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Steve in Kent
06-06-2018, 12:15 AM
Well,

I have bit the bullet and paid the deposit for a custom ukulele.

I was very taken with the Pono Macassar Ebony series but they are very difficult to get in the UK so decided to look at pursuing the bespoke route.

This is going to be a 65th birthday present from my wife, (will probably include Christmas too :)).

I contacted a few luthiers, both well known, and not so well known, with my original specification and after a fair amount of emails going back and forth decided to go with Marshall Stapleton.

Marshall is well known, down to earth, and very honest when discussing the specification, also his enthusiasm just came across in his emails.

Some of you may have heard of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Marshall has both played for, (along with George Hinchliffe and a few others, the embryonic Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain was started), and supplied ukuleles to the UOGB.

http://marshallstapleton.wix.com/guitars#!

My original specification was

Macassar ebony back and sides
Cedar top
Slotted headstock
Ebony fretboard and bridge
Fretboard bound with maple
Ebony faceplate on the headstock
Maple binding


After a few emails with Marshall it's currently standing at

Macassar ebony back and sides
Torrefied spruce top
Additional sound hole on upper bout
Slotted headstock
Conical fretboard
Ebony fretboard and bridge
Fretboard bound with maple
Ebony faceplate on the headstock
Maple binding

Other details such nut width, bridge type, rosette design etc., (I really like his rosette designs, and it will be difficult to choose), will be discussed as and when required.

I asked Marshall about the pros and cons of a radiused fretboard, and he says he prefers a conical fretboard, so that's that decided.

I originally wanted a cedar top but then, after a lot of Google searches about tonewoods, read about torrefied spruce. Marshall was interested in using this top, so I've decided to go for it as it's something different, and it is a custom build after all.

Marshall has kindly agreed to let me post images of the build here, so hopefully I'll be able to share what will be, for me, an exciting next few months.

He is currently quite busy so don't I do not expect anything soon, but couldn't wait to share :D

DownUpDave
06-06-2018, 01:03 AM
Congratulations, it seems a well thought out collaboration. I had to research "conical fretboard" to find out it is a compound radius, Kinnard does those. If you like a radius you will like the conical/compound, I've owned two Kinnards and liked the playability. Good choice on the torrified spruce. What is this second soundhole on the upper bout??? Are you referring to a side sound port or will this have two sound holes on the top?? I will look forward to the pictures

tangimango
06-06-2018, 01:16 AM
good choice with a torrified spruce top. Would have gone with Redwood.
also try a string thru bridge design and 1.5 inch wide nut.
try add a Arm Bevel and Scopp cutaway. :)

Steve in Kent
06-06-2018, 02:37 AM
Congratulations, it seems a well thought out collaboration. I had to research "conical fretboard" to find out it is a compound radius, Kinnard does those. If you like a radius you will like the conical/compound, I've owned two Kinnards and liked the playability. Good choice on the torrified spruce. What is this second soundhole on the upper bout??? Are you referring to a side sound port or will this have two sound holes on the top?? I will look forward to the pictures

A side sound port.

Jim Hanks
06-06-2018, 02:40 AM
Cool. Following!

Steve in Kent
06-06-2018, 02:41 AM
good choice with a torrified spruce top. Would have gone with Redwood.
also try a string thru bridge design and 1.5 inch wide nut.
try add a Arm Bevel and Scopp cutaway. :)

I'll probably go with 40mm nut width and 10mm between string, as per my KoAloha.

I thought about Redwood, so many choices.....

Also thought about an arm bevel/comfort edge but having not built one before, he didn't want the first one to be a custom made ukulele.

I think the scoop cutaway would fit into the same bracket.

Osprey
06-06-2018, 04:20 AM
It looks as if you will have something really special. Looking forward to updates on progress.

ukantor
06-06-2018, 07:26 AM
Congratulations, Steve. Exciting times!

John Colter

Steve in Kent
06-18-2018, 07:04 PM
Well, after planing down the set these "spalting" spots appeared.

They are not soft and will not affect the strength at all, but it's up to me whether I want a different set or not.

Torn between having a standard pretty Macassar back and a really interesting totally one off back....

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Jim Hanks
06-19-2018, 11:27 AM
When it's a choice between standard and unique, I am rarely "torn", but that's just me. :p

Steve in Kent
06-19-2018, 12:06 PM
When it's a choice between standard and unique, I am rarely "torn", but that's just me. :p

So standard then? :)

tangimango
06-19-2018, 11:31 PM
those spalting spots look so dang cool, but the rest of the grain pattern not so much.

DownUpDave
06-20-2018, 12:20 AM
Well seeing as you asked........I would not go with that back. The "spots" just don't do it for me. But it is your instrument so you should go with what you prefer.

maxmax
06-20-2018, 12:36 AM
I like the spots! Looks like it's been in a bar fight or two. :cool:

Steve in Kent
06-21-2018, 07:03 AM
Or this?

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Steve in Kent
06-26-2018, 03:10 AM
Decided to go with the second ukulele set, without the spots.

It's from stock originally cut in the 60's, so 50 odd years old already.

Also going with these Rubner tuners, after Pete Howlett suggested taking a look at Rubner.

110035

Black nickel-plated brass
Elaborate engravings
Ebony buttons
PTFE mounting
Shaft spacing: 35 mm
Metal shafts

stevepetergal
06-26-2018, 03:14 AM
Decided to go with the second ukulele set, without the spots.

A very good choice.

DownUpDave
06-26-2018, 11:12 AM
Or this?

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Now that's a piece of wood. Great choice :cheers:

Steve in Kent
06-26-2018, 09:26 PM
I'd also like to fit a pickup, but which one?

I've read great report of the Misi Acoustic Trio, but even this comes with or without volume and tone control.

Any suggestions?

I currently use an iRig Acoustic Stage, so I suppose I could just carry on using it as it's pretty damn good.

Cheers,

Steve

DownUpDave
06-27-2018, 02:18 AM
I own 6 ukes with LR Baggs 5.0, two baritones and four tenors. I own 2 ukes (I've had others) with Misi, a tenor and a super concert that one has the volume tone control wheels. I also own an iRig Acoustic Stage, same as you do. Both LR Baggs and Misi sound very very close to one another. I would give the slight nod to the Baggs, I really like the volume wheel. If you get the Misi definitely get the volume tone wheels.

The iRig is ok but for performing live I just really like the ease of plug and play. Nothing to hook onto the uke, no thin little wire dangling about, no preamp I have to clip onto my belt. The iRig, as you know, has a nice sound but not with all my ukes. Some sound too boomy which can be inherent with an internal mic. Same with feedback problems, I don't want any of those hassles on stage.

hollisdwyer
06-27-2018, 02:49 AM
The Rubner tuners are a very nice choice :D very classy.

I second that. Those are the one I have on my Beau Hannam Tenor. Best tuners I have ever seen.

hollisdwyer
06-27-2018, 02:54 AM
I own 6 ukes with LR Baggs 5.0, two baritones and four tenors. I own 2 ukes (I've had others) with Misi, a tenor and a super concert that one has the volume tone control wheels. I also own an iRig Acoustic Stage, same as you do. Both LR Baggs and Misi sound very very close to one another. I would give the slight nod to the Baggs, I really like the volume wheel. If you get the Misi definitely get the volume tone wheels.

The iRig is ok but for performing live I just really like the ease of plug and play. Nothing to hook onto the uke, no thin little wire dangling about, no preamp I have to clip onto my belt. The iRig, as you know, has a nice sound but not with all my ukes. Some sound too boomy which can be inherent with an internal mic. Same with feedback problems, I don't want any of those hassles on stage.

I agree with Dave. I went the MiSi route because you never have to worry about batteries anymore. I believe that the 5.0 and MiSi use the same Baggs under saddle pu with only the Electronics being different.

Steve in Kent
06-27-2018, 03:25 AM
Wow,

Thanks guys, so it's between the Misi and the Baggs.

Now for a troll through all the youtube vids....

The wood set should be arriving with Marshall either today or tomorrow.

Steve

Steve in Kent
06-27-2018, 04:24 AM
That didn't take too long,

I think I would have been very happy with either, but went with the L.R. Baggs Five.O

I know it's got a battery but it's 300 hours Vs 16 hours, and I can have a spare battery in the case.

Now, the case........ :)

Steve

Steve in Kent
06-27-2018, 04:47 AM
I second that. Those are the one I have on my Beau Hannam Tenor. Best tuners I have ever seen.

Just taken a look at Beau Hannam ukuleles, very, very nice.

Steve in Kent
08-08-2018, 10:07 PM
Marshall has now received the torrified spruce top he ordered from the USA.

And here's just a couple of reasons I am waiting for mine to be built, but I'm in no hurry at all, so no worries.

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

Steve

Steve in Kent
08-20-2018, 01:29 AM
The build is getting closer to being started, Marshall has got a few electric ukuleles to do first, then it's on to mine.

This is the torrefied spruce top purchased from www.stewmac.com

111346

Hopefully not only will it sound beautiful, it will also show some nice figuring.

Steve

EddiePlaysBass
08-21-2018, 08:38 PM
Subscribed!

Steve in Kent
09-16-2018, 10:11 PM
Well, Marshall has now started to build my ukulele

Top and back have been bookmatched

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Sides have been formed

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and assembled

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and Marshall has started to scrape the top and back to final thickness.

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I do like the look of that Macassar.

Spicysteve
09-17-2018, 05:43 AM
Love your wood choices. The Rubner tuners are going to look fabulous. Enjoying the build progression.

Cheers,

Steve.

Kenn2018
09-17-2018, 06:28 AM
Steve, The ebony is going to look fantastic. It's a beautiful, deep rich looking wood. And the pieces you chose are wonderful. The torrefied spruce should be a nice counter to the ebony and project like crazy. It's gonna knock it out of the park.

As far as pickups go, I prefer passives because I don't play amplified all that often. (I have 2 K&Ks & a Pono) So I don't want to chance having the battery go bad by leaving it in the instrument for months without charging. (Or changing.) If you are going to use it with an amp a lot, then the Baggs and the Misi both have great reputations.

Really great to be able to watch the build in progress. Thanks for sharing it with us.

PS: Your HUG ukulele club looks like a fun group. Very active as well. That's terrific.

Steve in Kent
09-18-2018, 10:17 PM
Steve, The ebony is going to look fantastic. It's a beautiful, deep rich looking wood. And the pieces you chose are wonderful. The torrefied spruce should be a nice counter to the ebony and project like crazy. It's gonna knock it out of the park.

As far as pickups go, I prefer passives because I don't play amplified all that often. (I have 2 K&Ks & a Pono) So I don't want to chance having the battery go bad by leaving it in the instrument for months without charging. (Or changing.) If you are going to use it with an amp a lot, then the Baggs and the Misi both have great reputations.

Really great to be able to watch the build in progress. Thanks for sharing it with us.

PS: Your HUG ukulele club looks like a fun group. Very active as well. That's terrific.

Thank you for your kind words, hopefully it will turn out to look and sound fantastic.

It will be used at a lot of gigs, so will be plugged in a lot.

I've already purchased the L.R. Baggs Five.O, and it's with Marshall, so decision is pretty much made...

HUG takes a lot of time for the those of us that help run it, but it's worth it.

Steve in Kent
09-19-2018, 03:38 AM
And here's the design of the rosette.

I do not like a lot of bling on my ukuleles, and I think this looks pretty classy, ebony with maple veneer.

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Steve in Kent
09-26-2018, 09:34 PM
More progress

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The faint white line you can see on the side is about the final shape.

Comment from Marshall about the top.

"This one sounds amazing with the struts glued on! The tap tone really rings out with different notes depending where you tap it"

Steve in Kent
09-28-2018, 03:54 AM
And even more

Wiring for the pick-up

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Rear showing fillet etc.

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Back with strengthening strip

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Glueing the top on

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Top fitted

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Rakelele
09-28-2018, 07:47 PM
Congratulations, Steve, you'll be having an amazing birthday present! Great choice of wood, that ebony looks spectacular. The bracing looks very interesting as well. Looking forward to see more.

Kenn2018
09-29-2018, 11:00 AM
That's going to be a great looking & sounding ukulele. It's nice that you can have the pickup installed during the build. I'd think it would make positioning and securing the wiring and the battery easier? Anyway, thanks for posting the photos. Fun to see.

Steve in Kent
10-03-2018, 06:15 AM
And a few more photos from Marshall.

Neck joint, lots more carving to do on the neck though :)

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Fretboard trial fit, bindings are just temporary for fitting purposes.

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Back braces getting glued.

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Spicysteve
10-03-2018, 11:46 AM
Getting so much closer, what a gorgeous ukulele. So enjoying following along.
I may be getting as excited as you are Steve. :cool:

Steve in Kent
10-05-2018, 09:15 PM
I'm currently trying to decide what shape the end of the fretboard should be.....

Straight, wavy, angled, circular, pointed

So much choice my head is spinning.

Steve in Kent
10-10-2018, 09:51 PM
Back is now glued on

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Starting the slotted headstock

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Steve

Steve in Kent
10-26-2018, 08:17 PM
The neck is now on, still to be bound.

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End of fretboard detail

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Jim Hanks
10-27-2018, 01:52 AM
That is gonna be one classy uke when it gets under finish. Nice choice on the fretboard

Booksniffer
10-27-2018, 11:16 AM
That is going to be one terrific ukulele!

I bought a Marshall Stapleton (non-custom) ukulele a while ago, and it has become my most beloved player. Nothing compares to the tone it has!
In case of fire, after living housemates, it would be the first thing to grab.

His finish has a rather 'rustic' quality (might be different on customs), but I quite like that, makes me less nervous to handle and play the instrument.

I'm looking forward to seeing & hearing more of yours!

Steve in Kent
10-27-2018, 10:17 PM
One of the things I liked about Marshall's ukuleles are that they are more about the sound than the looks.

"Rustic" is a good description.

Suits my personality perfectly....

Steve in Kent
11-05-2018, 09:46 PM
First coats of polish going on..... getting closer:)

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Steve in Kent
12-04-2018, 11:46 PM
Almost there....

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Had a bit of trouble with the L R Baggs pickup.

A small piece of the battery holder was broken, unfortunately Gear4Music were totally unhelpful as they said it was over 6 months from the order.

Very strange as their website states

"In addition to our money back guarantee scheme, all our products are supplied with a minimum of 2 years' warranty (as of 11th April 2017). If your goods develop a fault within the warranty period, we will quickly repair or replace the item for you, and if we are unable to do this we will offer you a refund. "

On the other hand L R Baggs could not be more helpful and a new one is on it's way.

So kudos to L R Baggs then

Steve in Kent
12-07-2018, 08:19 PM
Gear4Music now say that

"I think you have been miss-advised on the phone.

We will take this back for a manufacturer repair."

Which is all good, but a bit late as the unit is already on it's way back over the pond to L. R. Baggs.

Just a bit more time for the ukulele to settle in, no bad thing.

Steve in Kent
12-20-2018, 10:04 PM
Just picked it up from Royal Mail this morning.

For some reason it looks smaller than my KoAloha KTM-00 but it's exactly the same size, interesting.

All looking good at the moment, the neck profile is more like my Pono than my KoAloha but it's a small point and nothing that's going to bother me.

It's 20mm rather than 18mm, can't believe I can notice 2mm.

The sound though, well, it meets everything that I was looking, (hearing?), for.

Each note just rings out and it's got more sustain than my KTM-00.

Marshall has left the action a little high, but I'll adjust that to suit my needs when it's settled in a bit more.

I'll try to take some photos later.

So far I am really, really pleased.