View Full Version : My "Salmon Uke" by Brad Donaldson

03-12-2012, 10:18 AM

Before Microsoft and Starbucks were behemoths in Seattle, Mr.T and I lived there for 10 years. We were young then (and better-looking!), and we loved the area. We traveled south to the Oregon coast, west to the Olympic Peninsula, and north to Vancouver, B.C. I wanted my Brad Donaldson soprano uke to commemorate our happy time in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

I chose Northwest woods---Washington sitka spruce and Oregon myrtle---and on the headstock I wanted a jumping salmon painted like NW Coastal Indian art. Brad made something more beautiful than I had dreamed.
--I asked for myrtle with color, and he gave me stunning chocolate stripes.
--I asked for understated decoration, and he gave me walnut binding and rosette.
--I asked for bearclaw marking, and he gave me a bookmatched piece that looks like moving water.
--I gave him salmon artwork, and he painted an image that could go in the UBC cultural museum.
--I said let's pretend the fret markers are water drops from the salmon's tail, and he said sure.

I am getting more and more attached to it as it opens up.

SOUND SAMPLE with Worth medium brown strings:


03-12-2012, 10:19 AM
More pics...


03-12-2012, 10:24 AM
Wow that looks incredible! Congrats!!

03-12-2012, 10:24 AM
So purrdy. I hope someday to have a BD to call my own that is half as nice as that one. Congrats on a fine uke

03-12-2012, 10:32 AM
WOW, a beauty!!

03-12-2012, 10:45 AM
Wowzer, thanks for sharing. Brad certainly is talented. I bought one of his sopranos (compliments of ukeeku, after his review).

Question for you GT133TT.

How is the way you communicated your desires for the uke to Brad? I'm on his list, having communicated with him my email, for a tenor with an anticipated Sept completion. BigSkyUkuleleGirl is on his build list, too.

I may have some things to add--some unique thoughts about my desires for the custom uke (like you, just give him the basic ideas and he can run with them). How did you communicate with him before (did he contact you when you came up on his list?), during and after the build? Thanks.

03-12-2012, 11:00 AM
Just so lovely... congratulations and I'm looking forward to hearing it.



03-12-2012, 11:19 AM
Wow, that is just stunning! :)

03-12-2012, 11:22 AM
How is the way you communicated your desires for the uke to Brad? I'm on his list, having communicated with him my email, for a tenor with an anticipated Sept completion. I may have some things to add--some unique questions about my desires (like you, just give him the basic ideas and he can run with them). Thoughts?


Interestingly, I never spoke with Brad---we communicated only by email. He's quite responsive and sent photos at intervals for me to comment on.

I had some clear ideas about what I wanted (wood, fingerboard shape, rosette style, headstock art), but I wanted to be a really easy customer, so I made my requests at the outset in a clearly outlined spec list (headstock and bridge shapes, strings, binding, action, etc), with photos of other ukes to show the look I wanted. When the body was done, we decided that rosewood would look better than ebony for the fingerboard, so I changed my choice as I saw it take shape.

I told Brad several times that I did not want him to hurry on it, and that I welcomed his suggestions. I let him choose the neck wood, for example, and I went with his suggestion for the finish. I decided that if I were going to have an artisan create a uke for me, I should trust his artisan's instincts. I found the salmon art, and I thought we'd have the most email over that, but he adapted the art and painted it beautifully. I revised the salmon's orientation on the headstock, and asked that the green be lightened and an extra line be added---and that was it for the part I worried most about.

The salmon seems to be jumping off the top, and neither Brad nor I wanted his logo to "block" the salmon's leap. Brad suggested putting it on the back. It works well.

PS--Showing my Salmon Uke was my 200th post on the Forum---cool!

Scott S.
03-12-2012, 11:24 AM
Wow! That's not just an ukulele, its an heirloom! Something to treasure, that's for sure. And your comments illustrate why I get so fired up about Brad's work. His ego isn't so big that he is unwilling to step back and consider something out of the ordinary. You wanted an instrument that was special to you, and Brad devoted his knowledge and skill to help make your dream a reality. Very cool in my book. Congratulations GT and way to go Brad!

Hippie Dribble
03-12-2012, 11:24 AM
wow Ginny, you must be ecstatic. That is so gorgeous, so classy, congratulations to you and to Brad on the build. Here's to many years of beautiful music together mate. :)

03-12-2012, 11:30 AM
That's a beautiful work of art!

03-12-2012, 12:11 PM
Very nice. Can't wait for mine later this year.

03-12-2012, 12:34 PM
What a beauty!

03-12-2012, 12:49 PM
Ginny it turned out fantastic! Congratulations

mm stan
03-12-2012, 01:46 PM
Congratulations Ginny,
Wow wee that is amazing and beautiful...love the bearclaw top, much more beautiful than my 2500 custom..almost more like moving water...and the sides and back dark stridations
look very beautiful...most important is the nice sound ....I am glad you are satisfied... love the bindings and all...and the salmon with the tight grain headstock...wow Happy Strummings..

03-12-2012, 01:57 PM
Beautiful uke. I would love to hear the sound sample!

03-12-2012, 02:09 PM
Simply beautiful.

03-12-2012, 02:33 PM
Congratulation Ginny! It's great you have an instrument with so much meaning and beauty.

I'm sure it sounds as great as it looks.

03-12-2012, 02:53 PM
Question - what's the finish on this uke? You mentioned that he suggested a finish? What was that? (Trying to decide what to get on my Donaldson). Thanks!

03-12-2012, 03:07 PM
Ginny: Thanks for your long and very helpful reply below. I appreciate the time you took to write it for me. Thank you.

I will approach it the same way with Brad...I know he's super busy. I will start a list of wants, and let him tweak it as he sees best.

Thank you, again, Ginny. It's a superb ukulele you have. It's so unique. I really hope that you will do a little youtube video showing it and telling about it and playing it, maybe. Cheerio.

03-12-2012, 03:17 PM
So happy to see your new baby! It looks amazing, as I knew it would! Brad's stuff is just wonderful, and he is terrific to work with. Living close by, I've had the opportunity to visit his home and workshop and have him visit my home when he delivered my custom, and he is such a delight to work with. I asked so many questions by email and then even more in person and he never showed impatience or anything...he is quite the patient craftsman, and working with him is a delight...it kind of makes me want another custom just to get to experience the fun of the process again!

03-12-2012, 03:55 PM
I really like this uke! I love it when a custom is a truly unique individual and this one definitely is! I love how you used Northwestern woods for a native home for your beautiful salmon. How does the myrtlewood sound? I've heard some people really rave about it.

03-12-2012, 04:01 PM
Absolutely stunning work! I am proud to call the Pacific Northwest my home, and see it well represented in this exemplary work. Congratulations on a superb and unique instrument.

03-12-2012, 05:09 PM
Question - what's the finish on this uke? You mentioned that he suggested a finish? What was that? (Trying to decide what to get on my Donaldson). Thanks!

I often like a satin or semi-gloss finish and I thought that's what I wanted for this. Brad said it would be better with a nitro lacquer and I agreed to it because everything else he'd done had been great. It's a thin nitro finish, not like the glassy, shiny finish on a Kanile'a gloss we have. You can still see a little texture in the wood on the back, and it stays put in my lap. So I recommend it.

03-12-2012, 05:14 PM
Way cool! It looks like he took a tall order and succeeded at meeting it! I hope yu enjoy it for a long time...

Canoe Lady
03-12-2012, 05:34 PM
Simply stunning. One of the nicest I've seen. Congrats!

03-13-2012, 10:05 AM
Well worth any wait, your myrtle looks good enough to eat! And a stunning spruce top. That's such an understated yet so distinctive uke, I prefer it when the bling is in the woods used so that they are the main attraction and not just abalone overkill. I also think the walnut is a perfect match with the spruce and myrtle, and I love the grain in your myrtle.

I note you have an ebony saddle, that should give it a really nice balanced tone. I have a white label Kamaka with the same and love the sound. I also think the fret marker dots were a little stroke of genius going with that wonderful and very elegant salmon!

Another excellent collaboration! :D

03-13-2012, 03:31 PM
stunning uke congratulations still got 6 months to wait for mine to be ready, good point from Coolkayaker, i was wondering how to communicate with Brad with the time difference between US and UK, i have some ideas for my custom and cannot wait to hear from Brad to start puttin them together

03-25-2012, 04:30 AM
I've finally recorded a sound sample for it, and I've posted it both here and on the original post.


03-25-2012, 05:20 AM
Wow. Your Donaldson 'Salmon' sounds wonderful, especially for a brand new uke, still opening up.
Great playing too. Thanks for sound sample.

03-25-2012, 05:20 AM
I like the uke, love the sound and I really really dig the story behind it! Congrats!

03-25-2012, 05:24 AM
Wow. Your Donaldson 'Salmon' sounds wonderful, especially for a brand new uke, still opening up.
Great playing too. Thanks for sound sample.

Shhh---it's actually Mr.T who's playing. I stumble and fumble when playing for anyone.