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Thread: Building an arch top ukulele

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Default Building an arch top ukulele

    There is a good group of would be luthiers waiting in the wings, ready to start building their arch top ukuleles. This will be the thread where we share ideas, compare notes, vent our frustrations and extoll our successes. While you have been contacting me and joining the group, I've been busy in my spare time designing and building fingerplanes, side bending fixtures and thickness calipers. All the while looking at growing list of builders and musing on how to proceed. Not surprisingly, we have a wide range of skills, from newbies with few tools and resources, to master craftsmen with complete shops. Bearing that in mind, it would be folly on my part to try and have everyone follow a rigid design. I think it would be better for me to provide specific details where necessary and let the individual skills of the various builders dictate what they should build. For example, if bending sides is beyond your abilities, OK, don't bend. You can design and build a rectangular or trapezoidal shaped body that requires no bending. If carving the top seemed difficult, and the thought of carving the back out of harder wood is daunting, then put on a flat back. There are a myriad of ways to do things, and besides involving you in the design process is what lutherie is all about. Those are some of my thoughts for now, please share yours. In a few days I'll start emailing the plans and instructions on making the tools. In the meantime, if anyone else wishes to join in the fun, just send me an email asking to be included. My email address is donaldson_b@earthlink.net.
    Thanks everyone,

    Brad

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    South east louisiana.. below new orleans.. yes there is stuff below new orleans besides water
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bradford View Post
    There is a good group of would be luthiers waiting in the wings, ready to start building their arch top ukuleles. This will be the thread where we share ideas, compare notes, vent our frustrations and extoll our successes. While you have been contacting me and joining the group, I've been busy in my spare time designing and building fingerplanes, side bending fixtures and thickness calipers. All the while looking at growing list of builders and musing on how to proceed. Not surprisingly, we have a wide range of skills, from newbies with few tools and resources, to master craftsmen with complete shops. Bearing that in mind, it would be folly on my part to try and have everyone follow a rigid design. I think it would be better for me to provide specific details where necessary and let the individual skills of the various builders dictate what they should build. For example, if bending sides is beyond your abilities, OK, don't bend. You can design and build a rectangular or trapezoidal shaped body that requires no bending. If carving the top seemed difficult, and the thought of carving the back out of harder wood is daunting, then put on a flat back. There are a myriad of ways to do things, and besides involving you in the design process is what lutherie is all about. Those are some of my thoughts for now, please share yours. In a few days I'll start emailing the plans and instructions on making the tools. In the meantime, if anyone else wishes to join in the fun, just send me an email asking to be included. My email address is donaldson_b@earthlink.net.
    Thanks everyone,

    Brad

    i like this ! its gonna make it much more personal and meaningful to each builder and you are doing it all by email ? crud i guess i need to start checkin my email more lol

  3. #3
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    Default

    This sounds like a great project. Are you going to deliver through YouTube as well? I'll follow it but won't participate - when I was at college a chap made a violin and watching was enough for me

  4. #4
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    Default

    Yes Pete, I plan to do some YouTube videos. I just opened an account with them last night. Hopefully everyone will bear with me, I am sure my first attempts might be a little shaky.
    Brad

  5. #5
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    I use movie maker to edit - if you are on a mac system you have more powerful tools. That's the trick - don't do the entire process as it is very boring and you get a lot of stick for it - Peter Lieberman did a 9 minute video of polishing out a uke and though he is a ukulele maker hero it was as dull as ditch water!

  6. #6
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    true it can be boring but if you dont show everything you do ... and how you do it.. you will be asked ALOT of questions.. gotta remember there are alot of noobs signing on for this.. including me

  7. #7
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    Jul 2009
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    Athens, Oh
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    Hey Brad,

    You mentioned the idea of using local woods as a way to keep costs down. What species would you recommend (I live in Appalachia)? I found someone near me selling seasoned fire wood, and I thought that could be a possible source for cheap and dry tone wood. What are your thoughts on reclaimed wood?

    Also, what tools do you feel are necessary to own at the onset of the build? Chisels, coping saw, rip saw?

    Flea markets and antique stores might be good sources for cheap hand tools. Just yesterday I bought a fully-functional hand drill from an antique store for $5. The same place has a large hand planer (the blade had Ohio Tools stamped into it. I think they stopped making them in the 20's) that I might pick up for $14.

    Eric

  8. #8
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    Eric, The first wood to come to mind is pine. Bob Benedetto made an arch top guitar out of construction grade flat sawn pine that was a nice sounding instrument. Other woods available in your area include red spruce, walnut, cherry, maple and birch. I am sure there are some other species that didn't come to mind. Reclaimed wood is fine. As for tools, some sort of saws, coping and rip are a couple. Some sort of drill, an electic hand drill would be nice as I'll be showing how to make a sanding disk to help carve the tops and backs. A rasp or two and some files will also be handy. A good hand plane could be very useful. For around $6 you can get a Stanley Surform Shaver that is great for carving out tops and shaping necks.

    Brad

  9. #9

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    As a complete noob at this, I curious how I should approach this whole ordeal. Should I draw up some simple plans? Template out my current ukulele? Bending the sides looks to be my only current obstacle. The only thing I really want is to make a ukulele that intonates correctly. Just point me in the right direction!!!

  10. #10
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    Milla, if you will send me an email ( address is in the first post of this thread) I will add you to the group list and you will then receive plans and instructions by email. One of steps includes making an inexpensive side bender.

    Brad

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