It's time to start muckin' about with necks.
Working on necks is significantly more fiddley than working on bodies (that goes for guitars and ukuleles). The neck has to be correct in so many ways that the body doesn't have to be.
In addition - I like to personalize the instruments I build - so instead of sticking with the mother of pearl (more like mother of plastic) fret markers that came with this kit - I decided to use some wood fret markers I bought from Purflex.net.
|That's not as neat as I'd like it to be...|
This kit comes with a neck blank and a fretboard that you have to glue together. There are some steps that need to happen before you can glue these two together. Here are the steps that I took:
I drilled out the existing fret markers (I used a drill press but you could use a hand drill). I would recommend using a forstner drill bit for this as they make a flat-bottomed hole.
|That is as neat as I'd like it to be.|
|Might be time for me to buy my own set of tweezers...|
Drop the new fret marker in place. Since these need to be correctly oriented - I used tweezers but you don't have to.
|Define, "a little sawdust."|
Then sprinkle a little sawdust over the fret marker (I sanded the bottom of the fretboard with 220 grit to get the piles of powder you see above). Then drop a couple of drops of CA/superglue over the whole thing and see how it goes. You may need to add more sawdust - you may need to add more glue. Salt and pepper to taste.
|Oh yeah, that looks loads better!|
One note: When building guitars, you add a radius to the fretboard so that it is not flat. The idea is to make the instrument more comfortable to play. This Uke fretboard was not radiused and I didn't have anything to add a radius to it - so it will remain flat. I'm not sure if ukuleles are supposed to have a radiused fretboard. We'll see...
|Cut your nails, ya dirty hippie!|
Fret wire (for the curious) comes in two-foot sections. If this were a guitar I would be wracking my brain on how to add a radius to the fret wire (as it looks like strands of spaghetti when it's shipped). As this Uke doesn't need a radius - I just measured out each fret one by one. The fretboard gets wider as you move from the head to the body - so it pays to measure each one individually. I tried to make these as precise as possible due to the fact that I have a great set of fret-wire cutters but only a so-so set of fret files.
|What passes for "organized" in my shop.|
There are better ways of doing this but it's what I had handy. The crux of the matter is that you don't want to mix up which fret goes where. In the past, I just used a strip of painter's tape and stuck the frets to that - in the order they went on the fretboard. Whatever floats your boat.
|Oh look, those inlays came out nice.|
So, now we fret! There are (as always) a few different methods for doing this. The approach that I used could best be described as "cheap and cheery."
|Say "Hello" to my little friend!|
Yup, you just smack 'em into place. The fretboard comes pre-slotted for the frets - which is good because there's math involved with fret placement. And if you think my woodworking is sloppy - you should see my quadratic equations. The best way that I have found to tap these into place is by starting with one side and tapping straight across. If this were a radiused fretboard I would probably tap in the ends first and then tap in the middle. If I had lots of monies - I would skip all the banging and go for a fret press - which is exactly what it sounds like. It's an arbor that chucks into your drill press and you seat the frets by smooshing them into place. If none of that made sense - welcome to my world!
|From a distance - that's not too shabby.|
Whatever method you chose - you should be left with something like this. Well, hopefully not exactly like this...
|Ah, yes, the key words being, "from a distance."|
|That looks okay...|
|That looks... Oh, dear...|
There are no pictures of it but I also filed off the ends of the frets so that they didn't cut your hand as you play. Finally, I put a slight bevel on the fret ends (see above), again, for comfort.
I also used a StewMac Fret Rocker to make sure the frets were level. It's a neat little tool.
|Perfect? No. |
I realized this is my third full fret-job. I have learned a bunch since my first one but mostly what I've learned is that I don't know much.
|A little dab'll do.|
Stick the supplied side-dot material in the hole.
And snip off the extra. I used a chisel and some sandpaper to clean it all up and, "Blamo!" Side dot markers
See that pointy thing in the upper right corner of the picture? That's a mini "Socket Awl." My wife gave it to me for christmas. It is fabulous for starting small holes (so your drill bit doesn't wander). Came in very handy for this task.