Well, last time I messed up on the head/neck scarf joint. The two mating surfaces weren't 100% flat and so when I clamped one side down, the two pieces rolled a bit, and I didn't notice it until after the two pieces had dried that there was a big gap on the other side. (Sloppy wood working, I know. Well, I'm just a beginner at wood working. I also screwed up my 3-string head/neck assembly (my other on-going project) by using super (crazy) glue to glue on cut nails as frets. Lesson: Forget using super glue!
Maybe slower drying epoxy would work. I may be able to salvage my 3-string head and neck assembly, but I'll have to pry off the frets and do a lot of sanding, then re-stain and re-varnish it.) Well, since then I have made a lot of progress on my new head/neck assembly for my concert sized ukulele which I will describe in this post.
1.) On this build, I made the scarf cut joint
with a "short head
" rather than the "long head
" as I had done with my last attempt. With the short cut head, after the scarf cut is made, the head is flipped over and the diagonal side (scarf cut side) of the head is glued to the bottom side of the neck. This differs from the long cut head, where the bottom of the head is glued to the diagonal side (scarf cut side) of the neck. Both methods produce a head with a 15 degree
slope, but the "short head" method places the scarf joint entirely on the headstock, while the "long head" method places the scarf joint entirely on the neck, below the nut. I decided I liked the "short head" method better because when I glue on the "wings" (side pieces glued onto the head to widen it to at least 2'' wide), these side pieces strengthen the scarf joint. A diagram will probably make my words more understandable.
To resolve the "probable area of difficulty
", I cut my wings (side pieces) a half inch longer so I'd have more material to work with. In the end, I filed most of the extra wood away, just leaving enough to cover the red area in the diagram above. My new head/neck assembly also differs from the drawing above in that the side pieces (wings) are 0.75'' wide, rather than 0.25" wide. I did this because I just have hand tools, and I thought one cut down the middle of a 1.5'' board would be easier than two 1/4" cuts down the length of the board. So, my new headstock is a very squarish 5'' long by 3'' wide. The following diagram was used to figure out my tuner placement and includes the 0.75" side boards in its dimensions. I printed this diagram at something near to full size and used it as a pattern to drill my holes for the tuners.
2.) I've also slotted the lid of the cigar box so that the head/neck assembly would pierce the cigar box as per my original drawing. However, this cigar box's lid was not as deep as the last one, so I decided to slot the neck about 1/4'' in two places so you could close the cigar box around the neck. The two lower box edges fit nicely into these two neck slots. Eventually I'll glue the neck to the top of the box, but after most of the project is done. There is also a shallow 1/8" "hollow" on the fret side of the head/neck assembly that will provide clearance for the sound board (top of the cigar box) to vibrate more freely. I am also thinking about gluing shut the lid, but I haven't decided yet. I do want to make some sound holes in the cigar box. I'll need a special drill bit (or something) to cut that. All my drill bits are 1/4" and smaller. I was thinking of a couple 1/2" holes followed by a couple 3/8" holes. Then put grommets on to make them look a bit spiffier.
3.) This time I also installed frets using real fret wire (medium size) and a hobby "razor" saw. They seem to be working, but I have yet to test to see if they are properly placed for good intonation. I used the WFret.com program to calculate the fret spacing, having had pretty good luck before using that program. Now I am staining and varnishing the head/neck assembly. I'm using polyurethane (not really varnish). The cigar box has some paper edger decorations, so I am thinking of varnishing the box as well. Do any of you know if this is a good practice? Will have to inquire of one of the forums. It'll be a couple more days for the varnishing to be complete (I want to do 2 coats). In the mean time, I have another 3-string canjo in the works using a fair sized spaghetti sauce can and will orient the can at a right angle to the canjo stick. The canjo stick's head will also be slotted in a manner similar to my McNally Strumstick.
Oh, I forgot to mention, the fretting on my new head/neck assembly is diatonically spaced, making the instrument more of a stick dulcimer (strum stick), but with a short neck. I was thinking that I could do two sets of nuts and bridges which would be removable (just held on by string tension). One would have the strings equally spaced across the neck, while the other would support dual melody strings for the first pair of stings (spaced 1/8" apart, and the other 2 strings (string 3 and string 4) spaced 3/8'' away from string two. I'm not sure if I can tune it to GCEA and get a diatonic scale that is useful, but it would be cool if I could produce an instrument that was either a 4-string ukulele, or a 4 string stick dulcimer, depending on which nut and bridge you use, and how you tuned the instrument. I am also planning to use ukulele strings, because nylon is easier on my finger tips and I like the more mellow (less twangy) sound they produce.
Any constructive comments on my build would be appreciated.