Now I also make jewelry

Friday, 30 July 2010

Deep baritone

Deep because the sides are 3 in. at the top, 3 1/4 at the bottom. Ive made the other forthcoming baritones progressively shallower as an experiment in sound production.
This one has a terrific voice, full of character, nice projection and sustain. The intonation is spot on thanks to the compensated bridge (I carved out the sadlle slot by hand with chisel and gouge). So, I'm definitely encouraged to pursue my "apprenticeship".
The neck is made of jatoba, with some unknown burl veneer over the headstock and the fretboard is a nicely figured rosewood. The back is two plates of lacewood with a center layer of ebony that I later covered over with a bloodwood veneer ( choosing red over black on a whim; the ebony can be seen peeping through at the tail end after too vigorous a sanding ). The sides are once again that really nice curly honey-colored maple and the soundboard is spruce. Bocote over walnut for the bridge. Saddle and nut are tulipwood, my latest fad/fave. The bandings are cherry.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

More lovely wood

I spent yesterday morning sawing small blocks of Brazilian tulipwood and African blackwood into thin slices. Tulipwood is "bois de rose" in French, which seems more appropriate since the wood does have the variety of pink hues you find more in roses than tulips. However the English name "rosewood" is used for other species of the genus "dalbergia". At any rate, Brazilian rosewood is a very dense and strong wood, highly figured and colored, jewel-like really, so a little bit will go a long way. African blackwood is also a member of the dalbergia genus, also terrifically dense and hard, black with dark brown veins. So I've built up a small reserve for bridges, saddles, nuts and inlays.
You never know exactly what you'll discover when slicing a piece of figured wood and it's always exciting to bring those hidden treasures to light.

Saturday, 24 July 2010


Applying several coats of finish and hand-polishing after each coat over several days, I see the wood come alive and its color deepening, with all the nuances of the grain, the shimmering in various kinds of light and from various angles. It took many hours of work just for that one part of the instrument, the back, never really knowing what it would look like... but now, what a glorious sight!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Soprano back

Silly me: I forgot to include a picture of the back, with the wood at its prettiest.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Soprano done

Finished it last night and put the strings on. No glitch, no buzz, no need to adjust the frets, accurate intonation: so far, the care I brought to fashioning my fretboards seems to be paying off. Nice, crisp sound with a lot of sustain for such a small body, but then I'm always in love with a newborn. At any rate, here are the pics.
The soundboard is yellow cypress, the neck is cherry. Fretboard, bridge and saddle are made of ebony, and I've used Brazilian tulipwood for the nut (a tiny touch of pink next to the black ebony: "le charme inattendu d'un bijou rose et noir"... my small tribute to Baudelaire). I don't know what the headstock veneer is, some kind of hardwood burl, I suspect, with sinuous lines.
The VSL is 14 ". The neck is 1.5 " at the nut and 1.75 " at the 12th fret. Total length: 21 inches.

Monday, 19 July 2010

First soprano - teaser

I've just completed the finishing process on the first uke of this season, a soprano. I still have to fashion a proper nut and saddle before stringing it and trying it out for sound. Until then, I'm enjoying the look of the finished wood, especially for the back (bird's eye maple and bloodwood) and the sides (curly maple and bird's eye veneer for the "shoulders"). I first started work on this about ten months ago and only now can I see the real character of the wood, which really exceeds my expectations.