Friday, February 17, 2017

catching up

I used to have a unique domain and a host for all this cookie tin ukulele stuff. Those days are over. As a result, all the following posts are transfers from the old web site (all in one day! what'd ya know?) so the post dates are meaningless.

the beat box

It’s time for me to get my application in for the 2016 San Mateo Maker Faire. I’ve participated in a few previous Faires and this year I thought I’d add something to my usual offering of cookie tin ukuleles and other instruments. If all goes as planned (and they like my proposal) I’ll be at the Faire in May with a peddler’s cart that will transport several instruments and provide a little treadle powered down beat.

In the video I demonstrate my first two crude cam sets that play a waltz and a shuffle. I hope to fit up four sets to knock out a variety of beats. So far this is like playing along with a bad drummer, but I’m getting better at it. The cart rolls nicely on the two wheels like a garden wheel barrow, and when it is tipped up on end (as seen in the video) it will display my instruments and offer its wonky rhythm. The wheels, bearings, and sprockets were scavenged from a kids bike a neighbor was about to chuck in the trash. Some of the wood box is left over molding from a frame shop and the shafts are from my lifetime collection of dumpster gold.
There are many improvements and tweaks in the works; including fitting up the inside of the cart to secure the instruments for travel, painting the exterior, improving the cam sets, and adding more mass to the fly wheel. Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

blue flake lap steel

Indeed, here it is, in all its chunky squared off glory and all its slinky-slidey twang! It’s my first go at building a baritone scale lap steel ukulele, and I am having too much fun. Now I just need to learn to play the dern thing. Yes, I know that’s a mouth full. Learning to play a lap steel – and doing it well – is no small task.



As I mentioned in my previous post, this instrument is the direct descendant of a big kid-safe lap steel I knocked out just before the San Mateo Maker Faire. Regardless of my questionable skills playing this wingnut I’m sure it won’t be that last one I build.
  • tin: 230 x 76 mm, 9 x 3 in.
  • scale length: 520 mm, 20 1/2 in.
  • head to tail: 760 mm, 30 in.
  • G .024, C .018, E .015, g .013 plain steel loop end
  • squarish profile maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • stainless fork string anchor
I have been fooling around with adding a carbon mic and a piezo pickup. Someday soon I’ll update the photos and demo to show off the wacky electronics.

Blue Flake Lap Steel from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

big pink lap steel

Just a week before the big to-do in San Mateo this year I whipped up a big lap steel instrument to have something for the kids to whomp on.


 With fat solid steel strings, a neck cut out of a 2×4, and pegs that require a wrench to tune, I knew it would keep the kids busy with nothing to break. The original, above, had only two strings and the tin was flat so it barked quite a bit when the strings were plucked. There is a bit of me fiddling with the beastie at the beginning of the video from the Faire.

I had so much fun with it at the Maker Faire I decided to make some improvements when I got home.
The revamped instrument has a shaped tin body for better resonance and no bark, an 80cm scale, and four strings for more snaky slidey fun.

big pink lap steel from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

gondola-la

And now for my second soprano ukulele with nylon strings and a supercalifragilistic coordinated theme!



a fero da prorà on the head stock
gondolas bobbing along the sides
and gondolas on the silk neck tie strap! Expialidocious or what?
Hold on to your socks! Jeannie may just puff out of that bottle on the strap and whisk you off to Venice in a hula skirt.
  • tin: 210 x 50 mm, 6 1/4 x 2 in.
  • scale length: 330 mm, 13 in.
  • head to tail: 550 mm, 21 3/4 in.
  • G .025, C .036, E .032, A .021 nylon
  • maple neck
  • padauk fret board
  • silver plate fork string anchor and arm rest
  • silk neck tie strap

gondola-la from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

San Mateo Maker Faire 2015

Tinkers Damn spent two and a half days at the San Mateo Maker Faire this May. It was quite a hubbub once again.


For next year I will have to come up with some way to close up shop and take an hour break in the middle of the day.
The crowd can be overwhelming, but I still had a ball.
Yes, the young’uns were indeed obstreperous…
but many of them had a grand time picking out a tune.
The adults had a fine time as well. Here’s a short clip of me plucking the lap steel (more about that below) and playing “Freight Train” on old electric blue.

San Mateo MF 2015 from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

There’s a slew more photos on Flickr if you just can’t get enough. As usual, many thanks to mrs. a-go-go for being the shutter bug. See you next year, San Mateo! Thanks for having us.
Regarding the lap steel, I whipped that monster up just a few days before the show. It is far from perfect but it gave me another durable instrument to put in front of the kids. It’s not much to play but I had fun with it and I swear I am going to revamp it soon. Stay tuned for a post on the lap steel’s rebirth! Maybe I can get some of the distortion out of it and put enough strings on to get some real steel fun out of it.

big red baritone




Big red, and a baritone, no less! My first go at a baritone scale ukulele used a 10 inch snowflake tin with the same art design as big green, a concert ukulele from some time ago. The similarities end there. Big red has a 520 mm scale length and a voice that is an octave lower. For my own convenience big red is strung and tuned in a typical ukulele GCEA so I can play it without fussing to learn the chords for the standard baritone ukulele tuning of DGBE. If there is anyone out there interested in big red and would prefer DGBE I would certainly be amenable to swap in a set of strings for that tuning. Meanwhile, I am getting a kick out of the deeper voice and I am sure I’ll be using the big ten inch tins for more baritones to come.
  • tin: 250 x 90 mm, 9 7/8 x 3 1/2 in.
  • scale length: 520 mm, 20 1/2 in.
  • head to tail: 780 mm, 30 1/2 in.
  • G .022 wound, C .032 wound, E .026 wound, A .018 plain steel loop
  • or for a standard baritone tuning: D .030 wound, G .022 wound, B .017 plain, E .012 plain steel loop
  • maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • stainless fork string anchor
  • silk neck tie strap

big red from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

faded blue




It’s been a while coming, but the blue was already faded when I started. After tinkering with a chassis punch on the flying iris I thought I’d put it to use on a bigger tin. This uke projects its hoot and holler right out front thanks to the six sound holes in the belly. She’s bound to keep the blues away.
  • tin: 255 x 100  mm, 10 x 3 7/8 in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 645 mm, 25 1/2 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008 steel loop
  • maple neck
  • paduak fret board
  • stainless fork string anchor
  • neck tie strap

faded blue from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

flying iris

What? A soprano ukulele? Yes, and with nylon strings no less!



Time to branch out a bit from exclusively steel strings on concert scale ukuleles.
This little Tindeco oval was aching to be an instrument but it’s size kept me away. After the requests and suggestions that I use nylon strings for a more familiar feel, I figured a li’l sorpano uke with nylon strings would fit this tin nicely. Some day soon I’ll turn out a baritone ukulele too. Meanwhile, some specs for flying iris…
  • tin: 215 x 145 x 45 mm, 8 1/2 x 5 5/8 x 1 3/4 in.
  • scale length: 330 mm, 12 3/4 in.
  • head to tail: 510 mm, 20 in.
  • G .020, C .032, E .030, A .022 Nylon
  • maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • sterling fork string anchor
  • silk neck tie strap

flying iris from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.

wee texas blue




At last I am back to work and making some new instruments! I have not completed a new one since February, too many other projects and distractions. This little Texas Bluebonnet tin from the Collin Street Bakery was a fine choice for getting back to the rasps and hammers. This is the fourth ukulele I’ve built with these pretty tins. I’ve used the big ones and the medium ones, but this is my first go with a wee one. The history of the state of Texas plays out on the sides while the state flower and a rudimentary map grace the lid. She’s a big winner in a diminutive size! Wee has now found a new home with a friend in Portland where I'm sure she'll make the rafters ring.
  • tin: 170 x 77 mm, 6 3/4 x 3 in.
  • scale length: 380 mm, 15 in.
  • head to tail: 620 mm, 24 1/2 in.
  • G .010, C .015, E .011, A .008
  • maple neck
  • teak fret board
  • stainless fork and rest
  • silk neck tie strap
wee tex blue from The Tinkers Damn on Vimeo.