人妻小说网

人妻小说网A blog about building guitars.This started out as a document to chronicle the process of building one instrument but has grown to include pretty much any and all guitars that I attempt to build.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Ukulele - Part 6: Fritter and Fret


It's time to start muckin' about with necks.
Working on necks is significantly more fiddley than working on bodies (that goes for guitars and ukuleles).  The neck has to be correct in so many ways that the body doesn't have to be.

In addition - I like to personalize the instruments I build - so instead of sticking with the mother of pearl (more like mother of plastic) fret markers that came with this kit - I decided to use some wood fret markers I bought from Purflex.net.


That's not as neat as I'd like it to be...
This kit comes with a neck blank and a fretboard that you have to glue together.  There are some steps that need to happen before you can glue these two together.  Here are the steps that I took:

I drilled out the existing fret markers (I used a drill press but you could use a hand drill).  I would recommend using a forstner drill bit for this as they make a flat-bottomed hole.

That is as neat as I'd like it to be.
 Fill the new hole partially with glue (I used super glue as I was short for time).


Might be time for me to buy my own set of tweezers...

Drop the new fret marker in place.  Since these need to be correctly oriented - I used tweezers but you don't have to.

Define, "a little sawdust."

Then sprinkle a little sawdust over the fret marker (I sanded the bottom of the fretboard with 220 grit to get the piles of powder you see above).  Then drop a couple of drops of CA/superglue over the whole thing and see how it goes.  You may need to add more sawdust - you may need to add more glue.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Oh yeah, that looks loads better!
We'll let that set for a few minutes and come back when it's dried to sand it.  Read: I didn't take photos of that part of the process.  But in short - that's what you do - you sand and/or scrape the fret markers flush with the fretboard and Voilà! it all looks wonderful.

One note:  When building guitars, you add a radius to the fretboard so that it is not flat.  The idea is to make the instrument more comfortable to play.  This Uke fretboard was not radiused and I didn't have anything to add a radius to it - so it will remain flat.  I'm not sure if ukuleles are supposed to have a radiused fretboard.  We'll see...

Cut your nails, ya dirty hippie!
Let's move on to something we have pictures of - fretting.  My fretting setup is rather primitive.  It includes a clipper, a hammer, and two files.  To get fancy - I add in some steel wool.  If there is a place where I should invest a bit more in tooling - this is it.

Snip snip!
Fret wire (for the curious) comes in two-foot sections.  If this were a guitar I would be wracking my brain on how to add a radius to the fret wire (as it looks like strands of spaghetti when it's shipped). As this Uke doesn't need a radius - I just measured out each fret one by one.  The fretboard gets wider as you move from the head to the body - so it pays to measure each one individually.  I tried to make these as precise as possible due to the fact that I have a great set of fret-wire cutters but only a so-so set of fret files.

What passes for "organized" in my shop.
There are better ways of doing this but it's what I had handy. The crux of the matter is that you don't want to mix up which fret goes where.  In the past, I just used a strip of painter's tape and stuck the frets to that - in the order they went on the fretboard.  Whatever floats your boat.

Oh look, those inlays came out nice.
As an aside, in between cutting all of the fret-wire and banging them into place I sanded the fretboard and cleaned up those fret position markers.  They came out all right - not perfect but good enough.

So, now we fret!  There are (as always) a few different methods for doing this.  The approach that I used could best be described as "cheap and cheery."

Say "Hello" to my little friend!

Yup, you just smack 'em into place.  The fretboard comes pre-slotted for the frets - which is good because there's math involved with fret placement.  And if you think my woodworking is sloppy - you should see my quadratic equations. The best way that I have found to tap these into place is by starting with one side and tapping straight across.  If this were a radiused fretboard I would probably tap in the ends first and then tap in the middle.  If I had lots of monies - I would skip all the banging and go for a fret press - which is exactly what it sounds like.  It's an arbor that chucks into your drill press and you seat the frets by smooshing them into place.  If none of that made sense - welcome to my world!

From a distance - that's not too shabby.
Whatever method you chose - you should be left with something like this.  Well, hopefully not exactly like this...

Ah, yes, the key words being, "from a distance."
As you can see, some frets are not fully seated, some are at an angle, one looks too seated.  So, I went over them again to try and even things out.  I ended up having to press a few of them in place with a set of locking pliers (aka vice-grips).  In the end, they look okay (if a little banged up).  Again - perhaps time to invest in some fretting tools...

That looks okay...
One of the practices that professional luthiers follow is to glue their frets into place while they are seating them.  It makes sense - you don't want a fret to fall out.  You can use pretty much any glue you want.  I chose to use super glue as I could drop it into the tiny little hole beneath the fret (see the above picture).  Yeah, next time I don't think I'm going to use the 'super thin' super glue for this.

That looks...  Oh, dear...
Yeah, that's not supposed to happen.  I may have used too much super glue.  Now that the frets are installed - sanding this sucker is going to be tough.  I chose to use superfine steel-wool to 'sand' off the excess glue.  It took a long time but I was planning on using steel-wool to polish the frets anyway - so 2 for one deal.  ...kind of.

There are no pictures of it but I also filed off the ends of the frets so that they didn't cut your hand as you play.  Finally, I put a slight bevel on the fret ends (see above), again, for comfort.

I also used a StewMac Fret Rocker to make sure the frets were level.  It's a neat little tool.


Perfect?  No. 
S'okay? Yes.
The fretboard is decent.  I still have some tweaking to do - but I think it will work fine for a ukulele.
I realized this is my third full fret-job.  I have learned a bunch since my first one but mostly what I've learned is that I don't know much.

Drillin' holes
The fretboard also needs side dots ('cause you can't see fret markers from all angles).  The toughest thing about installing these guys was finding a drill bit small enough to drill the ruddy hole.

A little dab'll do.
I put a drop of super glue in the hole.


Stick the supplied side-dot material in the hole.


And snip off the extra. I used a chisel and some sandpaper to clean it all up and, "Blamo!"  Side dot markers

See that pointy thing in the upper right corner of the picture?  That's a mini "Socket Awl."  My wife gave it to me for christmas.  It is fabulous for starting small holes (so your drill bit doesn't wander).  Came in very handy for this task.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Ukulele Part 5: Cleaning up the body

DIY at it's best?
What we have here is a failure to communicate.  Or rather - a failure to connect.  For those just joining us - the blue guy in the above photo is a pattern-following router bit.  The ball-bearing follows the shape of the Uke body and the spinning blade of death trims the overhand to be flush with that body (or anything the ball bearing touches, really).  The part that's messed up is that space between the router "table" and the Uke body on the left side of the image.  Either the router table (it's really just a router bolted to a piece of particle-board) is warped or the uke body is warped.  My money is on both of them being warped/bowed/out of true.  We're equal opportunity here at Jerry's house of mistakes.  All comers are welcome.

In the end - it doesn't appear that this gap caused any issues - although it's bugging me enough that I'm going to make or purchase a new router table after this Uke project is finished.

It's amazing anything gets done around here...
But, I've never been known for perfection, so we'll make due...

What we are doing today is removing the overhang on the top and back.  This kit (and indeed most guitar kits) ship with the top and back faces that overhang the sides.  You then scrape, carve, sand, or route away that extra.  I use a router because it usually is cleanest and fastest.  It is also the most likely to cause mayhem - as we will see.

Blurred lines?  Sadly, not blurred enough.
The dark line in the above photo is dried glue.  The reason you can see the dark line is because the top wasn't tight enough to the sides.  Seeing as there was close to 40 pounds pushing the top to the sides (see the last post) the problem was likely that the sides were not sanded flat enough.  It shouldn't be a problem but we'll see.

Son of a...
Speaking of problems...
I mentioned how routers are fast, right?  Yup!
I also mentioned how they cut clean lines, correct?  Check!
So, here's the mayhem part I mentioned.  Routers are great at causing tear-outs in the end-grain.

Think back to shop-class in 4th grade and the bored Shop teacher telling you to sand with the grain or cut across the grain.

This is what he was talking about  (my shop teacher was a guy - picture your own shop teacher in your own damn mind).

If the router blade catches the end-grain (as in the end of the wood-grain) it can grab it and cause a chip (tear-out).  No lie - this was a bummer.  But between rounding over the top, doing a little pore-filling, and maybe a touch of wood putty - I think I can make this one disappear.  It looks bad but not hopeless.

That will NOT buff right out...
As an aside - there is a way to minimize the potential for tear-out.  You feed the wood into the router in such a way that you don't spend a lot of time routing the end grain.  This photo from the StewMac site shows what I'm talking about:




Swell
So, we move forward.  One of the ways to help minimize the goofs (and to help with the process of adding a protective finish) is to raise the wood grain by getting it wet.  That is why you may see some white specs in the above picture.  I wiped a wet paper towel all over the surface of the Uke to raise the grain and the white spots you see are paper-towel lint.

Grain Raising
Normally you want to use a damp rag but in this case, I was hoping that by really wetting the wood I would get some seams to close and the grain to really rise.  It seems to have worked a little.  As you can see, rags are preferable to paper towels as there is less lint but the lint will disappear when I start sanding.

Last little bits.
The dark splotches in the above pics are specks of dried glue.  I'll sand those off while I'm finish sanding the rest of the body.  The only thing that you need to keep in mind is that the back and sides are laminated wood and the laminates are super thin and thus easy to sand through. I'm using 220 and 320 grit sandpaper.  Anything courser would probably sand right through the top laminate - and that would be another bummer.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ukulele Part 4: Top to Bottom

First things first:  This post covers the "top" of the ukulele but I did install the back first (as you'll see in some of the below pictures).  It just felt redundant to show both sides as the process is mostly identical except the top requires more...
...well, more of everything...

What it is
This kit came with pre-shaped braces that just needed to be glued into place on the top and back.  They would have been fine as-is but I felt the need to monkey around with them.  According to many guitar builders - shaving down the braces can really shape the sound of the instrument. The basic idea is that the braces should be just strong enough to keep the instrument together but not so strong that they inhibit the top from vibrating - which is where all the sound comes from in a ukulele (and guitars as well).  I've even heard it described as removing just enough material so that the instrument doesn't self-destruct.

The above picture is how the braces came to me.
The below picture is after I was done with them

What it shall be
You can see that I tapered the ends but what you can't see is that I also gave them a haircut.  The braces were much shorter and thinner when I was done with them. For those of you playing the Luthier Home Game - I didn't 'scallop' the braces - I just made them thinner all around.
In my last post, I spoke about cutting a notch for these braces in the sides.  The reason I stated that some of the notches were unnecessary was due to the amount I removed in the above process.

What it was
There are three main tools to do this kind of work:  a sharp chisel, finger planes, and sandpaper.
I don't own any finger planes but if I ever get into making acoustics more often - I will invest in some.  The chisel worked but as you can see from my above efforts - it was a bit sloppy.
The sandpaper really helped clean things up after I was done with the chisel.

Also for the people playing at home - I did "tap-tune" the top.  This is a fancy way of saying that I stopped chiseling every couple of minutes and tried tapping the top to see how it sounded.  When the top stopped making a "thud" sound when tapped and started making more of a distinct note or tone - I knew I was close to being done carving the braces.

That don't look right
Just before I started working on the braces I became aware that the top had a pretty significant bow to it.  This would be fine if the bow was bowed in the other direction.  A slightly curved top is actually a good thing in an acoustic/ukulele.  A slightly concaved top...?  Not so much.

What I think happened here is that the weight of my clamps may have bowed the top when I glued on the braces.  The braces themselves were fairly flat.  And no - there was no difference in the size of the bow between when I started carving the braces and when I finished carving them.  This just is part of the top now, I guess.  We'll see...

Ready...?
I don't normally sign my work but the one previous acoustic instrument I built - I did.  So, it felt right to do so this time.  And since this was a gift from my wife...
...well, you get the idea...

1...2...3...

Awwwwwwww!
As you can see from the below photo - the back is already glued to the sides.  You may also be able to see the notches I was talking about.  Finally - you can see those screw-eyes surrounding the uke body.  Those are going to become important in a bit.

That's a mildly ukulele shaped thing, right there!
What may be hard to see in the below photo is that the glue has been applied and we're ready to put the top on.  I have the habit of overdoing it with the glue.  I haven't poked around inside of this uke yet with a mirror but I know there are some glue drips in there.  Judging from the amount of glue drips that I wiped up on the outside - it's not even a question of if but how many.

I'm hoping that extra glue is going to come in handy as we'll see in a sec.

sticky sticky

The green stuff is one big rubber band.  True story.  It comes with the kit for this very purpose.  And it does a pretty good job of putting even pressure on the top while gluing.  The trick is that your top can't have a bow in it and your sides need to be even for this to work as designed.  Neither of these things was true with my uke.  Sadly, also a true story...

This is where the screw-eyes come into play.  I threaded the elastic through each of the eyelets but if you used bigger screw-eyes you could wrap the elastic around them.  My way was a bit fidgety but it seemed to work okay.

Insert Dad-joke about being 'all tied up.'
 As you can see - it puts a decent amount of clamping force on the top.  Enough to squeeze out a lot of glue.  But it wasn't enough clamping pressure.  There were still spots where the top wasn't touching the sides.  This could have been because the neck or heal cap was taller than the sides (although I checked that) or it could have been the sides weren't even (checked that too), or it could have been that pesky bow that I mentioned (not much I could do about that one).  But I'm guessing it was all of the above.

That'll buff right out.
 So, we improvise!

Necessity is a motherf----r
That's about two feet of books sitting on top of the uke.  It helped quite a bit but there were still a few spots where the generalized pressure of two feet of books just wasn't enough - so I focused the weight with a couple of blocks and a stack of coins.  This really put the squeeze on.  There still ended up being one or two spots where the top and sides don't appear to be touching but I'll have to do a flashlight test after everything dries.

Is it me or does it look like the wood is bending?
What you don't see in the pictures is the gallon jug of windshield wiper fluid I put on top of the books.  If I had to guess there was probably 30-40 pounds of weight on that top - plus whatever pressure the elastic band was creating.  That's a pretty strong body.

Well, if all else fails it'll make a nice uke-shaped birdhouse.
Next up:  let's trim those overhangs and sand the body.

Soon

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Ukulele - Part 3: Linings

Same as it ever was...
If you look at the photo above you may ask yourself, "How did he get here?"

"Let me explain... No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

If you look at the photo below you will notice that the sides of this ukulele are pretty thin.  The same goes for the sides of a guitar as well.  There's not much there to glue a top or bottom to - the way to fix this is to add linings.  Linings add a bit of rigidity to the sides and more surface for the guitar 'faces' (the back and top) to sit on.  In a guitar, these linings are much more ornate but in a Uke they can be pretty basic - especially in a mass produced kit like this one.

Take a little off the top.
Before you can add the lining, though, you have to level the sides.  I used a carpenter's level wrapped in sandpaper to make sure the sides were even and that the heal-cap and the end-cap were flush to the sides (that's the lighter bits of wood in the photo below).


Kinda like a round peg in a square hole.
This kit came with thin plywood linings - and I do mean thin! This was two-ply with the grain going in opposite directions.  However, even though this is plywood - it's still wood.  As you can see up in the top left-hand corner where the lining snapped instead of bent.  This shouldn't be a problem but it was a bummer.  Triply so - as it happened three times.

Something pithy
So, what you do is:  Glue the lining to the top edge of the sides.  Make sure it isn't proud (i.e. it doesn't stick up higher than the side) as you'll have to sand it flush.  What's with all the tape and clothespins?

The clothespins are clamps.  If you look closely - I added elastic bands to each clothespin to increase the clamping force (another handy-dandy tip from StewMac).  The clothespins help keep the lining in place while the glue cures and puts the necessary pressure on everything to get a good glue joint.

The tape is to catch all the excess glue that squeezes out when you clamp everything together.
As you can see in the photo below - I removed the tape after I set up all the clothespins.

Norwegian Ridgeback

Norwegian Fullback
The goal is to get these linings to curve with the shape of the sides but to also be flush with the top of the sides so you don't have to do much sanding (stop and think about that sentence).

With an acoustic guitar, the linings are "kerfed."
Kinda sounds like something a frat-boy would say, "Oh man, I went out last night and got so kerfed!"
But in truth - it's just wood strips with partial cuts to make the strips flexible.

Once the glue has dried, you remove the clothespins, flip the body, and repeat on the other side.

The difference between the rigidity of the sides with vs. without the linings was remarkable.
I have to impress upon you that the linings were thin - no more than 1 to 2 millimeters but once glued in - they gave the side a fantastic amount of strength and structure.

I am Mighty!
As I mentioned - the linings broke a few times.  Mostly - one ply of the plywood would snap and the other would remain intact.  But on the one below - that sucker split the whole way.  And I'm sure in some infinitesimal sense it matters.  Everything adds/subtracts to the sound of the instrument - but we're making Ukuleles here - not sending Landers to Mars.
I'm sure it'll be fine.

Just don't look too close.
Now that I've spent all this time being careful and precise about gluing these puppies in - I have to be doubly careful about cutting them out...

I'm gonna make my mark.  Just you wait!
In order for the top (and back) of the ukulele to fit correctly onto the sides, you have to cut a little notch for the braces to fit in.  I'll be honest - I was aggressive with my brace shaping - so I didn't NEED all of these notches.  But it's a good practice to get into - because when working on a guitar top - you really do need those notches.

Narf!
Mostly, I just used a 1/4 inch chisel to cut out the lining while leaving the sides intact.  StewMac suggest using an Exacto knife but my chisel was reasonably sharp (but not sharp enough to slice through the mahogany sides while removing the linings).

Up next:  Putting it all together.  Also known as closing the box...