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24 November 2013

Grand Poobah - Bridge or Bust!

The journey is drawing to an end. I'm down to the final steps in my Grand Poobah Ukulele Build. My challenge has been to build and fit a bridge. Could I do it? Let's find out...

My plans call for a fancy hand-made bridge. I decided that it needed to be ebony to match the fretboard. See here that I've cut an offcut from my fretboard into three bridge-sized blocks. In much the same way as I've fashioned the body out of all sorts of odd bits of wood glued together, I'll be doing the same with the bridge.

And here, you can see that I've glued the wood. I joked that I was making a wooden mouth organ on Google+ and got a few snickers from my American chums. Apparently "mouth organ" has connotations. "Harp" is the preferred term in respectable society. Knowing this, I'm definitely sticking with "mouth organ". Ha ha.

One thing I'm going to call out here, is that this is the first time I've used Titebond wood glue. It was recommended to me by +Daniel Hulbert and I'm mighty impressed! I wish I'd done the whole uke with it! It sets quick and hard with a minimum of runs. Ideal for mouth organs and all sorts of other projects I'm sure. ;-)

I sort of knew what shape I wanted the bridge to be, but I was prepared to let Art lead the way... that and my heart. After much thought I decided against adding a plastic saddle. Perhaps I could fashion an  all-in-one? I would never know unless I tried it. It all started with a single cut.

I worked away the back of the bridge with a chisel being careful not to hit the bit I've left for the saddle. Oh yes, and see that I've shaped the back by cutting off the corners. Best yet... I still have all my fingers!

Fast forward many hours and this is a picture of me testing the bridge out. Those grooves in the back are still a bit too thin. Bloody hell were they hard work to get right! My thoughts at this point were that it seemed quite chunky, but in fitting with the Grand Poobah's overall esthetic.

In my previous post I failed to mention that the nut was loose... simply being held in place by the tension of the strings. I'm really pleased with how the head has turned out. It's perfectly balanced between the strings. Better still... Providing the strings are wound close to the head, they stay firm on the nut without the need for guides. Even so, I felt the need to put a couple of nails in to ensure that the nut doesn't move while I'm banging out a thumping tune. I drilled a couple of holes, snipped short two panel pins and here you can see them fitted. The nut has two holes matching these nails and rests on top like it was born for it.

Now on to the bit I've been worrying about for a while...

I measured and remeasured where I wanted the bridge to be. Once I'd got it right, I masked around it. And then I added another layer, slightly smaller . You can see the lighter masking tape in the centre. What I'm trying to do here is to expose a piece of wood to sand for gluing. I want to have the lacquer to run under the edges of the bridge and this is how I think I might achieve this. 

Perhaps it will make more sense seeing this picture?

Having carefully sanding to take the lacquer off and get back to the wood I gingerly stripped off the top layer of masking to reveal where I would be sticking the bridge.

I glued and clamped before peeling off the masking tape. After cleaning up a few runs, I left it to set. Would it hold?  I crossed my fingers.

Here's the Poobah with the clamps in place. I lay it down and left it over night. 

Check out the Grand Poobah prior to being strung up. I've oiled and cleaned. The Titebond instructions say to leave for 24hrs before applying pressure. Bugger that! I couldn't wait any more than about 16hrs. I dug out a pristine set of Ko'olau concert strings... fat and lovely... and fitted them! It was a tight fit under the bridge, but I got them on. Best yet, the bridge didn't spring off or anything. No drama! 

Here's the Poobah getting itself comfy in my cave.  The strings are still stretching themselves in. Is it a one-of-a-kind? You betcha! Ha ha! I'd be dangerous with a little bit of training! ;-)

I bet you'd like to hear how the Poobah sounds wouldn't you? Unfortunately, that will have to wait for another day. I did write a new tune to demo it which I've called Bad Moon Rising. You can see me playing an instrumental version of it in the video below. It's a cowboy blues number that may well begin my 3rd cowboy EP.

If that song doesn't do it for you, then this one will...

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