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Pineapple Tenor Ukulele, Build #1, Olive/West.RedCedar/Cherry

PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:43 am
by Maxxwell Cassidy
Hello everyone, I thought I'd share the story of my first build, currently on-going.

First, got word from the landlord, no more power tools on the front porch. Word from the wife, no power tools in the apartment. Just joined a Maker Space here in Albuquerque, NM, and I'll let you know how that goes.

Build #B0 is a kit soprano of East-Asian provenance and basswood ply construction, with the body already built and the neck carved, it was largely an excersize in understanding instructions with no words and measurements with no units, which I got wrong by gluing the fretboard on at the wrong place, causing the instrument not to intone. I got the fretboard off again, and I'll reglue it and repaint it, but, really, I've moved on.

Build #B1 is inspired by #B0, but it's my own design completely, and I'm building it soup to nuts. I got the back and sides from a reputable tonewood company of the East Coast, off their sale rack. As someone just starting out, exquisite wood is wasted on me. The Back and Side set is Italian Olive, the soundboard from the same people is Western Red Cedar, and the neck is cherry from a major workworking supplier, a craft board of 3/4"x3"x24", which turns out to be just the amount I need for a Spanish Slipper. My design has the neck meeting the body at the 13th fret, but going on in the full length of the fretboard, defined as 3/4 the scale length, 24th fret, plus 1/4", to hold the fret in place. At at 17" scale length, the 13th fret falls at 8.977" past the bottom of the nut, which I call Inch Zero. That's 8+31/32 on the ruler, and my eyes much prefer I round that to 9", which is where I put the line on the top of the neck and down through the heel stack. The heel is stacked up with cherry at 3/4, which forms the neck and the top toe of the slipper, then a laminate I made with the white wood of rock maple contrasting with walnut on either side, all in 1/4" stock, to make 3/4" stock, and this was piled up with pine in the part to be milled away, with cherry, WMW lam, cherry, lam, and cherry again, for a full 3/4" times five or 15/4 or 3+3/4". I'm going to lose a 1/4" off the top of that stack to get into my design, which has side wood at 3+1/2". So that's the back toe trimmed by 1/4", and the top toe will also need to be trimmed, nominally by 1/4 but in practice by whatever the top thickness happens to be when I join it to the top toe and the sides, so the underlayment for the fingerboard is continuous at the neck "joint", which is really just the side joint, as the neck and slipper are continuous. Anyway, the top toe needs to accommodate the top, and the fingerboard will overlay the top and part of the rosette, all the way down past the sound hole, and I'm going to trim the slipper at the soundhole, and possibly the fingerboard as well.

Here's a picture of the neck assembly:
This is the neck/head/heel/slipper blank, partially carved.

More in next post.


Re: Pineapple Tenor Ukulele, Build #1, Olive/West.RedCedar/Cherry

PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 3:58 am
by Maxxwell Cassidy
About the wood choice. I'm an experienced woodworker, but I did a lot of crude work, as you do on a farm. I have a small ranchito in Chamisal, Taos Country, New Mexico, on the high road to Taos, and there were a lot of farm buildings to maintain during the 25 years I lived there. I've been a guiltar player for some time as well, but building instruments is new to me. Here in New Mexico, the hardwoods that grow locally are either fruitwood, or SPF, and the only recognized tonewood is the Englemann spruce, which grows over 10,000 feet, in other words, locally to Chamisal. The main softwoods are piƱon pine, which is not of sufficient diameter, and ponderosa pine, and douglas fir, and western juniper. The native hardwoods are cottonwood and aspen, but we have salt cedar, Russian olive, and Chinese Elm as pest trees that the foresters would have us entirely cut down. But orchard-grown fruitwood, especially apple, would appear to be the best possible, but I know of no local source of this wood. So, mail order. I was looking for a higher quality kit, and that took me to tonewood websites, and looking for kits got me back and side sets, and there was a cheap cherry set in the seconds that was really no good for a dread, but would cut down neatly for a parlour, and so I got the set, and I got this nifty soundboard in reclaimed redwood for bari uke, but cut tall enough to make a parlour, and I got them, and then I needed to pad the buy to make the shipping a reasonable percentage of the whole (famous last words), and I ended up getting the western red cedar (the fave wood for classical guitars) tenor uke set, because it was cheap, and I also got the olivewood back and sides, and then I desided to make the parlor after making some ukes to practice, and so this one got outfitted as the first build. Neck is cherry, hoping to go all dark and mellow, with fruitwood back, sides, and neck, and the ultrawarm red cedar top. It is my opinion that ukes tend to be shrill and too bright. We'll see what happens with this. Meanwhile, there were backs and sides calling to be bought, and I ended up with a curly birch set in tenor uke, and I got some half-dread unmatched boards, beautiful Sitka spruce, for cheap, from a minor tonewood supplier from the North Pacific. I got unmatched half-backs and "practice" sides from east and west coasts, and "craft" boards, which were all kinds of milling mistakes, things like perfect AAAAA-grade Sitka dread halves with a giant half-inch worm hole right smack in the middle. Perfect to make two ukes from. Due to an unfortunate insomniac buying binge and too much money in my pocket, I ended up with a thousand dollars of tonewood before starting my first build, all of it desperate bargains.

So, a lot of builds planned:

#1 Olive Pineapple Tenor Ukulele

Italian Olivewood B&S
Western Red Cedar Top
Sitka Spruce Top Bracing
Cherry Neck with Cherry, Walnut & Maple Heel
Cherry and Aromatic Cedar End Block and Back Bracing
Ziricote fingerboard,
Ziricote bridge,
Ziricote-in-Maple Pineapple Top Copper Inlay Head Veneer

#2 Birch Pineapple Tenor Ukulele

Curly Yellow Birch B&S Set
One-Piece Sitka Spruce Top
Sitka bracing
Tigerwood Neck with Tigerwood, Birch and Palm Heel
Cherry and Aromatic Cedar End Block and Back Bracing
Ziricote fingerboard,
Ziricote bridge,
Maple-in-Ziricote Pineapple Top Turquoise Inlay Head Veneer

#3 Cherry Parlour Folk Guitar

Wild Cherry B&S
Reclaimed Redwood Top
Sitka Spruce Bracing
Maple Neck with Maple, Cherry & Black Palm Heel
Aromatic Cedar and Maple End Block
Katalox Trim

#4 Mahogany Parlour or 000 or GA Folk Guitar

We're going to stain these dark, almost black, then put
on the contrasting purf/bind. Mismatched African
Mahogany B&S Set Sitka Spruce 2nd Top Aromatic Cedar
Bracewood Birch Neck with birch and cherry heel Katalox

#5 Classical or Flamenco Guitar

Red Zebra B&S
West. Red Cedar Soundboard
Adirondack Red Spruce Bracing
Tigerwood Neck, tigerwood and cherry heel
Ziricote trim

#6a Padauk Ukulele Pair, A, Hourglass Concert

Padauk Back, 1st half
Orphaned Half-Top #1, 1st half
African Mahogany Sides, 1st half
Black Mesquite & Maple Neck
Black Palm Trim

#6b Padauk Ukulele Pair, B, Raspberry Sopranino

Padauk Back, 2nd half
Orphaned Half-Top #1, 2nd half
African Mahogany Sides, 2nd half
Black Mesquite & Maple Neck
Black Palm Trim

#7a Walnut Ukulele Pair, A, Hourglass Concert

Black Walnut Back
Black Walnut Sides
Orphaned Sitka Half-Top #2, 1st half
Birch Neck
Padauk Trim
Maple Binding

#7b Walnut Ukulele Pair, B, Raspberry Sopranino

Black Walnut Back
Black Walnut Sides
Orphaned Sitka Half-Top #2, 2nd half
Birch Neck
Padauk Trim
Maple Binding

#8 Yellow Cedar Flamenco Guitar

Alaska Yellow Cedar Back and Sides
Sitka Spruce Bookmatched Top
Purple Heart Neck
Katalox Trim
Bloodwood binding

#9 Black Limba Uke Pair

#10 Mahogany Uke Pair

Honduras Sinker Mahogany Back
African Mahogany sides
Sitka Top

#11 Cherry Uke Pair

#12 Maple Uke Pair

I know, it's a lot of ambition in a newbie, but I've got the bug, now. I knew I'd bought way too much wood when I started to pull pieces out and match them up into builds and put them in their own build boxes, and I realized, I had nearly 20 instruments in unbuilt form. I have ziricote, katalox and black palm trim sets. I have lovely little boards of curly maple. I have all kinds of stuff. Only now I must build, and I must find a place to do the building in. I just rented space at the local makerspace here, and I'm hoping they'll have a drum sander.

My latest problem in building #B1, the Olive Tenor, is that my sides are at between 140 and 130 mil, and my target is more like 90, and using the quarter-sheet sander on them woke up the neighbors and was not making progress, even with 60 grit paper. I do not have the talent to thickness this board with a hand plane, so I'm going to have to find something in my new shop. I got the end block and the sides to share a 3+1/2" height, and I was able to sand a 6" radius into both sides of the end block, leaving it lenticular when viewed from above. It is my hope it will make a clean gluing surface for the bent sides. The design is a classic 3-center arch at the bottom, with radii of 6", top and bottom curve, then going into a 3" radius for the hip, a 2.5" at the shoulder and a 36" radius for the waist, which bows out and does not bow in at the waist bout, giving the classic pineapple shape. The figure is tangent to the frame at the turn from hip to waist, at the full 9", and the figure is 12" top to bottom.

My side-bending rig of a 2+1/2" OD galvanized pipe mounted on pine with a flange and fiberglass insulation is ready to go with a propane torch, but until the sides are thin enough ...

Stymied by a lack for workspace, I am now in design mode.

More later,