View Full Version : The Vegan Ukulele

09-17-2016, 06:10 PM
A local musician heard and saw one of my ukuleles. She called and said she would like to stop by and play one. She loved the sound and look. Played it like an angel. Loved it. However she said she was a vegan and couldn't play an instrument that had animal products like abalone and MOP. Could I make an identical instrument without shell that sounded as good?

This got me to thinking. Do I really want to go here? What is going on here? Why am I even thinking of vegan ukuleles? Has anyone out there encountered this before? Picture below of the offending ukulele containing bone (from dead oxen) and abalone (from dead mollusks).


09-17-2016, 07:28 PM
What's the problem? There are plenty of material options for saddle, nut and markers.

09-17-2016, 07:46 PM
All of us have our little foibles. Rejoice in the things you have in common and try your hardest to overlook the differences and hope the other person is at least a little bit forgiving of the things they find revolting about you.
Make a ukulele for them and hopefully bring a little bit of joy to their life. After all, life without bacon must be trial enough.

Michael Smith
09-17-2016, 08:55 PM
Whatever you do don't tell her how many lac beatles met their end for that finish on her old kamaka or about the hide glue it's glued together with. Seriously I have to say I respect someone who tries to live as gently on the planet as possible and I would do my best to conform to her wishes. Maybe even make her and instrument of scavenged wood and recon stone from Rescue Pearl. What is the downside?

I know how you feel I think. I had a guy commission an instrument for his dad's 70th birthday. The son and I went over some wood choices and I came up with an inlay of a monterrey cypress tree over the ocean. Dad was into Monterrey and cypress. Then I asked him to come up with some meaningful statement which I was going to wood burn into the monterey cypress top. It would have been too cool for school. So after we figure all this out he decides he should bring dad into the process. It was going to be a surprise. It all went sideways from there. And it turned out to be a strippiy, no markers, no inlay, different wood on top, back and sides, no purfling (but i did have to put in purfling because of routing error) I was asking myself for a while, what the hell am I doing. Finally decided to let myself enjoy the process and go with it and in the end it really came out ok. I'ts not aesthetically what I normally do but it's is ok. The customer is always right.........except when he isn't.

I'm still learning how much design control I require and how much I'm willing to seed to the customer. It's a delicate dance.

Ken Franklin
09-17-2016, 10:26 PM
I think the bottom line here is that you have to be happy with what you are doing. There are a lot of mother-of-toilet-seat alternatives out there but if makes you unhappy using them then let her move on and find a vegan luthier. Life is too short, unless you're trying to make a living at this.

09-18-2016, 06:14 AM
I can empathize on that one as well...

I grow & teach how to grow organic food and seeds (moonlight making music & building instruments)...We have had plenty of vegan type folks come through here on the holier than thou quest...I can totally respect it...What gets me is that you take life no matter what you do...I kill all kinds of produce in the name of nourishment & that does not seem to matter to them...

You should see their faces when it is one of those days & and point out that they just slaughtered a family of lettuce earlier that day.....

What gets me is when plastic is a better alternative than animal products???(enter baffled expression with head scratching)

I agree with the others here as its their choice & life is hard enough.....Besides, I know have my own quirks about treading lightly.... & believe me I take them seriously....
For some reason that bent just seems to miss the bigger picture in my mind for some reason....could be me though

If it where me I would help that angel express herself through one of your beautiful ukes....
Just don't remind her its all made from dead trees as she will have a crappy plastic Dora the Explorer Uke in Hot Pink & that angel would not sing quite the same anymore....
That would truly be a shame!

09-18-2016, 10:21 AM
With the exception of shellac, I built a vegan guitar.

Titebond instead of fish glue on acoustic joints, plastic markers, and Tusq nut, saddle, and bridge pins. Looked and sounded as good as any other instrument I've built.

Tru-oil or lacquer finish wouldn't be the worst things in the world.

09-18-2016, 11:18 AM
Does she intend to eat the ukulele?

09-18-2016, 05:00 PM
Whatever you do don't tell her how many lac beatles met their end for that finish .

I didn't think of that, but you are right Michael. Lac slaughter. Oh boy... Which sort of brings up the question of where does it all end? When does following a healthy and moral lifestyle become a neurosis? I am from Northern California and a total tree-hugger and nature lover (of course), but I'm still the human animal that is an omnivore who eats baby pigs (baby-back-ribs, yum!). I grew up in Rural Land and was once a farmer (didn't last long. Brutal work schedule and no time off not my cup of tea) and have actually killed animals for food and I hated it. It is violent and brutal and no fun let me tell you. I get what they are saying. The other day I was joshing with one of my vegan friends and told her I was a member of PETA or People Eating Tasty Animals and did she know that tomatoes scream when you cut them. This joke did not go over well. This is serious stuff.

Yes I can build her an uke with perloid (ick!), tusk and oil. But what about the trees? What about the cat guts???

09-18-2016, 05:08 PM
Does she intend to eat the ukulele?

Veganism is not only about food. It's a lifestyle. People who practice it do not want to take advantage of other living animals and insects knowingly in any aspect of their lives. At the extreme end, they don't even think people should keep pets.

09-18-2016, 06:24 PM
Yeah if we all were vegans or at least vegetarians the world would be better off. I'm a vegetarian because of the climate change but I still struggle when it comes to finding an alternative to leather.

09-18-2016, 06:52 PM
How in the world can the OP's customer even think about hurting a poor defenseless tree? She sounds like a hypocrite to me.


Michael Smith
09-18-2016, 07:51 PM
"Titebond instead of fish glue on acoustic joints,"

Probably, but do you know what is in tightbond? Probably not because it's a trade secret and the only ingredients that are published anywhere are ones required to be publishd by law.

09-18-2016, 10:29 PM
I had a request like this once, and my response was that I use hide glue because I believe it's the best glue for the job I use it for, and contributes to my sound.

Shellac for the inside, because I want to buffer wild swings in humidity so to give some insurance to an instrument that will withstand those conditions.

And a bone nut and saddle because I like the look and the tone.

I told them that I believe that if an animal is to be slaughtered, then it was in everyones best interest that as much of that animal was put to good use, rather than discarded. I simply can not think of a better use for material that would otherwise be made into fertiliser, or land fill. We should be celebrating this rather than condemning it.

Interesting that the client did see my reasoning and appreciated a more measured response than I think that they may have had previously, and went ahead with the comission. I would like to think that they may have a more balanced outlook now.