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Braces · Attaching the soundboard · Fingerboard · Finishing · Gallery of the completed oud
The blank for the neck. It is tapered in thickness from the body to the pegbox.
I did the straight cut for the peg box notch on the table saw. I used a radial-arm saw for the angled cut, then cleaned the corner out with a fine saw and chisel.
The finished notch for the peg box. The notch is cut before shaping the neck to make the joinery easier.
Here I am testing the fit of the peg box in the neck. The back of the peg box is a bit curved, so I filed the angled side of the notch to match as close as possible the back of the peg box. It only needs to fit at the middle because the sides of the neck will be tapered down.
The neck end of the back planed flush. The ribs are a bit too thick. In order for the neck to meet up with the back, the ribs must be trimmed to the correct size. After I join the neck to the back and shape it, I will transfer its outline to the back and trim the ribs to match the shape of the neck.
The jig I made to cut the slot in the neck block. The neck is made in such a way that a thin (3mm) piece of wood runs from the pegbox, down the entire length of the neck and into the neck block of the body. This is a very strong method of construction. Hankey says to use a saw. I decided to use my table saw. I'm not too bad with hand tools, but I like to be precise as possible. Sometimes this means using hand tools, sometimes power tools. In this case, the table saw yields quicker, better results.
In order for the jig to work precisely and safely (reducing risk of injury to operator, and almost as important in this case, the valuable oud back!) the back must be held in position in all planes. These blocks keep the back from sliding forwards, backwards or laterally and my hand keeps the back from raising up. I cut the smaller blocks to match the curve of the back. The larger block rests against the back of the neck block. The back fits snug into the blocks.
I struck a line parallel to the fence side of the jig and dead center down the middle. The tail end is not held with any blocks.
The jig on the table saw after the cut. It slides against the fence.
The result of the jig. A perfectly aligned 3mm slot. I built the jig and cut the slot in the neck end in about 10 minutes, and the slot is right where it is supposed to be and smooth and uniform in width. This would have required much more time and effort to do with a handsaw, files, sanding sticks, etc, and the results would have been much less precise, at least by my hands. Now I must figure out how to cut with the same precision the bottom end of the pegbox, which receives the same slot.
The stringer is African Blackwood. It is a very stiff wood, but not as hard as ebony. It is very good to work with. I am using this wood for several parts of the oud. The fit is just snug.
The neck cut down the center with edges jointed
Another example of the utility of power tools. I modified the neck block slotting jig for the peg box. The three blocks hold the neck end of the peg box secure and properly aligned while cutting the slot.
The slot is exactly where it should be and is the correct width.
Here I am testing the fit of the neck, peg box and stringer. I made a small mistake and cut the slot for the stringer in the peg box a little too deep, forgetting that I will be removing a couple millimeters from the neck thickness when I shape it after it is glued. So there will be a gap between the top of the finished neck and the end of the slot in the back of the pegbox. I will have to cut a patch to hide this small mistake. If I do a good job, it should be invisible.
The stringer fits very well.
From the photo it is evident that this joint is not going to come apart anytime soon. As an experienced woodworker, I have to say that this is an excellent method for joining the peg box, neck and back. Nice engineering, Mr. Hankey.
The neck after shaping. I used a carving chisel to take off the corners to within 3mm of the line I drew to establish the contour. Then a block plane to get very close to the line. Finally, some sandpaper and a cork pad to smooth it. For the neck, I find that a piece of 6mm (1/4") thick cork makes a better sanding pad than foam or sponge. It is flexible enough to eliminate flat spots, yet stiff enough to ride over the sharp edges of the peg box and body joints, and not round them over. I noticed that the neck on some ouds tapers in width, but not so much in thickness, so the bulkiness towards the neck end is eliminated. The measurements on mine are 19mm thick at the pegbox, and 26mm at the body. This feels a bit thick and could have been thinner, but I have seen other ouds like this too. I don't think the strength of this joint is compromised by having the neck thinner (although a thicker neck certainly does make it stronger), since the stringer is responsible for the majority of the neck's connection to the body. This detail is easy to overlook because the thickness of the neck at the body must be established when the neck block is carved--virtually the first step in building the oud
The peg box in place to check its relationship with the neck.
Close up of the pegbox/neck joint. The mistake is visible just above the blackwood stringer. A jewelry maker I know suggested I fill the void with blackwood instead of walnut. He has good experience with these sort of "happy accidents". That way it will appear as an intentional design detail, instead of a mistake. If I use walnut, there is a pretty good chance that it will be noticeable. Otherwise, the fit of the pegbox is satisfactory.
The ends of the ribs are a bit thick and need to be trimmed to match the neck.
The trimmed rib ends. I could have spent a lot of time and made this match very closely, but I will be gluing on a little "bracelet" of veneer to cover the joint. I prefer the look of this anyway, regardless if the neck fits perfectly or not.
The neck and body joint from the front. When I glued the neck together, it slipped ever so slightly along its length, so one side was a bit "longer" (about the thickness of a sheet of paper) than the other. It took a fair amount of fitting to get the neck to sit flat against the neck block, especially since the stringer gets in the way during the process.
Testing the fit of the neck and pegbox.
Gluing the neck to the body after many test fittings and checks
After gluing the neck to the body, the alignment was good, just about 1mm below the neck block at the nut end. However, after placing the back in the straightening jig, it seems the tail block was raised a bit in the process. Consequently, the neck is now "out of alignment". I have yet to determine a fix for this.
Here is a picture of the neck with my hand for size comparison. This ends the Neck construction.