Custom Tenor Ukulele #16 155


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

This custom koa ukulele was built for a good friend and fellow luthier who "just wants to have something 'Skipper' in his home." It sports an all-koa body with contrasting koa bindings and rosette, along with Waverly tuning machines with koa knobs.

Construction Photos

The koa top and black plates are jointed on the table saw and glued together with hot hide glue. The plates are sanded level, and a recess is cut for a contrasting piece of koa for the rosette. The insert is glued in place and sanded flush with the top.

Purfling channels are cut with a fly cutter, and the purfling is glued into the slots. The top is cut to shape and sanded to finished thickness. The bracing pattern is marked onto the inside of the top.

A mahogany soundhole reinforcement and a maple bridge patch are fabricated and glued into place. The sound hole is cut with a fly cutter. The front bracing is shaped, the x-braces are notched, and the bracing is glued into place. The sides are sanded to finished thickness and cut to profile.

The sides are bent with a heated jig, then placed in an external form. The back bracing is arched, the ends are shaped, and glued to the back with hot hide glue. Mahogany lining strips are kerfed on the bandsaw. The back braces are planed to parabolic shape both in cross section and in profile to provide both structural support and resonance.

The center seam reinforcing strip is glued in between the brtacing. The head and tail blocks are glued in place. Kerfed lining is glued to the ribs. The lining is shaped to the arching of the back and top. A slot is cut for the end graft,

and it is fitted and glued into place. The top is tap tuned by shaving excess wood from the bracing. Hot hide glue is applied to the mating surfaces and allowed to dry. The parts are clamped together, and the glue is reactivated with a burst of steam. The assembled body is removed from the external form.

The overhanging edges of the plates are trimmed flush with the ribs, and the sides are "faired" to assure that the curves are smooth. The binding recess is routed, and the koa bindings are glued in place with hot hide glue. Immediately after gluing, the body is wrapped with long rubber bands while the bindings cure.

The neck blank is fitted to the body, and the attaching hardware is installed. The ebony fretboard is slotted on a dedicated radial arm saw, and the slotted blank is cut to profile. A carbon fiber rod is inlet into the mahogany neck. A koa heel cap is glued in place.

The ebony bridge is profiled to a template, then shaped by had on the belt sander. The neck heel is formed on the spindle sander. Mother-of-pearl position markers are inlet into the fretboard. The mahogany neck is trimmed flush with the fretboard.

The headstock is thicknessed with a rotary plane, then shaped with the bandsaw and plane. Frets are set in a bit of hide glue, then pressed home with a press. The "Skipper" logo is cut from mother of pearl, inlet into the koa headstock, and set in place with epoxy.

The fretboard is glued to the neck with hot hide glue. The neck is shaped and sanded. The bindings are scraped level, and the body is thoroughly sanded. The bridge is located.

The bridge and neck areas are masked off from finish. A coat of epoxy pore filler is applied and allowed to cure for 24 hours. The filler is sanded flat, then the instrument is given a second coat of epoxy.

The pore filler is sanded perfectly level. The pegholes are drilled and beveled. The instrument is given a coat of vinyl sealer followed by two series of nitrocellulose lacquer applications. Once again the surface is sanded level, and it's given two final coats of lacquer, then set aside for 10-14 days to cure. The instrument is wet-sanded with increasingly finer grits of MicroMesh paper, then buffed on a flannel wheel.

Waverly tuning machines are installed. The neck is attached to the body. The masking is removed from the bridge area, and the bridge is glued in place. A bit of setup work, and this one is ready to go.

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