View Full Version : New custom uke day (okay...it came Thursday)

08-20-2011, 07:57 PM
It's hard to take your hands off a new uke to post the obligatory thread, but after a couple days I finally can...

I'm sure many have followed Brad Donaldson's build thread in the Luthier's Lounge, but I now have the finished product and I couldn't be happier!

I'd actually considered having Brad (username Bradford here on UU) build me a uke, but when I found out his prices a few months ago it went from considering having him to it to actually commissioning the job!

I'd seen (and played) examples of Brad's Kumalae-inspired design. The body shape is a fantastic, vintage design - very light and small-bodied with a beautiful narrow waist. I LOVE that shape. At the same time, while I like sopranos best I also decided I wanted a super soprano (longer neck).

Brad accommodated every single one of my requests - even the weird request to have a carrot inlaid on the back of the headstock!

The best part about working with him was that he lives an easy drive from me, so when it came to talking about actual details my wife, daughter, and I drove on over to Cannon Beach and spent the afternoon at his home/shop. That is a whole different story - what an inspiration!
Okay - so without further ado, here are the pictures:

To start off, I had a Ko'olau case that I wanted to keep (my Kanile'a used to live in it - sold that to fund this project). The case is a standard soprano case, but I was hoping that the long neck may still fit... Yippee! It fits!


So with that taken care of...let's take a peek inside the case...


I really wanted a great instrument built mostly out of woods native to Oregon. The top is Port Orford Cedar, the back and sides are myrtlewood, the binding is claro walnut from Oregon, and the inlay is Oregon maple. For reasons of balance, the neck is Spanish cedar, and I prefer the look of ebony fingerboard and bridge. Brad now uses Pegheads as standard. I brought all the walnut - including the piece he used on the faceplate and end graft. I also asked him to build the headstock slightly thicker than usual to counterbalance the length of the Pegheads - the result was perfect!


The original piece of myrtlewood that I chose had a nice flame to it...and some flaws that made it unusable once resawn. This is the second choice piece, but I do love that quilting just as much!

I also asked Brad for the PoHo logo to be inlaid into the faceplate. This logo was designed by UncleElvis and I absolutely love it. PoHos (in case you haven't met us) hang out in the General Discussion forums in the Ahnko Honu thread. We've become great friends and always have room for one more person - we like to say that the only thing you need to do if you want to join the PoHos is say, "I am a PoHo" and you're in. Anyway, this crazy group of friends is important to me, and with UncleElvis' blessing I had the logo inlaid.


Next post for last pic and sound review...

08-20-2011, 08:16 PM

My last picture is of the back of the headstock - my username (bbycrts) is short for "baby carrots". It's a long story - I got the nickname at work one day when I was able to prove that I know how baby carrots are made. Anyway, the username has made for fun stories and good-natured ribbing. A couple days before I went to Brad's house my good friend, Sukie, said "Will it have a carrot on it?" I of course realized that it would be wrong for it not to. I found a simple graphic I liked and sent it to Brad - he said he knew a way to get the carrot on, in color. My wife suggested the back of the headstock - again, a perfect suggestion! This little detail marks this ukulele as MINE and made for ME and I love it!


So - you've seen how it looks...how does it sound?

FANTASTIC! It is perfectly balanced - the very sound I was looking for. I can't describe it well beyond that - it is definitely "ukey" - which is why I like sopranos - but the sustain is longer than you would expect from such a small body. Brad strung it with Fremont Blacklines, which I've never used before. However, they are fluorocarbon like the Worths I usually choose, and I'm pleased with the sound. I have a couple sets of Worths, so when it's time to change out the Blacklines I'll probably be putting the Worths on...but I don't think I'll jump and do it early.

It is a wonderful player, too. I asked for the neck to have a 1.5 inch nut instead of 1.375 which seems to be much more common. I like that width - but I also have smallish hands. Brad made a beautifully-shaped, slightly shallower profile neck, so while it is wide it's still nice and comfortable and fast for my small hands. He also radiused and bound the fretboard for me...all little details to make it look, feel, and play better.

Finally - the sound hole smell. I am a dedicated sound hole sniffer. I can't help it. Well...Port Orford cedar has a smell like none other! It is incredibly powerful and spicy - an amazing smell. I actually wallow in the scent as I play the uke - you don't have to put your nose anywhere near the sound hole to enjoy the perfume!

Last note - my proximity to my luthier of choice has other advantages. Brad delivered the uke to me in person and stayed for a while to visit. He is an absolute delight to visit with and I look forward to seeing him again next time our family is in Cannon Beach. Working with him has been an amazing experience and has made the journey of having a custom instrument built like no other. If you're in the market definitely check with him! I know his build schedule is getting full, but his prices (after selling my Kanile'a K1 soprano and paying Brad I still have enough left to take my wife out to a nice dinner), his skill, and his ability to really listen and deliver what you want are just outstanding!

08-20-2011, 08:24 PM
Congrats on the new uke!..it looks amazing..brad is truly a talented guy..hope you have years of fun playing your beautiful instrument!

08-21-2011, 03:46 AM
Congrats to you and Brad on a beautiful new ukulele. There is nothing like getting a new custom. Nice choices all around.

08-21-2011, 04:42 AM
Nice one, Jon! Play it with pride . . . One of these days, I just may order a custom. Just gotta figga out who to commission.

08-21-2011, 04:44 AM
What an absolute beauty, congratulations! I really like the vintage look, it looks almost like one of the old "romantic style" parlour guitars. I also like the individual details you have added.

08-21-2011, 05:38 AM
That is a beauty!!! Congrats!! And I love the carrot on the headstock! One day soon, I shall commission my Cursley, just have to get the funds for it :D

08-21-2011, 06:24 AM
Stunning uke there. Always something special about having one made for you, means you can get the "perfect" uke.

And Joey, good choice on a Cursley. Met Darryl at a uke festival a while back and his instruments were lovely. Great guy too, gave me a load of building hints and tips.

08-21-2011, 07:23 AM
Stunning uke there. Always something special about having one made for you, means you can get the "perfect" uke.

And Joey, good choice on a Cursley. Met Darryl at a uke festival a while back and his instruments were lovely. Great guy too, gave me a load of building hints and tips.

Yeah, I'm really excited about it :D That's all I'll say, don't want to derail the thread!

08-21-2011, 07:25 AM
Wow, that's a pretty Oregonian! Congratulations!

08-21-2011, 08:47 AM
Great looking uke. Let's year it. Wonder if Brad does those with 6 strings?

08-21-2011, 10:13 AM
That's awesome! Love the headstock logo and the look of the wood.

08-22-2011, 04:23 AM
Congrats! Enjoy!

08-23-2011, 08:29 AM
That is one fine looking ukulele! Love the carrot, too! I'm really happy you were able to get this done, Jon. Customs are fun, eh?