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Installing Frets - No Hammer (Read 8850 times)
Mr_Roboto
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Installing Frets - No Hammer
Apr 28th, 2008 at 8:09am
 
I purchased a pre-slotted fingerboard to avoid mistakes in slotting.  I then began to cut and install the fret wire from Hana Lima Ia.  I had hoped to use some ratcheting clamps with rubber bumpers on the clamping surfaces to force the fret wire in witout marring it, but that only worked for approximately 2/3 of the frets.  By the time I'd ground the excess off the ends with an electric grinder, others I thought I'd seated had come loose.  

Hint:  I took a pair of long-handled (for better leverage) channel locks and carefully wrapped the jaws, and in particular the toothed surfaces, in many layers of duct tape, to prevent the teeth from biting into the fret wire.  (Channel lock teeth will bite into and mar fret wire. I found that out on the first fingerboard I tried to complete. Shocked Angry)  I then carefully pressed the loose wires in using the channel lock tool (but without exerting so much force as to risk marring the wire tops).  It worked well Shocked Grin, but I had to put a lot of tape on the toothed jaws while avoiding excessive force, or l would have ruined the surface of the fret wire.   If you try this, better to use some scrap wire and a scrap piece of wood that you've slotted first, to be sure you can avoid marring the surface of the wire. Roll Eyes
Note: I'm still wondering if the reduced height on some wires on the first one I did, due to having to file the teeth marks off, will compromise the instrument and make it impossible to play without buzzing frets that make contact with the string on non-filed frets closer to the saddle.  I guess I'll find out.
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Acabooe
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #1 - Apr 28th, 2008 at 9:28am
 
Great job Mr. Roboto

I just recently installed the fretwire on a fretboard I cut and shaped myself.

I didn't have a fret hammer either, so I used a block of wood, a small 3" C clamp, my workbench, titebone qriginal wood glue, a small piece of wax paper, and a toothpick.

Here was my procedure:

Make a puddle the size of a quarter on top of the wax paper square.

Using the tip of the toothpick, dipped into the glue, I would transfer a small amount of glue into 1 fret slot.

I placed the correct legnth of fretwire gently into the slot, and pushed it in with my small block of wood.

I would wipe the excess glue squeeze out with a papertowel.

Then I would place the same block over the wire I just pushed in by hand, and using a 3" C clamp I would clamp it all to my work banch to press the wire the rest of the way into the slot.

It worked pretty well.

Here is a pic:

...

Aloha
Bob 8)
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Mr_Roboto
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #2 - Apr 28th, 2008 at 1:28pm
 
No glue was necessary with the pre-slotted ones.  The tang held the wire.  You'd said in my other post that you'd acquired a fret saw from Hana Lima, why the glue?  Are you concerned about expansion due to moisture?

You also seem to have some odd fret marker placements planned in the picture, starting on the 2nd, then 4th, instead of 3rd then 5th?  Is there a fret missing from that space at the top?

Good luck with your project!
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Don_Orgeman
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #3 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 3:23am
 
Mr Roboto:

If you look at the lines for the first and eleventh frets you will notice some tape or tape marks.  These are left out until the fingerboard is attached to the neck/body and 1/16 inch pins are used at these frets as alignment pins to make sure the fingerboard does not slip from its correct alignment during gluing.

Don
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Mr_Roboto
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #4 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 3:30am
 
Sorry...

Sounds complicated.  I plan to just sand the fingerboard and neck to fit, then glue it in place with a couple of ratcheting clamps with rubber ends.  QED.

Note:  Those pre-slotted fingerboards I purchased turned out to have a flaw in one.  The first fret is too close to the top on the one board...and I only purchased two.  Good thing I've got the fret slotting saw coming from Hana Lima.  (There's software at Stew-Mac in the fretting supplies tab for laying out a 17 inch tenor fingerboard for a ukulele.)
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Acabooe
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #5 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 4:45am
 
Quote:
No glue was necessary with the pre-slotted ones.  The tang held the wire.  You'd said in my other post that you'd acquired a fret saw from Hana Lima, why the glue?  Are you concerned about expansion due to moisture?

You also seem to have some odd fret marker placements planned in the picture, starting on the 2nd, then 4th, instead of 3rd then 5th?  Is there a fret missing from that space at the top?

Good luck with your project!


Well, I am using the Hana Lima Ia Ukulele Construction Manual as my guide to build.
In the maunal it says to cut the slots with the fret saw and miter box ( which I got from Hana Lima ), which I did.
Then the manual says to put a litle bit of glue on the tang of each wire before you put them in. I put the glue in the slots instead, because I thought it would be less messy ( and it was, cleanup was e z ).
And then it says to press, or tap them in ( I used the press method).

I purchased the glue at Home depot before I started this section of the project, it is a very good glue and has been what I have used to glue everything in this porject.

As pointed out in the post above, the 1st and 11th fret wires arn't installed untill the fretboard is already attached. I placed markers on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, and 15th frets. I used bass wood that I got at the local craft store as the inlay markers. It is a pretty soft wood, and it expanded and shaped as I pressed them in, so no glue was needed for installing them.

Hope that this clears some stuff up.
Good luck with your build Mr. Roboto.

Aloha
Bob ( Acabo'oe ) 8)


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Don_Orgeman
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #6 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 4:53am
 
Mr Roboto:

Check the measurement between the first two fret slots.  The small amount left at the top is probably a piece left to be cut off or leaves enough room to cut off the fingerboard for an overhange behind a zero fret.  The pre slotted fingerboard I got from Hana Lima had about 5/8 inch behind the zero fret (or nut) cut line.  If the measurements between the first and second frets (Tenor uke = 17/17.817 = 0.9541") confirm that this is the zero fret line, just cut off the excess.  A Zona hobby saw with fine kerf (0.010) or the fret saw works great for this.

The idea of the pins is to keep the fingerboard exactly where you placed it when dry clamping it to the neck. Ttitebond glue becomes very slippery when wet and the fingerboard can easily end up in a location that does not fit without the two locator pins.  The two drill holes are hidden by the fret wires when you get done.

If you haven't bought the Hana Lima book I strongly recommend that you buy one from them.  It is a great step by step instruction book and answers a lot of questions as you go along.  I am just about ready to start putting the finish on my first uke (after a lot of sanding), and I have used the book to guide me through the process.  Its a big help.  Maybe Asa can add a book to your order if you call.

Don
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Mr_Roboto
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #7 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 5:12am
 
The fingerboard IS NOT from Hana Lima.  I bought it elsewhere as the other source offered pre-slotted rosewood. 

The distance from the top to the first fret is simply wrong on the one fingerboard.  It isn't long enough according to Stew-Mac's software, and is not long enough based on my own experience designing and constructing nine other ukuleles, including fret placement.  The other fingerboard is fine in that regard.

This build is number three in a sequence intended to produce specific tonal quality, sustain capability, and appearance.  I've been slow to reduce the thickness of the top and other wooden parts, in part due to very limited local availability of suitable wood that isn't cut for other purposes, and reticence on the part of distant suppliers of spruce to cut wood to less than 1/4 " thickness for shipment through the mail or via UPS.  (I have no band saw or thickness sander, other than what I do with my orbital sander, which is quite time consuming.)

I'm a little tired of ukuleles that look like "little guitars", or as those who are either particularly ignorant or unkind here in the midwest put it, "toy guitars", so I'm trying to build in some cultural elements from Hawaii and produce a different "look".  I was directed here by a Hawaiian internet acquaintance, and found the student built ukuleles that were previously presented here in the "student built" section to be such a welcome breath of fresh air in terms of appearance and application of new ideas that I was drawn here like a moth to a porch light.   

Hana Lima Ia, I thought, clearly has the right idea.  (No more trying to emulate someone else's cultural idea of how a plucked musical instrument should look - just make it look and sound good - reflecting its Hawaiian origin.)
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Don_Orgeman
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #8 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 5:56am
 
Sorry about the mistake on the source of your fretboards.

Sounds like a Kasha braced uke is exactly what you are looking for -- off center sound hole and oval not round, oval side sound port, and really wild bracing patterns.  Asa and Mike are working on an instructional manual for the kasha uke, and hopefully it will be out in the rear future.

I know what you mean about midwest attitude toward ukuleles -- I'm from Minnesota (but my mind resides in Hawaii).

Don
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #9 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 9:17am
 
Mr Roboto,

You might try Kevin Murray at Blue Mountain Acoustics  and Exotic Woodworks. He sells a variety of ukulele sets and offers services such as bending, joining, and sanding. He seems to be very knowlegable and very helpful.  You can also find him on Ebay under the name of rivdriftr.  http://www.bluemtnacoustics.com/services/services.htm

At one time I believe Bob Gleason at Pegasus Guitar an d Ukulele offered sanding, joining, and bending services. I don't see it listed on his web site right now but a quick call would give you the answer. It is better to call Bob the to email him. He also has some resonable priced koa on his site. One of his last offers was fret slotting templates. http://www.pegasusguitars.com.

Wish I had some extra time to work on my builds. With work, illness, and working on my poker game I have no time.

Philip
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Mr_Roboto
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #10 - Apr 29th, 2008 at 10:00am
 
Thank you very kindly for your recommendations Smiley.

I have discovered E-bay, and recently ordered wood from BNYEXOTICHARDWOODS.  The gentleman who operates that store does outstanding work, and provided me with some very fine, curly mahogany from Honduras, that was thickness sanded to my specification.  

I avoided a spruce top on that one, because I wanted it to capture the tone of mahogany.  I left the wood at 1/8" thickness for the top.  The instrument, IMHO, has an enchanting sound, very harplike, warm, and refined, but not very loud.  (It meets my tonal requirements (thanks to D.H.).  Spruce top ukuleles don't.)

I have elected to move away from rain forest stressing woods, and determined to seek out a North American hardwood that would be roughly the tonal equivalent of mahogany.  Having researched and found one that is hopeful, I placed a second order with BNYEXOTICHARDWOODS.  Once again, they exceeded my expectations.  

Unfortunately, I had a brainstorm after the curly mahogany build, and am now working toward finishing a substantially modified design executed in some mahogany from a third order (not curly, but ribbon, and although brown, almost transluscent with pinkish hues).  I want to see how loud this one will be before I commit to using this design in the future with the North American hardwood, which I ordered thickness sanded to 0.085".   I've had to spend more time sanding the top down from 1/8" now that I've assembled it and can gauge the strength of the wood.  (Being unfamiliar with exotic woods, I didn't want to construct an instrument with a paper thin top that might break.)

I think I will commence construction on a third (after the current build) with a spruce top using left over mahogany and N.A. hardwood after I determine in which design direction to go, simply to provide for more volume.  (I'll probably make the instrument a little larger as well.  Might as well, I've got the necks and headpieces almost done.)  Deerhunter56, another E-bayer, has provided thickness sanding for the spruce I ordered from Washington state, reducing it to 0.085", which I will further reduce with final sanding prior to completion.  I cut my side and back thickness down to 2.65 mm from 1/8".  I've also had to work out how to construct a neck and headpiece without gluing the headpiece on.  They tend to break off with any sharp blow if glued.  (What happens if you tap the headpiece against a solid object while its hanging from a strap.)  I've also been working on making the instrument look less like a guitar, while maintaining function.  Volume is my biggest hurdle now, and I anticipate that thinner top wood and a slightly larger instrument will render the result acceptable, given the tonal quality and sustain that accompanies it.  I'll rely upon a microphone if I need more volume than that, or revert to a different ukulele if volume is all that matters.
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #11 - Apr 30th, 2008 at 8:00am
 
[Quote:
  I've also had to work out how to construct a neck and headpiece without gluing the headpiece on.  They tend to break off with any sharp blow if glued.  (What happens if you tap the headpiece against a solid object while its hanging from a strap.) 


Mr. Roboto,

I think you may have a misconception about necks.  A neck with a scarf joint will always be stronger than a one piece neck due to grain structure. The fact that the scarf joint is glued (given decent glue up) has nothing to do with it. A single piece neck will be weaker around the nut area then a scarf joint neck. If enough pressure was placed against the neck the single piece neck would break before one with a scarf joint every time. That being said there is less tension on ukuleles than on guitars so it may not matter quite as much but the facts are the same. There are many people cutting one piece necks now days but most of the ones I know are laminating there necks with 3 or 5 vertical sections of stock to give added strength.

Maybe Asa or Mike will chime in and add to these comments.

Sounds like your having fun though so keep it up. Grin

Philip
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #12 - Apr 30th, 2008 at 12:51pm
 
I believed the luthier at the local music shop, who said the best instruments have one piece necks and heads.  He backed it up by showing me some high end guitars (for a local music shop).  They normally sell more violins, cellos, and other symphonic instruments.

My own experience establishes that if I simply cut the neck at the headjoint, mitre it, and glue it back on at an angle, it will tend to break off under string tension if there is any sudden blow to the headstock.  I got tired of that, and went for one piece construction, using the grain of the wood to strengthen it.

Multiple laminations sound like they could deliver as you describe, but only if you can get the proper back angle, and have enough surface area for each lamination along its length along the neck/headstock joint.  I suppose one would have to glue a stack that was long enough to then cut it with a band saw at a suitable back angle with the laminations extending along the headstock from the neck and into the top of the neck at an angle.  That would mean that one would have to cut a significant portion of the end of the neck off and replace it with laminations. down into the headstock.  It sounds like it might require a lathe to finish the neck, or at least a bandsaw and a lot of patience and sanding.

I'm using the one piece approach to take advantage of the strength of the grain of the wood.  I don't doubt that you can break off a headstock with sufficient determination or adequately adverse circumstances, but for normal use, the headstock and neck connection need only be so strong.  (My design presumes that you like your ukulele! Grin )

I don't doubt that the laminate approach could be stronger with the proper design and good implementation, but I don't have a band saw, and a one piece headstock should work, as you indicate, with the tension of only nylon strings.....I hope  Grin .  
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« Last Edit: Apr 30th, 2008 at 2:56pm by Mr_Roboto »  
 
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #13 - Apr 30th, 2008 at 2:53pm
 
Mr. Roboto, I have a question for you.

No disrespect is intended in what I say, but with all that you talk about your headstock breaking off, what are you going too be doing that you need to be worried about your Ukulele getting hit.
Most of the players that I know, ( and builders for that matter ) treat their creations like their own children, and would naturally be careful with them.
I am a first time builder, and am currently working on my maiden voyage Ukulele.
When I did the scarf joint, I didn't use enough clamps, so there is a gap that you can see between the neck and headstock.
HOWEVER it is still a very strong joint, and I don't think that a moderate hit against a wall for example would effect it at all.
Could you explain what happened when you indicate that you have had headstocks pop off before?
Here is a pic of my neck before I glued the ears on.

...

Notice the huge gap... It is still a very strong joint.
Btw, what type of wood glue do you use?
Mabye your headstocks poped off because you were using not enough, or just a weak glue?

Again, no disrespect is meant, and please don't take it that way, I'm just trying to understand your methods and results.

Aloha
Bob 8)
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Mr_Roboto
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Re: Installing Frets - No Hammer
Reply #14 - Apr 30th, 2008 at 3:37pm
 
No disrespect is taken, sir.  I built two very simple ukuleles three years ago.  The last seven have been completed only in the last few months as I seek to learn more about how different woods sound, and what thickesses produce adequate volume, sustain, and frequency response with reasonable strength.  

I am using polyurethane glue.  My neck joints seemed strong at first, but shattered if the top of the headstock hit a solid object, like the post on the corner of a bedframe, while the joint is under the full tension of the strings (always the glue that breaks).  I've had to glue two back on due to what seemed like brief blows of little consequence.  

I finally recut the angle and tried to increase the surface area in contact with the end of the neck.  I'm using somewhat thinner wood than you, so increasing the surface area was important.  I even cut the last one using the neck wood, slanting it back into the fingerboard, to further increase surface area.  It still broke due to a light blow under full string tension.  I wish I could treat my ukuleles well, but cases are quite expensive, and my ukuleles are rather large.  

Honestly, I don't like a single, simple joint at the neck due to limited surface area and nothing but glue to hold it.  Glue, even common wood glue, is stronger than wood, but it shatters in ways that wood does not and can be sensitive to humidity.  To some extent wood, due to the way it grows via annular rings, is a natural system of laminations, so it has strength along the grain.  I prefer to rely upon that rather than glue.

The fellow at the nearby music shop told me they had lost a number of cellos and a violin last year (rentals) due to headstocks that broke off, so the problem is not that uncommon.  

The concept of using laminations is nice.  (It certainly works for plywood in construction venues.)  In vague, conceptual terms, the most appealing idea, beyond relying upon the natural strength of wood in the context of reasonable use, is to cut the neck at an angle such that one can glue a preformed laminate for the end of the neck and the headstock at that point.  The neck would then have to be cut down to the proper shape, as would the headstock.  A finishing touch might include drilling along the entire length of the neck and installing a carbon fibre rod, in part to reinforce the laminations.  I'm sure that would hold, but as you indicate, there's an element of overkill that can arise when it comes to concerns about strength regarding an instrument that uses nylon strings.  (It might be simpler to just pre-form necks and headstocks from fiberglass or a PVC-like plastic with the density of wood, and install wooden fingerboards.  For that matter, why not manufacture significant elements of the entire instrument from plastics?  Surely plastic has come a long way since the 50's version of the TV companion ukulele, and could be suitably modified relative to density and thickness.)

I'm using a one piece neck and headstock, and don't anticipate problems with it of the kind I've encountered due to momentary contact shattering a glued joint under tension.  Wood may not be as strong, but at worst the solid wood headstock will get a ding from what has broken the glued headstocks off the neck.  I like this headstock design better than the glued joint.  I used it to make a simple violin last Christmas (which worked out well, and is much louder than I had anticipated, given that it started as an electric design.  I tuned it to low G-C-E-A, and play it like a ukulele.)
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