Greek Bouzouki Construction Blog
This is my Greek Bouzouki Construction Blog. I will be posting pictures and an explanation of how I design and make my instruments. I will also be covering other Greek bouzouki topics related to purchase, proper set up, and playing accessories. Please stop by often, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

Archive for March, 2008

Cutting the headstock angle

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Cuttng the headstock angle

Glue the headstock blank to the front of the neck blank with Titebond glue and a piece of newspaper between the two pieces (this makes it easier to separate after cutting).  When the glue has dried, cut the headstock angle on a table saw with an angle guide, or with a handsaw.  Once the cut is made the excess neck blank wood can be removed from the headstock and the excess headstock wood can be removed from the neck blank with a sharp blow from a mallet.

 Planning the headstock joint

Lay the headstock on top of the neck blank so that the angled cuts line up, and clamp in place.  Plane and sand the two faces so that they are flat, square and smooth.

Glueing the headstock

Flip the headstock over, and glue it in place, making sure to line up the front of the neck blank with the front of the headstock.


Making the neck blank

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Materials for neck blank 

The neck blank is made of curly maple (although normally, Basswood is used).  The board is cut into three pieces so that the middle piece is 1/8 inch thick.  Two contrasting pieces of hardwood are inserted to add stiffness to the neck.  Usually, woods such as ebony, rosewood or wenge are used. 

Neck blank being clamped

Titebond or epoxy can be used to glue the pieces together.  Assemble the neck blank, clamp the pieces together and set aside to dry.

Adding the braces to the top

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Tapering soundhole reinforcement

The braces are glued to the underside of the top.  Glue in the top seam reinforcement (a thin strip of bracing wood with grain running perpendicular to the grain of the top).  Glue in the soundhole reinforcement plate.  Some makers install the plate so that the grain runs parallel to the grain of the top, however, I install the plate like classical guitar makers, with the grain running perpendicular to the top.  This provides better strength with a thinner plate.  Taper the edges of the plate so that they blend into the top.

Glueing ladder braces

Glue the ladder braces in place with hot hide glue.

Cutting out soundhole

Cut out the soundhole with a deep throat coping saw and bevel the inside edge of the soundhole and reinforcement plate.  

Completed braces

Carve the braces into a tall elliptical shape and taper the ends.  The braces can then be tuned.  Sand the braces.  The top is then set aside in a safe place where the soft wood will not be scratched or marred.

Inlaying the rosette and pickguard

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Cutting the rosette

Glue the rosette design onto your inlay material and cut it out with a jeweler’s saw.  Use the same process to cut out the pickguard.

 Routing cavity for rosette

Using a small jeweler’s router with a base, route out the cavities for the rosette and pickguard, after tracing the outline of the inlay onto the soundboard.  Glue the rosette and pickguard in place with epoxy or Cyanoacrylate glue.  After the glue dries, sand the rosette and pickguard flush with the top.  If you are going to put inlays into the pickguard, cut them out and route cavities for them, just like you did for the pickguard. 

Completed inlays

After the glue has dried, sand the inlays flush with the top.  The top side of the soundboard is now complete.

Glueing the soundboard halves

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Shooting board

Prepare the soundboard halves by aligning the halves as they were when they were cut from the flitch.  Plane the center glue edge on a shooting board and check the seam by holding the edge together in front of a light to make sure the seam is perfect.

Glueing the soundboard

Make a glue board from a piece of plywood.  Place the two halves next to each other on the board, and  trace around them.  Insert screws into the board along each side just inside the line so that the halves will not lie flat when placed next to eachother.  Apply glue to the edge and push the halves down and together and weight the top so they do not spring back up.  When the glue has dried, plane or surface sand the top to the appropriate thickness.

Glueing the stave reinforcement strips

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Stave reinforcement strips 

After the glue on the kerfed linings has dried, the stave reinforcement strips are glued in place.  On lutes, it is customary to glue a thin strip of linen or heavy paper along each seam between the ribs.  On Greek bouzoukis, some makers will line the entire bowl (body) with strips of cloth soaked in glue (Titebond or similar glue) with the strips running across the stave seams.  This will then get covered up with a decorative embossed foil paper in a later step.  Other makers do not line their bowls with cloth soaked in glue at all, but most still use the foil paper.  I think it is a good idea to add some reinforcement to the staves and body, and have developed a technique which does not add too much weight and does not dampen the vibration of the body as much as a full cloth lining.  I use strips of carbon fiber cloth, about 1 inch wide,  soaked in epoxy.  I place one strip right at the widest part of the body, running across the stave seams, and one strip half way between the last strip and the headblock.  I then use a semicircular shaped piece of carbon fiber cloth to cover the area where all the staves come together around the tailpiece.  The staves are the narrowest there and are not supported, except for the area behind the tailblock.  Since the staves are so narrow, and there are lots of seams and stripes all coming together, there is not much vibration goin on, and adding the carbon fiber there is worth more for support than it takes away from vibration.  Carbon fiber is now being used to make some very high end instruments (violins, cellos, mandolins and guitars) and has been found to have very good tone, so I think it is a better choice than cotton cloth and Titebond glue.  Once the reinforcement strips and epoxy have dried, you will notice a marked increase in stiffness of the body.

Installing the kerfed lining in the body

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Glueing kerfed linings 

Once the inside of the body has been sanded smooth, the tailblock is carved so that there are no sharp corners, and then the kerfed lining is glued in place along the inside, top edge of the body.  The kerfed lining is a triangular strip of wood with cuts made all along its length about every quarter of an inch.  The cuts allow the lining to be bent very easily by hand, and you don’t need to use a hot bending iron.  The linings are glued in a little proud of the top edge of the body and held in place with spring clamps.

Sanding the top edge 

After the glue has dried, sand the top edge of the body and kerfed linings perfectly flat by rubbing the body, with the edge down, on a flat plate covered with 80 grit sandpaper.

Scraping and sanding the inside of the body

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Scraping inside of body 

Before putting the body aside to work on other aspects of the bouzouki, it is a good idea to sand the inside.  Apply several strips of strong tape to the outside to support the staves.  Using a cabinet scraper that has been ground to a semicirclular profile, scape the inside of the body so that the seams between the staves are smooth.  Then sand the inside of the body with a rounded block and sandpaper, or a sanding disk on a round, firm foam pad attached to a flexible shaft drill press attachment.  The goal is to get the inside smooth, because uneven joints will break up the sound waves produced by the vibrations of the soundboard.  In a bouzouki, the body is more of a reflector, reflecting the sound waves produced by the soundboard back at the soundboard and out the soundhole (although on a well made bouzouki the body will vibrate, it just doesn’t really produce much sound in and of itself).  In a guitar, or other flat backed, instrument, the back and sides are more like resonating plates, which vibrate sympathetically to the top.  Be careful that any staves which were glued in with their edges not meeting perfectly do not get too thin between the scraping and sanding of the outside and inside.  It is better to leave a joint a little uneven on the inside, than to risk sanding the wood so thin that it cracks or worse yet, part of the stave is totally sanded away.  With practice and the experience of building a few instruments, you will get better at making the staves.

Applying the binding to the capping strip

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Glueing binding to capping strip 

After the capping stip is dry, sand the edges of the capping strip.  On better quality bouzoukis, a decorative binding is glued onto the edge.  It may be one binding strip of a contrasting color (to match the binding that will be used around the soundboard and along the fretboard) or a binding and purfling stripes.  The binding is glued in place and held on with tape.

Body with outside completed 

The outside of the body and the capping strip and binding is then scraped level and sanded, and the outside of the body is complete, except for any inlays.  Up to this point has taken me about 45 hours of work.

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