This is the second Scout model ukulele I have built, a soprano scale uke with a 7.5” round body. It is an homage to Lyon and Healy/Washburn’s camp ukulele from the 1920’s. The dark Myrtle is a cutoff I saved from when I worked at Mya-Moe, it was the same board as my two main instruments during that time. The neck is old growth Douglas Fir and the fretboard is pistachio from California orchards. It features a beautiful burl in the first few frets that I have been saving for a special project.
This one was fun! The natural skin head, the low tuning, the dark walnut, it all combined to make a rich and detailed sound. If I play hard, it barks and growls. If I play soft it sweetly sings. It has a rustic folk sound that makes me want to keep playing and discover what songs are stuck in it! The walnut cane from Vashon Island, brought there from back east by my friend. The amazing pistachio fretboard and trim are from California orchards.
I made this instrument for myself as I recently sold my walnut banjo uke. For this one, I grabbed some Oregon white oak from the Carpenter Ant stash and some grafted pistachio from woodfromthewest.com. I feel that oak has a tone between walnut and maple. It also works easy, is plentiful and takes finish well. The video below compares this uke to a walnut one.
Tony sent me a box of walnut cut by his family in Missouri a long time ago. I was taken by the texture of the original sawmill marks and I chose to leave them on the rim cap. We are so used to sleek modern designs (the iPhone, the Prius, chrome and glass furniture, injection molded plastic kitchen implements, etc) that a rough or variable texture can be a bit of a surprise! Also, this old black walnut is some of the cleanest and straightest I’ve ever used. It looks beautiful and rings like a bell! The pistachio is from California orchards. The video below pairs this banjo with the next one as a sound sample.
It is interesting to build for a long term customer. I am not just building an ukulele, I’m building one that fits into their long term needs and growth as a musician. I know what they will be comparing the new one against and I have an idea of how this one will fit in their “stable.” This spruce and walnut alto is all wrapped up in rope binding, making for an old timey look. I am pleased with its projection and sustain. I can’t wait to see what Rob uses it for. The spruce was salvaged from a dulcimer maker, the walnut is from Goby and the pistachio from California Orchards.
One of my greatest joys and challenges is to make a standard model over and over again, slowly and subtly refining it over time. I also like leaving some of the details of a standard model up to chance, improvisation and the natural grain of the wood. This one, for instance, got narrow curly maple strips as part of the five piece neck, something I’ve never done before. It looks great and does the job but also allows me to stretch my creativity within the narrow boundary of the set design. Anyway, this one sounds great of course. Walnut from the Carpenter Ant Stash in Portland and pistachio from California orchards.
I love Myrtle! It’s local, beautiful and sounds great. This set comes from the carpenter ant stash in Portland. It was a bit of a surprise that we found some Myrtle there. It luckily ended up looking really unique, with irregular flame and curl. It also has some lovely knots and dark streaks. Adam was wise to leave the binding and rosette off, it doesn’t need it. The neck is salvaged hemlock from Portland Salvage Works and the pistachio fretboard is from woodfromthewest.com.
First off, see the below post about music/craft/community, as it also applies to this uke!
For this alto, Jeri came to the shop and picked out some nice pieces of wood. The top is Oregon spruce from Camp Westwind, the gnarly cherry back and sides are from the Carpenter Ant stash, the mahogany neck is salvaged from a furniture maker and the pistachio comes from California orchards. Compared to the more earth tone look and breathy sound of Jann’s uke below, this one has a crisper look and sound that I also like. It is pretty hard to hear the difference on the video but it’s something I can feel when I play, although it’s pretty subtle.
Today I really feel inspired by the community we are connected to with our music and our craft. This instrument is built for our friend/student Jann, using wood from our friend/student Lizann’s father’s wood stash. Lizann and Jann play music together and will soon be playing instruments made by the same maker from wood collected by the same man. Next weekend, I am going to Portland to teach them an arrangement I wrote of an old jug band waltz and we will all make music together. I don’t know if the art/music/craft makes the community or the other way around, but I like it. (all this applies to Jeri’s uke in the next post as well, btw)
The myrtle is from a funky board from the Carpenter Ant stash and seems to have a gnome hiding in the back. The top is some striped Port Orford Cedar which came from the Oregon coast courtesy of woodfromthewest.com. The fretboard, headplate, bridge and bindings are pistachio from California orchards. The neck are fir floorboards with cherry lamination stripes. This instrument is a good example of the muted earth tones that are a hallmark of the wabi-sabi aesthetic. From far away, they blend together, up close you notice subtle differences.
Inspired by the Lyon and Healy “camp uke” from the 1920’s-30’s, the Scout is a handmade ukulele with a simple design, sweet tone, easy playability and maximum portability. This one has an Oregon Myrtle body, old growth Douglas fir neck and pistachio everything else.
Quarter-sawn white oak such as this is common in the furniture trade and was also used in parlor guitars, mandolins and banjos at the turn of the 20th century. To my ears, it has the volume of maple but a dustier sound, more old timey in a way. I paired it with a spruce top, pistachio fretboard, headplate and binding from California orchards and a fir floorboard neck. This oak is from the Carpenter ant stash in Portland and I have more like it. Drop me a line if you would like it in a uke or a banjo.
I really was going for a classic look on this uke, reminiscent of mainland designs of the 1920’s. The curly mahogany on the back and sides looks like some of my favorite higher grade Harmony ukes and the rope binding ties it to West coast builders like Knutsen and Weissenborn. The old growth Douglas fir top and pistachio head plate and fretboard are my updates, of course. The fir is salvaged from floorboards, the pistachio is from California orchards and the mahogany came from Char at Mya-Moe before she retired.
When I first imagined this little banjo design, I though it would be most useful in a higher tuning, like a piccolo banjo. But, it seems to have found its niche in standard g tuning. It makes for a small and pleasant version of a normal banjo. Easy to travel with, fits on a lap easily, easy on your back and hands. The walnut neck on this one is lightly curly stuff from Goby in Portland. The rim is mosaic of scrap pieces from the cutoffs from earlier banjos. It makes for a truly unique rim with lots of asymmetrical layers and a striking visual appeal. The pistachio is from woodfromthewest.com.
Dana asked for a tenor scale banjo uke tuned cgda, like a Tenor Banjo. We tested some different string gauges and were surprised by the good sound. I find this setup, especially when played with a pick, to be a lot of fun. The tone is rich and dark but with the sparkle and punch Maple is known for. I can’t wait to see what Dana uses it for. The maple is hard, straight grain stuff from Henry’s dance floor stash and the pistachio is from California orchards.
Have you ever had the experience where you hear a new word and suddenly it is everywhere? With this ukulele, it happened with the cool knot in the fretboard that looks like the eye of Horus. It then showed up in the neck and in the knots in the back. A nice bit of synchronicity that happened during wood selection. The top is Port Orford Cedar from the Oregon coast, walnut is urban salvage from Goby in Portland, the fir neck was a floor joist in Portland and the pistachio is from California orchards.
This instrument shows me experimenting a bit, admittedly within the narrow guidelines I give myself to stay on brand. It is my normal five string banjo, but with two main changes. 1st, I stained the maple a nice reddish brown. 2nd, I added a small rolled brass ring to the top of the rim. Overall, I am quite pleased. I played it for a rehearsal today and liked the tone and feel of it. You can hear this banjo in the video below, compared to another with a different setup.
I recently sold my ukulele to my friend Danielle. I needed another one for this month’s gigs so I got right to it. I was inspired by the simple sap wood streak in the back and sides to keep everything else simple too. Tight grain spruce top, no front dots on the two tone pistachio fretboard, no rosette or sound hole binding. I used multi colored pistachio binding to mimic the streak on the back. The neck is a fir floor joist from the Level beer property in Portland. The walnut is from Goby and the Port Orford Cedar and pistachio are from woodfromthewest.com.
Oregon walnut with a subtle curl, multi colored pistachio, raw brass and textured natural goat skin. It seems that these aren’t just musical instruments, they are also mixed media works of folk art. Yes, I am always trying to perfect each step and raise the quality level, but the hand made touches, natural flaws and contrasting textures keep it humble. What was once a pile of raw materials is now ready to sing. Walnut from Goby and pistachio from California orchards.
Sometimes when you select a rough board, you can imagine exactly how it is going to look under finish. Sometimes, it’s a surprise! In this case, the walnut back and sides were much fancier looking than I anticipated. Bonus! The Curly Port Orford Cedar top looks amazing and gives a balanced voice to this Baritone. The Oregon walnut is urban salvage from Goby, the pistachio and POC come from woodfromthewest.com, the neck is salvaged old growth hemlock.
Sometimes a hole in the shop schedule allows me to make an instrument to my specs and offer it as a stock instrument for immediate sale. I love this process because I get to pick everything and maybe even experiment a bit. In this case, I enjoyed the dissonance of paring this amazing Mastergrade Myrtle and curly Cedar with a fir neck that has several filled nail holes. The fir came from a floor joist from a barn and I filled the nail holes with oak dowels before I carved the neck. I see the neck as a symbol of the scarred beauty of each person in the world. Of course, it is a 100% functional ukulele, but I want to find an owner for it that is up for a long term relationship with me, keeping me posted on how the neck changes over time with use. (Don’t forget, the visible passage of time from use is an important part of the Wabi-Sabi idea.) The Myrtle, Cedar and pistachio for this build are from woodfromthewest.com