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6 October 2013

Picking up the Poobah

I was so depressed the last time I wrote about my Grand Poobah build. You might remember that I'd broken my jigsaw and had a bad experience with a forstner bit. I don't know if it came across in the post, but I was tired and grumpy and ready to throw in the towel. Fast-forward a week and I've got a smile back on my face. Things have improved a lot...

I figured that the only way I'd rescue my ukulele body would be if I dug out the router. I'm not a fan of routers... they scare me! I find them difficult to use and I have visions of damaging myself in horribly painful ways.

I got to wondering if maybe I could adapt my router technique? The more I thought about it, the more I figured that there may be a better, safer, cleverer way to use the router. In this picture you can see the germ of my cunning plan taking shape.

Routers work best when you use router templates. My plan was simple enough... instead of creating a large template, I'd create a small one instead. It's a funny shape, but that was all done on purpose. I wanted a big board that I could easily fix level, but a small template hole. I figured that any routing I'd do would be in small bite-size chunks through that little hole. I'd reposition it little-by-little until I'd done everything that I wanted to do. It almost sounds too simple doesn't it?  Why hadn't I thought of this before? Would it work? Read on...

By the way... I fixed my jigsaw. I have a bit of a reputation for "fixing" things that half-work and for them to never work again. I stripped the jigsaw down, did some magic and put it back together again. I couldn't believe it when I got the jigsaw back together and worked! I cut the hole in the mdf above with it.

Here's my first attempt at precision routing. I took out a corner. I was worrying that the wood would split again, but fortunately, everything stayed as it should. 

See here that I've done a second corner. This is looking good. My spirits were beginning to lift at this point. Perhaps I'd cracked it! 

I had cracked it! I managed to tidy up the inside of the body and to my eyes, this is looking pretty good. I joked at the time that I'd made a nice trinket box.

I'm still a bit dubious as to what sort of acoustic qualities this body will have. I think that it should really have a lot thinner sides, but this is as thin as I'm prepared to try to get. We'll just have to wait and see.

With the body looking more and more like I had it in the bag, I turned my attention to the neck. In this picture I'm measuring things up again. The body has evolved a little bit from the original pattern, but it's close enough.

The neck needed a lot of work. I'd intended all along to fit it into the body through a hole in the side. As I measured it out here I started to wonder if this wasn't going to prove to be too complicated. In the end I decided to stick with my first plan. With my new router skills, surely I could pull this off!

Here you can see that I had to do quite a lot of work to shape the neck blank. I routed it closer to the shape I wanted and then took to it with a rough file.

Many hours later you can see that it's starting to look a lot more like a neck.

I used my fancy router template one more time to cut the hole in the body. 

This picture shows the neck fitted. I've had to cut a block out of the neck top and bottom to allow it to fit into the body. 

And here's a shot with the front on. My intention is to make a fretboard that will lay on top of the neck and body. That means that the body and neck will need to be perfectly flush. They're not at the moment, but this is okay - I still have some work to do to ensure that the top and bottom of the body fit snug. 

This is some ebony that I've bought for the fretboard. I'm also considering making the bridge out of ebony too. I don't think that I've ever seen an ebony bridge before. I wonder why?

That's it for this weekend. I probably won't be doing anything major with the build for a couple of weeks. Next weekend I'm off to the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival. I'll try and get some photos for you. ;-)


  1. That small router template is actually a stroke of genius! Not that I'll be firing up my router any time soon though - it scares the stuff that cannot be named out of me.

  2. "That small router template is actually a stroke of genius" - I was thinking the same myself Sven. I can't tell you the hours research I've done in the name of better routing and I've never seen this mentioned. I know that I'm a bit ham-fisted, but I reckon with the right workbench and a some proper jigs that you could get a pretty good finish using this technique. I have exactly the same issues with my router as you do. I feel a lot safer when it's in its box :-D