blue flake lap steel

Indeed, here it is, in all its chunky squared off glory and all its slinky-slidey twang! It’s my first go at building a baritone scale lap steel ukulele, and I am having too much fun. Now I just need to learn to play the dern thing. Yes, I know that’s a mouth full. Learning to play a lap steel – and doing it well – is no small task.

lap steel blue flake 2

lap steel blue flake 1

lap steel blue flake 3

As I mentioned in my previous post, this instrument is the direct descendant of a big kid-safe lap steel I knocked out just before the San Mateo Maker Faire. Regardless of my questionable skills playing this wingnut I’m sure it won’t be that last one I build.

  • tin: 230 x 76 mm, 9 x 3 in.
  • scale length: 520 mm, 20 1/2 in.
  • head to tail: 760 mm, 30 in.
  • G .024, C .018, E .015, g .013 plain steel loop end
  • squarish profile maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • stainless fork string anchor

While I’ll be sad to see it go if this one is snapped up, you should certainly contact me if you are interested in sliding on the blue flake on your own back porch. I don’t have a price on this one as it is till a work in progress. I have been fooling around with adding a carbon mic and a piezo pickup. Someday soon I’ll update the photos and demo to show off the wacky electronics.

Blue Flake Lap Steel from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

gondola-la

And now for my second soprano ukulele with nylon strings and a supercalifragilistic coordinated theme!gondola3Yes folks, it’s all gondolas all the time.gondola1 gondola2gondlolas on the back gondola backa fero da prorà on the head stock gondola headgondolas bobbing along the sides gondola sideand gondolas on the silk neck tie strap! Expialidocious or what? gondola strapHold on to your socks! Jeannie may just puff out of that bottle on the strap and whisk you off to Venice in a hula skirt.

  • tin: 210 x 50 mm, 6 1/4 x 2 in.
  • scale length: 330 mm, 13 in.
  • head to tail: 550 mm, 21 3/4 in.
  • G .025, C .036, E .032, A .021 nylon
  • maple neck
  • padauk fret board
  • silver plate fork string anchor and arm rest
  • silk neck tie strap

Gondola-la is a one of a kind ensemble. The stars will never line up like this again. She’s all yours for $360. Get on board or send a message in a bottle if you are interested.

gondola-la from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

big red baritone

bigred1

bigred2

bigred3Big red, and a baritone, no less! My first go at a baritone scale ukulele used a 10 inch snowflake tin with the same art design as big green, a concert ukulele from some time ago. The similarities end there. Big red has a 520 mm scale length and a voice that is an octave lower. For my own convenience big red is strung and tuned in a typical ukulele GCEA so I can play it without fussing to learn the chords for the standard baritone ukulele tuning of DGBE. If there is anyone out there interested in big red and would prefer DGBE I would certainly be amenable to swap in a set of strings for that tuning. Meanwhile, I am getting a kick out of the deeper voice and I am sure I’ll be using the big ten inch tins for more baritones to come.

  • tin: 250 x 90 mm, 9 7/8 x 3 1/2 in.
  • scale length: 520 mm, 20 1/2 in.
  • head to tail: 780 mm, 30 1/2 in.
  • G .022 wound, C .032 wound, E .026 wound, A .018 plain steel loop
  • or for a standard baritone tuning: D .030 wound, G .022 wound, B .017 plain, E .012 plain steel loop
  • maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • stainless fork string anchor
  • silk neck tie strap

Get this low down ukulele all for just $320! It’s all about the bass so drop me a depth charge if you are interested.

big red from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

faded blue

faded blue 1 faded blue 2 faded blue 3It’s been a while coming, but the blue was already faded when I started. After tinkering with a chassis punch on the flying iris I thought I’d put it to use on a bigger tin. This uke projects its hoot and holler right out front thanks to the six sound holes in the belly. She’s bound to keep the blues away.

  • tin: 255 x 100  mm, 10 x 3 7/8 in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 645 mm, 25 1/2 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008 steel loop
  • maple neck
  • paduak fret board
  • stainless fork string anchor
  • neck tie strap

Faded blue will punch right through those clouds and let the big brass sun right in, all for just $320! Drop me a line if you are interested.

faded blue from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

flying iris

flying iris 3What? A soprano ukulele? Yes, and with nylon strings no less!

flying iris 2

flying iris 1

flying iris 4Time to branch out a bit from exclusively steel strings on concert scale ukuleles. tindeco This little Tindeco oval was aching to be an instrument but it’s size kept me away. After the requests and suggestions that I use nylon strings for a more familiar feel, I figured a li’l sorpano uke with nylon strings would fit this tin nicely. Some day soon I’ll turn out a baritone ukulele too. Meanwhile, some specs for flying iris…

  • tin: 215 x 145 x 45 mm, 8 1/2 x 5 5/8 x 1 3/4 in.
  • scale length: 330 mm, 12 3/4 in.
  • head to tail: 510 mm, 20 in.
  • G .020, C .032, E .030, A .022 Nylon
  • maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • sterling fork string anchor
  • silk neck tie strap

Flying iris is a swell little gal with a nice voice and easy on the fingers to boot! All for $260. Drop me a line if you are interested.

flying iris from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

shaping the neck

Last episode, I finished shaping the tin. For part three of how it’s made I’ll give some details of cutting and shaping the maple neck and its extension through the tin. This won’t include the fret board. That will have to wait for another episode. Even without the fret board this may be a bit long, so hold on to yer hats’n glasses! After the initial work on the band saw, table saw, and drill press this is all hand work with rasps, chisels, and sand paper. Apologies for the sharp focus on the backgrounds. One day I’ll learn to force a digital camera to focus where I want it.

neck shape 2Following the measured drawing I made way back when I planned the instrument around a particular tin, I transfer all the measurements to a plank of maple. This picture shows a neck after a rough cut on the band saw, holes drilled for tuning machines and the strap, some lengthwise cuts to narrow the head and tail, and some initial profile smoothing with the rasps. Those holes were drilled before the lengthwise trim cuts were made. The drill press makes them nice and square and tear-out is eliminated when the waste pieces are removed. Some center lines in pencil are visible here. After squaring up the neck blank and all this early work I replace any guide marks that have been cut away.

neck shape 3This is looking at the butt end of the neck where it will someday meet the tin. The brighter part in the foreground is the extension of the neck that passes all the way through the center of the tin to the string anchor at the tail. This one piece neck and extension take all the string tension. You can see the pencil line marking the intended taper where the neck will join the tin. I like to get this taper set up before shaping the middle of the neck. This sets a limit on the curve of the middle section.

neck shape 4Above is one side tapered to meet my guide marks. I’ll flip the piece over and do the other side right away. I like to take small bites on each side while checking the symmetry at every step.

Now to get my head straight. This work will help set limits on the curve of the center part of the neck too.

neck shape 5I have already trimmed the waste piece off the other side of the head. The table saw cut is set a bit wider than the finished head. I’ll have to do quite a bit of work to smooth and clean up what the table saw leaves behind.

neck shape 7Time to clean the gum off the saw blade. It got a bit hot and left some burn marks.

neck shape 8after grinding with the rat tail rasp.

neck shape 9after some chisel work to make one flush surface…

neck shape 10and several grades of sandpaper later, the head and the curve leading to the middle section of the neck are well roughed out.

neck shape 11The center section is still a tapered block itching for some relief, but first lets freshen up those guide marks.

neck shape 16If you’re not familiar with the tool pictured above, you’re missing out. It’s one of the best tools ever, a carpenter’s scribe, and I depend on it for making guide lines that are parallel to this or that edge. The tiny black rod at the Left end is a piece of graphite pencil “lead” set so it can be inched down as it wears out. That’s a thumbscrew sticking out of the block. It locks the block in any position along the roughly graduated stick.

neck shape 14Scribe in action!… marking a center line…

neck shape 15and marking a pair of “don’t cut anymore!” warning lines along the edge where the fret board will join. When the uppermost of these lines gets faint or disappears I know my curve is getting close to removing wood that I want to keep on the edge.

neck shape 17Next, I check that center line with a short straight edge and back-light. I want the center line to fit nice and tight on that straight edge. The light getting under the straight edge indicates low spots and the dark shows high spots. Hmm… needs work. I will rasp and sand carefully until I see very little light getting through, and finish by redrawing my center line.

OK, last part of this post, I swear.

neck shape 18For this bit, I like to clamp the neck to a beam that sticks out from my bench. This makes it easy to work both sides of the middle section for a uniform result.

neck shape 20This is the first of MANY cuts to make nice even facets roughing out the curved cross section of the center of the neck. Each added facet gets narrower and closer to a smooth curve as I work. Note that everything must cope with the taper from head to tail…. lots of standing back with chin scratching is in order here.

neck shape 21After making all these swell, even spaced, symmetrical facets now I must destroy them. Back in the bench vise, with raking light from my faithful swivel lamp, I look carefully for the edges of those facets, and eliminate them one by one with many grades of sand paper. Blue lines in the inset image highlight the edges of several facets visible in the photo. All these have gotta go. In addition, if you look close at the inset (you can click on the image for a closer look) there are two green arrows indicating that my “don’t cut anymore” lines are indeed still there.

neck shape 22This is getting close to a smooth curve. The raking light still shows some work to be done. I find that taking the neck out into sunlight and watching as I roll the piece in and out of shadow will point out the flaws. Curves, man… they’re finicky!

Next time, joining neck to tin. Buon legno!

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.

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.