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Braces · Attaching the soundboard · Fingerboard · Finishing · Gallery of the completed oud
Tail end view of the twelfth rib.
Thirteen ribs completes the back.
The butt joint is not as good as it could have been. I spent a good amount of time fitting it very well, (it was absolutely tight) but then got a bit frantic at glue up and it did not close up as well as I had anticipated.
The completed back. The symmetry of opposite sides is fairly good. I traced the profile onto some posterboard and took measurements every 3cm or so across the width. The worst area was about 2-3mm difference, the rest were the same or less than 1mm different. For this first oud, I am satisfied with the shape. Note: the iron anvil on the end block is simply a weight to hold the back upright while photographing it.
The next step is to lay the back down on a flat surface, mark, then remove the high spots with a block plane. Because of the crooked tail block, I had to remove some extra material, but not more than 2 or 3mm. The tape on the edge is explained in the next entry.
After the top ribs and blocks are flattened, the top edges of the ribs are relieved for various reasons. Hankey explains them in the book. The deepest part of the relief comes at the widest part of the body. Hankey says to make a mark at this point and plane smoothly to it. In my inexperience, I decided I needed a bit more guidance than just my eye. I used some masking tape as a guide to show the areas to be removed. I then planed right up to the tape with the block plane, removed the tape and sanded the edge smooth. The resulting curve was very smooth and the same on the both sides of the back.
The back sanded to 150 grit. Hankey recommends the back be between 1 and 1.5mm thick, with the top edge at least 1.5. In the book he says to start with ribs that are 2-3mm thick. Mine were 2.5mm. To remove an entire millimeter with sandpaper and scraper in an even manner from the entire back is a task that I am not up to. I surmised that to accomplish this would probably take an entire day or more of sanding and scraping. Again, not something I am too interested in. I think that if the back is to be 1 or 1.5mm thick, the ribs should be very close (I mean within .3 or so mm) to that when the back is built up, otherwise there is too much material to remove. Better to use thin ribs and build more precisely so there is minimal material to remove at the joints. There are also different thicknesses for different woods, so I am told, based on the wood's density. Walnut is obviously a much different wood than hard maple, which could easily take on a thinner dimension I would guess. Lebanese Oud maker Nazih Ghadban (see link on home page) told me that for walnut, 2.4mm is very good. I was relieved to hear this. Hankey also told me that 2.4 can work, just that a thinner back is better. I also think that the thinner back may produce a different sound than a thicker back. Turkish style ouds to me have a longer sustain and a "lighter" more open sound. The Arabic ouds I've heard are more thick sounding, louder, and little more "hard edged". Perhaps this is due to the heavier construction of Arabic ouds.
The back with some mineral spirits wiped on to reveal any glue stains or anamolies.
The joints on the inside of the back are covered with a heavy paper after the inside is scraped and sanded smooth. They are left a bit long to be glued to the neck and end blocks.
The tail cover plate inlaid into the back. The piece is African Blackwood. I originally planned to inlay a round piece of walnut into this, leaving about 4mm's of the Blackwood. I am not totally confident in my inlaying technique, so I have decided to leave this as is, since it inlayed very well. I made the circle a bit too large, and the Blackwood is a bit dark for this application, but it serves its purpose.
I used a circle cutter in the drill press to cut out the inlay for the tail cover. I cut out the inlay in scrap walnut first in order to fine tune the setting of the cutter so the real inlay would fit perfectly. It took about five trials before I got it just right.
This is the tool I made to cut the recess for the inlay. It is an exacto knife blade held in place with a wedge. I drilled a pivot hole in the oud back where the center of the inlay would go, then used the same bit to cut the pivot point in the tool at the correct radius. I used the bit itself as the pivot. The tool works fairly well, although it is not adjustable. The recess for the inlay is cut before the inlay itself, so no adjustability is necessary. After I made a few passes with the tool, I carved away a bit of the recess up to the cut line. After repeating this process a few times, the recess was at the right depth around the edge and the outline was well established. Using a laminate trimmer with a 1/8" straight bit, I routed the waste from the majority of the recess, staying about 2mm away from the edge. I cleaned up the areas the router missed with a chisel and exacto knife.