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6 October 2012

Sharkfin Ukulele - And we're off!

The second hardest part of any project is starting.

(In case you're wondering... The hardest part is finishing.)

King Uke's Sharkfin Ukulele

I'm happy to say that I have now officially started my Sharkfin Ukulele build. Today it was all about wood. I started with a big bit and ended up with two small bits. Here's how I did it...

I've been keen to recycle a bit of wood from an old garden table.
Here it is. It's been stained, oiled, varnished, painted and left
outside in the elements for years. I bought the table in Auckland.
Have I ever told you how much I love New Zealand? I doubt
very much that the wood is from NZ... most likely it was
imported from China.

I've leveled wood using a router before. This time I figured that I'd try out
a different technique. Perhaps an electric planer would do the trick? Here's what I
bought... a Wolf 900 watt 3-bladed Rebate Planer. It's huge! A big chunky monster!
Would I be man enough to tame it? It was only when it had arrived that I started
searching the internet for hints on how I might use it. Watching the videos I began
to experience that same sinking feeling I got when I decided that I would learn how to
plaster my living room wall. You don't learn anything without giving it a go.
On the plastering... it was a complete disaster... I won't be trying that again.

Check out this snippet from the Wolf instruction manual. It's shocking!
See the pictures. I think they must have been taken by Mr Magoo!

You know that I like to do things the hard way. I cut the plank in half,
chopped off the end and then split it into two... all by hand with my big
rusty saw. This was the first inkling I got that the wood was naturally
a lot lighter than I remembered it to be. See the top-right of this picture.

Next I knocked together a simple jig to hold the wood so that I could
plane it. It's not pretty, but it did the job. If you look at the picture, I
got into a technique of planing from the left and pushing towards the
end with the clamps. Initially I was planing the full length of the board,
but as I whittled it away I ended up doing half the length at a time and
turning the wood around in the jig. The planer wasn't too hard to
use, but I did struggle to get the wood properly square.
Here's the finished product. It's not completely true and probably a smidgen thicker
than I want it.

I checked out the wood and picked the bits that looked the best before
cutting two blanks: one for the fretboard (on the left) and one for the
bridge (on the right). I really want these to be dark against the maple
I intend to use for the body. That'll mean that I'll have to stain them.

I've begun! Hooray!

In my last ukulele build the most important component was the bridge. I found it to be a fantastic reference-point for ensuring that the whole kingcaster instrument was in proportion. This time I think that the most important component will be the tuning pegs. I've ordered a couple of different sets to muse over. My perfect choice would be some planetary geared banjo tuners, but the cost has put me off this option (so far). I'm going to wait for my tuners to arrive before I do any more.

My next post on this build will hopefully be a more in-depth look at my Sharkfin ukulele pattern. Then I'll tackle the body...


  1. Go the Sharkies!

    The only trip I've ever done outside Oz was a 10 football tour of New Zealand with my under 12 soccer team in 1977.
    We stayed in Auckland for 4 days Rotorua overnight and the rest of the time in Wellington
    (my favourite city in New Zealand,by the way).

    The suburb of Auckland
    (and the team) was called
    Point Chevalier.
    It rained for 8 of the 10 days we were in New Zealand.
    It made Melbourne look like the Sunshine Coast.-)

  2. 1977. A great year to be traveling the world Daz! Did you sample the Auckland punk scene? Just looking at the charts for 77 in NZ... oh dear... Leo Sayer (You make me feel like dancing), Englebert Humperdink (After the lovin'), JJ Cale (Cocaine), David Soul (Don't give up on us), Tom Jones (Say you'll stay until tomorrow), Julie Convington (Don't cry for me argentina), Mark Williams (It doesn't matter anymore), Pussycat (My broken souvenirs), Heatwave (Boogie nights), ELO (Telephone line), Paul Nicholas (Heaven on the 7th floor), The Floaters (Float on).

    Point Chev used to be a haunt of mine. You've got the zoo nearby and Western Springs. Rotorua's great, but my favourite is Taupo... hands down. I love Wellington too... but it's one long drive from Auckland.

  3. RE:
    " 1977. A great year to be traveling the world Daz! Did you sample the Auckland punk scene? "

    I was eleven at the time,and whilst I often heard these songs on the radio,that was about it.
    It's funny that you mention
    Leo Sayer (You make me feel like dancing)though,because the football team I toured NZ with was Redlands United

    The club is located on/next to the Cleveland Showgrounds home of the Redfest

    (in my day known as
    The Redlands Strawberry Festival)
    And guess who sang there this year?

    Leo "bloody" Sayer!?!

    If you had of told me in '77 that Leo would one day play the old showgrounds as a singer at the Strawberry Festival,I would have seriously doubted your sanity.

  4. Leo "bloody" Sayer

    Ha ha. I have been known to call him this too... and more besides...

    Just checking out the RedFest Program for 2012. I'm intrigued by the Strawberry Eating Competition. Hold on - this was on the 8th of September. Bugger... I've missed it!

  5. Well,as us Shark supporters say every year -
    "there's always next year" .-)