This customer asked for two things: a wild fretboard and walnut from the Carpenter Ant stash. I said: "No Problem." Business is easy when you attract like minded folks who already believe in what you do. As a reminder, the Carpenter Ant stash is a lifetime wood stash of the father of a friend. He spent years as a cabinet maker and set aside his favorite pieces as they came into the shop. They have allowed me access to the wood in order to see his precious collection turned into musical tools. The wild pistachio fretboard and headplate come from California orchards and I love how no two are alike. Oh yeah, how does it sound? Well, it's one of those that seems to vibrate in my lap and throw the sound out but manages to stay sweet. I hope Leigh likes it as much as I do!
It really is strange to me that every single one of these has it's own voice. I probably am the only one who can hear the difference, as they all sound like a Beansprout after all. But, I love the process of getting to know each of their voices and shipping them off to you for the real musical experience to happen. I take a pile of wood, brass and plastic, do 1000 tiny, mundane operations and out comes this unique musical tool. I'll never get sick of this. This walnut is from the Carpenter Ant stash in Portland and the pistachio is from California orchards. It is for a guy named Tom who has the important job of really getting to know this one.
Dark Oregon walnut, reddish California pistachio, raw brass hardware from Brooks Masten and Fluorocarbon strings instead of steel. All this makes a rich and mellow instrument that still has some punch to it. This is for my friend and mentor Marianne, who already plays ukulele and has been wanting to learn banjo for a while. She wasn't so sure when she came to pick it up, but after three notes of Angeline the Baker she was grinning. Hooked.
This tenor ukulele is the first customer order for our new line of ukes and I am very pleased with how it turned out. The spruce top comes from a stash of spruce cut for a dulcimer maker in the 1960's which I inherited from a friend. Because of it's age, it already has a great golden brown color and sounds old too. The maple is from the Carpenter Ant stash in Portland. The Douglas fir neck comes from floorboards salvaged from The Dalles, OR. The pistachio comes from California Orchards.
The customer also plays banjo and wanted a uke that could hang with his friends other acoustic instruments. I thought this wood combo would give the volume that I needed, but I also worked hard to make sure it's voice was balanced, not piercing or shrill. I think it worked out great.
It's for Craig and Sarah! It has a volcano on it! It sounds awesome and plays easy! Craig and Sarah have been long time friends and collaborators. Helping with video, photo, design, playing tunes, buying Legos for Henry, sharing meals and more. I am happy to get this in their hands and see what music it inspires. The pistachio is from California orchards, the Honduras mahogany was salvaged from a theater in Portland. It's the same wood that my main woodworking bench was made out of. Can I be so bold to hope that someone names this banjo uke Pele?
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 Norway!
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!