25 May 2008

Ukulele! 4: Stress Cracks

The plan (?!) was to reuse/recycle parts and pieces left from last year's guitar experiment. This mini-plank...
...was my first attempt, a proof-of-concept “guitar.” A minimalist affair, a piece of walnut strung with four lengths of fishing line, four nails act as the tailpiece, four fisheye screws for tuning pegs, a threaded bolt for a bridge, a scrap of walnut for the nut and frets pencilled in (the above photo is the back sans any of the described installed) And the ancient Greeks were right: strangely enough it worked. Not the most beautiful-sounding nor -looking guitar but nevertheless functional.

Since my plank guitar was around 20cm long, i figured i could easily get my ukulele's neck out of it. So goodbye plank, hello uke neck.

Since this was to be my 23,546th time to not think things out, i cut the 17° scarf joint and glued the head to the neck yesterday, giving it around 24 hours to set. I don't know if you can see from the above photo but, to avoid splinters while playing, i'd rounded the back sides. Cutting a scarf joint from such a rounded piece of wood leads to a peghead with...uhmm, channels. Ah, no problem, i've got a can of wood putty to fill in the recesses. In any case, being a ukulele, there's going to be minimal force exerted by the strings on the head anyway.

Everything clamped, i started to form out the neck anyway. I was making good progress, enjoying the nice weather up on the roof, wood curls whizzing around. About 80-90% there, i'd noticed a stress crack in the wood...

Apologies about the blurry photo. The Nokia doesn't handle
semi-extreme close-ups very well.

...right in the neck wood. Not the jointed head side but the neck. I was thinking, among many other things, Super Attak (cyanoacrylate) the bad boy but...i don't know. I just had to test it.

Here you can see not only the cracked headstock but the rounded back
in the scarf joint. At least i got some sun today!

It gave with minimal force applied. What to do what to do what to do? I'm analyzing the situation at this very moment. I'm “thinking” that i could probably graft on another peghead. Therefore i should just finish the neck and continue on.

And speaking of stress cracks, Happy Birthday, Mommy! Hee hee!!! That was a joke, Ma! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ma, I love you!

23 May 2008

Ukulele! 3: Slow But Sure...

Between the rain here in Rome and revenue earning, the ukulele project has been on the proverbial back burner...but as of today, no longer! As you can see in the photo, i've got the sides bent thanks to a two-hour window of decent weekend weather. For better or worse, the sides are comprised of two halves instead of the projected single slat; the plywood cracked at around the lower right bout while i was bending it. I'm getting a little better at not scorching the wood, which i find difficult with my setup as it's not a constant heat source.

So it's up to the roof with me to finish off and join the sides, and maybe install the kerfing...oh, hell, let's just see how far i can go today and leave it at that.

06 May 2008

Happy Birthday, Feexy!

Feexy, yr beautiful! Hope you like yr colored pencils.

04 May 2008

Ukulele! 2: Triumph of the Will

There's a difference between “persevering against all odds” and “not knowing when to quit.” I believe i fall into the second category.

There's no bending the sides today as yesterday i'd run out of butane for my torch and today's Sunday, meaning no hardware stores in a ten-kilometer radius are open. So how about cutting the top and back of the uke's body then? O-KAY!

I first glued the two sheets of plywood together around the edges and then cut them simultaneously. In the middle of cutting though, the coping saw blade snapped! And i swore i had spares...but to a different coping saw!

Screw it! I wasn't going to permit another setback! I took the spare wrong coping saw blade, attached it to the saw and finished the rough cut.

Ha! The ukulele project marches forward!

03 May 2008


Okay, it's officially beautiful out here in Rome! Time to head back up to the roof and retry my hand at weekend lutherie. Inspired by YouTube star GUGUG (check out, among others, his rendition of Link Wray's Jack The Ripper), this time i'm trying to build a ukulele. I found actual plans by Jan van Cappelle at the MIMF site's library. I figured a ukulele shouldn't take me an entire summer to create. Well, let's hope not. In fact i figured i could have at least the sides bent today!

Here's my big-time luthier setup...

My hand-made bending tube station

...and here's as far as i got before the torch ran out of butane(!)...

You'd think here in one of the world's major metropolises, in the very heart of the city, a hardware store would obviously be open. Where i live there are no less than three in walking distance. Roberta just laughed. “You know there are no hardware stores open on Saturday afternoon,” she chided. But i couldn't believe that. So off i went to one, two, three hardware stores...all closed at 4:30pm on a Saturday afternoon.

So, i got as far as you see above, and Roberta got ice cream and the right to dance around and laugh and say “i told you so.”