Paul, didn’t want the same old thing–that is, a tenor. Instead he opted for a concert, high “G” tuning with a variety of woods. Per his instructions, I have constructed a concert ukulele with East India Rosewood sides to accent a Koa sound board and back. Paul also wanted Oregon curly maple binding with paua abalone purfling and a solid Koa neck. His logo is duplicated on the head stock with paua abalone as well. Accents are Australian lacewood, while fret board and bridge are Macassar Ebony. Paul also requested a wider nut width of 1 7/16″ as opposed to the usualy 1 3/8″– I made the neck a little thinner with more of a “C” shape to compensate. I’ve used K&K’s twin mini Aloha under sound board, passive pickup and Gotoh 4::1 tuners to finish. Fun and distinctive!
Pro musician and ukulele phenom Carl Ray Villaverde just picked up his new ukulele this weekend (youtube: carl ray villaverde). This tenor cut-a-way was co-designed by Carl and I. Besides the request for particular woods, Carl was most adamant on a “C” shaped neck. I’ll have to admit that after shaping this neck to his specifications, I was most impressed by the feel and play-ability–so much so, that I shaped the next 4 instrument necks to the same dimensions. In addition, I added an asymmetric heal as you can see by the back photo. Carl plays “a lot” on the upper positions and I think he will appreciate this modification.
Anyway, Carl is one hell of a musician and he blew away my family and friends with an impromptu performance at the shop.
This instrument is made of Oregon curly big leaf maple, with curly Koa binding. The sound board is sitka spruce. The neck is Oregon black walnut. The head stock is Indonesian Amboyna burl with Paua Abalone “CV” inlay. Fret board and bridge are Macassar ebony and I used LMI’s gold EVO fret wire (no nickle). We decided on a MI-SI under saddle, passive pick-up. Carl requested a Reunion Blues case to protect this instrument and ,I think, this was an excellent choice. Oh, I didn’t mention the new Gotoh 4::1 planetary tuners. Carl also wanted Aquila low “G” strings but uses Concert rather than Tenor. I”ll have to admit this worked well– after all, who am I to complain when there are no rules in ukulele!
Suzie ordered a baritone koa ukulele. Nothing fancy she said, no pick-up, no glitz. OK, I put strings on this instrument this weekend and, although I have not finished final adjustment, I have totally fallen in love with this instrument. Here I have used a 4A curly koa with East India Rosewood binding. The neck is African mahogany and the accents are Oregon curly maple. I used Gotoh mini, closed, upgrade tuners from my friend Asa at Hana Lima’Ia and the strings are D’Addario Titanium. I just love the depth and sustain that these little instruments provide–definitely a transition instrument for the guitar player. Suzie did not want to convert to GCEA tuning so I tried to keep this as close as possible to guitar sound and feel as possible. I could definitely slack to “G” tuning and play my favorite slack key favorites. So nahenahe. OMG!
I just finished this Black Limba ukulele. It’s a tenor, by the way. Haven’t made one from this wood in awhile since I have not had a reliable source for wood. This wood has a really pleasant tap tone and I especially like the varied appearances–absolutely no two instruments look the same. Most of these instruments present a full, mid-range sound with excellent sustain and volume. The neck is Black Limba as well and light. In keeping with the African theme I used African Wenge for binding combined with a vintage-style purfling to accent. The finger board and bridge are Madagascar Ebony. I expect this instrument to perform well with any string combination.
Got this Claro Black Walnut from my good friends at Gilmer Woods in Oregon. I’ve topped this uke with a 60+ year old Sitka Spruce that was rescued from the Gibson factory. I left the age stain down the middle just to give it some credibility. The binding is Hawaiian Koa, the neck is Oregon Black Walnut, the finger board and bridge are of Madagascar Ebony and the accents are Oregon Myrtle. The headstock laminate is Australia Queensland Eucalyptus Burl. I’m using Gotoh 4:1 tuners. Probably going to string with Jason Arimoto’s PHD’s in low G. I love this wood!
As in Baritone, that is.
Uncle Bob has been eyeing this Oregon Bastogne Black Walnut for most of a year now. He finally pulled the trigger, but wanted a baritone instead of the usual tenor. He wanted the instrument to be straight-forward without a lot of bling, so we didn’t do a back strip and only used a conservative blace-white-black purfling on the top and the same around the sound hole. The Sitka Spruce top is over 60 years old and a rescue from the Gibson factory as I have been told. I used a Macassar Ebony for the fret board and bridge to accent the walnut. We wanted a vintage look and, I think, have achieved that goal. The sound, on initial stringing, was big and bold and guitar-like with excellent projection and sustain. I can only believe that this instrument will open up with regular playing to be another one-or-a-kind. The instrument is strung with D’Addario Titaniuim Baritone. Tuners are Gotoh. Neck is Black Walnut. Binding is 5A curly Koa. Side sound port, of course!
This tenor ukulele was purchased by Olukai (www.olukai.com) as part of it’s contribution for this year’s Surf Industry Manufacturers Association annual Waterman”s Ball (www.sima.com)l silent auction. I was pleased to collaborate with ocean artist Wade Koniakowsky (www.koniakowsky.com) this year to provide a tenor ukulele showcasing our art. This ukulele is fabricated from premium curly Tasmanian Blackwood–Koa’s southern hemisphere cousin–and a Canadian Sitka Spruce top featuring Wade’s artwork. This ukulele is definitely a one-of-a-kind collector’s instrument. I was unsure of final sound quality during construction but was more than impressed with the pleasing sound it produced upon completion. I already have my next project in the works.
Bonnie’s ukulele has a Koa back and side but with an Australian Lacewood sound board. The lacewood kicks–a unique composite of hard and soft wood that really has unique sound capabilities. Binding is East India Rosewood with black/white/black purfling. She requested a butterfly inlay on the head stock and this is what we came up with. The fingerboard and bridge are Mexican Granadillo. Who am I to say no to a customers requests!
Here’s a revitalization of my original Hula Hips tenor pattern now over 12 years old. Based on the original Martin Tenor but with a wider lower bout at 10.25 inches. I have modernized by changing the depth of the instrument and moving sound hole up making for a larger sound board. Kanani wanted something different in woods so we constructed of Sycamore with curly Koa binding. Neck is Bass wood, and accents are spalted African Mbangu. I also used Mexican Granadillo for an arched fret board and bridge. The sound board is Canadian “vertical scratch” bearclaw Sitka Spruce. The peg head inlay was designed by Kanani.
Up and comer Jonah Price gets his hands on his newly strung up cut-a-way koa tenor. Jonah dictated the dimension of this instrument and also designed his fret board logo. He also requested a whale inlay for head stock and accepted my design for a humpback whale in black and white mother-of-pearl. These photos are kind of candid and shot in my shop but hopefully reflect the moment.
Oh, the instrument is all koa and was the last of a piece that I also made his dad’s ukulele out of per Jonah’s request. Purfling and back strip are paua abalone and binding is East India Rosewood. Logo is done in white mother-of-pearl. Amplification is K&K’s under sound board twin mini internal. Fret board and bridge are the last of Madagascar Ebony. Accents are Hawaiian mango.
Keep your eyes peeled for Jonah! I think you will be hearing and seeing a lot more of this talented young guy.