Wednesday, June 14, 2017

How I made a baglama ( mini bouzouki )

First of all I would really like to thank the company Sofianos for sending me all the luthier supplies for this build.

The baglama is a 6 string musical instrument, which is very common in Greek urban folk musical genre called “rebetiko”.

I made this instrument, using lime tree for the body, ebony for the fretboard and spruce for the top.

First of all I designed a vector template based on old baglama I had in my personal instrument rig.

I then glued the template on a piece of lime tree.

I used the router to remove as much material as I could from the body. I then used several carving gouges to carve out the interior of the baglama. I also used a goose neck scraper to clean up the tool marks.

I then moved to the bandsaw to cut one side of the body. When that was done I glued the pieces with my hot glue gun. Because my bandsaw’s cutting capacity could not deal with the cutting of the other side, I used a handsaw and a chisel to remove the rest of the material.

Using the draw knife I removed as much material as I could. I then used round rasps, flat rasps, the spoke shave and chisels to shape my small bouzouki. Every now and then I used cardboard templates to check my progress before removing more material.

I then cut the top on my bandsaw. I also cut out the sound hole using my scroll saw. I cleaned up the scroll saw marks using a sanding disc on my rotary tool.

I then planed down a small piece of wood and glued it under the top. This mini cleat provides strength to the top. I shaped this cleat with a sharp chisel. This lets the top vibrate better.

I then glued the top to the body.

To drill the holes for the keys, I made a cardboard template to help me mark the hole positions. I then clamped the piece on my bench and drilled the holes.

I trimmed the top flush with the body using a chisel and a spoke shave.

I measured the top’s thickness with a caliper and then transferred that measurement on my table saw blade. Making several passes with my cross cut sled, I created a rabbet on the fretboard. This way the fretboard sits flush with the top.

I then marked the fret positions using an online fret calculator. 

Using a thin bladed saw and a miter box. I cut all the fret slots. I lubricated the saw blade with oil from time to time to help the saw cut smoother.

I then moved on my drill press and drilled the holes for the fret position guides. I used two of them to act as pins. This way the fretboard would not slide around while glue up.

I then trimmed the fretboard flush with the spokeshave and a chisel.

I glued the fret marks in place and then trimmed them flush with a flush trim saw with a piece of paper underneath. The paper prevents the saw from damaging the fretboard.

I then sanded the whole piece starting with 100grit and 240grit  sandpaper.

I pressed the frets to place with a specially modified clamp. I added a drop of super glue to the sides of the frets. I trimmed the frets flush with my rotary tool and a cutting disc. I sanded the fret sides with a sanding block.

I finished the instrument with the French polishing technique.

I mixed shellac with pure alcohol. I applied a thin coat of this mixture to the instrument using a brush. This filled the pores of the wood and raised the grain. I gave the piece a light sanding.

I then made a thicker mixture of the varnish by adding more shellac. I created a ball used linum fabric and cotton to create a ball. I hydrated the ball with the shellac and with circular motions I applied a coat. Every now and then I added a drop of mineral oil to the ball to prevent it from sticking. After more than 8 coats I was happy with the finish of the instrument.

I then made the bridge using ebony and bone glued together with two part epoxy. I shaped the bridge on my disc sander.

I assembled the instrument and added two strings to help me mark the slot positions for the nut and bridge. I used a small handsaw to open those holes.

My baglama was now ready and I am really navy with the result.

Thanks again Sofianos for all the luthier supplies. More info about the company here:

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