Getting back into building- tips?

Ukulele discussions
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Matthew Lau
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Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Hey MIMF,

I haven't built an instrument for about 8-9 years, despite being nuts about it during dental school.
I'll be building a trio of tenor ukuleles with koa (I've dimensioned, joined, and thicknessed them).

Are there any special things I should consider?
Any tips on jigs?

FWIW, I'll be using the Ko'Aloha bracing (which is pretty much no bracing).
During my trip to Hawaii in December, I noticed that they were significantly louder than most ukes....and a master class in cutting corners without compromising the playability of a good ukulele.

Not sure if it's appropriate, but I can post a picture comparison between the Kamaka factory and Ko'Aloha factory in a seperate thread.
To me, it was pretty fascinating how different the approaches were.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Barry Daniels »

Sure, post away.
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Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Starting with Kamaka- classical bracing. Classical molds. Festool and industrial machinery. Mortise/tenon neck.
Attachments
kamaka.jpg
kamak 2.jpg
kamaka top.jpg
kamak jig.jpg
kamaka mold.jpg

Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Of particular note, they use a heavily automated side bender like the Taylor factory
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bender kamaka.jpg

Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

In contrast, Ko'aloha is a study of how to cut corners in construction without compromising sound/playability.

FWIW, the spokesman was full of BS and had no idea about lutherie.
However, his father (the founder) was a genius in that respect.

Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Note: this is for a Tenor body.

Bracing? There is none aside from the bridge plate.
Center-seam reinforcement to avoid delamination of face (costly repairs)
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IMG_20191230_100359.jpg

Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Note that the bracing just under the soundhole is a square.
This is their "magic brace" which frankly cuts down on assembly dramatically.
They make these in huge batches, and glue in about 2 minutes to top/sides.

I like the idea a lot, and will likely do a version of that (but with mortise and tenon.)

Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Also, there are NO LINERS. No kerfing

Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Note: the neck is just a but joint.

In contrast to Kamaka's mortise and tenon, they just use giant disk sanders.
They glue a but joint to the neck...not sure if it's epoxy or titebond.
Attachments
IMG_20191230_092923.jpg

Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Lastly, there's the jig itself.

It's a scrap of particleboard, some threaded rod, and plexiglass.
Sometimes they'll use a heavy weight (like a jug of glue) to clamp things together.

Also note there's no taper/arching to the body.---why? to save money and labor!
Attachments
IMG_20191230_100056.jpg
IMG_20191230_095643.jpg

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Karl Wicklund
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Karl Wicklund »

Cool. I haven't played instruments from either builder. Can you perceive, if not a difference in quality, a general difference in tone?
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Matthew Lau
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Re: Getting back into building- tips?

Post by Matthew Lau »

The Ko'Aloha is significantly louder.

Some ukulele affectionados describe it as "brash," "open," "loud."
https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/sh ... vs-KoAloha


I hypothesize that most ukuleles are significantly overbuilt, since the string tension is significantly less than anything guitarlike.
A theoretical ideal would be a brace-less carbon fiber body....pretty much exactly the Blackbird ukuleles.

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