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20 October 2013

Drilling the Grand Poobah

After all the excitement of a weekend in Pontefract, I've finally got back to my Grand Poobah ukulele build. Here's this weekend's update. I've made some good progress!

Voodoo Night? This poster was designed by Alan Aldridge. I'll talk a little more about him soon... 

This is where I left things a couple of weeks ago; I'd made a hole in the body for the neck to fit into. Everything sort of fitted, but it wasn't quite up to spec.

Rather than tackle the body, I took a little detour to do some further work on the neck. The wood I'm using has been salvaged from an old garden table. I'm finding it difficult to work; It's heavy and tough and prone to painful splinters. I've got my fingers crossed that it will look good when properly finished. Here you can start to get a feel for what it might look like. I've given it couple of times over with 60 and 150 grit sandpaper, working out the file marks and generally smoothing the surface. I think it has real potential. It's got a very fine, dense grain that I reckon will stain well. I'm planning to have a test run on an off-cut to see how well it will take stain.

Look at this interesting reprint of the Tokyo Zombie comic book I spotted earlier this week. I like it a lot! You may recall that it was the artwork of Yusaku Hanakuma that inspired my Tokyo Ukulele refurbishment. I guess I could always paint the Poobah if the stain doesn't work.

You may remember that this uke is going to be Concert size which means that it has a scale length of somewhere near to 15 inches. That's the distance between the nut and the saddle. I used the Martin Concert ukulele dimensions as a guide for neck size when I drew out my plan. Having finally had a chance to hold it, I've since decided that I want a thinner, slightly less tapered  neck. At the nut, the width is still about the same at 3.8m, but I trimmed back the width higher up towards the body.

See the odd heel shape I've come up with here. This shape is meant to compliment the curves of the body. Trust me... it'll work! ;-)

This is the picture Daz posted in response to my Tokyo Zombie body painting above. I guess Daz knows that I'm keen on butterflies. ;-) This work is by Alan Aldridge.  He does some wonderful work. Check out his website for more. Daz has an Alan Aldridge sync to tell that involves a brilliant story about the violin salvaged from the Titanic. I think it will only be a matter of time before he posts on it.

It was about this time in the weekend that people were starting to bay for the sound-hole to be cut out. I was reluctant to do it until I was good and ready for the task. See here that I'm side-tracking myself again checking out a few different styles of bridge. I plan to make my own out of ebony and at the moment the style of the one resting to the left of the sound-hole is my favourite.

Don't be fooled by the fretboard. That's a prefabricated rosewood fretboard that I bought from China. I had intended to use it on my CGB project. It's a soprano and to be honest I'm really disappointed at the poor workmanship. I won't ever stick it to a uke, but here you can see that I'm using it to help me to imagine what I need to do with the Poobah. The fretboard I will eventually make will rest on top of the neck and extend over the body. The problem I have at the moment is that the body and neck aren't flush; The body is about 1mm higher than the neck. Damn! That's a problem for another day.

I can't help but feel that I might have missed my vocation. Pity the poor body painter. It's a messy job... but somebody's got to do it ;-)

(Picture courtesy of Body Painting Japan

Here I am at the other end of the neck imagining what to do with the nut. These two plastic nuts are soprano size. I've ordered a concert plastic nut that will fit better. 

This is a little bit weird.

(Photo courtesy of unbounstate)

Right - it had to happen eventually. I decided to cut the sound-hole this morning. I did it with a forstner bit initially and then I filed closer to shape.

Can you see here how thick the wood is? I'm wondering now whether to route inside the front to thin this out a bit. Hmmm? 

Here's the finished sound-hole. I'll do a bit more work on it, but you can see from the picture that it is pretty close to round already. 

Okay... one last body painting picture. How about a zombie one?

(Picture courtesy of Surviving the Dead

Buoyed on my success with the sound-hole, I then felt brave enough to drill the machine-head holes. I'm going to recycle some machine-heads that I salvaged from my first ever electric guitar... my Hohner Arbor Strat. I measured it out, lined up as close as I could and drilled as slowly as I could. See that I've clamped the head to some wood underneath in an attempt to prevent it from splintering as the drill breaks through. It worked! No splinters!

Last one... I promise :-D

How about a musical sort of cubist body painting courtesy of popnrocks

These are the machine heads resting in the holes. 

This type of machine-head has a plastic plug that fits on the front. I re-drilled the front to allow me to fit these plugs. Here you can see them fitted. Looking good! What you can't tell from this picture is that I've cut the head so that it is slightly lower than the neck. The strings will bend down to the machine-heads over the nut. What a pro! ;-) Ha ha. 

That's it for today. I'm feeling like I'm making real progress. I'm not sure what I'll do next. How exciting ;-)


  1. Actually I'm in the middle of that Alan Aldridge post now,funnily enough.
    I think that Japanese guy above is suffering from eye-sores .-)

  2. Can you somehow squeeze in a little Alan Partridge too ;-)
    I keep misreading Alan Aldridge...

  3. Funny you should say that King,as I just saw it last night,having won a free double pass to a screening.Go see it.It's quite a chuckle.