Back again. I have been building a concert sized cigar box uke, but I messed up gluing together the head and neck (the scarf joint), so I'm going to try to build it again in a day or two. One of the surfaces I glued was not completely flat and when I glued, then clamped the two pieces together onto my "work bench", both clamps were on one side and I failed to inspect the back side. Had I done, so, I'd have noticed the big gap that only got bigger when I clamped them tight. I didn't notice till the next day when un-clamped the neck/head assemblage and inspected the work. Not very good. So, instead of proceeding with my cigar box ukulele build, I decided that I could use this messed up head/neck assembly as a testbed for learning to fret a neck with bailing wire as was suggested somewhere on Cigar Box Nation. To do this, I first downloaded the program WFret.com (also discovered by reading some post on CBN), and ran it. I entered "18" for the number of frets, "15" as the scale length, then clicked on the radio button that specifies "inches" instead of the default "millimeters". I then clicked the button to calculate the new scale, and then printed that. The print out had two rows of vertical lines whose spacing indicates the fret positions relative to the nut (marked 'N'). I cut out the two rows and taped them together, overlapping them at the 12th fret. I then did a few spot checks to see if the printout looked accurate, and it was as far as I could discern. So, I used this fret scale to mark the neck of my messed up head/neck assembly and then drilled out a hole on the headstock for a tuner (tuning machine), installed the tuner and a eye bolt for the tail piece. I then found an old wire banjo string and used it to string my ruined head/neck assemblage as a 1-stringer, but without a resonator. Next, I added a nail for the nut and a bolt and nut for the bridge (as is common practice on CBN). I then tuned my 1-stringer to D using my digital tuner and tried to play it using the fret markings on the neck. With the tuner still on, I noticed that the notes for the first 12 frets (first octave) seemed to be fairly accurate, so I decided it was time to add the frets.
I disassembled what I had made and used a hack saw and a carpenter's square to cut the fret slots as accurately as I could (with the neck/head assemblage clamped to my "workbench"). After cutting the slots, I used a small 3-faced (triangular) file to widen the fret slots a bit to receive the fret and to make them lie a bit lower on the fretboard (neck). Then I marked each fret position on both ends where I thought the legs of the staples made of bailing wire would go -- about 1/8'' in from the edges. So, I drilled a bunch of holes using a drill bit the same diameter as the staples, which was my smallest drill bit. After that, I fashioned a bunch of staples one at a time, matching them with the holes I drilled to make sure they would fit. Then I inserted the home-made staples in, one at a time, and tapped them into place using a small hammer. So, now I had 18 bailing wire staple frets installed, plus a 19th one for the nut. I put the tuner back on, strung up the instrument as a 1-stringer (still no resonator), put on the bolt & nut bridge, and tuned it up again with my digital tuner. The result was really good, much better than I thought I'd have for a first try. The notes were pretty much all in tune until about the 14th fret where they started getting a bit off, but still close enough for you to recognize the note, but slightly sharp.
Liking my results, I again disassembled the 1-stringer, drilled two more holes for two more tuners (tuning machines) to make it a 3-stringer, and then I added a cigar box as a resonator. After stringing it up and tuning the instrument, I tested it against my digital tuner. All three strings were pretty accurate; well thru the first 12 frets (first octave), with slight inaccuracies creeping in the higher (pitch-wise) the neck I went. But, for a first try at fretting, I thought it was quite a success. I played it a while as a chromatic 3-string CBG, but decided I'd like it better as a diatonically fretted instrument like my McNally Strumstick. So, I disassembled it again and pried out all the frets that I wouldn't need (comparing it with my Strumstick just to make sure), and then I reassembled it again. But this time, I changed out the strings for Worth nylon ukulele strings (mainly because my fretting finger tips are so raw and sore from fretting wire strings), using the first 3 strings of a set (which I had purchased months ago so I could use the Low "G" string on my Tenor Uke back in China). Well, that was yesterday. Today, I have been playing it quite a bit, and I really like its tone with the cigar box as a resonator, especially as compared to the soda cans I had been using on my canjos. The wooden cigar box couple with the nylon uke strings make it sound very mellow, but not a lot of volume. Maybe I'll use it as a test bed for electrifying my cigar box instruments sometime in the future.
Well, that pretty much brings me up to date. I'll start again to build my 4-tuner headstock for the Cigar Box Uke project. As I do, I'll describe it some more in these postings. I do have a couple of new diagrams which may illustrate my plans. I'll upload then now.
It was this scarf joint which was not perfectly flat on both sides that caused the ruin of my first attempt at building this head/neck assembly. When I clamped one side, the joint closed on the side facing me, but opened wider on the side facing away from me. So, don't glue until you are confident that both sides are perfectly flat and mate nicely before gluing and clamping them together. Then, inspect both sides to make sure that something unexpected doesn't happen to the far side of your joint.
After the scarf joint has dried, you can glue on a pair of wings (side pieces) to the headstock to widen it to at least 2 inches. Here's the diagram that shows that...
I am not sure the actual dimensions of the two wings yet. They should be approximately 3.75'' long (maybe a bit more), about 1/4" wide (since the neck is already 1.5'' wide on my build, two 1/4'' side pieces would make the head 2'' wide), and the depth should be whatever the depth of your head will be and still be thin enough for your tuning machines. That's the key measurement. If your tuners only have a 3/8'' clearance on the post for the head, then you'll need a 3/8'' head (or at least an area cut out to that depth for each tuner). Other tuners may allow 1/2'' clearance for the head on their post. That makes me see that the drawing above is not accurate and I will have to revise it. Maybe I'll have to rethink my design to find an easier way. Since we have to thin the depth of the head to fit the tuners, and add the wings (side pieces) to the head, maybe we should start with a wider, but less thick piece of wood (same kind of wood) and use it as our head to do the scarf joint, killing two birds with one stone. Another possibility is to increase the width of our wings and drill the holes for our tuning machines to reside entirely on our wings. This might put more stress on the wings, so it might also be a good idea to use dowels in addition to gluing the wings on. I'll have to give some more thought as to which way I want to go.
Well, that's all for now.