Summer Uke Build #2: Bending the Sides

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Blog entry by onoitsmatt posted 06-23-2016 10:14 PM 738 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Getting Ready for Summer (Concert) Uke Build Part 2 of Summer Uke Build series Part 3: Thicknessing, Jointing and Joining the Top »

I took the advice of Bob from his comment on my previous post and soaked the sides overnight. They were still too stiff to bend without tearing out and they did, in fact, tear out some more. So I smashed them between a couple of pieces of flat shelving I had laying around and let them dry that way overnight to get them flat so I could plane them a bit thinner.

The next day I did plane them thinner and sanded and tried to get as much of the tear-out planed/sanded out to hopefully restore a little integrity to the area that will get the waist bend. Then I put the sides back into the water with the intent of giving them another go the next day. But life got in the way and I didn’t get around to it until the day after and it was 114 degrees in my shop. Which was uncomfortable.

They still were too stiff so I worked as best I could trying hard to prevent more tear-out. I failed at that spectacularly, and ultimately wound up forcing the sides into the mold and clamped the sides of the uke between the mold itself and the waste from the mold, that I haven’t yet thrown away for exactly this kind of contingency.

By this point the sides were scorched, torn, cracked and generally looked more like a used paper-towel than uke sides. But I forged ahead using C-Clamps and glue to try to smash the tears/cracks back together and hope to salvage the sides. If not, I’ll go get some quarter-sawn oak at the lumber yard and just use that. The bulk of my time has been spent in prep rather than on dealing with the construction, so not a huge loss if I have to scrap these sides and go with something easier to bend. Again, the point of this build was to get these mistakes and learn these lessons before undergoing a guitar build. So as frustrating as this process has been, I have learned from it and will take these lessons with me going forward.

On the upside, I did let the sides sit all week (I did the bending/breaking on Sunday) and was expecting a lot of spring-back on the sides when I take them out of the molds. I unclamped everything today and the sides stayed put inside the mold with little or no spring-back. However some of this could be just from friction having them jammed in there so tightly and part of it is due to some glue spillage on the repairs I did that has glued bits of the sides to the mold.

I jointed/joined the top today. Glue is drying on that. I attempted to joint the back, but it kept shifting while I was planing the sides and so I decided it best to do it another day.

I didn’t take any photos of today’s work, so will update with photos of the scorched and gnarly sides as well as the top in the next post (along with whatever else I get done between now and then).

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

2 comments so far

View Texcaster's profile


1103 posts in 1094 days

#1 posted 06-26-2016 01:51 AM

Not only should all luthiery be quartersawn, it also can’t have any runout. Bends will crack with/ at runout. Some timber, soaked overnight will dry with rippled grain. I soak 5 min. prior to bending and have a spray bottle ready to mist the bend as soon as it looks dry.

The more runout a top or back has, the more night and day a book match appears.

The Robbie O’Brian tips du jour are very good.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View onoitsmatt's profile


215 posts in 596 days

#2 posted 06-26-2016 03:48 AM

Thanks for the input, Bill. I kept a spray bottle handy too. I think the Padauk was a poor choice for a first try. I’ll check out the link too, looks like good stuff.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

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