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View Full Version : An unusual vintage uke: the Uka Lyka



theabsurdman
09-15-2014, 01:02 PM
Couldn't resist this when I spotted it a little while back: a balalaika-shaped ukulele/banjolele. English-made, I think it's 1950s-60s era, maybe earlier. I haven't been able to find out much about it anywhere. Not even sure what it's made of, definitely laminate, maybe mahogany. It's very light-weight in construction.

70927

It had some problems -- easily fixed. Missing its bridge, I swapped in a cheap maple banjolele one from eBay which was a bit high and needed sanding down at the base.

Also parts of the top and bottom were separating from the sides -- sorted with a bit of hot hide glue.

And the nut was a mess -- slots in the wrong places and action too high. It was unlike any nut I've seen before -- more like a saddle, a strip of purple plastic-like material sitting in a slot. I wedged it out managing to break it into 2 pieces in the process but the pieces superglued back together nicely and I was able to re-mount it upside down and file some new slots from scratch on the fresh surface.

The fretboard (14 frets) and tuners were in good nick for their age, with just a bit of oxidation that I haven't bothered to remove. one slightly annoying thing is that the 3 fretboard markers are in the wrong places at 4, 7 and 12.

I fitted Aquilas, with which it plays wonderfully well -- loud and resonant considering the depth of of the body, with good note separation and intonation and the strings all nicely balanced, with none dominating. The triangular body also sits very comfortably in the crook of my arm.

Was half expecting this to be a bit of a toy or a "show uke" but no, it's a serious instrument.

I'm super-pleased with the Uka Lyka after its make-over :) Anybody else got one?

KaijuEmily
09-15-2014, 01:34 PM
Wow! That is awsome

Nickie
09-15-2014, 03:48 PM
Neat looking instrument. Is it from Greece? What does it spound like?

theabsurdman
09-16-2014, 09:44 PM
Neat looking instrument. Is it from Greece? What does it spound like?

No, it's made in England, but clearly inspired by the balalaika, which is a 3-stringed Russian instrument.
It sounds just like a decent soprano ukulele. I'll post a sound sample when I get some time.
Considering that this was clearly a cheap instrument when new, I'm surprised at how well it does play, but I expect you could say the same for many vintage ukes. Standards just seem to have been higher then.

Ukejenny
09-17-2014, 06:26 AM
It really looks beautiful. Sounds like it is also a good player. The shape and design are really cool.

KaijuEmily
09-17-2014, 10:47 AM
So whats the story behind this uke? Where did you find it? And did it cost you an arm and a leg?

theabsurdman
09-17-2014, 01:24 PM
So whats the story behind this uke? Where did you find it? And did it cost you an arm and a leg?

the auction site. Cost me 58 (GBP) shipped -- probably too much! but I'm a sucker for old and unusual stuff.
I'd like to know a bit about the history myself. Was hoping somebody else had one.

PhilUSAFRet
09-17-2014, 01:32 PM
I think it's spiffy! I agree it has a "Greek" look to it....the design. I think you got it for a fair price. Quite a collector's item. Nice to have something no one else has seen (well, almost no one else).

KaijuEmily
09-18-2014, 06:22 AM
If you are having a tough time getting info on it, perhaps you should send the seller a message and ask them for some info on its origins? What about it made it feel like a cheapo uke? I cannot get a great view of how the artwork is applied / painted.... Super curious! Such a beautiful and unusual instrument.

TheCraftedCow
09-19-2014, 06:48 AM
I lika ukalika,too. Mine came from a factory in Germany in 1945. I really should learn how to post pictures on this site. It is 16 1/2 inches across the flat of the body by 10 1/2 bottom to neck joint. The neck is 10 3/8 and has a zero fret. 1 1/8 at the nut to 1 5/8 at the 16th fret (neck joint). It is 4 3/4 thick at the bottom. The staves on the back have one on each side 2/5/8 wide to form the thickest part, and they taper to 1inch at the front. They are highyl figured solid cherry. The five others arched over the back are figured maple-cherry-maple-cherry maple. The end and neck are also maple. The top is cedar with oak arrow points on the lower corners, and an oak front which is more than just a pick guard. Trim around the front and the fretboard are rosewood. The tuners were open gear brass for three strings. The addition of a fourth, and PEGHEDS keeps it in tune.. There are pictures on e Bay and other places of similar current models. They are closer to $1000 than $500. Not a bad find at a garage sale for $20.00 !! His father brought it back when he was shipped back home from his tour of duty in Germany. It is strung Aquila white reentrant. Yes, after I found out its value, I went back to offer it back to him for my $20 back. He said he was glad it went where it was appreciated and played. I play it with a clear conscience. It is surprisingly comfortable to hold and play.

theabsurdman
09-19-2014, 10:59 AM
I lika ukalika,too. Mine came from a factory in Germany in 1945. I really should learn how to post pictures on this site. It is 16 1/2 inches across the flat of the body by 10 1/2 bottom to neck joint. The neck is 10 3/8 and has a zero fret. 1 1/8 at the nut to 1 5/8 at the 16th fret (neck joint). It is 4 3/4 thick at the bottom. The staves on the back have one on each side 2/5/8 wide to form the thickest part, and they taper to 1inch at the front. They are highyl figured solid cherry. The five others arched over the back are figured maple-cherry-maple-cherry maple. The end and neck are also maple. The top is cedar with oak arrow points on the lower corners, and an oak front which is more than just a pick guard. Trim around the front and the fretboard are rosewood. The tuners were open gear brass for three strings. The addition of a fourth, and PEGHEDS keeps it in tune.. There are pictures on e Bay and other places of similar current models. They are closer to $1000 than $500. Not a bad find at a garage sale for $20.00 !! His father brought it back when he was shipped back home from his tour of duty in Germany. It is strung Aquila white reentrant. Yes, after I found out its value, I went back to offer it back to him for my $20 back. He said he was glad it went where it was appreciated and played. I play it with a clear conscience. It is surprisingly comfortable to hold and play.

Wow! that sounds great. please do post pics. i've seen some contemporary 'roosebeck' balalaika ukes on ebay that look more up-market than mine:

71072

they all seem to be tenor size models whereas my uka lyka is a soprano.


What about it made it feel like a cheapo uke?

a uke friend of mine described the construction as "boxwood" -- bit of an overstatement! but it's a cheap looking laminate and the designs are stuck-on decals, but ... as i say. it does sound remarkably good.