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27 June 2015

How to make an Experimental Double-shaker

Last weekend I felt the urge to build something. I'd had my interest piqued by a video of the Schlagwerk SK40 Double-shaker and in no time at all I was busy planning my way to making something in the same style...

Here's my design. I'll call out some of the more important details throughout the post, but right now I'll explain why I'm calling it an "experimental" double-shaker design. You'll see that the top is removable with the intention of changing the beads. I don't have a clue what will sound good so I've giving myself the option to open it up and change it. Genius?

You might remember me being given this block of Yew when I bought the Mahogany to build my Highwayman Banjo. That was very kind and I've patiently left it for a year to dry out. I began to wonder if this was the project to dust it off for? Sure enough, there was enough to do it.

I had a bit of a scare in this project where +Graham Hendrick pointed out that Yew is in fact poisonous. I hadn't even considered this. Unfortunately, by the time the news got to me, I'd already done most of the work! Oh no! I was quickly onto Google and here's what I found:

"Yew trees contain the highly poisonous taxane alkaloids that have been developed as anti-cancer drugs. Eating just a few leaves can make a small child severely ill and fatalities have occurred. All parts of the tree are poisonous, with the exception of the bright red arils." ~ Woodland Trust

Damn, damn, damn!

I used a facemask throughout the build and so far I'm alive. We'll chalk this one down to experience and I'll hopefully learn from this in the future. Be careful out there and research your woods!

Here's the double-shaker video that sparked this whole project off. I take it that the "double" refers not to the fact that this gentleman has two shakers... more that each shaker can be used in an upright fashion (giving an egg-shaker type sound) and in a horizontal fashion (giving a more wave-like sweeping sound).

These Schlagwerk SK40s have a lovely unfinished wood effect and I love the ergonomics of the rounded edges. The ones I've made are a little more rustic, but you'll see that they're a similar size and style... only mine can be refilled. ;-)

Okay - we're into the build shots. I have more work in progress pictures on Google+, but you'll get the gist from what I'm sharing here.

First up I cut thin slivers of wood from my blank for the sides of the shakers. Already, you can see the beautiful grain that I love so much about this Yew.

I'm doing this all by eye, but I was aiming for a thickness of about 2mm which I pretty much managed to achieve. This gave me just enough strength in the wood to allow me to work it, with enough leeway to allow me to sand it to shape. I wanted to keep it thin so I have a chance of getting a loud sound out of the finished shaker.

Unlike all of my other projects to date, this time I figured I would make two shakers right from the get-go.  I cut two of everything I needed. All the sides were cut the same initially, but I went back and reduced the width of two sides on each shaker to allow them to be fitted together square.

See also the square-sided maple blocks in the distance. These were key to allowing me to hold the sides in place and generally to give the shaker the structural integrity it needs to not collapse in on itself. I intended to fit one at each end.

Here you can see me sizing it up. Does this make a bit more sense now?

In the top right are "caps" that I will use as the top and bottom of the shaker. One will be glued in place; the other will be removable. 

I glued the sides together in two stages. First were the thinner sides; and then came the wider ones. 

Here you can see that everything pretty much was where it needed to be. I realised that it didn't need to be absolutely spot-on here, because I would be sanding, but I tried my best to get right anyway.

Once the glue had dried I checked them over and was quickly onto fitting the ends... 

The bottoms were glued in place and here you can see me part-way through fitting the tops. I was originally going to hold them in place with 4 guitar pick-guard screws, but in the end I used two 

Sanding has begun in this photo and you can see the dots I've put on the shaker to make sure that I can easily put the right top on the right shaker, the right way around.

I spent quite a while sanding, working through the grades. In places the wood got pretty thin, but I didn't go too thin anywhere!

Here I am varnishing the finished shakers. I've done it by hand and only two coats. They look pretty good by my eye and I've begun to experiment with different fillings. What I'm holding out for are some metal beads I want to try. They're in the post. When I have something I'm happy with, I'll post you a sound check.


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