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Thread: Stewmac Soprano

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Little River, California
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    2,740

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    Finishing can be a real challenge for sure. Looks like you eventually got it right.

    Quote Originally Posted by dsorlien View Post
    A better job at pore filling would have cut that in half.
    Yup and yup...

    Couple of things I noticed: The heel stock really doesn't match the neck stock at all. SMD made no attempt at matching, and the saddle looks awful high. Due to the neck set I guess. This will really mess with the action, but if it plays, it plays.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Down Under
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    78

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    Looks amazing do people build these as labour of love or do you find them better than kala ect.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    U.K.
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    1,278

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    @ p dsorlien, thanks for sharing.

    It would be interesting to understand how the neck angle got a little out such that you required such a tall saddle.

    Lovely looking instrument.



    Quote Originally Posted by Badger uke View Post
    Looks amazing do people build these as labour of love or do you find them better than kala ect.
    I’ve been wondering the same myself. If you cost your time then they’re very expensive, but if you don’t then the results could (for the sufficiently skilled and patient) be good for what you paid.

    JC (Ukantor) has built several of these Ukes, repaired other makes and set-up/sorted other makes so his judgement and experience could answer your question well. Let’s hope that JC speaks up. From a personal perspective I’ve found that Kala’s respond very well to a decent set-up, a bone saddle, a bone nut and Fluorocarbon strings - mine play well and I’m unlikely to actually need better than them.

    In terms of open market resale value you’re likely on a looser with the kit, but JC did sell to or build them for several club members so the closed market might see you cover your costs and maybe turn a modest or token profit. If you have the time and sufficient basic skills then I could see building such a kit as being a fun thing to do that develops further skills, gives a sense of achievement and returns your investment.

    Edit. On doing a little digging I was reminded that SM kits of past years were arguably of a higher specification than those available today. See: https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com...ld-Ukulele-Kit
    As I understand it the kit has been simplified and is no longer an all solid construction. The price has been reduced too so it’s become more affordable to build a kit but the end product is perhaps not as good in use.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 01-04-2020 at 08:18 AM.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    West Midlands GB
    Posts
    2,497

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    Back in 2006, I built a StewMac kit soprano. I just like making things, but had no workshop facilities. Using a kit enabled me to complete the build in the kitchen, and out in the yard, using only hand tools and a folding "Work Mate" bench. My dear, late wife was very tolerant! In fact, she loved the uke so much that she claimed it - so I had to make another for myself.

    Several friends then asked me to make one for them. I finally called a halt after number seven. I covered the cost of the kits, plus a bit extra to spend on better tools.

    Yes, essentially it was a labour of love. As far as I know, they are all still in use. A couple of them were used very extensively for public performances. They really are very respectable instruments.

    John Colter

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2019
    Location
    Southern Ohio
    Posts
    91

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    Great job, looks very nice.

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2019
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    51

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    Thanks for all the nice comments.

    I think the neck angle problem started early in the build when I glued the sides to neck and tail blocks. When I built the mold, the tail and neck blocks were square to the base, but are not that strong. The sides require a lot of force to fit into the mold. I had this problem on all SM ukulele kits, especially the premium koa kit. The bent sides simply did not match the plan unless a lot of force was applied. Maybe the sides were bent perfectly in at the factory then had significant spring back after taking the wood out of their bender.

    So when I forced the sides into the mold, the sides apply a lot of force to the mold's neck and tail braces, pushing it out of square.

    For the later builds I used corner braces to support the blocks in the mold, but still found the mold was going out of square when the sides are forced into position. I added washers to shim the braces, to get them square with the base.

    I also had problem with the dowels. First I had problems drilling holes in the body using my old cheap drill bits. The holes were slightly out of position. I carved two dowels to correct the offset and fit tighter in the holes.

    To be honest it was a little overwhelming - dowel holes were off (my bad), the dowels from SM fit loosely in the holes (SM bad), the angle between top and sides was wrong (my bad), and the radius carved into the neck where it meets the body was wrong (SM bad). I spent hours and hours trying to get the heel-to-body to fit without gaps. The neck angle looked good when I dry fitted the neck before the glue-up.

    After gluing I did not immediately notice the bad neck angle, I was just excited to be done with that difficult neck glue-up and eager to move on to finishing.

    Rest assured that the finished uke is set up nicely. That's the one thing I know how to do well. I've played guitar for 48 years, and have lots of experience doing fretwork, and adjusting action at nut and saddle. The frets on the uke are perfectly level, crowned and polished, I even added some additional compensation on the saddle to get the intonation spot-on.

    Lessons learned:
    - Use a sharp new brad point bit for drilling dowel holes. "The right tool for the job"
    - A full body mold is worth the effort. I need to get a band saw.
    - Focus on neck angle when fitting the neck to body
    - Doweled & glued butt joints are not very good for attaching neck to body. Bolt on neck would be much easier.
    - Don't rush the grain filler step during finishing
    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. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by dsorlien View Post

    The sides require a lot of force to fit into the mold. I had this problem on all SM ukulele kits, especially the premium koa kit. The bent sides simply did not match the plan unless a lot of force was applied. Maybe the sides were bent perfectly in at the factory then had significant spring back after taking the wood out of their bender.

    So when I forced the sides into the mold, the sides apply a lot of force to the mold's neck and tail braces, pushing it out of square.
    I had this same problem. I took mine out of the mold to glue on the back and top. The body is a little longer and not as wide, but I didn't think it mattered or would be noticeable on the finished uke. I figured it would be more durable and sound better if the wood wasn't under all that stress.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
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    2,740

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    Quote Originally Posted by dsorlien View Post
    I think the neck angle problem started early in the build when I glued the sides to neck and tail blocks. When I built the mold, the tail and neck blocks were square to the base, but are not that strong. So when I forced the sides into the mold, the sides apply a lot of force to the mold's neck and tail braces, pushing it out of square.
    Exactly. The neck block has to be square to the deck. It is the cornerstone of any ukulele build. If it isn't square, everything will be wonky after that including the neck fit. Get that right and you are half way there.

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