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View Full Version : my fifth - finally decent enough to show



maenibaeni
12-18-2015, 06:05 AM
Hi
I subscribed to the forum 5 years ago, when I built my first tenor, but I`ve never written anything since (but I read a lot of interesting and useful stuff). However, I just recently finished my 5th tenor and this time I am proud enough to actually show it to someone, hence my first post ever.

I built this one for a friend. He designed the headstock-inlay (a kite surfer, because he enjoys kite-surfing :)

The first 3 I built (all tenors) were built with only cumpianos book as a guide, so they were all built in a “classical” Spanish way with only hand tools (because I did not own any power tools). For this one I changed the procedure completely, using an outside mold and bolt on neck construction (I also changed the body form, put on binding and purfling for the first time and tried to do a slotted headstock) I prefer this method and a lot of it was directly inspired by info on this forum, so thanks :) Also I now own a drill press and a dremel like tool, so I felt a bit more confident to do more decorative work.

The specs: top: swiss alpine spruce (I am swiss); body, neck, bridge, headstock-veneer and rosette: walnut; bindings and inlay: maple; fretboard: plum; bwb purfling; tuners: rubner; finish: alkyd resin varnish (from a can) on sides, back, and headstock-veneer (my first attempt at a high gloss finish), shellac on top and neck.

I am also quite pleased with the sound. It is louder and has more sustain than anything I built before. But of course there`s always room for improvement and a lot to learn. Next on my list: side-soundport, bound fretboard, bound soundhole, nicer finish and better bass response.

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Rakelele
12-18-2015, 06:38 AM
I was able to play this uke and have been really impressed by both the craftmanship and the sound. Congratulations Maenibaeni, and welcome to the Underground. Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

It has been a pleasure meeting you and discussing uke stuff. Who would have thought that a master builder is living so close to me...

chuck in ny
12-18-2015, 10:02 AM
maeni

nicely executed, good choice of woods, very handsome altogether.

RickOlson
12-18-2015, 12:54 PM
Thanks for sharing this. I really like how the top came out. The color variations give it the appearance of a well-worn patina that works really nicely with the walnut elements. This is quite the first post!

sequoia
12-18-2015, 06:58 PM
Yes, very nice effort. I really like how you Europeans make your bodies. So stylish with the upper and lower bouts. Kinda pointy. Really nice. Perfect proportions in a way. Nice design. Can't wait for number 6.... Also like the subtle sunburst effect. Intentional or just wear?

greenscoe
12-18-2015, 08:25 PM
It's a great looking uke, so you should be happy with it especially if it sounds good too. You seem to have made an excellent job with the rosette and purfling/binding. Walnut is one of my favourites to date as it bends well and looks good.

One of the good things about the forum is that you see different approaches and ideas which can lead you in different directions in the quest to make the 'perfect uke'.

Good luck with the next one, and please let us all see what you make.

(I should also congratulate you on your excellent command of the English language).

maenibaeni
12-19-2015, 01:11 AM
Thank you very much for the kind remarks (both on the uke and my english :)

@ rick and sequoia: for the top I used some "lemon"colored shellac and, although not planned from the beginning, the worn look is actually kind of intentional. I was not aware of the fact that my shellac was colored when i startet putting it on (I thought I bought bleached shellac) but when I realised it was colored, I decided to put some more of it around the edges to give it this subtle sundburst.

@ sequoia: Yes, I`m almost obsessed with body shape. I don`t know why, but for some reason it is the first criteria I judge the aesthetics of a uke on. I drew at least 10 different body shapes until I was pleased. But I already decided to change the shape for the next one slightly. I want to round out the upper part of the lower bout slightly and make it a bit wider (to make the lower bout a little bigger and hopefully help with bass response)
I particularly like the body shapes of MBs and DeVines.

@ greenscoe: Yeah, I just love walnut. It`s really nice to work with. I want to use local woods whenever possible and walnut is the best local wood I used so far, especially if you don`t want to build a blonde instrument. (other woods I worked with are maple, robinia, european ash, apple and steamed pear)

maenibaeni
12-19-2015, 01:27 AM
@ rakelele The pleasure is all mine. Thanks to you I could actually put hands on some real high-end ukes, which otherwise I would have never had the chance to see irl. Very inspiring for my future building :)

sequoia
12-19-2015, 05:04 PM
It seems to me that ukuleles that come out of Europe are so much more free in design than Hawaiian or mainland designed ukes (or Asian ukes for that matter which for the most part are really just copies of Hawaiian ukes). Maybe there are fewer constraints because there is less hidebound tradition (no crashing waves, no swaying palm trees or girls in grass skirts in Switzerland). Maybe it is customer driven in that an ukulele must look like an "ukulele" (whatever that is). As we all know, the ukulele is evolving and I have this feeling the Europeans are going to be leading the way. Now if we can figure out just what that optimum body shape really is. Ironic isn't it that the "ukulele" was a European (Portuguese) instrument and it all comes back home for the next iteration.

maenibaeni
12-20-2015, 01:18 AM
It seems to me that ukuleles that come out of Europe are so much more free in design than Hawaiian or mainland designed ukes (or Asian ukes for that matter which for the most part are really just copies of Hawaiian ukes). Maybe there are fewer constraints because there is less hidebound tradition (no crashing waves, no swaying palm trees or girls in grass skirts in Switzerland). Maybe it is customer driven in that an ukulele must look like an "ukulele" (whatever that is). As we all know, the ukulele is evolving and I have this feeling the Europeans are going to be leading the way. Now if we can figure out just what that optimum body shape really is. Ironic isn't it that the "ukulele" was a European (Portuguese) instrument and it all comes back home for the next iteration.

Those are some really interesting thoughts. But I must admit, I haven`t seen enough ukes out of europe to have an opinion on this. I can only give some insights into my own "design process". I certainly don`t want to be innovative or break with tradition consciously. With only 5 made to this day, I don`t really feel in place to do so. Whenever my design choices deviate from tradition (whatever that is), it is mostly due to different constraints (be it lacking skills, lacking tools or the availability of materials, most importantly different kinds of woods) I mean, I`ve never even seen or touched a rough piece of koa or mahogany. Although concerning the woods, maybe constraints is not the right word. Let`s call it different opportunities :) Also I only build for myself and friends, who, if anything at all, only pay the prices for materials. That`s why I can do whatever I want and limit myself to local woods only in the first place.
But then again, does my uke really look that different, apart from the not so traditional woods? I mean the body shape is my own design, but I don`t feel it looks exceptionally different from a lot of american ukes. I just try to find the most aesthetically pleasing shape to my eye, and optimize the sound I can get from that particular shape. I don`t think the optimal shape exists. It all comes down to personal taste. The most innovative builder I`ve come across on the internet so far is Jerry Hoffmann, and as far as I know he isn`t European.

Sven
12-20-2015, 01:45 AM
Nice looking ukulele! However, I can't even as a fellow European, see any distinct features that are exclusive to our part of the world. Not that it matters a bit.

Rakelele
12-20-2015, 05:41 AM
I would agree that there's just a lot of innovation going on with building ukes in general, if you look at luthiers like Jake Maclay, Josh Rieck, Mark Roberts, or - as mentioned - Jerry Hoffmann. I think it's great that many builders are thinking "outside of the box" and trying new things. I really like Maenibaeni's approach to use native materials instead of exotic woods.

sequoia
12-20-2015, 05:45 PM
Yes, Jerry Hoffmann is an innovator and a builder of extraordinary talent and he is definitely not European. What I guess I meant to say is that some European designs have a certain je ne sais quoi. Meaning that they have that certain undefinable sense of style that is hard to put your finger on. Viva la difference! I was thinking of some designs coming out of Italy that really are beautiful to my eye. Whether they are acoustically or structurally better is another matter and I have no basis on an opinion never having played or looked closely at one.

Oh, and there was luthier on this forum (forget who it was) who had built many hundreds of ukuleles and he said that number #5 was always a milestone for the beginning builder because they were finally familiar with the process and comfortable with tools. Number 6 was always much better and number 7, well, you are on your way.