Thursday, December 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: "Nate Tells How to Build an Ukulele!"

Over the past ten weeks, I've spent three hours each Saturday morning at Hana Lima 'Ia (Made By Hand), learning to make a tenor-sized ukulele. Very fun, and challenging! Very annoying to Wendy, as I've needed the car on most occasions, due to never-failing weekend rain! I would normally ride my little motorbike to such events in the rain, but I'm getting too conservative in my older age to endure such inconveniences; water soaked wood isn't fun to work with either!

Here is a short report about what I learned from Mike Chock at Hala Lima 'Ia over the past 10 weeks and a brief look at the steps to making a custom "Uke". The more salient underpinnings to this story really share a technique on how to waste much time in said workshop and then avoid having your spouse file for divorce :)

1. Choose the wood for your Uke: I used Bubinga for the back and sides, Engleman Spruce for the soundboard and Mahogany for the neck...cut to rough shape and inlay Abalone shell around the soundhole.

2. Glue in bracing and shape for "tonal and structural quality" - whatever that may mean. Don't gouge into Wendy's dining table!!! That would really annoy her.

John was wondering what in the world I was doing for a little while! He just kept on smiling'. This is an important lesson for you guys out there: even when your wife may have no idea that your selfish woodworking habit is really a vehicle to a good Christmas gift, just keep on smiling and tough it out!

3. Get that neck "shaped up"! Curses to those Krispy Kreme doughnut drives!

4. Bend the sides with this contraption...this part blew me away! Oh the deep-hidden secrets of the Master Luthier.

5. Join neck to soundboard and fit's starting to look like an Ukulele.

6. Block sand the sides for a nice fit of the back piece.

Add a custom label in case you want people to know who made it...Of course, this is risky because if the Uke ends up sounding horrible...well, then people will know who made it!

7. Cut frets, design fretboard, cut soundhole, glue on back and it's getting closer than it's ever been before to being complete...What?

8. Have a spunky 10-year-old help you design and cut out (with a jewler's saw), a "Honu" inlay to add a custom feel to the headstock. Sydney really helped me out on the design and cutting out the Koa, Spruce and Black Walnut for the headstock. Thanks Syd! She even cut herself out a Bubinga turtle and made it into a necklace.

9. Install headstock inlay of Sea Turtle and shape headstock to look like the wavy ocean.

10. Install bridge, tuners and strings, and then have a few "experts" play your Uke to see if it sounds good. I got two really qualified opinions. Both the master luthier and the seven-year-old agree: "It makes a good sound!"

So, when it is all said and done, the boy gets to play in the workshop...he is not altogether an idiot, because he gives his girl the Uke for Christmas, she forgives him for all of the time he's wasted and for all of the times she's been stranded without a car. And they lived happily ever after...

Coming soon: A music video of Wendy's first song on the Uke...she may need some help with this one, Abby!


Thanks for letting me be a guest blogger...

- Nate


Mary said...

That is so awesome! Nate, your projects are always so cool - and definitely worth the time it looks like since Wendy has such a big smile on her face in that last picture! Thanks for showing us the process of making a "uke." Fun!

Jennifer said...

This is just very very impressive... great job, Nate! Happy Holidays Wendy & Family too!

Jenny said...

Can't wait to see your first music video.

Mary Peterson said...

Very COOL! You are so talented! Was it worth is Wendy? It looks like it was.

Don said...

Wow - I wanna do that! I like my ukulele, but to have one I made myself would be way cool.

It looks like you did a great job, Nate. Thanks for documenting this for us.

Mrs.Field's Cookies said...

NATE you are so awesome! It is so cool that you made the ukulele. Merry Christmas!
love you all

Anonymous said...

Nate ... You are a great son, and can do almost anything. ( that you put your mind to, I mean )
Good Job,, Dad

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Big Kahuna Tiki Huts said...

What an artist!

Nanci said...

WOW...What an artist!