Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Building a Ukulele - Part 2 - Cutting The Timber For The Back and Sides

I have a single board of sassafras that I want to use for the back and sides.  This means that it will need to be ripped across its width to create a bookmatched pair for the back, and another pair for the sides.
So - four pieces needed.
Ripping veneer sized sheets on a bandsaw takes a little care.

Here I have just finished the first cut, and the second is under way.
I have designed a shaped pushstick that also holds the timber against the fence.  This is vital for the last few inches of the cut, to protect one's fingers.

Normally I would dress the new side surface before cutting, but I had so little spare timber to work with, that I widened the cut just a little more and crossed my fingers.

For the last cut, I reversed the board and used the other dressed side against the fence.

Here are the first two straight off the saw.
This was very, very slow work - one millimetre at a time, but I was pleased with the result.
Plenty of extra work ahead to remove the saw marks and bring down to finished thickness.

OK - preliminary smoothing has given me enough timber to choose from.  The thought occurred to me that there might be enough for a sassafras soundboard as well.  I'll check that out next time.

Laminating The Neck

While the bandsaw is still humming, I'll cut the laminations for the neck, and get those glued up and put aside while I address the next stage of the body.

Here, I have drawn a rough outline of the neck on the side in chalk.  A piece of rosewood separates the other two pieces of the neck and these will be glue-laminated together.

The rosewood needed straightening.  My good old Stanley number 7 jointer made short work of that.  It has a Sargent blade - a little bit thicker than the equivalent Stanley, and excellent steel.

This is a neck blank freshly glued.  I use old scrap melamine for cauls here, as the plastic surface resists the glue very well.  The neck blank looks too wide at this stage because it is the width of the head. The headstock is integral to the neck, and not scarf jointed onto it as is sometimes the case.  The whole neck will be shaped when it dries.

The fretboard will glue to the top and cover the laminations, but they will be visible from the back.  I intend to make more than one ukulele, so I have glued up a few laminated necks.  Quicker to do as a batch lot.

Things are going to slow down a bit now as I have to build a mould and work out a method of bending the sides as well.

It has been fun so far ..............


  1. Not a musical note in me, but I like woodwork and listening to music. Have many a friend play instruments of various types, Ukus among them.
    This will give pleasure to the man playing and those who listen.
    Tom may I jump ahead and ask what your plans for material for the Bridge, Saddle and Nut?

  2. Hi Ray,
    I was originally going to make the fretboard and bridge out of African blackwood, but I don't have a lot of it and I thought that I would use rosewood for my first uke. This because I am likely to kack it up somewhere and I don't want to waste the timber.
    So - rosewood it is for the bridge, and I have bought some saddle nut combos from ebay that I am going to try. They are ABS ivory. When I look at the building process, there are so many variables that will influence the final sound and its resonance and sustain, that I feel like I have entered the realm of the imponderables.
    Nonetheless, since I am a "suck it and see" kind of bloke, I will persevere, and learn as I go.
    I've got to say that I am having fun doing it.

  3. Tom thats what I thought you might have gone with all the choices. I asked as I have some False Ivory, got it through 043turning. I could have cut for you as well as a small amount of African Ebony depending in size. Saying that the nice Mr Flett gave me some off cuts of Bakerlite which when cut and polished looks brilliant hard wearing too.

  4. I hadn't thought of bakelite, but it would likely work a treat. Thanks for thinking of me Ray - I'll go with the pieces that I have on hand and see how they all come together. I managed to cut and glue up some neck blanks today, but it has been so wet here, it could be days before they dry.
    Tomorrow I'll start on the mould for the body. I don't have any ukulele plans, I am modelling this build on the LOML's Lanikai Tenor uke, because it sounds so good.
    ........... I haven't had this much fun since the jelly cabinet ..........

  5. Tom no worries stay dry and warm.

    Following with interest.