Monday, 23 December 2013

A Stick Dulcimer 'Sussex Carol' Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Hap...

tabs to follow when my web server is up and running (flooding and power supplies cut in parts of the UK)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Shetland Gue/2 Stringed Bowed Lyre/Jouhikko Sound Sample #2 with Viola...

Updated plans now available, This is an easy to build Bowed Lyre that I will feature on a YouTube video series in 2014
New Gue plans also included in the latest edition of my Lyre making CD-ROM
In this video I demonstrate how standard G and D Viola strings can be used on this instrument to help beginners play or for a different clearer kind of sound,  Its cleaner to play and finger and has a clearer sound.(I am not a bowed instrument player but this demo gives an idea)


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Mandolin/Stick Dulcimer Straps now available & Ebony Stick Dulcimer for ...

Mandolin/Stick Dulcimer Straps now available from my website
The ebony Stick Dulcimer is also for sale.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Help in choosing what Kantele to make or play!

Piccolo 5 String (mini/travel kantele)

5 string Kantele:

10 String Kantele (please move to 4 minutes 39 seconds)

11 String Kantele

12 String Kantele

15 String Kantele

18 String Kantele (15 string with additional strings in upper range) 

For the Kantele making CD-Rom see

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Duet for two 5 String Kanteles

A. Bova, Danza antica for 2 Kantele, Susanne Vetter

Sheet music available from the composer

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Making an Electric Ukulele part 3

With the body and neck shaped and fitted to each other the time now is the time to varnish these parts.

Nitrocellulose is the traditional medium with modern electric guitars having polyester or acrylic finishes.

To avoid the need for a spraying booth and dangerous fumes I opted for a natural oil varnish tru-oil instead. Tru-oil is a linseed based varnish used for gun stocks, very easy to apply. You can also consider Danish oil which is a rung oil based varnish used on modern furniture.

Begin by sanding the neck and body. The maple neck you need to work through the grades from 120, 180, 240, 360, 400, 600,that should be enough. The ash body once you get to 360 grit you can apply a grain filler, I used Rustin's oak grain filler. This is applied with a cloth and left a day to dry. You then sand with 360-400 grit to remove any excess filler. you then oil varnish following the instructions.

The maple neck needs no filler. If you want to apply a decal though its best done at this stage before varnishing.

There is a great tutorial online for decals here: 

leave the parts to dry fully before moving to the assembly stage.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Making an Electric Ukulele part 2

The neck on this example was made of a single piece of maple with a walnut strip inlaid, No truss rod is needed on a neck this short, I would add a strip of carbon rod on the Tenor model though.

My advice for a first instrument would be to buy a mandolin or uke fingerboard to fret as maple is challenging for the beginner being softer than the rosewood or ebony and harder to seat the frets evenly.

These are the neck options for this teardrop body:
Soprano neck:  13.7/8" standard soprano, compact,  great for chords. can be strung as a Mandolin also
Concert neck 15" scale , more space for fingers
Tenor neck: 17" scale, feels like an electric guitar,  easy to bend, thinner strings

Slotted rosewood fingerboards are available from Stewmac for soprano Ukulele(sold as Mandolin fretboard)
Tenor Ukulele fretboards are available ready slotted from Allen Luthiery supplies

Choose to make the neck to fit the playing style or the scale length you are familiar with.

When making out the neck always mark on the Centre line and always work to it.

I made my own black dots using spare pick-guard material but you can buy position markers.  The side dots are sold in a long length that you install and cut off as you go, don't try to cut them off before.  I used epoxy to glue the dots in place, then sanded and sealed the fingerboard with shellac.

For frets I use low profile mandolin fretwire from stew mac in the USA. if you mark the frets on yourself using my measurements always measure from the nut for each fret first. And double and triple check. I used an adjustable sliding bevel to mark my frets and as a guide for the fret slotting saw (again from stew mac)

Once the fret slots are sawn a triangle file is used to file the edges of the slot to aid future removal(future re-fret luthiers will thank you) and the frets pressed or hammered home, hammering from the centre outwards is best,  some people drop a little glue into the slot to fill any gaps(no nails acrylic glue or Titebond) trim and sand the edge of the frets to the neck and the Shape the neck itself.  The pictures here give a guide, I do it by feel these days.  There are videos on fret levelling and polishing,  Crimson Guitars have a a great tutorial section for free and sell the tools to do the job too!

With the neck shaped a simple router jig is used to rout out the neck pocket.  Its basically a board made from mdf or perpsex that acts as a guide for the bearing guided cutter.  The cutters used are listed in the pdf manual with the plans.  Always rout to fractionally just before the line so you have a few tenths of a mm of adjustment to sand or scrape off.

The fit should be enough to hold the neck in place even without the screws but loose enough for easy dissembling.

Next: The Finish

Monday, 24 June 2013

Making an Electric Ukulele part 1

The plans for my Teardrop Electric Ukulele are available from plans page on my website at

The plans have already notes included with them, these blog posts add to them by illustrating some steps of the process.  Please add comments to this blog if you have any questions.

For the body of this instrument I used several pieces of ash wood glued up to make up the 23cm by 30cm by 4cm thick.

You can buy lightweight swamp ash from electric guitar/luthier supplies, or select home grown ash wood. Other timbers for natural body that look great are cherry, walnut. For painted bodies Alder is the traditional material.

Mark out the shape using a template traces from the plans and then I band-sawed the shape out and used the disc sander to smooth any irregularities

The edge is rounded with a router and templates are used to do the pickup and control cavity. Note that I used a Forster bit and a drill press to remove the waste.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Nokia Lumia 920 review: Two Weeks with a Lumia 920

I have had a few years with a Blackbery phone and a year with an iphone, this year toying with Android and I was keen to see the difference that Windows Phone makes and was genuinely surprised!    The tiled interface is far simpler than iOS and android without seeming childish. Font's and transitional effects are smooth the live tiles appealing,  Email and messaging Worked well and didn't take long to adjust to using,  The hardware being Nokia was excellent.  I have large hands and found the size perfect, not too large at all.


I took the phone on a three day course Bowl carving with Robin Wood,  pictures and information in my previous blogs,  I was camping in an area where my Network could not get reception, the side effect of this was the Lumia's battery lasted three days without charging while taking photos and using it.  At home I would get well over a days use with the phone.  If you get this phone I think the wireless charging mat would be well worth it too.

Making a video with the Lumia

With the camera on the 920 the important thing is to change the mode to allow tap to focus and to allow screen photos, you want to use stabilization in the right places!
Filming this tutorial video for YouTube I made a simple phone stand to fit on my tripod.   This was a block of softwood  sawn to hold the phone at an angle.   You can improve on this by attaching this to the threaded screw and using Velcro to hold the phone in place

The quality in the low light of my Workshop at full 1080p was outstanding.  

Using the Video files
On Ubuntu, my main desktop OS the Wndows Phone is seen as a camera storage device and it was simple to drag and drop,   I had less luck ironically trying the same on my Windows 7 install to recognise the device,  I have put that down to my older hardware and a newer device. 
Editing 1080p was hard on my 5 year old laptop(normally edit in 720p) but the results were worth it.

If the video isn't showing click here:  
(BTW I normally use an iPhone or iPod touch 5th generation for making these kind if videos.)

Criticisms and  afterthoughts
there were a few apps I use everyday on ios and android that have not been ported over yet.   Flipboard for one.  And some features I use all the time, like sharing photos via messages within Facebook were absent still.  Things are changing all the time though,   Just as I was finishing my trial Windows announced a new YouTube app with added features.  What the next update to Windows phone 8 needs for certain is the drop down notification menu on the home screen, ( hint to MS: Just borrow it from Android like Apple did,  Google wont mind at all, really!!)   

Nokia Lumia phones represent better value than equivalently priced android phones,  even the Lumia Low end phones (Lumia 520 for example) have the same swish experience, no lag at all and for the money are far better than even old iPhones of the same price.

I left it a week before writing up my blog so could be a little more impartial. It was a positive experience, I may have chosen it for its camera but typing on it was really easy to type on the large screen and its predictive word learns from you and is really good, so  by now I really miss the phone.   Do give the Nokia Lumia range a try out when your next in the phone shop, Apps aside, If you like your phone to be easy to use and reliable or you have tablets or ipod Touches to satisfy your latest game urges then it could be a good option!  Let me know if you have any questions or feedback!

My Skydrive public folder is here for a few more photos

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Rubens - Elektrische ukelele made to my plans!

Rubens handmade Elektrische ukelele, a rare chance to see One of my MJK Electric Ukulele designs in action!

Electric Ukulele/Mandolin: Making the bridge. By Michael J King (video ...

Friday, 3 May 2013

Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

 If you are passing near Wakefield, west Yorkshire then the Hepworth gallery is a great place to visit, a custom made modern building with contemporary art and a collection of the tools and work of Barbara Hepworth.   I Studied stone carving while at University, immersing myself in the works of the early 20th century British Sculptors like Moore and Hepworth,  Its been a long time since those days!

Photographed on the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone
(thanks to Nokia Conversations for the loan of this device)

After the Bowl carving course.......... tool making

I am readying some tools to thin out the soundbox of the harp I recently made,  including a tool to get into the end grain at the top end of the harp and another to slice wood off the inside edge,   Its more tricky working this way but the rewards will be a richer and more balanced instrument.
 I made an extra long Olive Ash handle after the ones Robin Wood uses for my Bent blade, 
This tool is used two handed and slices across the grain.   Most effective on green wood! 
Alongside this is another tool, a commercially available hooked knife by Mora. Still a few more tools needed to do the work I need to do.  Updates in a few weeks!

Day Three on Robin Woods Bowl carving course

Day Three was the consolidation of the other two days work,  I didn't finish my second bowl but roughed it out to finish it later at home.

In this picture you can see the Hans Karlsson bent gouge, adze 
and the Gransfor Axe I used.  The very best kit and razor sharp.

This chisel is one I am looking into getting for my harp making
Martin Hazell demonstrating one of the north American Indian Style Adzes by the Kestral company
This lightweight adze balances perfectly in the hand and makes less tiresome work
Kestral adze side view
Rough profile of double headed bowl
Some of the bowls made by the students on the course

My completed bowl

Robin's bowl carving course teaches you all the hand skills for splitting, cutting, hollowing and shaping
and the safe ways to do this and much more.   For beginners to this way of working the Spoon carving courses are a really good way to start on a smaller scale.   
I had a really enjoyable time in good company and in a fantastic location, just need sometime to unpack what I have learnt and how to use it.   I now have a bent knife blade from Robin that I am making a handle for  and using for a harp re-voicing in a few weeks so I will blog again when I do that!

Day 3 blog course summery taken outside Edale Village hall on the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone(thanks to Nokia Conversations for the loan of this device)

Day Two on Robin Woods Bowl Carving Course

The second day was half spent finishing the willow bowl from the day before. We were taught different safe ways to use the Mora carving knives and two different strokes,  One, the reverse hold I had not used before.

First bowl rough shaped, ready for push spokeshave and nordic knife whittling

Robin Wood demonstrating how to safely axe out a bowl blank.
I chose Lime for my second bowl which was a joy to split and work!

Day 2 blog taken in my tent on the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone(thanks to Nokia Conversations for the loan of this device)

Stick Dulcimer Making Theme tune Tutorial and Tabs!

As promised here is the video tutorial(and Tabs) for the Stick Dulcimer Making Course Theme!
I am playing this on one of my new simple plain mahogany Stick Dulcimers(available for sale)

If you need a Tab sheet to print out please go to my Stick Dulcimer music page on my website where you can download this tab and the morrowind tabs
Note: There was an error in the strumming section where I missed two notes but I corrected the tabs.

This video was filmed all on a Nokia Lumia 920 Windowsphone and edited on Openshot on Lubuntu Linux.


Day one on Robin Woods Bowl Carving course

This is something I wish I'd done 10 or 20 years ago,  Learning how to carve wooden bowls from green timber using nothing but very sharp traditional hand tools.  Even though I trained as a cabinet maker my skill set was mostly modern hand tools and small power tools and apart from whittling there was a gap in my knowledge working fresh green timber.   If you are thinking of starting out yourself then the Spoon carving course is an ideal introduction with minimal outlay.  I was interested in bowl carving specifically as I am branching out into carving out Harps, lyres and Nyckelharpa from logs that are green so I can get a clean smooth interior( cutting into 4" deep kiln dried timbers, and especially the end grain is very hard without using a lot of machine work and sanding)
Robins Woods Bowl Carving course is over three days in the Village of Edale in the Peak District.  One of the locations of the recent BBC TV series "the Village"   I was camping a short walk away.
Edale, from the Campsite

Wearing my old Barbour jacket!

First stages of carving the inside of the bowl after initial axe work.  
Here I am using a lovely adze made by Hans Karlsson

The Simple Bowlcarving benches developed by Robin Wood over the years. Very effective.

My evening video blog, taken with the front facing camera of the Nokia 920 Windows phone

Thanks to Nokia Conversations for the loan of the Lumia 920 Windowsphone

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Stick Dulcimer, Lighter machine heads

I really like Gotoh style sealed tuners on my instruments, the way they fit and work smoothly but with the stick dulcimer they add weight making the neck slightly top heavy. To make allowance for this  I usually add weight in the tail piece which is 2mm solid brass and by leaving the internal linings square and the tail block a hardwood.

For my new basic Stick Dulcimer (made completely from mahogany)  I decided to try the Klusion style of tuners. Mine were the Wilkinson brand which are easily available.

To see how much weight could be saved I weighted each type of tuner.

The Klusion type was 23 grams

The gotoh mini type was 34 grams

The saving in weight for all three by switching was 33 grams between them

With them fitted the mahogany instrument did feel better balanced without the strap,  the spacing is closer than I fit on the other type and they are nearer the end but look fine.

Fitting these was a little more complicated and required buying drill bits.  Stew mac sell reamers for this type of machine head to make this easier that I may get if decide to switch.

Video soon!

                              Plans available for these instruments available from my website