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.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Making A Boat Paddle Tenor Ukulele - Part 1 - Timber and Template

It is over a year since I last built a ukulele and it is time to address the building of a second.
It will be a different design this time - a boat paddle tenor, with a cutaway for the left hand.

Wood Selection
My last ukulele was made from sassafras with a western red cedar soundboard.  It resonated very well and had tons of volume.  This time, I am going to attempt to tone down the volume with a smaller body and a different selection of timbers.
I have been fortunate to have heard and played a couple of ukuleles made from mango during the year, and the sound was sweet.

I have sourced a few pieces that will serve  for the back and the soundboard, as well as some for the sides.  The piece that I will cut the sides from is a little wild in its grain pattern and I am unsure how well it will take to the bending required.

 In case it is a disaster I have a piece of camphor laurel that I will hold in reserve ...... fingers crossed.

Making a Template

I have used an existing ukulele as a model for the one that I will build.  Simply by sketching around its base onto a piece of craftwood, I'll have the basis for the back and the soundboard.
This is cut out and carefully sanded to make all edges as close to the curves of the finished product as possible.

Making the Mould

Once the template is finished, it is time to create the mould that will hold the body during shaping and assembly.  Since I want this to be able to open up along its mid-line when the body is finished, I'll make it in two halves that can be clamped together and separated as needed.
The template does the work now and the mould cut out and built up to thickness.

It needs to be deep enough to house the sides of the ukulele body, but not quite as deep as the sides, so that the top and then the bottom can be clamped on without fouling on the sides of the mould.  I'll get to that later.

I would normally use craftwood or mdf for the mould, but I am out of it so a couple of pieces of re-cycled meranti will serve nicely.

Cutting the Sheets for the Back and the Sound-Board

The pieces of mango that I have are only just going to be large enough to fashion the top and bottom of the ukulele, so I'll be most careful when I cut not to waste any.

I use my bandsaw for this and cut veneers around 4mm thick.  I leave plenty on these veneers as they will have to have the bandsaw marks planed and sanded out, and be brought back to their final thickness of 2mm.

Both the front and the back of the body will be made up of two book-matched pieces of mango that will be glued down their centre lines.
The sides will be made from a book-matched pair of rippings from a separate mango board.

That's enough for now.
Next time I'll finish off the mould and start the shaping process on the sides to fit them into the outline of the body inside the mould.  This is time consuming, but worth every minute of care in the process.

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