big texas blue #2

big tex blue 2.3big tex blue 2.4 big tex blue 2.2I had a small windfall of Texas Bluebonnet tins from the Collin Street Bakery so I followed up the wee texas blue with a new big texas blue. It is very similar to the first one of these big tins I hammered out in June of 2013. This is the fifth ukulele I’ve built with these pretty tins and it would make a swell duet pair with the wee texas blue while she is still available (hint, hint). The history of the state of Texas plays out on the sides of this whopper and just like on the wee one, the state flower and a rudimentary map grace the lid. Big texas blue has a big ol’ voice to match a big ol’ state

  • tin: 255 x 90 mm, 10 x 3 1/4 in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 650 mm, 25 1/2 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck
  • cocobolo fret board
  • sterling fork and rest
  • silk neck tie strap

She’s all yours for just $320. Contact me if you are interested.

big texas blue #2 from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

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.

pop! from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

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 or bistable 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.

Update! Want to see all the hammering happen really fast?

5 hours of work in 1 minute 15 seconds from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

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 $280. Contact me if you are interested.

wee tex blue from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

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.

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

Sorry folks, Lapp Woman sold to a nice fella and his daughter in San Mateo in March 2014. She’s a pretty gal and she’s out in the world now. She’ll make more people smile out making music by someone’s hand than she ever would in my storage so I’m happy to send her on her way. Never fear, there will be more like her.

starting to beat a tin into shape

As promised, someday is here, and I am finally getting around to posting a little about the work that goes into the instruments I build.
measured drawingAfter selecting and cleaning a tin I think will make a good instrument (not too many dents or corrosion, a tight fitting lid, and good artwork) I always make a measured drawing to plan the instrument. Then I mark out the center, the axis of the neck, the bridge location, and several concentric circles on the tin bottom to guide shaping the steel.
hammer tin 4I do all the hammering to shape the tin before starting work on the neck or any other parts. Shaping the tin is the most iffy part of the process, and if the work fails I don’t get stuck with a neck that was custom made to fit a bad tin. In the picture above you can see concentric circles marked in black ink. I have already hammered down the outermost ring using the ball end of my hammer to start the downward part of the curve, and the center bulge is starting to rise as I work out from the center.
hammer tin 3This picture shows the curved top of the anvil I use to shape instrument bellies. Starting in the center of a tin, I stretch the steel by striking it between the flat side of the ball-peen hammer and the anvil head. As the steel stretches in the center it bulges up and I work out toward the edges little by little. It takes a countless number or hammer strikes. A heavier hammer or harder blows would make the work go faster, but I find that the result is less even and more likely to collapse when the string tension is applied to the belly of the instrument.
hammer tin 1The resulting steel instrument body must have a very even and rigid dome shape to stand the pressure of the steel strings and be flexible enough at the outer edge to resonate with the plucked strings. The steel work-hardens and becomes more brittle as I hammer so there is a limit to how far I can stretch things. The bigger the tin the more hammer work is required and the more sensitive the dome is to small flaws.

Next time I’ll get into the nit-picky work of adjusting the belly of the tin for the off-center bridge foot print.

big green

 

big green 1 big green 2 big green 3Big Green was the first ukulele I built with a big tin. This one is 9.75 inches in diameter and it makes for a nice big voice. The scattered bird’s eyes of the fret board were a surprise. They popped out of an odd piece of stock and just asked to be a fret board. The result prompted me to seek out nice pieces of wood for fret boards. Up to this instrument I had made do with plain old maple.

  • tin: 9 3/4 x 3 1/2in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 660 mm, 26 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck
  • maple fret board with a wee bit of bird’s eye
  • stainless fork and rest
  • patchwork strap

Sorry folks, Big Green sold to a SLO local July 22, 2014.

pomegranate

pom2pom1 pom3

Good ol’ pomegranate helped me work out so much about shaping cookie tins and nailed down lots of technique in January of 2011. She was not my first really successful ukulele but was next in line. This one proved I could do it a again.

  • tin dimensions: 7 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches
  • scale length: 390 mm, 15 3/4 inches
  • head to tail: 650 mm, 25 1/2 inches
  • G .010, C ,015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck and fret board
  • stainless fork and bobbin
  • open head tuning machines
  • patchwork strap

Sorry folks, Pomegranate was snapped up at the San Luis Obispo Maker Faire May 10, 2014. It is now in the hands of a lucky budding uke musician.

goldie

goldie1 goldie2 goldie3

Old goldie was built in March of 2011. That makes her one of the early ones, but she plays a lovely steel twang on a concert uke scale.

  • tin dimensions: 7 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches
  • scale length: 390 mm, 15 3/8 inches
  • head to tail: 615 mm, 24 1/4 inches
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck and fret board
  • sterling fork and arm rest
  • open head tuning machines

This one went as a gift to a friend of my sister. I’m sure Goldie will be twanging in his hands for many happy years to come.