Orbiter Tama Process Posted on 18 Dec 18:58

Orbiter tama - glue-up and rounding

Orbiter Tama Process

2016's been another year of change and challenges. When things beyond my immediate realm of influence are at odds and I need a brief respite I'll seek a distraction before pressing onward. Even though the mercury has dropped recently, and the workshop is a brisk 7 ºC (about 45 ºF), the latest diversion romp was another wood lamination tama project I had a concept for back in February this year. I turn on an area heater, close the garage door and the world just falls away for the weekend.

Inspiration comes from everything you experience and bubbles up, purposefully, instinctually, subconsciously, and even inadvertently at times. I play ukulele, poorly I might add, and will not burden you with a video, however, I probably drew inspiration from the frets and standard inlay along the fingerboard of my uke for this tama design. I've had a chance to use wood bending for other projects, similar to the practice of a luthier (stringed instrument maker), and incorporating that bit of peripheral theming to a design is part of why I love having my own small business.

Then why isn't it called the Uke tama? I only took inspiration from the fingerboard to start the project. And the ukulele's fret design is very two dimensional to match the lay of the strings for proper play. Translating the dotted path to a sphere means engaging that third dimension and when you turn the finished tama bevel-side up, you'll see the line of dots now appear to "orbit" the bevel. Like stars orbiting a black hole.

To get that circle of dots I had to first figure out how many I wanted. Eight. And then calculate the angle to have eight equally sized segments from a circle for that strata of lamination in the turning blank. 45 degrees. Taking care to space, center, and set the birch elements with the walnut board, I could then make the twin 22.5 degree cuts for each of the eight segments to assemble the final walnut and birch array. I then added segments of 1/16 inch thick mahogany to space each of the eight sections of walnut for the axially symmetrical array. Sorry I didn't remember to set up a camera/my phone to take photos during this early bit of the process. I already had polyurethane glue and wood dust all over my hands and wanted to spare my electronics any extra decoration.

Next I just had to glue-up the rest of the blank's strata of 1/16 inch mahogany and thicker blocks of hard maple above and below the walnut/birch/mahogany pattern. The mahogany ring at the top by the string hole is a reference point for reverse tracking as the tama rotates during play. So that's 7 layers of lamination. A good number. With a total of 30 bits of wood I personally hand cut and glued together for each Orbiter tama.

I then proceed to do the normal tama making process. Turn the blanks round, sphere them, part them off, de-nub them, cup-chuck and sand grits 150-240-320-400-600, drill the hole, tool in the deeper wider bevel, tenon mount it and drill the string hole and bevel, add wax to help seal in the glory that is domestic wood grain and luster, and that's the end of the Orbiter tama process.

I have a whole slew of other designs from back in February and the interim time since then that just need to be realized. 2017 promised to give me the hours to do it, so check back here, like on facebook, or follow my instagram @side7studio to see what's new when it happens. Have a rad holiday season!

- Daniel

Orbiter tama - glue-up and rounding
Orbiter tama - hole and bevel