Tenor Ukulele #10 132

Completed April, 2014

(click any of the thumbnails for a higher-resolution photo)

This East Indian Rosewood and red spruce ukulele, built to complement an earlier guitar for the same customer, has some really interesting features not normally found on a ukulele: in addition to the non-standard wood choices, it boasts a sunburst top, elaborate mother-of-pearl and abalone inlay, and maple bindings.

Construction Photos

Construction of this ukulele begins with the joining of the top and back plates with hot hide glue. The plates and sides are sanded. The sides are cut to shape, and maple bindings are taped to the sides for bending. The sides are bent in a heated form, then transferred to an external form.

The head and heel blocks are fabricated and glued to the sides. The kerfed linings are cut on the bandsaw and glued in place. Pieces for the abalone rosette are cut on a dedicated piece of equipment that cuts both the inside and outside radii with one pass. A recess is routed for the abalone,

and the pieces are glued into it. A fly cutter is used to cut the grooves for the purfling lines. They're glued in place, then scraped level with the top. The back is cut to profile, and the center reinforcing web is glued in place.

The side reinforcing strips are attached. The top is sanded to final thickness, and the soundhole reinforcing and bridge plate are glued in. The soundhole is cut out. The braces are blanked out of red spruce, then partially shaped and glued into place.

The back braces are glued in in a similar manner. The body is shaped to match the arches of the top and back. The braces are tuned by tapping and shaving for optimum sound production. The braces are notched into the kerfed lining. Hot hide glue is applied to the gluing surfaces and allowed to dry. Then the parts are clamped together, and the glue is reactivated with steam. The body is removed from the external form, and an alignment slot for the neck is cut in the head block.

The back is glued to the sides. While the glue is drying, I begin assembling the inlay from mother of pearl, abalone, and ebony. The overhanging edges of the top and back are trimmed flush with the sides. A recess is cut for the end graft, and a piece of maple that will match the bindings is glued in.

The binding recess is cut. A Teflon strip is glued in between the top purflings. The binding is first taped, then securely held with rubber bands while the glue cures. Then the bands and tape are removed. The Teflon strip is pulled out, leaving a recess that's filled with abalone.

Work continues on the inlay while other processes are drying. The component parts are kept in a tuning machine box for safe keeping. They're organized on the ebony, then recesses are cut and they're glued into place. The bindings and purflings are scraped level with the body.

Fret slots are cut on a dedicated radial arm saw. The fretboard is cut to shape, and the maple binding is glued on. The headstock inlay is recessed into the ebony. The purfling and binding is built up onto the overlay before it's glued to the neck. The frets are installed.

A carbon fiber truss rod is glued into the neck blank. The neck is cut roughly to shape. The threaded insert that will anchor the neck to the body is installed. The peghead is thicknessed on a spindle sander. The peghead overlay is glued to the neck.

The fretboard is glued to the neck. The neck is then shaped and attached to the body, and the bridge is precisely located. The rosewood pores are filled with epoxy. A sunburst stain is applied to the top. The neck is filled with black pore filler.

The entire instrument is given a coat of vinyl sealer. Now lacquer coats are applied, allowing time for full drying between coats. The instrument is sanded level, and a final coat is applied and allowed to cure for 10-14 days. Then the instrument is wet sanded with Micro-mesh paper.

The finish is buffed on a Domet flannel wheel. The tuners are attached to the neck. The neck and bridge are installed on the body. A bit of setup, and this one is ready to go.

Thanks for watching this project

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