Posts Tagged ‘luthiery’

I teach a ukulele building class every summer.  It is great fun!

It’s a six day immersion retreat and folks come from across the country to spend a day the the Folk School.  This class is the modle for what the Folk School is to become.

Every time I teach this class folks seem to come out of the woodwork that are local and don’t want to take a week’s vacation for a class (Ironically these same folks will take a week and go to residential retreats in othere areas.)  I’ve never been able to pull it together.  The issues are:

•   Folks don’t sign up.  I offered a 12 week course at the Indianapolis Art Center and only two people signed up.

•  We have to lease a shop.  This works for six days when the shop is in use all of the time, but it become problematic when we tie up someone elses shop for six to twelve weeks.

•  We had an opportunity to set up a semi-permanent shop in a smei-permanent home in July.  I taught my regular ukulele building class there (It was great) but things were up-in-the-air regarding how long we would be in the space and how the space could best be used by us.
•  Luthiery is very specialized woodworking and an instrument building workshop requires a number of specialized set-ups.  These tie up bench space and instructional space for other classes and projects.
•  I am worried about the level of student commitment.  Every multi-week class that we offer suffers from attrition.  Folks find that they have schedule changes, get tired of the drive or simply lose interest. Ukulele building is complex.  If a student misses a session it would be very difficult for the student to catch up.
The good news is that we have secured the Judge Stone House and our favorite workspace for three more months.  With this level of commitment by our hosts we are able to clean and establish more instructional and storage space.  In short, we’ve worked around most of our difficulties.
We’re focusing on a simplified uke, the cigar box uke.  Cigar box ukes simplify the process (but not as much as you think) and decrease cost (but not as much as you think) and play very well.  The most important aspects of ukulele building and design remain in the process.  It’s a great first step into luthiery.
We have no control over the first and last worries.  We’ll see if folks sign up (I sure hope so!) and keep coming to class.
Cigar Box Ukulele Building
4 or 5 Tuesday Evenings Begining October 19
7:00 – 9:00
Tuition $200, Materials $98
Build a high quality soprano cigar box ukulele.  These ukuleles feature first rate tuners, strings, pearl dot inlays, cedar or spruce tops and Indiana hardwood fingerboard and neck.  These are not cigar box ukuleles assembled from kits, but custom designed for the cigar box that you choose.
Plan to attend all class sessions.  This is a pilot class so an extra session is planned to ensure that projects are completed.

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Last week was a whirlwind of activity!  Our four guests arrived on Monday and put in five wonderful days at the bench assembling and customizing their own soprano ukuleles.

The cast of players:

Chris McCarthy – Educator, Wine Stomper, Vegetable Picker and Cubicle Jockey from Boston.  Chris drove straight in, pulled out his bike and parked the car for the entire week!

Tom Duncan – Music Teacher, Multi-Instrumentalist, Luthier and Harp Dude. One of Indy’s own.

Thomas Richardson – L.A. Hipster turned I.U. Folklorist.  We’re not sure whether he was there to build a uke or study folks who built ukes.  It doesn’t matter!

Michael “Kentucky Mike” Wilson – Mickey Mouse lovin’ High School Librarian and all around ukulele guy.  this is Mike’s third trip to Noblesville for ukulele goodness!

Fritz the Shop Dog – Fritz expressed an interst in becoming an official shop dog and mascot.  We auditioned him and we are thrilled to report that he has been awarded the job!

Bruce Neckar – Visiting artist.

Phoebe Davis – Daily visitor.  She kept the discussion lively!

Geoff Davis – The Instructor and Director of Blue Stone Folk School. (A minor player)

More updates later.

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Blue Stone Folk School’s own Miss Joni has, again, lifted the pen to write about ukulele.  The original blog appears on the NUVO website.

Independence Week: All ukes, all the time

Posted by Miss Joni on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Just when I thought that first week of July couldn’t get any more exciting, it did. As far as ukulele weeks go in Central Indiana, this might not be the Big One, but it’s pretty darn close. From meet ups to workshops to an all-uke open mic night in Noblesville, it’s going to be an entire week of all ukes, all the time.

First, I’ve been pretty excited about getting back to the ukulele group at Sam Ash in Castleton. Sales Manager Jon Martin, who has owned a uke since he was about 2 years old, decided a few months ago that the time was right to start a ukulele meet up in his store. I went to the meeting in May, and had a marvelous time. There were more than dozen ukulele players there; some were brand new, others had been playing for years. The selection of instruments was a diverse as the players themselves. I saw brand new ukes, a beautiful handmade ukulele and a vintage Vita Uke, just like Roy Smeck used to play. There were ukes of every size, too, from soprano to tenor. All levels were welcome; beginners found themselves in a supportive group, where long-time players were more than happy to help them try a new chord and offer suggestions. Folks shared strumming techniques and a handful of people brought along new songs for the group to try.

The Sam Ash Ukulele Group meets the first Saturday of each month, at 10 AM. The next meet up is this Saturday, July 3. You can get more information by joining the group Indianapolis Ukulele Fans on Facebook.

If you’re wondering what a little ukulele group meet up can lead to, check out this video from New Zealand’s Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. While you’re at it, see if you can recognize Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie among the strummers.

See video here.
If that isn’t enough to get your month of July started, ukulele style, I’ve just been informed that there are still two spaces left in the Blue Stone Folk School’s Meat ‘n Taters Ukulele Intensive Ukulele Building Workshop. This is the class to beat all classes—and something that I am dying to do. Under the guidance of Blue Stone Folk School Director and luthier, Geoff Davis, participants will get to build their very own solid mahogany ukulele with a Spanish heel. According to Geoff, the construction method utilizes jigs and fixtures to ensure that student’s are able to build a high quality instrument. He says, “This ukulele’s design is not a copy of a period uke, but is based upon the best of several great 1920s instruments including Martin, Gretsch and Indiana’s own, Frank Bremerman. “ The class has been so successful, that many alumni have gone on to construct more ukuleles on their own. Students end up with a high-quality, handmade, solid wood ukulele—a dream come true for most ukulele players.

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This uke was built at a Folk School workshop. It now lives with its builder in Houston.

I’ve cleared the calendar to schedule a five day ukulele building class this summer!   This was the class that launched the Folk School.  Join the ever growing list of folks that learned to build ukes with us.

Participants in the ukulele construction class will each build a mahogany soprano ukulele with a Spanish heel.   Geoff’s construction method utilizes jigs and fixtures to ensure that student’s are able to build a high quality instrument.   This ukulele’s design is not a copy of a period uke, but is based upon the best of several great 1920s instruments including Martin, Gretsch and Indiana’s own, Frank Bremerman.
More importantly students will leave the class with the skills required to design and build ukuleles on their own.  Many Blue Stone alumni have built several ukuleles on their own.
Materials include everything needed to build and play the uke including, mahogany for backs, sides and neck, ebony for fingerboard and bridge, natural bone for nut and bridge saddle, Grover Champion tuners and Aquila Nylgut strings.
Some students may have an opportunity to finish their instruments with Tru-oil, a quality, easy to apply oil finish.  Other finishing option will be discussed.
These classes are loads of fun.  There will be opportunities to play evenings.  Come to Indiana and immerse yourself in ukulele goodness!
8:30 – 4:30ish
Monday, July 5 to Friday, July 9
Tuition and Materials $525.
I’m working on registrations, meal and lodging options.  More information soon.

Download Registration Here

Read a review of this class.
“The Uke Building class taught so much that went beyond construction. I’m equipped to do my own setup on my ukes, smoothing frets, lowering action and anything from minor repairs of cracks to major items such as bridge replacements. Geoff’s an amazing teacher and host. This was
probably the most rewarding, hectic week of my life.
So.. next year, you’d better get !
Alan – Chicago”

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