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Thread: Novices review: The Uke Book Illustrated

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
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    Redmond, WA
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    213

    Default Novices review: The Uke Book Illustrated

    The Uke Book Illustrated arrived yesterday and I've read about halfway through. I'm really impressed, and from a novices point of view (some woodworking background, several starts that turned to kindling, but no completed instruments). It's one of the best and clearest lutherie books I've read.

    The illustrations are excellent and the instructions are in a hand writing font, but very readable. In ways it feels more like an art book than a project manual. If it were hardcover it wouldn't be out of place on a coffee table. In soft-cover this will go in my workshop.

    The project is a Spanish construction tenor ukulele built around a solara. It's all hand tools (so far the only sign of power has been dust collection) and assumes no woodworking background. There is lots of info on chisels, rasps, scrapers, shooting boards, etc. Except for the bending pipe it shows how to make all of the specialty jigs and tools, and it goes into very good detail about how to use them and where, how to set up for gluing and clamping, and how to clean up the squeeze out. The illustrations show each part built up or carved down in several steps at a level that would be difficult to pull off with photos.

    I'm not going to follow it's instructions exactly (I have a router and I will use it), but after reading it I'm much more confidant in the areas that hand tools will be appropriate for me. Several steps that I thought I had understood are now much clearer.

    The only negative is inherent in the scope: the book teaches how John Weissenrieder builds ukukeles. Several of the high level steps are done differently from other sources I've looked at (solara vs. molds, different radiusing jigs, fancy heel, etc.), and it doesn't mention other building styles or explain the advantages or disadvantages. Even so, the low level details are presented clearly enough and with enough explanation that the concepts will travel even if the details are different.

    I'd be interested to know what an intermediate or advanced builder thinks. From an intermediate POV, does it cover the areas well that gave you trouble in your first build(s)? From an advanced POV, do the steps look as sound to someone who knows what they're doing as they do to me? Are there pieces that you'd recommend a novice without master oversight skip or do differently?

    I'm still struggling to find time and space to build my Stewmac kit, so it may be a while before I can use anything here in a scratch build, but I'm certainly jazzed to do so. If only I weren't in a different state from my workshop!

    --Rob

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Massachusetts, USA
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    28

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    Thanks for this review. I'm a fairly novice instrument builder (one project completed), though I've been doing general woodworking for a number of years. I've skimmed through my copy of the book, and I think there's a ton of good information in there. The format is quite usable, and the art is great. I think a lot of your observations about the book are correct. But I've learned through the years that any "how to" about building something in wood requires translation by the reader to incorporate the skills and tools available to him or her.

  3. #3

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    I'll be getting this. I'm in an apartment, so my space and the amount of noise I can make are limited. Nearly all the other instruction I've found assumes you have at least a router. I've did illustrations for a book in my younger days and have a sense for how much work it is. Looking at the video promo, I was gobsmacked by the number and general quality.
    Last edited by Paul Bouchard; 06-12-2019 at 03:34 PM.

  4. #4
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    Aug 2008
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    Wales, UK
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    I struggle to understand why the slipper heel is the most common form of suggested construction in these books - and I had a master-class instruction on this 3 years ago and still couldn't get my head around why someone would use it. Apart from the challenge of carving the heel plus the added complications this causes for both binding and finishing it is not modern or in my view sensible point to start your making career. But, what do I know? I've only been making for 25years and must have had my head so far in the sand that I have missed something.... and yes if tried it, the spline joint, the dowel joint, dovetail construction, butt joint and screw settling on a bolted neck joint. My ghast is always being flabbered by books that suggest this neck joint.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2019
    Location
    Massachusetts, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Howlett View Post
    I struggle to understand why the slipper heel is the most common form of suggested construction in these books - and I had a master-class instruction on this 3 years ago and still couldn't get my head around why someone would use it. Apart from the challenge of carving the heel plus the added complications this causes for both binding and finishing it is not modern or in my view sensible point to start your making career. But, what do I know? I've only been making for 25years and must have had my head so far in the sand that I have missed something.... and yes if tried it, the spline joint, the dowel joint, dovetail construction, butt joint and screw settling on a bolted neck joint. My ghast is always being flabbered by books that suggest this neck joint.
    I've completed just one neck (which is a bolt-on), but as a woodworker, the difficulties of building the Spanish heel neck shown in the book just jump off the page. I'm curious if there is any reason, other than tradition, to building a neck that way. Still, my initial skim through the book indicates that there is a lot of good information in there that is valuable to the novice builder (like me).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    France
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    Thanks for the thread. Like Paul, i built my first uke in my house with just some traditional tools (trying to make some other...but not really efficient ) so i'm just buying it for learn good advice (yet i'm agree with you concerning the neck )

  7. #7
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    Aug 2008
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    Wales, UK
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    That's what is so frustrating - there is always gems in these books set against too much bad advice.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Location
    France
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Howlett View Post
    That's what is so frustrating - there is always gems in these books set against too much bad advice.
    I'll will send you my book by post so you will cross out and correct over the text Thanks Pete

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Greenville, VA.
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    773

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    I'm with Pete. The Spanish heel (not to mention the dovetail joint) should have vanished decades ago. It's another example of luthiers hobbling themselves to satisfy a quest to honor a questionable tradition.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Canberra, AU
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    I am yet to get my copy, but from the sample chapters which have been around for a while, I am very taken with the idea of drawings and paintings to illustrate the construction process. I wish I could draw like that. I will dissent on the idea of the Spanish heel style of construction. I don't think they are difficult to do, and the advantage is that it lines up the neck and body centreline and puts the top of the neck in the same place as the soundboard, two important aspects of building which are all to easy for the novice builder to get wrong. If I may be allowed a moment a gratuitous self promotion, my book on building ukuleles is just about ready for the printer. It offers three different ways to attach necks (including the Spanish). The are a couple of chapters available as a pdf download at http://www.mcdonaldstrings.com/ukulelebook.html if you care to take a look. Prepublication ordering will be available soon and I am sure there will be lots of things about it for people to criticise .

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