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View Full Version : Build Thread: Custom Guilele by Jonathan Dale/Jupiter Ukulele



Jim Hanks
05-01-2018, 06:45 PM
Technically, this is a "short scale parlor guitar" but the specs are squarely in baritone guilele territory. I'll get to those shortly. But first, a little history...

I have admired guilele (guitalele? guitarlele? couldn't we have picked a single term?) from afar for several years now, particularly the playing of folks here like Dr. Bekken and camsuke. But I never gave it much thought for myself as I completely gave up guitar in my mid-twenties due to RSI issues. I just couldn't work my computer job and play guitar too. Even now, my uke playing is severely limited. But a UU thread back in January got me surfing for 6-strings, and the realization struck me that if I can play tenor and baritone ukes, there really shouldn't be any reason I couldn't play a similarly scaled 6-string without undue stress. At that point, the hunt was on, and since you're here, you know where this is headed.

I had stumbled across the Jupiter Ukulele (http://jupiteruke.com/) site several times before, probably most recently during the hunt for super tenors that led to the Bonanza build. This time I noticed the parlor guitars built off a baritone uke body and thought, hmm, he does 19" scale and 6-strings, why not both?

I thought one reason "why not" might be the scale length, figuring the scale length of the parlor guitars must surely be something insane ( :-) ) like 23", but when Jonathan informed me the usual scale of those is the modern baritone 20", I knew we might have a shot. After a few email exchanges, he agreed it sounded like a neat challenge. The game was afoot. Well, not quite yet. Turns out, Jonathan was at his winter home in Florida, and his workshop was hibernating back in Pennsylvania. So it would be several months before work could commence, and if all went well, several months of build time after that. That timeframe actually sounded great to me as it would give me time to save up and would give me time to figure out what I really wanted. (I've posted in other threads that I acquired a used Cordoba Mini and Cordoba C1m 1/4 size to help dial that in.)

Fast forward to the present, Jonathan is back north, I've done my experiments, and we exchanged some more emails to arrive at the following spec sheet:

Baritone ukulele body - standard for parlor guitar and I wouldn't want any bigger anyway
6 string 'guitar' neck, 19 inch scale - my preferred bari scale, confirmed once again by the Mini vs C1m comparison
Sycamore Back & Sides - other choices included black walnut and big leaf maple, but I like the finished look of this better and an extra bonus is "this wood started with me and a chain saw." How cool is that?
Pennsylvania Red Cedar top - other choices included redwood and Port Orford cedar but again I like this better visually and the local aspect is appealing. Tonally this should be between the other two which should fit the wider guitar range well.
Side sound port - I have to say my experience with these so far has been somewhat inconclusive but it can't hurt
Radiused fingerboard - again, can't hurt and may help those RSI issues
Piccaso headplate - so far pretty normal, but if you've read many of my posts over the past few years, you'll know that doesn't describe me, so here goes. :p I'll post a pic below of an example but suffice it to say this is a Jonathan Dale original design and ain't nobody gonna have another like mine :cool:
spiral rosette - another innovation from Jon so why not?
MiSi pickup - I haven't been getting pickups in ukes for quite some time as I don't play out and recording with a microphone has proven better/easier lately. But what the heck, go big *and* go home?
Nut width - not on the official spec sheet, but should be in the neighborhood of 1-3/4" maybe 1-13/16"


I got clearance from Jonathan to start this thread, so he'll probably be checking in from time-to-time. And I'll post update pictures as they become available.

Jim Hanks
05-01-2018, 06:47 PM
These pictures are not my build, but just to give a sense of the design choices: https://imgur.com/gallery/W2NV3GE
Sycamore back/sides:
https://i.imgur.com/oEA6uhXl.jpg
PA red cedar top:
https://i.imgur.com/w9rkR8Jl.jpg
Picasso headplate:
https://i.imgur.com/9r6aKxol.jpg
Spiral rosette:
https://i.imgur.com/xZGL6shl.png

Spicysteve
05-01-2018, 08:41 PM
I am quite excited for you Jim. I have eyed Guileles for some time now but haven’t had the opportunity to have one in my hands. It will be a joy watching as things progress.

kvehe
05-01-2018, 11:27 PM
As our teachers always told us, homework is important, and you have proven that. What a fantastic instrument you and Jonathan have envisioned - I can’t wait to see the results.

dkcrown
05-02-2018, 01:17 AM
Thanks, Jim. I always enjoy checking in on build threads. That spiral rosette is pretty cool.

Pirate Jim
05-02-2018, 01:27 AM
This is such a smart way to go about it, Jim. How many times do we see custom ukes come up for sale because they turn out to not be what the buyer was looking for? You've really taken your time and done your research, exciting times!

bsfloyd
05-02-2018, 01:29 AM
Good for you Jim!! This sounds like a great build project. I love sycamore!! Ever since my first flamenco style guitar with sycamore back and sides I've been hooked on that wood species. Sadly that guitar is long gone, but I'm always on the watch for it.

jupiteruke
05-02-2018, 02:30 AM
Thanks to Jim for starting this thread. I always like to have something a bit experimental 'on the bench', as that is the way I learn new things. I have done a 19" scale XL tenor, so I have 19" fret slotting jigs around, and I have built parlor guitars with a 20-3/4" scale based on a baritone body, so making a 19" scale parlor should be an interesting marriage.

I was going to be bending the sides today, but when I started to set things up late yesterday, my heat blanket shorted out, blew the circuit breaker and fried the controller. Manure happens. Off to do other things while I await replacement parts like back braces, getting the top in shape, going over to the FabLab to use the laser cutter to cut rosette jigs for the larger baritone sound hole. There is always something ...

DownUpDave
05-02-2018, 02:42 AM
Jim.......you always put a lot of thought into your custom builds and this is no different. I love sycamore as well, had an all sycamore Mya Moe tenor which sounded great. I think the choice of a cedar top is perfect, the two woods together will smell great.and sound marvelous. Well done buddy

bacchettadavid
05-02-2018, 03:48 AM
Jim,

I live near Jonathan Dale's winter residence in Florida, and for the past couple years, I've paid him a visit or two each winter to play his ukuleles.

His ukuleles are fine instruments. I'm considering ordering one myself.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts on the final guilele!

Osprey
05-02-2018, 03:57 AM
I will be following the progress with interest. I really love your choices of wood and design elements. Thanks, Jim, for taking us along on your build journey.

Nickie
05-02-2018, 08:02 AM
Very cool Jim.
The only reason I'd want a guilele is to have a smaller scale resonator "guitar" so I can play slide stuff on a uke instead of a big heavy guitar.

Doc_J
05-02-2018, 03:18 PM
Thanks for allowing us to follow your build, Jim. I really like the glossy finish Jonathan is able achieve with Tru-Oil. Pretty amazing!

Jim Hanks
05-02-2018, 03:53 PM
I was going to be bending the sides today, but when I started to set things up late yesterday, my heat blanket shorted out, blew the circuit breaker and fried the controller. Manure happens.... There is always something ...
Doh! Sorry about that! :(
Hopefully, we've got our glitch out of the way, and it'll be smooth sailing from here out. :o

Thanks for all the responses, folks. Should be a fun ride.

Sharpshin
05-02-2018, 06:03 PM
Jim,

It is going to be beautiful! I like your choices and reasonings. This is a build thread I will be looking out for.

Jim Hanks
05-12-2018, 03:29 PM
https://imgur.com/a/0OZYMgW

https://i.imgur.com/lRpy3A5l.png
Rosewood, koa
https://i.imgur.com/rWXI9i6l.png
Maple, bog oak
https://i.imgur.com/nuS6CrEl.png
Paduk

I jokingly said koa since I don't have a koa uke and this means I wouldn't need one. :p

But really I said "luthiers choice" as Jonathan will have a better idea how all this will look under finish and how it all looks together with the chosen back, side, and top pieces. Jonathan might be leaning koa anyway, so we'll see.

That is my side piece of sycamore though.

DownUpDave
05-13-2018, 12:05 AM
The sycamore side looks "sick".......as in awesome!!!!! You never asked for my opinion but that never stopped me before, I vote the last one, paduk, for the bindings. It will add a really nice color component to the completed unit

Jim Hanks
05-13-2018, 02:24 AM
I vote the last one, paduk, for the bindings. It will add a really nice color component to the completed unit
I think you nailed it with the "completed unit" - I think all of these could look good depending on the rest of the elements. This uke, er guitar, will not be lacking for color components in any case.

Doc_J
05-13-2018, 03:05 AM
I agree with Dave, the Padauk looks the best to me. Mahogany might be a nice contrast binding too.

warndt
05-13-2018, 11:29 AM
I'm partial to the bog oak binding myself...either way, it will end up looking very classy.

Jim Hanks
05-17-2018, 01:45 PM
Sycamore back:
https://i.imgur.com/jj3q0Skl.jpg

Sycamore sides - mine is 2nd from the left:
https://i.imgur.com/sMKEsQhl.jpg

Pennsylvania red cedar top with spiral rosette:
https://i.imgur.com/gWOZKpEl.png

More tops - pretty sure mine is upper right
https://i.imgur.com/wN0xqeFl.jpg

DownUpDave
05-18-2018, 12:13 AM
Really nice looking top and rosette Jim. I like that spiral design in abalone, looks very dramatic and impressive. Your sycamore side lined up against the others looks the best to my eye. Sycamore really is such a lovely and unique looking wood, sounds great too.

Jim Hanks
05-18-2018, 02:29 AM
Your sycamore side lined up against the others looks the best to my eye.
I agree, though the spalted sycamore to its right looks to be striking as well. I'm sure the walnut and ash will turn out classy, but yeah, I like mine better.

Jim Hanks
05-20-2018, 03:54 PM
Reverse kerfing:
https://i.imgur.com/Kd10jrgl.jpg

Jim Hanks
06-02-2018, 03:19 PM
There were a couple of other choices but I narrowed it to these two:
https://i.imgur.com/pRlE6vKl.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/BmcjBGLl.png


Katalox - hard, purple-black, Central American, being used as an ebony substitute by some. Not CITES listed as endangered.
Casuarina - an invasive species in south Florida. As hard and heavy as ebony, almost no pores, takes a great polish, totally sustainable.


I'm gonna leave it as "luthier's choice" between these two depending on which looks best with the rest of the woods.

Doc_J
06-03-2018, 02:48 AM
Both fretboard choices are nice, but I’m partial to the Katalox.

Jim Hanks
06-03-2018, 02:58 AM
Both fretboard choices are nice, but I’m partial to the Katalox.
Do you just like the look, or do you have a katalox board that you can comment on functionally?

By the way, one of the pluses to the casuarina is Jonathan harvested it himself like the sycamore so that's kinda cool.

Doc_J
06-03-2018, 05:00 AM
Do you just like the look, or do you have a katalox board that you can comment on functionally?

By the way, one of the pluses to the casuarina is Jonathan harvested it himself like the sycamore so that's kinda cool.

First, I do prefer darker fretboards. My Hive used Katalox (a.k.a. Mexican Royal Ebony) for the back and sides; love it the color. Second, Katalox appears to be somewhat better known by luthiers than Casuarina. But that Casuarina does have some better visual interest. I would also compare the the hardness of the two woods. Katalox is harder than Macassar ebony, African Blackwood and EI Rosewood. Not sure what hardness Casuarina is.

Jim Hanks
06-03-2018, 05:09 PM
Sorry, Hodge, the luthier has chosen: "I will go with the casuarina. The rest of the instrument is very 'woody', meaning that there is a lot of wood grain and pattern showing, and there are all the woods in the Picasso headplate, so using a casuarina fingerboard which while darker still shows a fair amount of wood grain is consistent. I think a flat almost black katalox board would look a bit out of place."

Sound reasoning to me.

Osprey
06-04-2018, 03:32 AM
[QUOTE=Jim Hanks;2069924]Sorry, Hodge, the luthier has chosen: "I will go with the casuarina. The rest of the instrument is very 'woody', meaning that there is a lot of wood grain and pattern showing, and there are all the woods in the Picasso headplate, so using a casuarina fingerboard which while darker still shows a fair amount of wood grain is consistent. I think a flat almost black katalox board would look a bit out of place."

Sound reasoning to me.[/QUO
I agree with the luthier. I love the grain of that casuarina. I also like that you are using a very sustainable wood.

Doc_J
06-04-2018, 04:51 AM
Sorry, Hodge, the luthier has chosen: "I will go with the casuarina. The rest of the instrument is very 'woody', meaning that there is a lot of wood grain and pattern showing, and there are all the woods in the Picasso headplate, so using a casuarina fingerboard which while darker still shows a fair amount of wood grain is consistent. I think a flat almost black katalox board would look a bit out of place."

Sound reasoning to me.

Good rationale from the builder for his selection of Casuarina.

Jim Hanks
06-04-2018, 01:59 PM
"Got the 'box' closed up, and the first coat of sealer on, which I put on before doing the binding as it stabilizes the wood and makes the cutting of the binding channels go smoother and more chip-free. The sealer lets one see more the color of the finished instrument which is always exciting."
https://i.imgur.com/iwYZAOml.png
https://i.imgur.com/qiNTAuXl.png
https://i.imgur.com/NvJpSJSl.png
https://i.imgur.com/LMpZpeQl.png

Jim Hanks
06-04-2018, 03:31 PM
Just before closing up the box (mine on the left):
https://i.imgur.com/IjxkTgRl.jpg

Jim Hanks
06-07-2018, 01:59 PM
#47 coming along:
https://i.imgur.com/qiq8stvl.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/9LtP26yl.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/yffdf9Zl.jpg

DownUpDave
06-07-2018, 02:03 PM
Wow Jim thanks for the eye candy. Bunch o' good lookin' ukes there. Really nice use of different wood combinations for color and contrast. I'm impressed.

Osprey
06-07-2018, 02:45 PM
What Dave said. Keep the pics coming. I’m drooling.

Doc_J
06-07-2018, 06:30 PM
Just before closing up the box (mine on the left):
https://i.imgur.com/IjxkTgRl.jpg

Always cool to see the bracing design! Nice cross bracing! Thanks!

Jim Hanks
06-08-2018, 03:14 PM
https://i.imgur.com/1bFAi7Cl.jpg

Looks like he went with the koa on mine. Although the one to the left says koa on the paper, it sure looks like sycamore to me.

Jim Hanks
06-09-2018, 03:50 PM
"Just so you are prepared, the koa used as your binding glows pretty brightly yellow under ultraviolet (UV) light. So when you are up on stage shredding, and the lighting manager hits the black lights, the edges of your instrument will glow pretty brightly.

https://i.imgur.com/C6JRgRwm.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/bQ98yPhm.png

Wood varies in its response to UV light, and koa itself is quite variable. Black Locust glows really brightly, bits of black locust sawdust on the shop floor glow like little stars. This koa (who knew) is almost as bright a glower as locust.

I use a little UV flashlight to look for glue remnants when sanding down bindings. Titebond glue also glows yellow under UV, and one can find little bits of exposed glue or glue smears that are not visible under ordinary light."

"This is what it looks like in 'regular' light. Bindings sanded flush, and the first coat of sealer applied."
https://i.imgur.com/It4Sf2Zl.png

MikeHollandGuitar
06-09-2018, 11:29 PM
Hi Jim......just a note to say I am watching this thread with interest.......It appears you are having a lot of fun and your homework is exemplary. I can't wait to see and hear the results!
Mike

Jim Hanks
06-14-2018, 03:53 PM
https://i.imgur.com/FocCZBYm.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/mueLdRJm.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/QdckvUsm.png

Jim Hanks
06-14-2018, 03:54 PM
https://i.imgur.com/FI7pLD5m.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/qpSPN4Im.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/PuHQYSAm.png

Osprey
06-14-2018, 04:41 PM
Wow, Jim! Those are way cool. I am really thinking this will be an extremely unique instrument.

Jim Hanks
06-17-2018, 04:23 AM
Body pore filled and sanded
https://i.imgur.com/nM896cEl.jpg

First coat of finish :drool:
https://i.imgur.com/ZxLc8sAl.jpg

Neck and fretboard prep
https://i.imgur.com/yxY9zeKl.jpg

By the way, several of these recent posts I've pulled off the blog where there is a bit more explanation of the process if you're interested:
http://jupiteruke.com/2018/06/16/a-milestone/

hollisdwyer
06-17-2018, 06:40 AM
https://i.imgur.com/FocCZBYm.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/mueLdRJm.png


[IMG]https://i.imgur.com/FI7pLD5m.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/qpSPN4Im.png[IMG]

I think I like 3 & 5 the best. This is turning out to be a very unique and beautiful instrument Jim.

Jim Hanks
06-17-2018, 08:50 AM
I think I like 3 & 5 the best. This is turning out to be a very unique and beautiful instrument Jim.
Yep. This was a hard choice. I won't reveal mine yet, but I'll say one of yours was my second choice. :)

DownUpDave
06-17-2018, 10:45 AM
https://i.imgur.com/FI7pLD5m.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/qpSPN4Im.pnghttps://i.imgur.com/PuHQYSAm.png

Why such plain boring headstock overlays. Couldn't you guys come up with something a little more "interesting and unique" :biglaugh:

I like #5

Jim Hanks
06-17-2018, 11:01 AM
I like #5
Uh oh, two votes for #5, and that wasn't the one I picked. Hope I haven't ruined it. :rolleyes:

Lapyang
06-17-2018, 05:21 PM
I like #4 best also.

Jim Hanks
06-20-2018, 04:36 PM
This will ruin the surprise on my headplate choice. It was #1
https://i.imgur.com/Jj0OyMs.jpg

Jim Hanks
07-15-2018, 03:22 PM
Yay! Jonathan is back from vacation and back in the shop! I'm pretty sure this is my fretboard. Doesn't say it on the blog but comparing to posts 45 and #52 here, it seems likely.
https://i.imgur.com/g72jvXNl.jpg

Jim Hanks
07-25-2018, 04:32 PM
Finish is close to finished
https://i.imgur.com/s4Y7eB5l.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/t4dkwi8l.jpg

DownUpDave
07-26-2018, 03:24 PM
Some beautiful boxes there Jim.

Jim Hanks
07-26-2018, 04:23 PM
Some beautiful boxes there Jim.
I know, right? And mine is the best looking one of the litter. :cool:

fungusgeek
07-29-2018, 05:01 AM
Just a note on hardness, because I did not get around to posting the info when there was some earlier discussion of fingerboards, and the hardness of katalox and casuarina. (The hardness numbers are somewhat variable, depending of the source, and of course, the particular pieces of wood they tested.) There is little data on casuarina as it is not a timber wood, and there is no commercial market, but I found a couple of hardness references.

For comparison:
Katalox {Swartzia cubensis} - 3510 - 3600
Casuarina {Casuarina equisetifolia} 3200 - 3464
Ebony Macassar {Diospyrus celebica} 3220 - 3250
Ebony Ceylon {Diospyros ebenum} - 2430 - 3220
Ebony Gabon { Diospyros crassiflora} - 3080

Jim Hanks
07-31-2018, 11:52 AM
Bridge positioning and compensation:
https://i.imgur.com/uF0fQeZl.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/7Kmn2j7l.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/4z8lYM7l.jpg

Jim Hanks
07-31-2018, 12:39 PM
Now that is a wild contraption! :D
Good write up about it on the blog: http://jupiteruke.com/2018/07/31/compensation/

Jim Hanks
08-04-2018, 03:12 PM
https://i.imgur.com/pjbz8jdl.png

All that's left is letting it settle for a few days while waiting for the Misi pickup to come in, final setup check, and post it. :drool:

Spicysteve
08-04-2018, 06:39 PM
Fabulous. Can’t wait to hear it Jim.:)

DownUpDave
08-05-2018, 12:19 AM
Hey Jim.............it will be hard to sleep over the next few days no doubt. It looks REALLY good

Grizzly Adams
08-05-2018, 08:32 AM
Beautiful instrument! You made some great choices in woods and appointment. Looking forward to hearing it!

The size really interests me. Can these be strung with steel strings, or are they nylon only?

Jim Hanks
08-05-2018, 08:59 AM
The size really interests me. Can these be strung with steel strings, or are they nylon only?
This instrument is nylon/flouro only. I'm not sure if Jon makes steel string parlor guitars though he has done banjos, so maybe it's possible. Worth an ask if that's what you're interested in.

stevejfc
08-05-2018, 03:21 PM
Good write up about it on the blog: http://jupiteruke.com/2018/07/31/compensation/

I have been following Jonathan's blog since you first posted Jim. I really like his attention to detail and his in-depth descriptions.