Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese phrase that describes an aesthetic that features asymmetry, imperfection, impermanence and uniqueness over the clean and symmetrical lines in Western art. In this case, I chose wood that others would have thrown out due to imperfections and featured those imperfections as part of the design. Specifically, you can see the top and back have a big knot that would have normally exiled this myrtle to the scrap bin. On the top, I put the knot in the soundhole and on the back I reinforced it and placed it in the middle. The neck is made from old growth Douglas Fir floor boards with nail holes that are filled. It shows the floor board's utilitarian origins as they progress to their new job of making music. All of these "flaws" are solid and stable and do not hamper the sound or playability at all. In fact, they serve to create a unique artistic statement that is my own small tribute to the concept of Wabi-Sabi.
This beautiful curly maple comes from a sustainable, family run forest in Salem, OR called Zena Forest Products. It has a reddish hue that pairs nicely with pistachio from California Orchards. Add in a brass armrest, a frailing scoop and open G tuning and we have a unique instrument that looks and sounds great. It's going all the way to Sweden!
This is a special instrument. First- It is the first regular uke I have put out since leaving Mya-Moe. Second- It happens to be a nice round number, #300. Third- The wood is from the carpenter ant stash and built for the caretaker of said stash, my friend Lizann. The koa belonged to her grandfather, who built two beautiful clocks with it which I have seen in her house. Therefore it's label, Clockmaker's Koa. I have all different grades of figure, but this is among the best. I paired it with an old growth douglas fir neck and pistachio fretboard, headplate and bridge. The maple and walnut rope binding add some old world flair to it. It is easy to play, light weight, vibrant and loud!
I love how the pistachio wood allows me to truly "play" with the personality of an instrument. Sometimes I prefer a subtle look that requires closer inspection. Sometimes I like a more sculptural look that can be appreciated from farther away. This one allowed me the latitude to play with the white sapwood and reddish heart wood, especially across the divide of fretboard and headplate. In this case, the straight grain walnut from the Carpenter Ant stash was a perfect compliment to the "busier" pistachio.
Normally we have been shipping these mini five string banjo tuned to open C, but this one is strung and tuned lower to open G, like a standard five string banjo. It has a nice mellow sound that is comfortable to play and I'm quite pleased with it. The goat skin head both looks and sounds great on this one, I love the variable appearance and texture these heads have. The curly walnut comes from Goby Walnut in Portland and the pistachio is from California Orchards.
I had time today to play this one enough to ponder the merits of the goat skin head on this little banjo uke. It really seems like there is a complexity to the tone that makes me want to keep playing. Amplified through the K&K pickup, it sounded sweet as well. The walnut is from the Carpenter Ant stash in Portland, with some surprising curl in the rim and some dead straight stuff for the neck. The pistachio comes from California orchards and I was happy to include a tiny bit of sapwood at the end of the fretboard.
This one doesn't want to go back in the case. It's made like all the others, from similar materials and no "voodoo" or "magic" to it, but I am really having fun playing it. They all sound like a Beansprout, but this one has a sweet and vibrant tone I am really enjoying. The walnut is from the Carpenter Ant stash in Portland and the pistachio is from California Orchards.
The depth and richness of tone that you want from a baritone, but the zing that you need from a standard ukulele. Pistachio from California orchards, fir salvaged from old floorboards and Port Orford Cedar from the Oregon Coast.
Myrtle is our "Oregon Koa" and tenor seems to be the standard size nowadays. So, consider this our flagship model. The rope binding sets it apart from the crowd and the salvaged Douglas fir neck and pistachio fretboard from California orchards shows your concern for sustainability. Is this the Prius of the ukulele world?
This is my first alto ukulele, with a concert scale fretboard and a body between a soprano and a concert. I think it is versatile enough to cover all the "small ukulele" jobs. Walnut recycled from wall panels, a fir neck from old floor boards, port orford cedar from the Oregon coast and pistachio from California orchards.
I love the look of this lightly curly Oregon walnut in the five piece neck and in the block rim. Figured wood like this is pretty hard to find at a good price, this walnut came from a retired furniture maker in The Dalles, OR. It already looked pretty fancy, so I paired it with some straight grain pistachio for the fretboard. The raw brass hardware is from Brooks Masten in Portland, OR.
I have really enjoyed exploring these full size five string banjos this spring, its been very rewarding to design from the ground up. Even though my design is not revolutionary, I am pleased with the simple design and beautiful sound. The key is the all wood block rim with no metal tone ring. It is quite a bit louder than I expected but keeps a woody depth. This customer, Jeremy, helped me with some computer design work for machining the rim to match the existing hardware and I am thankful for his help. This walnut came from a retired furniture maker in The Dalles, OR and the pistachio is from California Orchards. The hardware and goat skin head is from Brooks Masten from Portland, OR.
Here is some more of the creamy, figured Oregon walnut that I am always chasing. This came from an estate sale in The Dalles, OR. The customer requested a highly figured fretboard and I found a truly unique one from my supplier who harvests California Orchards, woodfromthewest.com.
A special instrument for musician/teacher Kevin Carroll from Austin, TX. The figured maple is from Crosscut in Portland, OR and the pistachio is from California Orchards. I added a light vintage amber stain to the maple, instead of leaving it natural, which I used to do frequently. I am really pleased with it and am glad I didn't go for a darker color. Also, Nicole drew his family crest on the head, which was a first for us. Overall it really came together as a classy and special instrument!
This banjo was a great excuse to use some walnut from the Carpenter Ant stash (Portland, OR) that has some beautiful light colored sap wood. When I laid it out with as a five piece neck it made for a very unique instrument. The reddish, striped pistachio is from California orchards. From the west coast all the way to England, its always hard to send these off, but I can't keep them all!
Made from some beautiful creamy walnut I salvaged from a furniture maker in The Dalles and pistachio from California Orchards. Another great example of this curious little instrument. Is it a banjo? is it a uke? is it for clawhammer? For finger picking? You can decide, but Iike it all around. This one has a flat fretboard instead of radiused. I like them either way.
This is the first instrument made with walnut from a friend's father's wood stash. Since 1965 he has collected a beautiful stash of American hardwoods, which I will be using on future instrument builds. I call it the Carpenter Ant stash and I will not tell you where to find it. ;) The pistachio is from California Orchards. I really think the concert neck is the most symmetrically pleasing and is a comfortable scale for my hands. The walnut is a nice "mellowing agent" for a little banjo like this, offering a balance between bright and mellow.