Sunday, October 21, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
At long last, here is the final product!
I used multiple layers of Tru-Oil for the finish on the neck and body and opted for a wax on the headstock and fretboard. I strung it up with a set of clear nylon Martin strings instead of the ones that came with the kit. This was purely personal preference and I'm sure that the strings that are provided with the kit are just fine. In fact, I'll be hanging on to them just in case.
As can be expected, I will be tweaking a few things duringthe "breaking in" phase, mainly lowering the action by filing down the saddle. That being said, I think that I can safely declare this uke finished.
Having strung it up and played a few tunes, I am surprised at the amount of volume this little guy can produce. It has a full, bright sound that offers an interesting contrast to the rich, mellow tone of the pineapple-style ukulele that I am accustomed to.
I learned a lot through the course of this build and will be using the knowledge toward future projects both uke and non-uke related. I am very happy with the final result, but as the builder there are always a few things in the back of my mind that I would have liked to have done differently. I'll chalk this up to the learning process. If everything went perfectly, I wouldn't have learned anything and therefore wouldn't have grown as an individual. I'm happy to say that I have humbly managed to do a little of both.
I have a notebook full of notes, sketches and ideas for upcoming projects and can't wait for the next time I have access to a bandsaw and workshop. I'll have to warn family and friends ahead of time so they don't think (hope?) that I was kidnapped.
I would like to thank everyone for their suggestions and comments. Your help was (and still is) greatly appreciated.
As a final note (pun intended), I would like to add that Mrs. Kanagawa G, heretofore a uke fan but non-player, has laid claim to this ukulele and is expressing interest in learning how to play. That alone makes this uke worth its weight in gold.
Until the next time,
p.s.- the latest episode of the Ukecast is up. You can give it a listen at http://www.ukecast.com/. If you have a chance, drop Chris and Nipper a line to let them know what a great job they are doing. Keep up the good work, guys!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I managed a quick trip to the hardware store the other day to pick up some supplies as well as poke around at materials for future projects. Well, it wasn't too quick of a trip because I was on foot and it was over a 5-mile trip. It was late afternoon and I figured that I could do for a little walk.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Next I used a handy sheet of carbon paper to mark the high spots on the neck. Seeing as this is the information age and people don't have carbon paper floating around like in the past, I had to think for a minute as to where I could get some. I ended up using one of the inside pages of a waybill from a recent delivery. How's that for recycling?
The joint is ever so close to being done, but in an effort to square up the corner of the neck and the underside of the fretboard, I went out and picked up a handheld roto-tool and some attachments. I tested it out on a few things around the house (I like the glass etching bit) and I think I am ready to give it a go. I only want to shave off a tiny amount without unnecessarily thinnng the fretboard.
I don't have any pictures of the uke in its current state (as nothing has changed visibly), so I am including a few pics of another DIY project I recently finished.
I'm proud to say that the second dryer was build at LESS expense than the first one DESPITE having TWICE the capacity. This was built using old junk around the house and two 300 yen fans that I found at an "end of summer" sale (despite the fact that it is still darn hot).
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I sat down last evening to shape the neck of the ukulele. My wife was watching a movie and our son was zonked out for the night after a busy day of splashing around in a kiddie pool and running around looking at bugs with some of his friends.
Shaping the neck was a very enjoyable process and it seemed to take no time at all. I sanded down the excess wood to make the neck even with the fretboard and smoothed the curvature of the neck to match appropriately. I also leveled the frets and polished them up a bit. After deciding that I had done enough work for one evening, I glanced at the clock as I started to clean up and saw that I had been at work for close to three hours. I aim to do some final sanding of the neck this week and attach the neck to the body.
I looked over the mighty John Colter's notes about the Stewart MacDonald kit and have to agree about his idea of attaching the neck to the body with a 1/4" dowel. Titebond is a very dependable glue, but I want the extra peace of mind in knowing that there is a solid joint at the neck. You can find his notes on the kit at: http://www.ukuke.co.uk/magazine.htm
John's notes are #12 in the table of contents. Many of my notes on building the kit closely echo his comments. I couldn't agree more with his closing comment about building for enjoyment. I have been taking my sweet time building this kit so that I can enjoy it as much as possible. I know that I will enjoy playing this uke for a long time once it has been finished, and that I will enjoy building more ukes in the future, but I can only enjoy the process of building this particular ukulele only once.
In other news, episode 223 of the Uke Cast is now available on the Uke Cast website. http://www.ukecast.com/Episode 223 is a music-filled celebration of the "birth" of the ukulele. For more information, visit the website and give it a listen!
See you next time,
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I was doing some shopping at a all-in-one store the other day and took my usual swing through the harware department. As luck would have it, I saw the perfect fret hammer out of the corner of my eye. It was the last one (only one?) in stock, so I grabbed it from the shelf and tossed it in my shopping basket (gently tossed it...I didn't want to harm the pinot!). The hammer has the ubiquitous translucent yellow "soft" head and a black rubber "double soft" head. I had the chance to test it out this afternoon.
I cut the fret wire into the appropriate length- 1/4" longer than the fretboard and started by gently tapping each side into place before working from end to end on each fret to seat it in place. I started out quite gently because I didn't want to crack the fretboard but soon found that it took quite some oomph to seat the frets firmly.
Once the frets were seated, I filed down the overhang and added a bevel to the edge of each fret using some 600 grit sandpaper. The instructions call for 150 grit, but I thought that 600 grit silicone carbide would be more appropriate. The 600 grit sandpaper made a smooth bevel in no time flat.
Here is a picture of the fretboard. Keep in mind that the frets have yet to be leveled and polished.
See you next time,
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
This should give you some idea of the bowed back. The ukulele is laying on its face in this picture.
See you next time,
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Saturday, August 4, 2007
My label design is complete! This is the first of hopefully many "Maun" ukuleles.
Looking at the big image above, I just noticed that the letters are a bit off center. I'll ahve to go back and fix that.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I purchased the materials for the label and am working on finishing up the design. I decided to incorporate a few new elements into the design to really round it out. Hopefully I will have something visual to post here soon.
See you next time,
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The grain of the soundboard is ever so slightly off parallel. I tried to line up the grain with the body shape so it would be running straight up and down, but found that doing so would create a gap as the rough cut panel included with the kit is just a few centimeters too narrow in that direction. I have given in to the fact that the gain will be slightly off kilter. I just hope that people don't see the finished product and think, "Wow, that almost looks really good."
Things are really starting to take shape! (bad pun, I know)
See you next time,
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Here is a picture of the sides drying with the first two lining pieces fit.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I lined the jig with wax paper and found that masking tape wouldn't stick to hold it in place. I needed something that had a little more oomph, so I opted for the grey alternative.
Freshly duck taped, I tried dry clamping the neck and tail supports into place before applying the glue.
Here is a picture of my current progress.
See you next time!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Like I said, I was wary of the "advice" given to me by the guy at the hardware store seeing as he had no instrument building experience.
I have placed an order to import a bottle of "Titebond" and uke construction will continue when it arrives.
That being said, I will probably go ahead and dry clamp the body and neck and tail blocks to see how they fit while I am waiting for the glue to show up.
One thing I always notice when I am shopping for lumber in Japan is that the wood quality is exceptionally good. Since 99.9% of everything is imported, I guess they don't want to waste time shipping over a bunch of warped 2x4 econo studs. Of course, the prices match the lumber (and then some).
I am a little wary about the glue. The instructions mention "Titebond" or weld-on binding cement. The "Titebond" brand isn't available here in Japan, but the description sounds like a chemical based rubber glue. I was talking with one of the old timers in the hardware store (who seemed to think that I was a bit off my rocker) and he recommended a strong glue that maintains a bit of flexibility after it has completely bonded. I'm a bit wary, but I tested out the glue on my jig and it is pretty strong. By pretty strong, I mean really darn strong!
I went ahead and built the jig using my newly purchased materials and shiny new drill. The jig went together without a problem, however, I was in for a surprise when I cut out the body shape and found that nothing matched the measurements given in the instructions.
After a bit of headscratching, I put my printed instructions aside and pulled out the originals that were included with the kit. Then it dawned on me...my printed instructions were on A4 sized paper, while the originals were on US standard size paper. Adobe Acrobat had resized the plans to fit on the paper which led to the size discrepency.
When printing instructions on A4 size paper, check the printer settings in the printer dialog to make sure that the plans are printed at 100% size. DO NOT select "fit to paper size".
Life was much better when I had the original plans and found that the body pattern fit the jig perfectly. Here is a picture of my completed jig.
Now, there's nothing to it but to do it!
See you next time!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
I was doing some work in my home office when lo and behold, the doorbell rang announcing the arrival of the long-awaited (three days, to be exact) Stew Mac uke kit.
Wanting to savor the moment, I put it aside until I finished with my work for the morning and opened it when I had some time to enjoy it to the fullest.
The outer box seemed none the worse for the wear and the inner box (shown on the left) was in pristine condition. The friendly folks at Stewart MacDonald included a catalog as well.
Here you can see the contents of the kit. I was expecting to open the box and be greeted by the aromatic smell of freshly cut wood, but was instead greeted by the smell of rubber from the two rubber bands used to hold the body together while the glue dries (perhaps they could include these in a plastic bag?). The body, neck and head, soundboard, back, etc are all in good shape and ready for building.
Unfortunately, I haven't made it to the hardware store yet to pick up the necessary supplies. I have scheduled a morning marathon translation session so I can take the afternoon off to make a supply run.
On that note, I have found a helpful imperial to metric lumber size reference table for any of you metric builders out there.
See you the next time!
Friday, July 20, 2007
Continuing in my long tradition of putting the cart before the horse, I passed the time on the train yesterday by starting to design the label to put inside (and listening to UkeCast #221).
The UkeCast can be found here: http://www.ukecast.com/
I have come up with a neat design that blends several aspects of my life here in Japan into one simple design. I did a few sketches and am happy with the outcome. I can't quite decide on what style of lettering to use, but hopefully that will become apparant when I'm making the color version. I'd like to make a data version for future use as well.
Hopefully I can find some time to make a run to the hardware store to get my supplies together.
Pics to come!
See you next time!
Detials of the kit can be found here: http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Kits/Ukulele_Kits/Ukulele_Kit.html
I have always been into DIY and past projects include computers, roll film driers to speed up the film development process, miscellaneous technical gadgetry as well as all kinds of other MacGuyver-esque doohickies to make life more interesting (notice I avoid using the word "simple"). As a lifelong musician and ukulele enthusiast since 2001, I figure that building my own ukulele is only natural! A little cheering on by my better half sealed the deal.
I placed my order on July 18 and hopefully the kind folks at DHL will have my kit to me in 3-7 days. In the meantime, I will try to make a few trips to the hardware store to pick up the essential supplies needed for the jig and any other tools that I may be lacking.
I did some background internet research on building the kit and watched a few short videos on Youtube to get in the right mindset. The youtube "documentary" series only goes to episode 2, so I am left wondering if the intreprid builder's use of bent tongs ever managed to do the trick of gluing in the forgotten cross braces. I have also downloaded the pdf instructions from the stew mac website and I am converting everything to metric. I have both Imperial and Metric tools, however, since I live in Japan it would be easier to do everything in metric. I have learned that it is better to plan and build using only one standard instead of constantly converting on the fly.
The guys at the hardware store also do a lot less headscratching that way.
I'll try to keep this blog updated as I work through the various steps and look forward to comments and suggestions by all you ukesters out there. That being said, my consulting schedule is booked pretty solid, but I will try to get in as much uke time as possible.
See you next time!