Presentation on theme: "Building The FIDELCO Ukulele Specifications: Solid Mahogany Soprano Ukulele, 13.5” Scale Rosewood Fingerboard with Mother of Pearl Diamond Inlay, Black/Ivoroid/Black."— Presentation transcript:
Building The FIDELCO Ukulele Specifications: Solid Mahogany Soprano Ukulele, 13.5” Scale Rosewood Fingerboard with Mother of Pearl Diamond Inlay, Black/Ivoroid/Black Rosette, Rosewood Bridge, Reclaimed Corian Nut, Rosewood Headstock Veneer with Mother of Pearl Logo and Shepherd Inlay,
The Top and Back The entire uke is constructed from reclaimed mahogany from a local plaque manufacturer. At one time, these plaques were being cut up and sold for firewood. One plaque will yield three top and back plates. The plaques are ripped down the center then resawn on a bandsaw so that they can be bookmatched. The edge is planed and the halves are glued together. After drying, they are ran through a thickness sander which reduces them to.080 of an inch. A much better use than fuel to roast a wiener.
The two pieces of wood are scrutinized to determine their best use. Ideally, the grain on the tops should run on the quarter, meaning that the grain is perpendicular to the top, which adds stiffness to counter the tension from the strings. Using a plexiglass template, the shape is traced onto the top and back paying special attention to match the template centerline with the joint that runs down the center of the plate. Once traced, its back over to the bandsaw where the plates are rough cut to shape.
The center of the soundhole is located on the top and then goes to the drill press where the channel for the rosette and the hole itself is cut using a circle bit.
The soundhole isn’t cut completely out on the drill press but just deep enough that it can be finished with a sharp knife. This reduces the risk of tearout around the soundhole. The channel for the rosette is.050 of an inch deep but once installed, it will provide further reinforcement to the soundhole.
Once the channel is cut and the soundhole is cleaned up, it’s time to install the rosette. The rosette is made up of a piece of ivoroid that is.050” thick surrounded with two pieces of black binding that are.020 inches thick. The trick is to get all three pieces pressed into the channel at the same time. They strips are fitted and the ends are trimmed then re-fitted and trimmed again and again and again until they are perfect. Sometimes it takes 15 minutes and other times an hour. Luckily, I only had to start over once on this one and it took about twenty minutes.
Finally, the glue dries and the rosette can be scraped flush with the top.
The bracing location is mapped out on both the top and back plates. The bracing provides support as well as a degree of mass that affects the final tone. Instruments with stiff, or heavy braces, tend to sound a bit thinner and tinny whereas a lighter setup will give it a nice tonal balance across the strings. Too light and the top will sink.
Here is a close-up of the braces. They are carved using a chisel and finger plane so they resemble a pyramid with a slightly rounded peak. They are then tapered on the ends. The kerfing and sides of the uke will be notched so that they are tied directly into the sides of the instrument.
All the braces are installed plus the rosewood bridge plate that sits underneath the bridge and supports the shear tension from the bridge, as well as helps spreads the vibrations of the top to the sound chamber. They will be set aside while work on the body begins.
The sides are bent in a mold using a silicone heat blanket. Before going into the mold, the book matched sides are taped together, wetted and wrapped in foil. The blanket heats the wet sides which creates steam and makes them pliable to mold them to the shape in the bending jig.
A heat blanket is put on top of the sides then they are sandwiched between two pieces of stainless spring steel. Along with holding the sides to the shape of the mold, the steel also helps distribute an even heat. As the sides become pliable from the heat, the waist is clamped down using the handle attached to the large steel pipe at the top of the bending jig. Slowly, each side is pulled down and hooked to a spring that runs under the jig that will maintain tension on the sides and hold them to the mold. The sides are heated and cooled several times to “set” them to the final shape.
They will be trimmed to length then put into a mold where they are glued, tapered, kerfed and the tops and backs attached to create the sound box. So, here they are. As you can see, they are perfectly matched sets.
The sides are put into a female mold so that they will maintain their shape while further work is done.
Traditionally, the ukulele has a tapered back. The sides at the neck block is 1 13/16” then increases to 2 1/8” at the tail block. The taper is achieved by angling the body in the jig then cutting it with a fine kerf saw.
There are two more things to do before gluing the top and back on to complete the sound box. First, the neck block, which will be the point where the neck joins the body, and the tail block need to be installed. They are sanded to match the rounded profile of the body, glue is applied and they are clamped on the centerline.
Next, the kerfing, or lining, is installed around the edges of the sides. This provides support as well as gives a larger surface area for which to glue the top and back plates. The kerfing is notched so that it can follow the curves of the instrument. Below, the mold is sitting on a piece of sandpaper that is glued to a smooth piece of marble. Before, and after, the kerfing is installed the sides are sanded level and square by rubbing them over the paper while in the mold. Once all the kerfing is installed it will be time to glue on the top and back plates.
Normally, I use spindle clamps when gluing up an instrument, but since a uke is so small I find this a much easier and quicker method.
Once the glue is dried then the edges are routed flush with the sides to prepare it for binding.
This instrument will be “side” bound using rosewood with a white/black/white accent strip. Its called side binding because the accent appears on the side of the instrument versus the face. First, a channel must be routed around the top and back that is the width and depth of the binding. When routing the binding channel, you remove so much side material that you reveal the kerfing.
Since the binding is wood, it is bent to shape using the same method as the sides. It is trimmed and glued into the channel. Tape is used to “clamp” it into place while the glue dries.
Since this was a special commission, I decided to incorporate the side binding effect in the tailpiece strip. It took several attempts at this to get the miters matched up but I think it is well worth it.
Finally, we have a sound box and we can start building the neck.
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