View Full Version : NUD: Howlett Ditson Concert - Another Masterpiece

10-05-2015, 11:41 AM
In December of 2013 when I got my Howlett Vita Uke I commissioned a tenor from Pete. However, over the last several months I've developed pains in my left hand that make tenor difficult. Even though Pete was finishing up the tenor he offered to make me a concert instead. We agreed to a Ditson styled concert - very simple - out of Koa.

I got it today. Once again - like the Vita - this one is a masterpiece. The build is perfect and the finish is gorgeous. However, its in the playing that it really shines. The uke is so alive, full sounding great sustain. Good volume. Sparkling highs.

A lot of builders come and go. Some get great reputations here. In my opinion Pete is among the best of the best. The two ukuleles that he built for me, both concerts, are on a par in quality with my Moore Bettah and LFDM. The crazy thing is that Pete's ukuleles are less than half the price. I think Pete is really under appreciated.

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/howlett%20distson%203_zpsgksjy5na.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/howlett%20distson%203_zpsgksjy5na.jpg.html)

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/howlett%20ditson2_zps9s4muaqw.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/howlett%20ditson2_zps9s4muaqw.jpg.html)

http://i1382.photobucket.com/albums/ah264/Sheryl_Katz/howlett%20ditson%201_zpstkkclvbk.jpg (http://s1382.photobucket.com/user/Sheryl_Katz/media/howlett%20ditson%201_zpstkkclvbk.jpg.html)

10-05-2015, 11:49 AM
That is really beautiful, elegant simplicity of design. You certainly know your ukes and to rate Pete Howlett's ukes up there with others so expensive sure does say something. Very nice that he switched out the build size for you like that. Congratulations, the wood is stunning.

10-05-2015, 12:19 PM
Man oh man that's a stunner. I love the grain pattern. If it plays half as good as it looks it's a gem.

10-05-2015, 12:47 PM
I love the simplicity of design.
Looks like there is absolutely nothing about it that does not have 100% to do with making music!
None of it says - hey look at me, I'm pretty.
Reminds me of people so beautiful they don't need makeup.
Is that bridge a string through top, or knots in the slots?
Just gorgeous!

-Vinnie in Juneau

10-05-2015, 01:01 PM
The wood is stunning! I also like headstock. Definitely a lovely uke! (And I'm surprised that you're switching to concerts! First Jane mentioning she's switching from sopranos to concerts, now you switching from tenors to concerts ...)

10-05-2015, 01:21 PM
Congratulations Katysax!

10-05-2015, 02:56 PM
Congratulations, it's beautiful!


10-05-2015, 03:10 PM
My picture cut off the very top of the headstock.

I'm not switching to concerts. I have always played concerts more than any other size. I do have several tenors and have played a lot of tenor. Unfortunately, I get pains in my left hand - I don't know if it is tendonitis or arthritis. For the most part I have no problem with concerts but some tenors more than others, but all tenors to some extent, give me problems so I have to limit my tenor playing time.

10-05-2015, 03:32 PM
Wow, what a stunningly beautiful uke, congrats! :shaka:

10-05-2015, 03:40 PM
Very exotic........like tiger stripes. Congrats!

Ukulele Eddie
10-05-2015, 04:25 PM
Very cool!

10-05-2015, 04:50 PM
Congratulations Sherry! I've always admired Pete and his ukuleles. Your new concert is a beauty.

10-05-2015, 05:03 PM
So very beautiful! Wishing you the best with it!

Pete Howlett
10-07-2015, 01:01 PM
I am about great looking wood doing the talking. I also build for tone and volume. Beginning to nail these competing values it seems...

10-07-2015, 03:04 PM
Jaw-dropping. I'm sure it plays beautifully, too. :worship:

mm stan
10-07-2015, 03:22 PM
Congratulations Sherry, happy strummings :)

10-07-2015, 04:08 PM
Wow, what beautiful wood grain! If it plays as good as it sounds, holy cow!

10-07-2015, 08:09 PM
Gorgeous, congratulations. Mr Howlett sure is a master craftsman.

we tigers
10-07-2015, 08:35 PM
Congratulations, Sherry. Beautiful instrument! To me Pete Howlett is a bit of a European equivalent of Chuck Moore.

10-08-2015, 12:22 AM
Simply one of the very best. A sound video would be great. Congratulations to yourself and Pete!

10-08-2015, 05:34 AM
I am about great looking wood doing the talking. I also build for tone and volume. Beginning to nail these competing values it seems...

Congratulations, Sherry. Beautiful instrument! To me Pete Howlett is a bit of a European equivalent of Chuck Moore.

Petes style is to give you a very lightweight uke with a gorgeous finish that has volume and tone at the same time. His ukes are always very playable. Chuck's ukes tend to be more ornate with more embellishments, but great finish and all the fundamentals just right. They are really very different but both will give you an excellent uke. Pete's prices are very affordable. The price of his ukes is affected by his market in Britain. And a big part of the appeal with builders like Chuck is the added bling. But Pete's ukes are beautiful objects in their simplicity and function. And the price is equivalent to a K brand. There are some ukes around that were made in Pete's classes that I think have hurt Pete's reputation a bit.

One thing that's hard to capture - it doesn't necessarily show up in a video or recording. Is the overall feel and experience of playing a great uke. There is an aliveness to the wood, a resonance to the body, a depth to the sound that is subtle, but you know it when you feel it. To me there is also a special feeling of knowing that the uke was made at the hands of an artist.

10-08-2015, 07:17 AM
That koa is gorgeous and I like the lines and the design - simply elegant. I'd love to hear it!

10-08-2015, 07:48 AM
Is this video of your Howlett Ditson koa concert, or a sibling of it?

Either way, it's a great sounding concert uke.

https://fbcdn-video-l-a.akamaihd.net/hvideo-ak-xta1/v/t42.1790-2/12050365_10153595597521031_1454575961_n.mp4?efg=ey JybHIiOjQ4MCwicmxhIjo1MTIsInZlbmNvZGVfdGFnIjoicmVz XzQyNl9jcmZfMjNfbWFpbl8zLjBfc2QifQ%3D%3D&rl=480&vabr=267&oh=0daa20b60f04100dbe7f5d9cd01c4ece&oe=5616C738&__gda__=1444332781_e46a62d2fd4035f64f2220fc272bfc6 2

10-08-2015, 08:21 AM
Yes that is my concert in the video.

Pete Howlett
10-09-2015, 10:52 AM
I feel I must answer what must be some hanging questions here regarding my work - I've built over 690 ukulele and a few have been duds. I've also supplied kits in the past, two to my knowledge have been passed of as 'Howlett' ukulele. There is one ukulele out there which I built in Finland out of my workshop in a technical school as a demonstration piece for a kit build week. As I recall, I sold it raw and the US buyer finished it, set it up etc. Non of these 'extra-ordinary' ukes represent what I have been doing for the past 21 years. No-one produces masterpieces straight off the bat - it takes time and repetitious trying to even start to get close to where you need to be and most give up before they attain it. I stuck with it and now, I've now reached a point where I can no longer tweek the design to improve the timbre and volume of my instruments. My clients tell me they are good and this is demonstrated by the principle retailer of all the K brand ukes in the UK who has a waiting list for the meagre pile of Howletts that he gets each year and who, immediately sells out when they are delivered in the Autumn. (if you didn't get one this round there are two more being prepared for shipment just before Christmas. Call Rob for details :) )

I also am reluctant to say it but in general, I have found North Americans quite parochial when it comes to buying local - 'foreign builders' sooner or later are going to reach that glass ceiling because it is erroneously perceived that they can 'never be as good as the home-grown talent'! This is not a gripe - it is what it is and on one hand I approve: If you are going to buy a bespoke ukulele then think first about buying local - this goes for the UK and the rest of Europe. The fact of the matter is the internal American market is so vast it does not require the patronage from outside its shores. Yes, if you want one of the nest paint jobs out there go to Allan, if you want the best figure and most precise of builds go to Devine or Hive, if you want the best inlay out there you MUST go to Chuck - will they make it for you? Will you be prepared to take the exchange rate, pay the import duties and huge shipping costs? Exporting has become so frustrating and difficult for all of us that we are now very busy trying to market within our borders which takes me to a very important 'local' point.

It is very hard in the UK to find buyers willing to pay $2000+ for a ukulele. I have just reached that point after those 21 years ( yes, I said it again, 21 years - this business is tough!) slogging away, getting gouged by koa suppliers, stiffed by the customs, excise and shipping companies/organisations and in some cases having to deal with theft or damage in transit. Now, I have a local market and no longer look for work in the US or Japan. I am nevertheless, very grateful for all those across the pond who have bought an instrument from me and supported my while I was 'growing up' in this business - I try to do what no-one else does, and make models that do not directly compete with what you can by in the homeland... So a big shout and thank you Sherry for championing my work. Thank you all who have bought it in the past. I am humbled that you even put me in line let alone ahead of the fine and great builders you have beavering away on your doorstep. That I can stand along side them and have done so since day one is a great privilege and honour...

Dan Uke
10-09-2015, 03:08 PM
Well said Pete! Very profound and allowed me to see you in a different light. I enjoy seeing the "human" side of the builder versus just seeing the finished product.

Yes, I am parochial and tend to stick to a few brands.

Good luck and I'm glad to see that Sherry really enjoys your uke. I've PMed Sherry in the past and I trust her opinion and she isn't the kind to throw all these hyperboles out there.

Pete Howlett
10-10-2015, 04:00 AM
I am all for parochialism and supporting local builders - it makes sense since a ukulele can be made from virtually any specie of timber or plastic if that floats your boat. Making them right - that IS another story and one which I intend to document in the future with a video on how I build a Hawaiian style (all koa) tenor ukulele.