I just finished 3 CB Ukes and of course the necks took most of the efforts. I have ideas in my head for a jig to expidite the process of shaping the necks.


I began with a piece of 2" x 8" x 6' Sapele cut down for the neck and head stock. The 2 pieces are mitered and glued for the head stock angle. From there I hand shape the necks and head stock with drum sanders. I then slotted the Bolivian Rosewood fret boards on a jig I made. After gluing the fretboard to the neck, I drill the peg head and finish sand the whole thing to 320. Next comes medium jumbo frets and Pearloid dots from Stew Mac followed by a leveling, crowning and tang cleanup. The finish prep includes several cycles of Crystalac grain filler and 400 grit sanding. The head stock receives a couple of water slide decals (Testors) printed on the home PC and sprayed with shelac. I apply 8-10 coats of Behlen Nitrocellulose Lacquer then wet sand/micro mesh to 12,000 before polishing with 3M Finess it and Perfect it.


As you can imagine, it is not a quick process and I started these builds last year. Just from the experience I am gaining and the jigs I have now built, I am sure I can cut my time in half. I am also considering some low end builds with simple necks that can be turned around in a day or two.


Please tell me about your experiences, process and build times?

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I buy 1x2x48" stock hardwood. (it gives just enough to build my necks, including my neck brace and heal) I first add wings for my head stocks, then cut its shape I want. Then I remove the access wood from the head stock, just enough for the tuners to fit properly. Now I can shape my neck with a rasp and file to what I want, All this takes me about an hour including the finish. Just a note, I don't use scarf joints...so it automatically knocks of some time.

Neck cut and glued up pretty much like you are doing but I use coarse to fine rasps to get the neck shape where I want it. Stuff happens too fast for me to use drum sanders and I hate all the dust. Finish sanded and then if I have to fill grain I use epoxy with this filler that is kinda like dust, don't remember the brand but on mahogany or sapele I use some mahogany filler I get from LMI. Fretboards get slotted on the table saw with templates, dots put in place, fretted and glued on. Maple gets shot as it but every other kind of fretboard gets taped off and lemon oiled after finish. Sand, vinyl sealer and then Cardinal lacquer. I only go to 2500 with Buflex pads and buff out with Meguiar's polish on a foam pad. Bodies get the same treatment. I've sanded out to infinity with fine papers and in the end couldn't tell the difference from going to the 2500 and stopping or going beyond and then buffing.

So you spray your bodies as well? I wish I had considered that on at least 1 to compare.

I build most of my CBG boxes so I like to shoot em and all my ukes get shot. Mostly I do the necks and bodies separate and put the necks on after. I've really got to like the Cardinal Luthelac lacquer. Great stuff and I think it has a lot more solids in it than some of the others. Dries harder than a politician's heart and takes less coats but I wait maybe a week to 10 days to buff.

I have a very technical and specialized process as you can see in the picture below.  I reluctantly share my trade secrets.

  1. Cut to rough length
  2. Recess under box lid area.
  3. Scarf or slot for headstock
  4. Fretboard
  5. Frets
  6. Taper neck and radius back
  7. Drill for tuning machines
  8. Cut to finish length.
  9. Finish - sand, sand, sand, sand, sand, stain, sand, clear, rinse, repeat.
  10. Box, nut, bridge, strings, tune, play.

I have a very technical and specialized process as you can see in the picture below.  I reluctantly share my trade secrets

Funny!! Sometimes simple is best.

And sand, and sand, and sand, Ad Nauseum     LOL

I should have flipped 5 and 6 above.

I've given up working on a bench since there are always more than enough crap to take up all the available space. I found that the steady rest of a 2x4  across my lap hardly ever gets cluttered and is adequate for most work.  I shape and taper the neck with that hand plane and my calibrated eyes seem to know when to stop.


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