UKEtoberfest – under the hood

A few behind the scenes images as UKEtoberfest draws closer.

Record keeping. These notes satisfy the curious, but also help a luthier in the future should the instrument be damaged.

The silking on this Carpathian spruce top is lovely. “Silking” refers to the hazy gently waving lines that are roughly right angles to the growth rings, going up/down in this pic. They are the trees ray cells, and their prominence indicates nice quartersawn wood.

Next, a shout out to the good friend who ordered me back to lutherie. I resisted, but Tom was right.
Those small holes will index on pin in the neck block to align the top perfectly, and will be covered by the fingerboard. The centerline is marked in pencil because the joint is virtually invisible, a combination of preparation with an ultra sharp hand plane and the use of hide glue, which shrinks and pulls together as it dries.
This view shows how the end block is beveled to provide a bit more free vibrating surface on the all important top plate. The block itself is baltic birch plywood, a very high quality material that will prevent splitting if someone bangs the end of the instrument on the strap pin or pickup jack.
The red clamps below are mashing together (laminating) pau ferro and curly european maple, which will become bindings after I slice them with my sushi knife. Or bandsaw. It took an inordinate amount of time to find a plank that would yield bindings to compliment the English walnut and Scottish beech that establish the dominant colors of this uke. You can see in the foreground where I spot-applied finish to the plank in order to preview the color.
Coming together nicely. I love this spalted beech! Spalting (the black lines and mottled colors) comes from fungi setting up shop in the wood; as competing colonies grow and meet each other they secrete melanin “battle lines” (zone lines–see Dr. Sara Robinson’s for lots on the subject). Don’t worry, the fungi are gone.
The first of the volcano ukes!
And what is this potato chip? A test bend (the tightest bend on the sides) to see whether one of the “Holy Grail” woods of the classical guitar world will scale to the more compactly curved uke.
I’m interested in this species partly because of its remarkable sustain and resonance (even this little scrap!), and partly to scratch a Lord of the Rings itch. It will be difficult to finish it by UKEtoberfest, but we shall see.

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