Finishing bits

At finishing time, a number of things are happening near simultaneously. The bridge needs to be made, so that its position can be masked off before the finish goes on. It also has to be positioned correctly, no slip ups here, since its position won’t be able to change once the finish is on. (Not without taking the finish off and starting again!) While the fingerboard was slotted according to a certain scale length (the distance from the nut to the saddle,) in order for the ukulele to be perfectly in tune, a small amount has to be added, to compensate for the stretching of the string as they’re pressed down on the frets. In the case of an ukulele, this is about 1/16″.

Here is the bridge after masking and after finishing. (Notice the difference between the finished and the unfinished koa. Now it has truly become a “golden child!”

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Now, there are more choices when it comes to ukulele bridges; many use a tie-block bridge like that found on a classical guitar (just a little smaller!) After all, the ukulele is very similar to a classical in construction and playing. However, I decided to go with a more traditional ukulele bridge to keep with its Hawaiian heritage. (Actually, the ukulele originally evolved from a Portuguese instrument, brought over during the days of exploration. But, it has since become Hawaii’s national instrument and heritage.) With the traditional bridge, the strings (gut or nylon) are knotted at the ends and fit into a slot behind the saddle.

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The overall size of the bridge needs to be quite small, after all, so it doesn’t dampen the soundboard too much.

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Note how the saddle is filed differently for the second string. This allows a more precise compensation for the different sized strings so it will play in tune perfectly.

The frets were leveled and crowned and polished. Tuners (again, traditional friction tuners, although improved modern ones) were installed. The nut and saddle were shaped and adjusted for a low action. And now, the first pics of the complete Kulakeiki. (The headstock is actually darker, that is just a bad light reflection. I will be taking it’s “glamour” shots for its own page at a later date.)

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Hmmm. I’ve done tiny instrument now, and huge ones. What to do next?

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