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Thread: StewMac Tenor Kit Build

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Redmond, WA
    Posts
    301

    Default StewMac Tenor Kit Build

    Hi all! Almost a year ago I posted in my intro to UU that I was starting a StewMac kit and that I'd post a build thread. For various reasons (both good and bad) it was a very slow start, and I pretty much restarted from the beginning a week or two ago.

    I don't want to make things too simple, so I've planned some modifications. Some are going well. Some are providing lessons for the next one (I have another kit on my shelf).

    The add-on plans:
    • Inlaid rosette (laser cut, because I can)
    • Inlaid headstock logo (handheld routed, to see if I can)
    • Sound port
    • Binding
    • Pickup with offset jack
    • Embedded magnets for ToneWood amp


    So far I've managed the following will various levels of success:
    • Top and back braces glued on. Easy peasy!
    • End blocks trimmed to fit and glued. No problems!
    • Additional block to support the output jack. No problem, except that mine looks better than the supplied head and end blocks
    • Linings glued in. This was the first big problem:
      • StewMac supplied four solid bindings that are (in theory) flexible enough to bend around the waist. The first two went in great. The third and fourth snapped on the bend. I don't know what I did differently. My first thought was to replace them with some Baltic birch I (thought) I had handy, but I couldn't find the right size. I ended up just using the broken pieces and butting them together. I don't think they're structural in that direction so it shouldn't matter (and an old post on another luthier forum appears to agree)
      • Minor problem: the linings are a two-ply laminate, and the instructions didn't comment on which side should go in and which out. I glued the good side of the first one before realizing they were directional, so kept that for the rest. Nobody'll look closely enough inside to know if I don't tell. So this isn't telling

    • Linings sanded flush. I thought this went well. In retrospect I may have gotten them uneven. This may have bit me in gluing down the top. More on that in a few steps. Next one I'll probably use a full plane flat sheet rather than a skinnier (but still 2" by long enough to hit both sides) sanding stick.
    • The first real diversion from the official plans: a soundport on the upper bout.
      • After practicing cutting and binding an ellipse on a flat board I thought I had it down. Cutting the actual hole with a Dremel and sanding to shape wasn't too bad.
      • Measure twice. Step back and really look at what you're doing. Cut once. My initial cut-line wasn't quite in the right place.

        Fortunately I caught it before cutting.

        Getting the ABS binding to follow the curve was tricky. It's in, but pretty obviously wonky. I'm hoping it'll look a bit better once it's sanded flush and cleaned up:





    --Rob



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Redmond, WA
    Posts
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    • Almost forgot to add in my tone magnets before closing up the back. In another measure twice then check moment I accidentally glued the magnet supports between the wrong braces, but caught it before the Titebond had se. It just caught me some cleanup and prompted me to add in a laser etched logo behind the sound hole.
    • ​Onto closing it up. I think a combination of too-little glue, not quite even edges, and weak clamping caused part of the bottom to separate. I wicked in some CA and reclamped it before realizing that the problem wasn't isolated to just that spot. I should have removed the whole bottom and reglued. I touched up the top edge flatness before using more glue and normal clamps instead of the elastics and the top went together much more solidly
    • Major plan divergence #2: binding the top & bottom. Test routing on a pieces of uke-shaped poplar worked brilliantly, so I trusted myself with the real thing. Got most of it done great, and then discovered the hard way that the router's friction-fit depth setting wasn't tight enough to hold up to my leaning on it. Extra big chunk out of the base of the uke along the top edge:

      My plan for the next step is to try to patch it with some 1/16" Mahogany veneer, and probably end up painting the sides.

      Other than the gouge, the binding fits the channel almost perfectly. I'd like to get the body done tonight and then onto the fretboard. Most likely I'll have to wait until tomorrow for better light to colour with.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
    Posts
    2,157

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    Thanks for the detailed description of your build. That first one is a real learning experience ain't it? ... I hope you don't paint the sides. Not a good look.

  4. #4
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    Apr 2018
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    Redmond, WA
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    Quote Originally Posted by sequoia View Post
    I hope you don't paint the sides. Not a good look.
    Unfortunately the patch to fix the router gouge is a noticeably different colour. I'll probably try staining first and see if that hides the difference well enough.


    Other than colour, the patch went in well. In retrospect I should have expanded the problem spot a bit so I could have fixed it with a single patch that went to the end block, but it worked well enough with a couple of smaller ones and I'll fix the gap at the tail end with an end graph. I was starting to plan that out last night when I was chased in by a thunderstorm. There was just enough time between the initial thunderclap and the rain starting for me to get all of my tools packed up and under cover in the garage instead of out on the driveway.

    Unfortunately, when I got back out to work this morning I discovered that my top glue-down wasn't nearly so good as I'd thought. I'm not sure if it was the storm
    (I wasn't bright enough to bring the uke inside for the night)
    or just a bad job catching up with me or something else but the top had cupped and popped off on the end.


    There was enough room in the gap for me to clean up the glue there without removing the whole thing. Since I'd already routed the binding I didn't have a lot of wiggle room to get it back on lined up exactly if I removed the whole thing. I'm concerned that forcing it into place with clamps won't be a long term fix, but this one's supposed to be experimental so went with it. The edge binding went on much better than the soundport binding did.


    I had already popped the dots out of the fretboard and went at it with the Dremel to inlay some maple ovals at 5, 7, and 10, and a rabbit at 12. The ovals went well. The rabbit went ok, but not as well as in my test piece. Nerves! Then thunderstorm round two chased me back inside.

    The storm died down and I went out after dinner to start on the frets, but ran into a killer problem: I can't find the inlaid fretboard. It's not on the bench that I'd been keeping the WIP or in the box of kit supplies. It's not on the benches of any of the tools that I had out. I'm pretty sure neither a rabbit nor the neighbor's dog snuck in and stole it. I'm going to give another search in a few minutes. I had hoped to finish this before next weekend's uke retreat, but that's not looking so likely right now.

    --Rob
    Last edited by Arcy; 09-08-2019 at 05:36 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    Petaluma, CA
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    That is a common problem with me. It seems that when some important small piece hits the shop floor, it goes to another dimension. I hope the other me has a use for. it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Redmond, WA
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    Well, the good news is that I found the fretboard. It hadn't hopped to another dimension. Or if it did it came back. Unfortunately, I found it in a bush outside where it had been enjoying the rain. It looks somewhat like one of the wacky but cool ergonomically twisted necks. Not what I was aiming for on my first build. Hmmm..... or maybe the corkscrew is a result of a trip through a dimensional rift?

    Either way, I'm going to raid my other kit for its much nicer fretboard and order a replacement for that one. I think I'll skip redoing the fretboard inlay and binding and try to start installing the frets tonight.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Little River, California
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcy View Post
    Unfortunately, I found it in a bush outside where it had been enjoying the rain.
    This does beg the question: How does a fretboard end up outside in a bush? Odd.

  8. #8
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    Apr 2018
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    Redmond, WA
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    Quote Originally Posted by sequoia View Post
    This does beg the question: How does a fretboard end up outside in a bush? Odd.
    I don't have a permanently set up wood shop. I was working with tools and workbenches pulled out on to the driveway, and I got chased in by a thunderstorm. Things went sideways and didn't get put away in their proper places. By the time the storm had died down and I could restow everything properly it was dark out and the fretboard was missing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
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    Thank you. I would have been up tossing and turning trying to figure that one out... Good luck on the kit build. Lots of fun. Don't know if you saw my thread earlier on building one of these kits.

    https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com...=stewmac+tenor

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Redmond, WA
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    I did see yours, and it indirectly inspired some of the customizations I made - more in the concept of doing so than the details, as mine are mostly relatively simple cosmetic changes. Thanks!

    I managed to pick up a cold this weekend so didn't get much progress done. I did change my mind on binding the fretboard and got it bound in white ABS and radiused.

    ​​

    I started on the frets and realized that I'd need to nip the tangs to fit over the binding. The tools I have squished more than cut, so I put together a Dremel jig more or less like this one I found on the interwebs by Highline Guitars. I didn't have an appropriate bit and wasn't feeling well enough to run out to the Big Orange Place to pick one up, so that'll have to wait. Rewatching it, I probably have a diamond grinder like he used in my glass kit so I may be able to give this a try after some tea

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