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Ukulele Guild of Hawaii April Newsletter
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Andy Berard - Okona Ukulele's


UGH West Hawaii Region News - March 27, 2002

(By Andy Berard)

Our membership in the UGH is starting to grow.  Several members have joined from the Kona area and we will get a count from UGH headquarters shortly.  Still working on our calendar of events for 2002.

UGH Sound Forum:  Last month's newsletter gave an excellent accounting of our first sound forum and we look forward to more input in the future.  Might be a good idea for builders of some of the ukuleles that had high scores and excellent ratings to provide input to the newsletter that is from a builder's perspective. Things such as type of wood used in the construction, bracing techniques -- symmetrical or asymmetrical fan, lattice bracing, and approximate dimensions of bracing, thicknessing of tops, backs and sides, type of finish used, thickness of finish strived for, conventional sound hole or side port design, type of strings, bridge design considerations if any, and any other techniques that may be helpful to other builders in their quest for acoustic excellence would be most appreciated. 


Figure 2. Interior bracing using Elliott's bracing approach on one of our 4 string tenor ukes.

During the sound forum, I noticed that many instruments lacked volume and sustain, as notes were played higher on the freeboard.  Mentioning this to Nate, he indicated that it was most likely due to poor high frequency response that has a multitude of potential causes.  Eh Nate, tell us more about bracing thicknessing, thicknessing of the tops, etc. that might help us improve our ukes in this area


Ukulele Building Classes: Our ukulele building class is nearing completion, and all instruments are being sprayed with nitrocellulose lacquer.  We apply seven coats of lacquer and will level sand with micromesh 1500 and 1800 grit and then apply final 3 coats before micro meshing to final finish and buffing.

Finally, lacquer is removed from the bridge area and the bridge is installed then final setup is completed.  We should be hearing great sounds within the next two weeks.  Eight tenor ukes and 3 baritone ukes made of koa, mango, milo and one of Brazilian Rosewood.  Will report in the future of our sound forum results and will include pictures along with the builder.


Figure 1.  Jeffery Elliott bracing design from GAL Journal 56 Winter 1998

Bracing Design:  An approach to bracing that we are using at O Kona Ukuleles and Guitars has been adapted from Jeffery Elliott's classical guitar bracing scheme where we open up the upper and lower transverse braces providing tone bars from the bridge patch to the upper bout.  We have achieved consistently good results with this approach.  Not as complex as Kasha style bracing, however well worth the effort.  I have taken the liberty to include selected photos from our class as well as the Guild of American Luthiers journal 56 winter 1998 to help in the depiction of the bracing used.  Figure 1  shows a perspective view drawing of the finished top from his

classical guitar top.  Note the amount of material removed from the upper and lower transverse bars or harmonic bars as described in Elliott's article.  Figure 2 shows one of our ukes with the amount of material removed from the upper and lower bars as well as the tone bars running from the bridge patch and stopping short of the kerfing.  Note also the struts that are glued to the sides of the instrument providing support of the transverse braces.  Figure 1 also shows the thin strip of reinforcement that is let into the bottom of the bars and the tone bar or brace is notched over the reinforcement strip.  We use maple veneer about .6 mm thickness with the grain running across the top.  This is essential to prevent cracking of the top due to the material removed from the bars/braces.  All other bracing are spruce including the fan braces, struts, as well as the bridge patch which runs almost the full width of the lower bout.  Be sure to provide enough relief of the transverse braces such that the tone bars don't touch the transverse braces or the kerfing of the body.  Fan braces are also made of spruce, and don't touch the kerfing or transverse braces.  It is recommended that you get a copy of the article from the GAL and study it in detail before implementing the approach.  For about a one-hour investment, we feel that the return in terms of sound improvement is well worth it.  You can feel the top vibrating when you tap it and better yet, you can hear the improvement!