The Bubinga builds

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Christmas of 2015 was a good event for I received two nice slabs of bubinga from Father Christmas - aka 'my ever thoughtful partner'. She knows me too well.

The 4 kilos of wood sat beneath my sofa for a while before I found a local workshop with a saw big enough to handle the lumber. I also spent a good while thinking about how to transform this lovely reddish hardwood.


The original piece(s) were labelled "electric guitar blank" and pretty much ready to join however, I couldn't bring myself to see so much wastage and thought a solid bubinga electric body might be quite heavy so, I hatched a plan. Instead, I had the pieces paired down into several boards, book-matched them as best I could and labelled them up as ukulele sets.

Each set was plenty big enough for a soprano ukulele (back/sides/top) and I also saved a couple of sets for use as drop-tops on future electric builds.


A decision was made. I'd settled on making two identical soprano ukuleles for the initial usage, composed of full bubinga bodies (top/back/sides), contrasting rippled sycamore binding and a decoratively laminated sapele neck.

I also had a small selection of kingwood available, lovely in appearance, and ideal in size for use as both fingerboards and bridges.

Bubinga being the star element of the builds I decided on keeping the decoration and inlay simple - a double ring rosette of WBW purfling and a traditional herringbone back strip.


With the sets being paired down into boards of around 5-6mm (I couldn't adjust the saw much narrower without risk of disaster!) I had a fair bit to plane/scrape down by hand before reaching my target thickness of 1.5mm.

I found bubinga to have a particularly brittle quality when worked so thinly but, at 1.5mm the top, back and the sides (bending in mind) had a really nice spring without feeling overly flexible.


Thicknessing complete, I moved swiftly on to bending the sides and having obtained a consistent thickness, they bent nicely.

I used an MDF mold together with steel slats and silicone heat blanket to do the bending. The slats and blanket are what I use for my full-sized builds and, being a little over-sized, proved tricky to manoeuvre but patience and persistence paid off in the end.


With the sides bent and positioned in their molds, I soon had the end blocks and kerfed linings glued in place.

I'd gotten hold of some reversed kerfed lining for the builds which, being smaller in height and with a hidden kerf, looked really smart and tidy.


After a short sanding session on a radius dish I put the completed rim sets aside and got to work on jointing the tops and backs.

Being only 250mm or so in length the pieces we're soon glued up and the backs sections channeled out and inlaid with a herringbone centre strip.

The top rosettes, being a simple double ring design were also channeled out and installed relatively quickly.


I made up two sets of simple spruce bracing and two mahogany bridge plates which, with only two braces per back and side, were quickly glued in place. With the back having a 15' radius I took a little more care to ensure correct placement of the braces and, using just a few spring clamps it proved to be pretty easy.




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The Bubinga builds

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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September 20, 2017

June 5, 2017

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