completing the belly of the tin

Last episode of how it’s made I showed a bit about hammering out the bulging belly of a big cookie tin. Now I’m going to add the dimples for the bridge location and adjust the bulge so that it holds up to the string pressure.tin shape 1Here’s that big texas fruit cake tin again, now with a round belly and a concave curve all around the edge. You can still see my guide circles marked out and the little circle marking where I want the dimples for the bridge.

tin shape 3To make the dimples I set up the big vise with my plastic dimple anvil. This ABS rod works well and it was very easy to machine the dimple shape. The reverse end has a smaller pit for smaller dimples. I rest the tin over the rod, feel where the pit lines up with my guide marks, and go to work with the ball end of a small ball-peen hammer.

tin shape 5Here you can see the dimples formed nicely. Several times during this process I will rest the tin flat on the bench and look carefully at the dimples while holding a straight edge across the tin. The dimples should match in depth and be parallel to the tin edge. Creating the dimples will always change the strength of the belly arch creating weak spots that need adjusting.

This video demonstrates what I am looking to correct in this finicky part of the process. By carefully feeling around the belly surface (fingers are more sensitive to this than eyes) I can find slightly flattish spots that are weak and will pop (as heard in the video) functioning as a two position spring. These spots are trouble. I find they will have their own distinct natural frequency adding too much can noise (bark, rattle, and buzz) to the completed instrument. I do my best to eliminate these spots. In addition, I need to reinforce the area around the dimples to resist the string pressure on the bridge. Ideally the whole center of the tin belly will be rigid enough to vibrate with the string frequency while most of the flexing will occur in the concave curve around the edge of the tin.

tin shape 6
To make these fine adjustments I switch to a steel rod anvil with a rounded end. This allows me to carefully stretch small areas of the steel belly with the flat face of a medium sized ball-peen hammer. It is difficult to describe this process beyond saying it is a few hours of trial and error. I will stretch one bit then go looking for more weak spots and stretch some more. Little by little I will get to a well adjusted belly curve that rings nicely when struck with a small drum stick, has no flat spots that pop, and can take the string pressure without deforming.

tin shape 7
To test that last bit I press about as hard as I can with two fingers on the dimples and watch carefully for any crippling in the belly. The pressure should only deform the tin in the concave curve around the edge.

That completes the tin until it’s time to fit the completed neck. Next episode I will show a bit about shaping a neck.

wee texas blue

wee tex blue 3 wee tex blue1 wee tex blue2At last I am back to work and making some new instruments! I have not completed a new one since February, too many other projects and distractions. This little Texas Bluebonnet tin from the Collin Street Bakery was a fine choice for getting back to the rasps and hammers. This is the fourth ukulele I’ve built with these pretty tins. I’ve used the big ones and the medium ones, but this is my first go with a wee one. The history of the state of Texas plays out on the sides while the state flower and a rudimentary map grace the lid. She’s a big winner in a diminutive size!

  • tin: 170 x 77 mm, 6 3/4 x 3 in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 620 mm, 24 1/2 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • stainless fork and rest
  • silk neck tie strap

She’s all yours for just $350. Contact me if you are interested.

San Mateo Maker Faire 2014

I got my hands on some photos from the San Mateo Maker Faire 2014 after all. These are from May 17th.

MF2014.1

Tools! fret cutting jig, bench clamp and carpenter’s plane, fret press, ball-peen hammer, curved anvil, and sample tins in the process of shaping.

I was not presenting as a commercial maker this time so I did not bring instruments to sell. Instead, I focused on providing sample instruments, encouraging people to try strumming a uke or sliding on a canjo, and I laid out some of my tools to help answer the universal question, “How do you make these?”
MF2014.2Lots of people went away smiling after hearing tuna cans and cookie tins make marvelous twangy music, and a few may have been inspired to try their hand at making a hillbilly instrument of their own.

MF2014.3If you have never been to the Maker Faire or have never heard of it, you are sure to have more opportunities. The San Mateo event happens every May and there are more and more Maker Faire events around the world every year. Interested in seeing what your crazy creative neighbors are cooking up? Then have look at what’s been happening and what’s coming up. There are events in New York, Detroit, and Kansas City just to name a few in the U.S. Yes, the bug has spread internationally too. Paris, Trondheim, Tokyo, Istanbul, São Paulo, and Oaxaca have all had Maker Faires so look for one near you.

SLO Mini Maker Faire 2014

SLO MMF 2014.1 The second annual San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire has come and gone and a couple of instruments left the “available for sale” category. There were lots of impromptu ukulele lessons and canjo sessions.
SLO MMF 2014.2 There were paper sculptures, a frisbee chucking bot, and shrinky-dinks among the many activities and demonstrations.
SLO MMF 2014.3 The following weekend I traveled to San Mateo for the big Maker Faire. It was two whole days of surprising people with the sound that can come out of a hillbilly instrument. I am happy to say that lots of folks left the Tinkers Damn booth smiling. My special lady friend did not come along for the big show so I am short on photos, folks. Here’s a video that gives a drone’s view of some of the Faire. If you’ve never attended it will give a little taste of how big the event is.
SLO MMF 2014.4If you want to see more of the SLO event, have a look at the iFixit SLO Maker Faire video (and though it makes me writhe in pain to see myself on tape, it includes a short clip of me and the cans.) A couple of the Faire volunteers jumped right in to ukulele lessons and did so much to spread the magic to more of the Faire visitors than I could have ever done on my own. Sorry for all the cut off heads here and above (I prefer to avoid showing faces of people who have not given the go to use their likeness on the interwebs).

It’s Official!

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I’ll be sharing my instruments, tools, and methods at the San Mateo Maker Faire May 17th and 18th. Tinkers Damn is exhibit #20264. In addition, I’ll be at the San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire May 10th. I’ll have a very limited number of instruments available for sale at the San Luis Obispo event, but I will not be selling instruments in San Mateo. I’ll be far too busy demonstrating how to make your own instrument and giving beginning lessons on the ukulele and canjo.

If you live on the central coast, I can’t encourage you enough to join us for the San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire. Last year was a swell time, the event isn’t nearly as overwhelming as the big show in San Mateo, and it’s free!

If you are a tinker, maker, or thinker, the Maker Faire in San Mateo is two whole days of creativity overload and probably worth the trip from just about anywhere in North America. I’m just about to pee myself with excitement that I get to participate this year. Get your tickets before you get to the gate! Don’t miss it!

black rose

black rose 1 black rose 2 black rose 3Boy, I tell ya, I am starting to really like these medium size tins for concert scale ukuleles. They work like a charm. I suppose I will have to start working the big 10 inch tins into baritone ukuleles instead. Don’t miss the wild colors of the polka-dot liner inside this silk neck-tie strap. You can just see the pattern peeking out of the right side of the top photo. The mottled patina in the steel of the cookie tin bottom gives black rose a world-wise personality, and the fleurs-de-lis on the tin and arm rest give her a mild, regal bearing. She’s a special gal!

  • tin: 185 x 65 mm, 7 1/4 x 2 1/2 in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 620 mm, 24 1/2 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck
  • cocobolo fret board
  • stainless fork and rest
  • silk neck tie strap

Sorry folks, Black Rose was sold at the San Luis Obispo Maker Faire, May 10, 2014. We had a really swell volunteer for the day who picked up a uke for the first time at the Faire. She learned a few chords from me and many more plus a few songs from other uke players who happened by. By the time she had to go for the day she was ready to make this uke her own. If our volunteer is reading this… thank you so much for all the help and enthusiasm getting other people to try out an instrument and I hope your new instrument brings years of strumming.

Maker Faire 2014

MFSLO8May is on its way, and with it comes the Maker Faire. This year, if all goes as planned (if they let me in, that is) I will be participating in both the San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire on May 10th and the San Mateo Maker Faire on May 17th and 18th. I will once again be selling ukuleles, canjos, and dulcimers at the SLO Mini Maker Faire (if I can manage to make a few more by then) by cash or check. Sorry folks, I just don’t have the means or the technology yet to accept credit cards. For the San Mateo Maker Faire I will not be selling anything. It’s the weekend right after the SLO event and I don’t expect to have more than my good ol’ backup demo instruments left by then. In addition, I will be way too busy in San Mateo demonstrating and teaching to be able to deal with sales at all (not to mention that Tinkers Damn just can’t afford the commercial maker fee). If you will be attending and want to see what a Tinkers Damn uke sounds like in person, it will be a fine opportunity. You can always look me up to buy an instrument after the event.

Lapp Woman

Lapp Woman 1 Lapp Woman 2 Lapp Woman 3The lid of this tin depicts a scene from the Hans Christian Andersen story of the Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman, a part of The Snow Queen. Gerda, carrying a dried cod (it looks more like a sturgeon to me), is riding a reindeer on her way to see the Finn Woman. Oddly, the fish has a message written on it. Be that as it may, the resulting ukulele came out of the shop sounding really swell, and what’d ya know, no fish odor!

  • tin: 190 x 90 mm, 7 3/4 x 3 1/2 in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 620 mm, 24 1/2 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck
  • paduak fret board
  • stainless fork and rest
  • silk neck tie strap

All for just $350. Contact me if you are interested.