Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 11

It has been a day or two (or three?) since my last post. I have been keeping quite busy, but the uke project is moving along at a steady pace.

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,

Kanagawa G

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 10

I was quite busy over the weekend with work and several important around the house fix-it jobs such as taking care of clogged drains, sticky doorknobs, etc. As Red-Green always said, "If they don't find ya handsome, at least they'll find ya handy!"

I glued the face on my ukulele and glued the supports to the back. The supports look crooked in the photo, but they really aren't. I took this picture from a funny angle to minimize the glare from the flash bouncing off of the wooden table.
I hope to shape and insert the soundboard supports and bridge back in the next day or two. I also need to get cracking on the label for the inside. I hope to swing by the store to pick up some high quality paper and acid-free glue so I can print the label and stick it to the back.
I can't wait to do the final shaping of the body!
See you next time,
Kanagawa G

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 9

I have finished shaping the body taper. It is hard to tell from this picture, but there is an ever-so-slight taper from the tail to the neck. I also sanded the purfling around the soundhole and have started to roughly shape the face to glue it to the body.

The tail block has a taper on one end which I believe points toward the face. I want to double check this before gluing the face to the body.

I have been getting encouragement from ukulele enthusiasts from the world over. Thank you for your encouragement and advice! The translation industry is quite competitive, so it is a nice change to hear the kind natured advice of luthiers and players alike. Best wishes, brothers and sisters!
See you next time,
Kanagawa G

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 8

Last night I cut the soundhole purfling and glued it in place. While I was waiting for the glue to dry, I started planing around the body to create a tail to neck taper. I got a feel for the wood early on and had no trouble planing down to a hair's breadth above the linings. Follow the instructions on planing (arrows) as it will keep you from cutting too deep and splitting off chunks of wood. I left just a little wood above the lining because I don't trust my planing skills and wanted a little margin of safety just in case. This extra bit will be removed when I sand the sides to create a good edge for the glue.

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,

Kanagawa G

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 7

This evening I cut and glued the first two pieces of the lining. I was sure to carefully create a gradual taper before clamping it down with the clothespins. I am planning on waking up a little earlier than normal tomorrow morning to flip the whole thing over and do the other side.

Here is a picture of the sides drying with the first two lining pieces fit.

Until then,

Kanagawa G

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 6

The titebond arrived this evening. I was expecting it later in the week, so it was a welcome surprise.

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.

Here you can see the supports clamped to the sides. The jig is placed well out of the reach of sticky little fingers powered by the inquiring little mind of a one-year-old.

See you next time!

Kanagawa G

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 5

I'd like to thank everyone for sending me warnings and advice about the glue!

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.

Thanks again,

Kanagawa G

Stew Mac Diaries 4

I made it to the hardware store today! I took my time walking around finding the proper materials and managed to pick up a new drill while I was at it (funny how that works!).

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!

Kanagawa G

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 3

The kit has arrived!

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!

Kanagawa G

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stew Mac Diaries 2

I just checked the DHL website and my kit seems to have not only arrived in Japan, but it is sitting in the Yokohama warehouse awaiting delivery! I figure that it will be delivered sometime today. I am amazed at how fast it made it all the way over here. Perhaps I could DHL myself and family back to the US for our next trip seeing as it would take a lot less time than commercial air travel (joke!).

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!

Kanagawa G

Stew Mac Diaries 1

Welcome to the first of hopefully many (but not too many) installments of the "Stew Mac Diaries" as I document my first attempt at hand crafting a ukulele using the world-reknowned Stew Mac Kit.
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!

Kanagawa G