Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ukulele Summer

Ah, summertime....I just want to sit outside, reclined in an Adirondack chair with nothing but the view to concern myself with. In order to keep this dream alive, I have been making summer appropriate instruments as well. This has been a ukulele summer, having completed 5, and currently working on #6 right now.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Lee Smith 
The last uke I sent off to a new home was a little soprano (the only style I have made so far) made from the left over boards of white oak that I used for Doc's guitar. As with each of my instruments, I reluctantly released the tension on the strings, carefully packed the case into a cardboard box, and trustingly handed it over to the postal professionals to deliver it still in one piece to a satisfied customer.

It is extremely important to me that this creation that I have put my heart and soul into ends up in happy home full of strumming and jam parties and vain show-off sessions. I am so glad to report that my number 5 uke, aptly named Lil' Doc, has gone to a truly awesome home. Lil Doc's new owner, Kevin, is exactly the type of person I want my instruments to go to. He proudly displays pictures on his Facebook page and tells me how much he enjoys playing it and sharing its music with others. I really love that, and it makes my heart swell to see that the ukulele, especially this one, went to such a great person who truly loves it.
Photo courtesy Kevin Lee Smith

I too would like to have one of my instruments to play and show off and be proud of. Yes, I have Doc's guitar, but it is not really mine, I made it for someone else. And, right now at least, it breaks my heart to look at it, much less play it. I am really proud of the workmanship and wish so much Doc had been able to play it just for a few minutes, but all is not lost, as 'Big Doc' got a lot of great playtime at the festival and now hangs proudly on my dad's wall next to his #400.

A few weeks ago, I began working on a ukulele for myself, made from koa wood with curly maple binding. So far, I have encountered only a couple of messes that I have managed to work my way out of. For some reason I have trouble remembering that I have to cut the slot for the neck to fit into the body before I glue the back onto the bent sides. Several times now my dad stops by my work table and asks, "Are you sure you are ready to glue that back on?" And after I say yes, he reminds me that if I were to do that, it would ensure a gaping hole in the back of my uke, left in the band saw's wake. Of course, since no one happened to be around when I was gluing my latest ukulele, I glued the entire body together without cutting the slot. After a few expletives were uttered, I figured out a new procedure for cutting the slot that does not require using the band saw. Securing the body between my knees, and constructing an unfortunate looking jig, I used the large router bit to cut a space into the neck block that ended before I cut through the back. Crisis averted! I look forward to seeing what other puzzles are to come my way as I work on this ukulele! I'll do my best to take some pictures along the way! Every time I make a mistake and manage to fix it it feels as though I am actually learning and perhaps I will make it as a luthier yet!


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