Monday, August 13, 2012

summer project #3: fixing the bookulele

It's mid-August, and we're only on project #3? Drat, I had such big plans, too.

I guess it was yet another summer where the calendar looks so promisingly empty in May but gets filled up day-by-day with friends, movies, house and yard work, and a certain amount of heat-induced laziness. And the one project I did manage to do lately is really just a refinement:

Although the bookulele played fine initially, over time the cardboard body began to bow from the tension of the strings. I also felt dissatisfied with the neck, which was not even with the fretboard but stuck out just enough to feel wrong.
So this weekend I took it apart and put in some very rough bracing cut from scrap wood.
Then I filed down the neck so it was more even with the fretboard, sanded it smooth, and started the stain/finishing process all over again.
This was the 5-minute rig for spraying lacquer on: a wire clothes hanger, a paint stick, a bike stand, a plastic dropcloth. Not very professional, but it worked for this purpose!
Here's the reshaped and refinished neck:
And here's the bookulele, not looking a whole lot different than it did back in April but feeling better in my hands:
I didn't trim the strings because, frankly, I'm not sure how much I'll be playing this. The action is unpleasantly high, even after taking the saddle down a little (not a lot, as I was afraid to go too far). And it just doesn't have the sound that makes me want to pick it up. It's a cardboard body, after all. I imagine that within a year I'll be reusing the strings, bridge and neck for something else.

But as crude as this little uke is, I learned a lot from doing it—not just about the build process, but also in some way about music, as well. It's always that way, isn't it? Making things is an approach from a different direction.

With that in mind, I want to give a grateful shout-out to the friend who passed her old bass body to the boys. C talked with Keith about it, bid on a used neck on eBay, and helped his brother clean up and make the bass playable again. They've had their hands all over this instrument and now have a better understanding of how it plays than if they had purchased new. That, to me, is the perfect outcome of a good project.

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