Thursday, November 17, 2011


I've decided to try making some  fun and fanciful tenor ukuleles. This was sparked in part by the discovery of some really nice curly birch 1/16" veneer.  That seemed just a little skimpy for the back thickness, so I laminated it with a standard veneer. I figured this would add some stability and it increases the thickness to about .087" (2.2mm).  It worked well.
I've simplified my side bending procedure to the basics. No veneer press screws, steel slats, or attempting to register the material from the waist curve. Making a solid plywood form like this doesn't take that much time and it's made bending quick and accurate.  I've come up with a new way to construct the waist clamping caul. Rather than laboriously fitting a solid block I've used two thicknesses of  1/6" veneer screwed to the center of the crosspiece. These slide past each other and are flexible enough to bend right down into the curve. The side material is flatsawn and curly, and there was a tendency towards cross-grain splitting in my practice piece . I've used low-tack painter's tape to provide constant support on the outside curves. It worked like a charm.
A quick outside mold screwed together from scrap plywood.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sparing the rod...

Here's a compelling case that reinforces my reasons for not using a truss rod that adjusts through the soundhole on my own guitars. This is a Washburn Festival Series acoustic/electric/ hybrid.  It's not a high-end instrument but it's in excellent shape and it does what the owner wants it to do.  Unfortunately an attempt has been made to correct a rising action by tweaking the rod.  This guitar has a double-action rod.  It seems to have been twisted the wrong way. The action was cranked up close to a full 1/4" before the nut snapped!

The only way to correct this is to remove the fingerboard and install a new rod. It might need a neck re-set  but that's impossible to evaluate in its present condition. I tend to think not. The board is bound in black plastic that might turn to goo when I apply heat. The fretboard is thin. I'll bet the frets are glued in, too.
The repair cost would come perilously close to the retail value of the instrument.  Now. If the rod had been installed the other way - adjustable at the head, then there's a good chance I could have drilled it, hooked it with some pliers and pulled it out. At the very least I would have been able to release some of the tension hopefully making it playable.
Preserving strength around the headstock is a thoughtful design feature, but in this case it has made repair economically unfeasible.