My First Kasha

SColumbusSt

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Greetings all,

I've been building ukuleles for about four years and stumbled on Brian Griffin's wonderful website when looking for some Cedar tops to purchase.


Brian specializes in Kasha braced ukes and I was intrigued reading through his blog and exploring the various corners of his website. He is also a wonderful human being and when I contacted him he gave me a great price on some tops and encouraged me to try my hand at building a Kasha.

I'm on number 22 (including three kits) and my previous builds have been ladder braced or three tone bar fan braced. When my Kasha plan arrived I realized there was touch more to it.

KashaPlan.jpg

I thicknessed the one piece WRC top I got from Brian to about .075 on my safety planer. After making a paper template of the bracing pattern I transferred the brace locations to the top. It was not as easy connecting the dots as it usually is!

KashaBracingLayout.jpg

It was a strange feeling drilling the pilot hole in the corner of the upper treble bout to cut out the soundhole.



KashaSoundhole.jpg
 
Enjoy the journey. I built a baritone size Kasha from Hana Lima plans a couple of years ago. It is definitely a different way of doing things.
 
It is Kasha bracing theory and practice. However, Kasha's ideas, developed along with Richard Schneider were much more than this. I studied it for my degree dissertation on the history of classical guitar construction, and can tell you, from my research, there is very little that Kasha introduced to classical guitar building that transfers across to ukulele making. Of note is the honest fact that there are very few guitar builders using any of Kasha's ideas today and poor Richard Schneider even in his day was largely snubbed by the classical guitar-making community and is forever seen as an 'anomaly' in the annuls of the great building masters.

After building over 1200 ukulele I have found that less is more when it comes to bracing. Soundhole placement is critical in a small instrument where you want to maximize the active part of the front. I learned many things in college regarding working resistant materials and one of the most important facts is wood is not metal. My point? Kasha was an engineer by profession. Metal and plastics can be precisely tested because they have a uniform atomic structure. Wood is less so being variable due to where it grows, at what elevation, in what climate - these and other factors mean that testing is always defined as 'within a range of values' and is very subjective, Therefore, as I see it, 'Tone Rules' and all things related are then more appropriately defined as, "This is my experience and it works for me". All the best in your journey. Don't stop experimenting and refining. After thirty years and getting rid of most of the bracing in the front and back of a ukulele I think I am beginning to get it right (for me) and this video I think, goes a little way towards verifying my belief in my work.
 
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It is Kasha bracing theory and practice. However, Kasha's ideas, developed along with Richard Schneider were much more than this. I studied it for my degree dissertation on the history of classical guitar construction, and can tell you, from my research, there is very little that Kasha introduced to classical guitar building that transfers across to ukulele making. Of note is the honest fact that there are very few guitar builders using any of Kasha's ideas today and poor Richard Schneider even in his day was largely snubbed by the classical guitar-making community and is forever seen as an 'anomaly' in the annuls of the great building masters.

After building over 1200 ukulele I have found that less is more when it comes to bracing. Soundhole placement is critical in a small instrument where you want to maximize the active part of the front. I learned many things in college regarding working resistant materials and one of the most important facts is wood is not metal. My point? Kasha was an engineer by profession. Metal and plastics can be precisely tested because they have a uniform atomic structure. Wood is less so being variable due to where it grows, at what elevation, in what climate - these and other factors mean that testing is always defined as 'within a range of values' and is very subjective, Therefore, as I see it, 'Tone Rules' and all things related are then more appropriately defined as, "This is my experience and it works for me". All the best in your journey. Don't stop experimenting and refining. After thirty years and getting rid of most of the bracing in the front and back of a ukulele I think I am beginning to get it right (for me) and this video I think, goes a little way towards verifying my belief in my work.

I wouldn’t have said it in as many words Pete but I think I agree …bracing can Kill …on a recent soprano to compensate a sagging top I added a single short brace from end block to lower centre brace (so I now had 3 braces instead of 2) and the volume and tone decreased by approx 30%.:(
 
I know there is a lot of discussion around the efficacy of the Kasha bracing method and I appreciate you sharing your research and experience Pete (and that is a fine sounding box!). It is also completely true that if the Kasha bracing design was a dramatic leap forward everyone would be using it and practically no one is.

My personal opinion is there is no universal "best" in instrument design. The "best" design is the one that produces the tone and feel the musician is looking for. Some people love Gibson acoustic guitars for their thumpy tone. I can't stand Gibsons because of their thumpy tone. Fortunately I'm doing this as a fun project/challenge rather than trying to build a world beater uke so whatever the result I'm going to enjoy the ride.

The braces are 3/8" sitka and the bridgeplate is maple:

Braces.jpg

Bridgeplate goes on first and then the brace ends are notched to sit tightly on top of it:

Bridgeplate.jpg

And all the braces are notched and glued on:BracesGlued.jpg
 
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I wouldn’t have said it in as many words Pete but I think I agree …bracing can Kill …on a recent soprano to compensate a sagging top I added a single short brace from end block to lower centre brace (so I now had 3 braces instead of 2) and the volume and tone decreased by approx 30%.:(

Hello Timbuck,

Speaking of adding braces - my other current project is a fan braced soprano. I've previously only built sopranos with two 1/4" horizontal tone bars and a bridgeplate but built a few tenors with fan bracing I copied from a picture of Collings' bracing pattern and really liked the sound I got so figured I'd give it a go on a little guy. The braces are as small as I could practically make them and then heavily tapered. It's got five more braces than I've used in the past and I'm interested to hear how it turns out. Wish I'd thought to take a picture before I closed the box but here it is about to go into finish:

soprano.jpg
 

I'd agree with you SColumbusST that I built my Kasha-braced baritone for the same reason, as a fun, challenging project. It was a lot of work and I don't plan on building another, but I like the way it turned out and I like the way it sounds. I hope your instrument meets your expectations.

 
I have built a few kasha baritones. Not sure they are any better than traditional bracing. What I would say is I would go thinner on the tops than your normal bracing method to compensate for the extra bracing structure.
 
I have built a few kasha baritones. Not sure they are any better than traditional bracing. What I would say is I would go thinner on the tops than your normal bracing method to compensate for the extra bracing structure.

Thanks for the advice Red! In addition to this being my first Kasha it is also my first time using WRC. I've previously used Koa or Sitka for my tops. The WRC is so much lighter in weight and delicate that I was scared to thin it more than to .075 or so. I tapered the braces pretty radically (at least by my standards) to try and reduce the load on the top.

bracestapered.jpg

A nice piece of Spanish Cedar produced two necks. I'm using a Spanish Heel which I've tried once before and was semi-successful with. Hopefully I've learned my lessons...

necks.jpg
 
My first Kasha was my last. It was a lot more work. It didn't sound all that great. So much so that I put it in a case and forgot about it. I pulled it out after 7 years and I'll be darned the thing sounds really good now. Still don't think I will ever make another.
 
To be continued...
Don't let anyone get you down about this bracing! It's healthy and required to experiment with different bracing styles. If you can, start collecting raw data(frequency response), and you'll "see" what the sound is doing. Sound is subjective, and that's a fact. Have you looked at falcate bracing yet 🫣
 
It was a zen like experience hand clamping each tentalone for 60 seconds while I connected the sides to the top.

spanishheel.jpg


Fortunately it was much easier gluing on the back kerfing and the back itself.


backkerfing.jpg

backon.jpg
 
My two big mistakes on my first Spanish heel attempt were I made the neck angle way to shallow and I didn't factor in the need for the heel to be wide enough to hide the slots where the sides go in. I managed to finish the ukulele by making a ridiculously tall bridge and saddle:

ridiculousbridge.jpg


And making tiny shims to fill in the gap between the sides and the heel:

heelshims.jpg

Neither solution were ideal to say the least and I was determined to not repeat them. I'm happy to report my heel covers the side slot and my neck angle is perfect. The skew of the neck, not so much..... Doh!

oops.jpg
 
If you build on a solera the neck will be perfectly flat with the soundboard. When attaching the neck to the soundboard line up a string between the center line at the nut and the centerline at the bottom of the soundboard. Then sand the soundboard at the connection to the neck/soundboard so the center connection point at the union is in alignment with the string, and flush across the neck. If that make sense. Line it up and when everything is in a straight line drill a couple holes into the soundboard and neck and pin it in place with a couple thin nails to hold it while you glue the neck/soundboard together. I lay a level between the neck to the bottom of the soundboard while the glue sets to make that flat, and after it sets, move it to the solera where it will finish drying flat. Any variance between the neck and soundboard levelness can be addressed before gluing on the fingerboard. All my instruments are Spanish heel so I find it quite easy. I enjoyed making a Kasha tenor recenctly and find the result very post modern in appearance.
 
Thanks Kelali Kev! I will definitely use that technique next time. The top on this one is the first one piece top I have built with and I didn't realize how much I relied on the center seam on previous builds to line everything up. Live and learn.

Since I've got your attention and you are experienced with Spanish heels, how do you cut the slot in the heel to accept the sides? I've used my table saw with the blade at about 7.5 degrees to cut mine and have had trouble getting my slots to be at the same angle on both sides despite being as careful as possible and making lots of test cuts in a 2 x 4.

In the meantime my solution to my problem was to reduce the width of the neck on the treble side from the fifth fret down to the body joint. I did it at a gradual taper ending up with the neck being about 1/4" thinner at the 14th fret body joint. This reduced my skew from 1/2" to 1/4" and I plan to hide the 1/4" by making my bridge wider on the bass side. String spacing is going to be tight at the bridge but it can be a strummer instead of a fingerpicker. Not ideal but what the heck, this is art right?
 
I also cut the slots on my Spanish heel builds on the table saw setting the blade to 3 or 4 degrees. I clamp a long straight board to my miter gauge to help support my neck blank. I use a 1/2 " web to make sure my sides are deep enough into the block. The secret besides being careful is having perfectly square stock to begin with. If your blank isn't square no matter how careful you are it won't match up at the top of the cut.
 
Thanks Kelali Kev! I will definitely use that technique next time. The top on this one is the first one piece top I have built with and I didn't realize how much I relied on the center seam on previous builds to line everything up. Live and learn.

Since I've got your attention and you are experienced with Spanish heels, how do you cut the slot in the heel to accept the sides? I've used my table saw with the blade at about 7.5 degrees to cut mine and have had trouble getting my slots to be at the same angle on both sides despite being as careful as possible and making lots of test cuts in a 2 x 4.

In the meantime my solution to my problem was to reduce the width of the neck on the treble side from the fifth fret down to the body joint. I did it at a gradual taper ending up with the neck being about 1/4" thinner at the 14th fret body joint. This reduced my skew from 1/2" to 1/4" and I plan to hide the 1/4" by making my bridge wider on the bass side. String spacing is going to be tight at the bridge but it can be a strummer instead of a fingerpicker. Not ideal but what the heck, this is art right?
I too cut my slots with a thin kerf blade on the table say. I tape a stop block far enough back on the table itself to butt the neck up too, then clamp the neck to the miter gauge. The stop block gives you an identical length for both sides. All I do is turn the miter gauge backwards for the other cut, and you are all done.
 
Thanks for the replies! I have not checked the heel to make sure it is square prior to cutting the slots. Bet that is my problem. Good tip on the stop block, going to try that as well.
 
Thanks for the replies! I have not checked the heel to make sure it is square prior to cutting the slots. Bet that is my problem. Good tip on the stop block, going to try that as well.
I can send you a video or pic for reference if you need it.
 
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