Kingcaster uke build : part 02 – How to make the body

In my last post I talked about how I designed and created a pattern for my electric ukulele build. Today I talk about making the body.

From wood to wood in 167 simple steps – King Uke shows you how!

I haven’t finished it, but I’ve done enough to give you a run down of what I’ve been up to. Tighten your seatbelts, this might just get a little hairy!

Oh yeah… my build has been christened “the Kingcaster”. I kind of like the sound of that!

The first step was to take some standard printer paper and trace the outline of my
master pattern. I discovered that the cheapo paper I’ve got is thin enough to see through.
As an aside: You will remember that I drew my pattern on a roll of wallpaper backing
paper. I’ve found myself referring back to it a lot throughout the build, carrying it
around with me rolled up under my arm. At times I’ve felt like Christopher Columbus
searching out new lands. It’s great!

 

My intention all along was to use my new router to
cut the body. So here you see me cutting patterns
for the neck and body. I’ve been stupid and simply
glued the paper (backwards) to the 6mm MDF
with Pritt Stick.

 

Here are the finished templates. I cut them out with my jig saw and
only a little touching up needed with a file. The MDF was easy to cut.
The hard bits were the indents for the arms.

 

I picked a block of Poplar for this project. The blank I bought was for a
guitar and twice as big as I needed. I asked them to plane it to 4cm
thickness. There was no real science behind deciding the depth. I
just kept referring back to by guitar and listened to some advice from
Daniel Hulbert who’s been through this a few more times than me.
My considerations here were to have it thick enough that I could fit
guitar electrics inside and I also wanted to have a strong neck join.
So far, it is feeling right.

 

Next I screwed the template in place and began to teach myself how to
route. Yes, I know that I should have done some practicing beforehand
but I am way too impatient for that! I’ve discovered that I’m rubbish at
routing! I knew full well that I didn’t have the right router bits to do the
body properly, but I started anyway. I’m not proud of this, but I did a
really dirty hack here that I’m not recommending to anyone. My bit was
only 2cm long, so could only cut half the body depth. Having routed
one side, I flipped the body over, attached the template on the back
and did the same again. The hope was that I could get it all to line up,
which of course it didn’t! Saying all that, I was very close!
As far as routing itself went, I made all the classic mistakes and invented
a few of my own!

 

Here’s the filed body. Check out all the little dinks and burn marks from poor routing.
I’ve since filled the holes.

 

I had planned to do the edge rounding with the router, but to be honest,
I was starting to lose faith that I’d get it right. The clincher however,
was the realisation that the round-over bit I had was too big; It’s
going to be a tight fit for the fingerboard. I ended up hand-filing the
round over and I enjoyed this a whole lot more.

 

Having  rounded the body and finished a 7 hour stint of ‘building’ I
collapsed in my chair and posted some pictures up on G+. One of the first
questions I got was along the lines of “where are the contours?”
I’d always intended to put them in, but in my tired addled state I was
beginning to convince myself that I didn’t need them. It took
some straight talking from Eric Vossbrink at New Wave Ukulele
to snap me out of it. Thank you Eric for keeping me on
the straight and narrow! His lesson is simple: pay attention to the
details! I’m finding that Eric is a man who’s opinions are worth
listening to! And I know that my technique has Eric shaking his head,
but I am listening master! Ha ha! rub on… rub off…
In this picture you can see the arm contour. The contouring I’m
going for here is more of a 50s Strat style.

 

And here you see the tummy contour. All of the contouring
was done by hand starting with a rasp and then finishing
with a bastard file. (I just had to get that in somehow).

 

Next I started thinking about cutting the neck join and a cavity for the
electrics. But ever one to divert myself I took a moment to cut a
template for the fingerboard. I was keen to check that everything was
where it was meant to be… and it is! Looking good!

 

I hate routers! I made a real hash of cutting the neck ‘hole’. For some reason it’s come
out a little wider and longer than I measured it to be. We’re only talking fractions here,
but it’s pissing me off! Don’t worry – I can fix. The cavity for the electrics is next
on my radar.

And that’s it for now. I’m close to having the body done and ready for sanding. Looking ahead, I’ve got the neck to make. This is really, really scaring me. Right now, I’m not sure how I’m going to get through this. Wish me luck!

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