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Braces · Attaching the soundboard · Fingerboard · Finishing · Gallery of the completed oud
A small setback delayed construction for a week. Hankey's book was a bit confusing concerning the grain orientation for the braces. I made the mistake of misinterpreting his description. Consequently I ordered the wrong wood for the braces weeks ago. (Richard Hankey has since issued an update for the book and clarified the language.) However, I received shipment today of new bracewood. The grain in the braces is quartersawn, but since the brace is taller than it is wide, it appears that the wood is flat sawn because it is parallel with the wide face of the brace. It is actually not flatsawn since ideally the bracewood is split from a billet of spruce, the grain in the brace being perpendicular to the soundboard gluing surface. So a conventionally flatsawn board, from the edge of the tree for example, would not be the best choice since the growth rings would be more curved than straight and perpendicular. There is no word to describe this configuration that I know of.
Shooting board for the top edges of the braces. #7 Stanley jointer plane.
The braces are planed to thickness. Here I have cut the braces to rough length and am comparing them to a paper template/diagram of the brace layout.
After the braces are cut to rough length they are planed on each side to a taper so they are slightly narrower in the middle than at the ends.
Fitting the braces. A straightedge is placed across the back at the braces locations and the angle measurement taken with a small bevel.
After the bevel is transferred to the end of the brace, I clamp it to the straightedge and line the mark up with the inside of the top rib and trace the rib profile from underneath. I repeated this at the other end and cut the brace to length a bit away from the marks. I trimmed the brace to fit with a block plane and file removing small amounts until the brace fit snug, but did not push the top ribs out at all.
A fitted brace taped in position.
Seven braces fitted. The eighth brace is broken by the soundhole and is fitted and glued later.
In order the glue the braces to the back of the soundboard, they must be aligned exactly. I used the glued joint in the soundboard when I layed out the brace locations to begin with since it runs dead center down the soundboard. This straightedge allows me to mark the exact center of each brace so I can glue it to the soundboard exactly. This eliminates any need for measuring or calculations which can cause mistakes, at least in my experience.
The braces around the bridge are raised above the edge relief to bring the bridge up to the height of the neck. I clamped a wide straightedge to the neck and raised the braces up to the straightedge. I used a wide board in order to help keep the braces parallel to the neck and each other. The second brace between the bridge and the soundhole is only raised to half the height in order to allow the soundboard to dip down with the edge relief. I taped a little piece of wood to the straightedge half the thickness of the gap to establish this distance. Further details are in Hankey's book.
I made a little scratch with an Exacto knife at the end of the braces to mark how much material to be removed. The brace is only tapered down at the ends. The center is left flat for the bridge to rest on.
Gluing the braces to the soundboard. A protective board, thin and flexible, is under the soundboard to protect it from the clamps.
All the braces, save the ones about the soundhole, glued on.
I made the mistake of not using the protective board for one of the braces and suffered the consequences. It seems one of the clamps made a small divot in the soundboard. It is barely noticeable except under raking light, as here. To the hand it feels like a spot that was sanded a bit too much, and hardly at that. I suppose I could remove the brace and try to steam it flat, and I may do that, but I can also live with this little mistake. I can't imagine it would be detrimental to the sound.
The spot under normal lighting conditions. Unnoticeable.
Shaping the braces with small plane, chisel and sandpaper. Here I am holding a sanding stick (sandpaper adhered to a scrap of rib stock--thin and flexible) and running my thumb against the opposite side if the brace. The braces are shaped to a thin edge.
Braces after shaping.
The completed bracing.