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Thread: Stewmac Soprano

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default Stewmac Soprano

    Here is my second ukulele built from a kit: Stewmac mahogany soprano.

    I'm making ukuleles to build up my lutherie skills. Eventually, I want to build both acoustic guitars and ukes. So with each ukulele build I am adding more features and details.

    I followed the Stewmac plans for this build. Tried apply a poly finish but that turned into a disaster, so I scraped it off completely. I used Stemac pore filler, amber shellac, and many many coats of Behlen clear gloss lacquer.

    Here it is finished, right before shipping to it's new home (friends in Colorado):
    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    Top and back with braces glued.


    Gluing tail and neck blocks
    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    Gluing lining. I ran into problems here, could not get clothespin in the waist area since the plywood form is in the way. It turned out OK.



    Linings installed:
    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    Gluing the back. It took a few more builds before I realized that this method does not put enough clamping force on the neck and tail block areas. I used this same method to glue the back on my most recent build, but I added a few cam clamps where needed.


    Back glued:
    Last edited by dsorlien; 01-02-2020 at 03:27 PM.
    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    I used chisels to trim the back flush with the sides. Then closed the box:




    I don't have pics of the neck assembly or glue up. Here it is after neck is attached and first coats of shellac are on:
    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    I wanted to try a poly finish on this ukulele. I used nitro lacquer on my first build, and thought I should switch to an easier method. Here it is after a few coats of wipe on poly. Maybe I should have stopped there.



    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    The look of the wipe on poly was not improving with additional coats. I decided to switch to spray can poly. I thought it would be safe if I used spray poly from the same manufacturer. Big mistake. The finish turned cloudy and milky in areas. It was ruined! I spent hours scraping the poly off, and brought the uke back to bare wood.

    More pore filler. A few coats of amber shellac. Then many many coats of Behlen clear gloss lacquer.

    Looking good again:


    Last edited by dsorlien; 01-02-2020 at 03:30 PM.
    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    I got the neck angle wrong on this build, I needed a taller saddle than was supplied in the kit to get the action right. But the bridge location is spot-on, and it plays in tune all the way up the neck.

    The mahogany looks great in this kit. I think it would look and feel better with a nice rosewood or ebony fretboard and bridge. I'd also switch to a bolt-on system of neck attachment. Dowel-and-glue is very unforgiving.

    Some pics of the finished instrument:






    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

  9. #9

    Default

    Thanks for posting the info about your finish. It's a real struggle for me and I like to see how others tackle the job.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by klr View Post
    Thanks for posting the info about your finish. It's a real struggle for me and I like to see how others tackle the job.
    I'm happy with the results, but I needed to use so much lacquer to get that smooth finish. I think I used two full cans of the stuff. I should have spent more time on pore filling.

    To get it smooth, I sprayed a few coats of lacquer, then I let that cure for at least a week, then sanded it level. And then I repeated that over and over until the finish was glassy smooth. Before the final sanding and buffing, I waited another month to let the nitro cure and sink. So it took about 3 months to finish. A better job at pore filling would have cut that in half.
    My ukuleles:
    Locals concert, Fluke concert, Gretsch G9126 guitulele, Kala KA-SSTU soprano, Kala-SSTU-TE tenor, Kala UBass EM-FS
    Build #1 Cheap plywood soprano kit
    Build #2 Stewmac soprano
    Build #3 Stewmac baritone (I messed up the neck angle so rebuilding it)
    Build #4 Stewmac solid koa tenor (in progress)
    Build #5 Stewmac concert (in progress)

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