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Monday, November 20, 2017

The bandsaw of woe

Out at the cottage and the larger workshop I fired up the bandsaw to resaw some cherry for a piccolo and another uke. I was happy since I fixed the drive belt a while ago, and when I tested that the saw worked fine. 

I jerry rigged a fence since I don’t have a real one. First cuts went well, I sliced off sides for several ukes. Then I started on wider boards, for some one piece backs and tops. 

Here’s from when things turned south. The blade started wandering, ruining a good chunk of fine wood. I saw the reason - the blade guide had snapped. It was made of cast shite metal and I hate it. I super hate it. I did get one top and one back but the rest I’ll resaw by hand. I hate my bandsaw. 

But home again at the new bench I pushed on with the double necker. Time to make the neck pockets and let them decide the places for the hardware. Most people use a router to make neck pockets, and so do I of course - I’m a modern bloke. I use my Record 70 1/2. It is immensly satisfying digging in. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Neck work

Good news - the workbench works great. It’s a true joy working at it. Maybe it’ll make me build more and faster again, thus revitalising this here blog as well. 

This week I’ve snuck down to work on the tenor neck of Lars’ double necker. I can’t continue with the body for it without preparing the neck pockets to see where everything ends up. 

The truss rod is installed and the fretboard made. I had a bit of a hard time with the frets, not being used to radiused boards, but it turned out ok in the end. 

Glueing the fretboard on in the vise, with some clamps and wedges for good measure. 

The board was straight along its edges and the neck was still wider so I put tape around first to stop it from slipping too far out of alignment, but didn’t bother with brads like I do on ukes when the neck is already attached to the body. I’ll plane the neck to match the fretboard and deal with alignment when I do the neck pocket. 

At the nut end, I trimmed the fretboard end and blended it together with the headstock with a Japanese gouge. 

Then I spent some time levelling and crowning the frets, but didn’t reach for the camera (phone) since my hands got so dirty. 

This weekend I’ll resaw some wood in my larger workshop at the summer house. November or not, I’m going out. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Rebirth of a workshop

It was long overdue - a complete overhaul of the dungeön. I have designed and planned anew workbench for ages, in truth I have designed several but never gotten around to building one. So a couple of months ago I sent the drawings to my favourite carpenter, Lövsättra Snickerier, and they weren’t slow line me. The bench has been ready for a while and the delivery was on Friday, at last. The first pic shows the state of the workshop at eight o’clock Friday morning. I should have cleared it out but things kept happening every evening of the week so I had two hours to handle this Ragnarök of a mess. 

I worked like I was on fire and when Gustaf showed up at ten I had cleared out enough junk to start putting the parts of the new workbench in place. Below you can see cupboard that will house shelves and trolleys on wheels. 

Next to the cupboard is the centre part with drawers and shelves and a space for my Record vice. And after that comes a wee shelf that’s there because I needed an open end to receive my tail vice. 

The worktop is 48 mm birch plywood, laminated together with an overlap in the corner to get a massive and heavy unit locking the diferent oarts together. You can also see the speakers, it’s not only a workbench. It’s also a sound system. 

Argapa the angry ape and Lego Motörhead approve of their new domain. 

And after 20 hours of sorting and cleaning and re-organizing, I even got the time to install some frets for one of the necks in the insane double neck fantasy guitar. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Resawing a fretboard

The new workbench hasn’t appeared yet, so I did some cleaning of the old one. Since my last post I have sort of accepted two orders and made plans for another build on top of those. I still think the new bench will solve most of my problems but we’ll seewhen it gets here. 

Today I had an hour to spare so I dug out the bubinga I used for the fretboard on my mate’s tenor guitar last year. He’ll need one on the double neck I’m building. 

I scored a line around the blank but didn’t bother with sawing a kerf. I could’ve done it with the Proxxon table saw or a kerfing plane but wanted to try the wee rip saw I salvaged this summer. 

So I just got going. I flipped the board frequently to keep myself on track. 

The gunk is from the blade, I get less of that every time. The old Swedish proverb is ”a used blade shines” and it’s hard to argue. 

The bubinga has a problematic grain so I whipped out my toothed plane that I got from my mate Chris. He built it himself and it’s just what’s needed in cases like this. 

Here’s an attempt at showing you the blade. The grooves that are left in the surface are easy to get rid of by alternating direction, or with a cabinet scraper. I did both. 

Here’s my Veritas cabinet scraper taking care of the tooth grooves. 

Then it was time for slotting. I prefer not to use double sided tape directly on the wood, tear out and possible glue residue are enemies of Argapa. So I put masking tape on the fretboard blank and the slotting template and put a row of super glue drops on one of the layers. The aim is to get the strips of tape to bond, they’ll hold the board securely but will be easy enough to remove. 

It turned out my super glue has aged. Or something. It didn’t hold but luckily gave after the first slot of the two needed for the nut groove. So out came the double stick tape, but..! I let the masking tape be where it was. 

And that worked. Both masking and double stick tape were easy to remove, and the fretboard is ready for profiling and contouring. And fretting of course. And inlaying. Haven’t given that much thought, but surely I should put something on there? 

Sunday, October 15, 2017


My workshop is in disarray. A new workbench is on its way but before that I have a hard time finding the motivation to clear up. Every time I have used a tool I hang up eight on their dedicated hooks, and there’s still a four inch layer of tools covering the bench and all other surfaces. 

But some things get done. I’m building an electric guitar for my friend Lars, and am in the process of glueing up the body blank. Pine from my own back yard, seasoned for years. I plane the edges of the boards and glue them up one by one. 

When I ran out of longer clamps a length of rope came in handy. 

And here’s my son planing wood for neck blocks. It’s so much fun building with him, I have to act cool though so my enthusiasm doesn’t scare him off. 

Here they are. Johan wants to tweak the shape of the rim a bit before glueing them to the top, I’ll do that on the hot pipe but wouldn’t fret if it was only me. 

And here’s a shot of the double neck electric. Almost done, obviously. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

New shape for the concert

When we bent the sides the other day they were a bit short. That would easily have been dealt with by making the shoulders a wee bit narrower, and I’ve always thought my concert mold was a bit wide at the upper bouts. But I went ahead and changed my template, and the inlay piece for my solera work board. So from now on my concert ukuleles (never mind we’re building a mini guitar and a cavaquinho right now) be more elegant. 

Here’s the side piece for Johan’s mini guitar on the solera. What we need now is a soundboard. 

But before you can plane a spruce top you need really sharp planes. So I sharpened my no. 4 and no. 3 Stanley planes on the water stones. 1200, 2000 and 8000 grit, followed by a quick honing on the strop. 

And it worked a treat. You just don’t get a surface like this with sandpaper. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Argapa: next generation

So. Remember that me and Johan did some heavy resawing with the frame saw a while back? Well all parts except for the tops are sanded to thickness and yesterday I managed to pry Johan from his phone for an hour. And we bent the sides for his mini guitar. 

It went really well, he got the idea and felt when the wood gave and when it didn’t. I thought I was gonna bend the sides for the cavaquinho I’m building for my friend and drummer, but I’ll do that on Sunday I think. 

Here are the sides, or more correctly; here’s the one piece rim Johan bent. 

Monday, September 11, 2017


I have some wood that needs planing, and the workshop is cluttered and needs a big clearing up. In fact, I will have to clean the bench before I plane that wood. So of course I veer off at a tangent instead of doing that. 

These two aluminium boxes will be miniature guitar amps! And I will play my bass through one of them and it will sound like a chainsaw cutting into a beehive. I put masking tape on the fronts to mark the holes. 

I use a step drill / Devo hat to make the holes. The amp modules are from ebay, the speaker cones are from the trash. Apparently my neighbours never tire off chucking speakers out. 

Done. They are better than my previous attempts. 

Now. That wood to plane. If only Incould see the top of the workbench...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Last steps on 103

Yesterday it was finally time to cross the finish line. Gathered round the uke are tuners, fishing line, bone saddle blanks and glass beads. 

I bought guitar saddle blanks that I cut down for nuts and saddles. In the pic you see the half pencil I use to dial in the height of the nut, the line shows the level of the frets. 

Then I use a ruler to lay out the outside string positions, marking them on the bridge. 

I divide the distance and use an awl to mark before drilling holes for the strings. 

My tiny drill is often known as a pin vise. But I think of it as a drill. 

I countersink the holes with a round engraving bit...

... and feed the strings through, put a bead on and tie the knot. 

That's as far as I got, photo-wise. The uke turned out great and it has a very nice voice. I'll see if I can get more pics up, or a recording. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Finishing the koa soprano

Just a couple of pics showing tve progress. There are five or six coats on, all so far applied without oil. But the muneca starts to drag now so I'll continue using oil to lubricate. 

The figure has popped quite nicely. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I thought about not making the bridge until I got back to the workshop, the slot is very difficult to make without the mini table saw. But then I thought, nah I'll give it a whirl. 

I made two lines with a knife, and carefully sawed with the tiny Exacto saw down in each. 

Then with an equally tiny mortise chisel I removed the wood between the saw cuts. First bottle of beer can be seen in the background. 

After a good deal of faffing the bridge was done, the sourdough rye pot bread was as well, and the second bottle of beer was under way. 

Measuring and laying out as usual, we've covered this many times...

...and the bridge glued in place with my favourite clamps (from metmusic in New York).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back braces, back and fretboard

Things are moving fast, I can't really keep up blogging at the same pace as I build the uke. Being at the no workshop cottage means I do everything by hand and that is a most welcome change from last year's batch building. 

In the first pic you can see the radius gauge I hastily made before going here, I couldn't bring the radius dish. So I shape the braces with a tiny plane. They're made from reclaimed wood from an old loom. 

I saw notches in the lining strips and then plane the ends of the brace to fit snugly. 

All three are done and glued in. Then I glued the back on, and by then the primitive conditions caught up with me - it went ok but was a bit stressful. I prefer my solera. 

And sitting on the porch I trimmed the edges and have sanded the body up to 600 grit. 

But I did forget something at home, my fretboard markers. So I rummaged through the cottage in search of something useful. Did I find a suitable replacement? You tell me. 

What's that I hear you grumble? Not enough saw action? Okay, have a look at the finished saws. More might follow.