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View Full Version : NUD: Arched Jazz Box Uke by Toby Chennell



Rakelele
01-13-2016, 07:50 AM
I have always liked the classic look of jazzy Archtop Guitars, so I've been looking at who makes something like that in an Ukulele. I found Toby Chennell of Jazz Box Ukes in Bornemouth, Great Britain. He is specialized in hand-carving arched instruments, and a very nice fellow to deal with. If you want to know more about him, here is his website (http://www.tobychennell.webspace.virginmedia.com/jazzboxhome.htm), and an insightful documentary (https://vimeo.com/95924043) about his work.

The instrument he made for me is an all blonde Tenor with black appointments, classic combination of Maple and Spruce, with both top and back lusciously arched, Ebony fretboard, bridge, and tailpiece, Maple binding around the body, fingerboard, and headstock, a cutaway, Violin f-holes and a bound side sound port to enhance what the player hears. It's protected by a super sturdy case which, from what I understand, is built by Toby himself as well.

The uke has arrived today, and it's very special indeed. Thanks Toby, for making this instrument for me, and for letting me show the pictures you took:

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Pueo
01-13-2016, 08:15 AM
Lovely! That is a great look, reminds me of an L-5, which has always been my favorite guitar. My first guitar teacher had an L-5, and so does my favorite guitar player Tuck Andress.
I am sure it will bring you many years of enjoyment!

DownUpDave
01-13-2016, 08:30 AM
Oh Rainer, oh Rainer, oh Rainer. That is drop dead gorgeous...........think I need a cold shower :o

The flamed maple neck and binding look great against the spruce and maple body. I am really impressed with his use of purfing, espiecally on the head stock in picture number 2. Comgratulations on such an outstandly beautiful instrument.

Camsuke
01-13-2016, 09:21 AM
Congratulations, absolutely stunning. Any chance of a sound sample? I'd love to have a listen.

PhilUSAFRet
01-13-2016, 09:35 AM
:drool: :iwant: :worship: :love: - let's see, did I leave any out? I may use one of those pics for my computer background!

Osprey
01-13-2016, 09:41 AM
My dream ukulele is one of Toby's archtop tenors. They really appeal to me. Rakelele you have a stunner. Keep us up to date on how you are getting on with it.

Snargle
01-13-2016, 10:32 AM
That's a beautiful piece of art. I imagine it sounds as great as it looks.

BTW, What does NUD stand for? (Newbie here...)

M3Ukulele
01-13-2016, 10:49 AM
Congratulations.... Very nice... I have admired these ukuleles from their website. Love to read a full review and perhaps a sound sample once you are all settled in. Also, curious as to the weight these arch tops. Workmanship looks exceptiona. Enjoy!

photoshooter
01-13-2016, 11:15 AM
Wow! Just wow!
Congrats, it's absolutely gorgeous.




BTW, What does NUD stand for? (Newbie here...)

NUD = new uke day :)

CTurner
01-13-2016, 01:19 PM
Please, please, record a soundfile for this!

sam13
01-13-2016, 01:57 PM
:drool::drool::drool::drool:

Wow. Rainer ... that is a STUNNER!

I look forward to strumming it when quand je vous visiterai a l'avenir!

stevejfc
01-13-2016, 02:01 PM
T'is a real looker!! Love to hear a sound bite. Congrats and enjoy!

Doc_J
01-13-2016, 04:27 PM
Very cool uke. The carved back and top are truly gorgeous and show Toby's amazing skill. His ukes, from what I remember are loud and very resonant.
Congratulations.

Toby's cases are the strongest built cases, I've seen. Great idea to have his uke in one of his cases.

Ukulele Eddie
01-13-2016, 04:30 PM
A real looker. Eagerly await your review after you've bonded with it a bit.

bonesigh
01-13-2016, 05:08 PM
F a i n t !

Rakelele
01-14-2016, 12:39 AM
Thanks for all your nice comments! I'm not equipped to record, but Toby has several videos of customers playing his ukes on his website (http://www.tobychennell.webspace.virginmedia.com/jazzboxsounds.htm).

As for sound: It's probably a little softer than some of my other ukes. I would asume that with the nature of an arched instrument, it takes some time to fully open up. What I hear reminds me of a mandolin, which makes sense, as they have an arched body as well. I think this will be great for some up-tempo jazz and jump blues.

Toby thinks that this construction will also handle steel strings, and Patrick Madsen has successfully used them on his Baritone Jazz Box Uke, so I might give it a try after a while. I'll let you know how that works out.


Very cool uke. The carved back and top are truly gorgeous and show Toby's amazing skill. His ukes, from what I remember are loud and very resonant.

Hodge, did you get to play one of Toby's ukes? You had them all...! :cool:


I look forward to strumming it when quand je vous visiterai a l'avenir!

Bien sūr, Simon, viens ici! Although I'm afraid that my French is even worse than my English... :(

Patrick Madsen
01-14-2016, 06:05 AM
Great looking tenor Rainier. How's the intonation? Toby put brads under the bridge to stop it from moving so had to pull those out to adjust it better. I see you have the adjustable bridge also. Good choice.

I did change mine over to steel strings. I first tried with a 10 first string and thought it was a bit floppy so put on 13's. Much better. So far no problem at all. The floating bridge allows it take the steels.

His construction and skill shaping the archtop is really, really good. I think the only criticism would be I wish he make the head stock a bit bigger.Other than that, I'm enjoying it more and more each time I play it.

Here's a photo of my bari and a bass I bought at the same time. The bass is the best I ever played standard or uke. Even without an amp it sounds incredible. Also posted is a new design Toby is doing for a standup bass for a ukulele group setting.

Congrats again Rainier, I trust the archtop will give you years and years of pleasure.

Rakelele
01-14-2016, 08:44 AM
Thanks for chiming in, Patrick. That is some gorgeous maple on your Bass!

Intonation is accurate, from what I can tell so far. Being able to adjust the bridge might come in handy, though, when using different gauges or even steel strings. Thanks for your advise on what strings to use. Do you think those 13's would work for the Tenor scale as well?

As for the headstock: I think it looks very well proportioned on mine. Maybe he has made it a little larger...?

Rakelele
01-15-2016, 07:41 PM
Also, curious as to the weight these arch tops.

The weight of this one is 700 gr (1.5 lb), about average with the ukes I own, similar to my Ko'olau. Pono ETSHC is heavier (850 gr), Kanilea K1-TSF is lighter (560 gr).


BTW, What does NUD stand for? (Newbie here...)

Larry, NUD is short for New Uke Day, an abbreviation borrowed from Guitar Forums, I suppose, where people celebrate their NGD. But unlike Ukulele players, who are blessed to only suffer from UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome), those who accumulate multiple Guitars have GAS. Funny bunch, those Guitar players... :)

Snargle
01-16-2016, 03:57 AM
Larry, NUD is short for New Uke Day, an abbreviation borrowed from Guitar Forums, I suppose, where people celebrate their NGD. But unlike Ukulele players, who are blessed to only suffer from UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome), those who accumulate multiple Guitars have GAS. Funny bunch, those Guitar players... :)I appreciate the information. I find that with most online forums (fora?), there's a certain time required to learn all the specific acronymns and terminology. I hope to be celebrating my own NUD soon when my KALA KA-SRT/MA Michael Aratini (MGM) Limited Edition Tenor arrives. (My first "real" ukulele!)

Nickie
01-16-2016, 06:08 PM
Wowser! That IS one of the nicest looking ukes I ever laid eyes on! I wanna see/hear one in person! Congratulations!
And Patrick, those too, gee, what a nice bass...

Patrick Madsen
01-16-2016, 10:39 PM
Thanks Nickie, It was an afterthought. SInce he made the two together, I felt they should stay together. He gave me one heck of deal I couldn't pass up. It's incredible in sound and feel. Best bass I've ever played. Was disgusted with it at first because of the cheap piezo he put on. Once I got a proper amp, Phil Jones Double4 and a Baggs preamp, it about nblew the windows out of the house.

The sound coming from an archtop with f holes is definitely different. Much softer in some ways. The steel strings really helped.

Rainiers looks really good. I feel Toby took a giant step forward once he bought a home with his shop in the back yard. If I had to do it over, I would have had him do a sunburst on them. The amber looks really cool and both are starting to darken up and looking aged.

Rakelele
01-17-2016, 12:29 AM
Thanks for bringing up the finish options, Patrick. A sunburst would certainly look cool, and so does the amber finish on yours. Mine is clear, as I wanted the natural "Blonde" look of the wood, and one thing I really like about this Uke is that it has an aged vintage look already, like from the Golden Era of the 1920's.

Here is a Picture I just took of my new Archtop Jazz Box Uke next to my wife's Selmer Maccaferri style LFdM. They both have that certain something (and it's not just the side sound port...:)).

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Patrick Madsen
01-17-2016, 10:37 AM
Those look really nice. Congrats on the fine instruments you've collected. The clear does look nice. The bass is clear Maple with cedar top. It looks like Toby made the headstock a bit larger.

plunker
01-17-2016, 12:51 PM
wooooooow how cool is that.

Doc_J
01-17-2016, 02:01 PM
.....Hodge, did you get to play one of Toby's ukes? ...
Yes, I had an earlier model, 2nd hand, about 2 years ago for a while.
It was an amazingly well crafted instrument.
Toby was using brass frets at the time. Looks like yours are stainless or nickel/silver?

RichM
01-17-2016, 02:03 PM
I had one of Toby's early instruments. While it was very nice, this one looks leagues beyond it in terms of refinement. Love it when a luthier just keeps getting better!

Nickie
01-18-2016, 03:29 PM
Thanks for the extra pics. What a fine pair of "not cookie cutter" ukes! You guys must be tickled pink.
If I walked into our jam session with one of those, I might not get to play it at all!

Rakelele
01-20-2016, 06:40 AM
Yes, I had an earlier model, 2nd hand, about 2 years ago for a while. It was an amazingly well crafted instrument. Toby was using brass frets at the time. Looks like yours are stainless or nickel/silver?

Not sure about the frets. They have a brassy color, which adds to the vintage look, I think.

Mivo
01-25-2016, 04:50 AM
It's remarkable, Rainer. Very classy, very beautiful. You have a number of truly amazing instruments, and this fits right in -- congratulations to such a treasure! :)

Foxfish
01-04-2017, 09:51 PM
I asked Toby if he could make me a steel string Baritone version of his amazing design, he said "yes no problem".
So about two years ago I received it, the instrument is beautifully made with no obvious faults although it has a few blemishes after two years of heavy use.
Interestingly I sometimes swap the steel string over to a standard baritone nylon set and it still plays superbly!
As I mainly play Irish tunes, I have it tuned in 5ths with about 85lb of pull on the steel strings, I also have a set of nylon for GDAE tuning that is around 55lb of pull, both sets sound fantastic!
I don't know how Toby got the balance right but he certainly did!



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEwOZbBn2PU

Rakelele
01-04-2017, 11:55 PM
Nice playing, foxfish! Thanks for sharing your experience. I have swapped strings from nylon/fluorocarbon to steel on my Jazzbox as well, and I was surprised at how good it worked. I was expecting serious intonation issues, but nope! Any minor issue could be dealt with by slightly moving the top of the floating bridge. So I now have a steel strung tenor ukulele reminiscent of a mandolin (but with only four strings).

Booli
01-05-2017, 12:49 AM
Nice playing, foxfish! Thanks for sharing your experience. I have swapped strings from nylon/fluorocarbon to steel on my Jazzbox as well, and I was surprised at how good it worked. I was expecting serious intonation issues, but nope! Any minor issue could be dealt with by slightly moving the top of the floating bridge. So I now have a steel strung tenor ukulele reminiscent of a mandolin (but with only four strings).


I agree - SOUNDS GREAT and nice playing!

If I ever win the lottery, I'd like to get one of these with an antique-violin sort of sunburst finish.

stevejfc
01-05-2017, 02:55 AM
Very nice playing.................thanks for sharing!

Elessar
01-05-2017, 05:49 AM
That right there is one of the most beautiful ukuleles I've ever seen. Of course, like you, I am a sucker for the arch top. I have sold my Ibanez hollow body guitar because it sat for so long without being played. I don't see a instrument of this quality in my future but I can sure appreciate the beauty of yours as a work of craftsmanship. Thank you for sharing.

Foxfish
01-07-2017, 12:04 AM
I agree - SOUNDS GREAT and nice playing!

If I ever win the lottery, I'd like to get one of these with an antique-violin sort of sunburst finish.

Yes, a sunburst would look great & would probably be cheaper option than mine was, as you would not want a multi piece back or highly detailed bindings etc.
I would love a slightly bigger body version with a 21" scale and built with a light cedar top just for nylon string use.
Toby said he could build me one, but these things are not cheap.
Having said that I don't know how he can make any money from building his ukulele designs to such a high standard?

Nickie
01-07-2017, 06:04 PM
Very nice, foxfish! I'm not in the market, but if I was, I think an archtop like this one would fit the bill!