 09:41 AM
That is one sweet ukulele, if it only sounds half as good as it looks you are in for a new career :)

Out of curiosity, how many man hours would you say this project took? I would be tempted to attempt something like this myself, but not sure I have the time!

Congrats on a beauty.

Flyer

bigphil
08-06-2014, 03:02 PM
That is one sweet ukulele, if it only sounds half as good as it looks you are in for a new career :)

Out of curiosity, how many man hours would you say this project took? I would be tempted to attempt something like this myself, but not sure I have the time!

Congrats on a beauty.

Flyer

Thanks for the laudatory remarks. If you want to hear it, I posted a sound sample above. I didn't really keep track of the hours and I had to take a building break during the REAL cold weather so it's difficult to try to calculate. My inexperience caused me to have to do several things over as well, so if you can avoid the mistakes I made or are more inclined to accept mistakes instead of striving for your best effort the first time, your build could go quicker. It was a rewarding task and I'm really pleased with the result, it's not going to be a career for me though. Thanks again!