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View Full Version : My new Talsma "semi-custom" tenor ukulele



Tommy B
04-05-2012, 06:50 AM
Hi everyone. I wanted to share some pictures of my swank, new "semi-custom" tenor ukulele by Dave Talsma. This is a new ukulele with a history. Instead of being built completely from scratch, this ukulele started out life as a different instrument. It originally was a four-stringed "guitar" made in the 1980s by the Aria company for its Pepe line of children's classical guitars. The original instrument had a narrow fretboard and bowed neck that made playing difficult. But it was built lightly out of quality materials, and it sounded great when tuned as a tenor uke.

Here are some "before" pictures of the guitar.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shutterbutt/sets/72157628418569079/

Borrowing an idea from UU member Ernie, I asked Dave to reinvent this Pepe as an ukulele version of a vintage parlor guitar. Dave came through big-time, removing the old neck and bridge; carving a new, wider neck with a slot head; adding a radiused ebony fingerboard with fancy fret-marker inlays; carving a new rosewood pyramid-style bridge with bone saddle and bridge pins; and giving the body a gorgeous, vintage sunburst finish.

I've dubbed it the "Talsma Pepe Parlor." Check it out:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shutterbutt/sets/72157629191910798/

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
04-05-2012, 07:01 AM
Way to bring new life to that instrument. Very cool.

Lori
04-05-2012, 07:01 AM
Wow, that looks great. What a beautiful burst finish that is! Love to hear a sound sample.

–Lori

haole
04-05-2012, 07:05 AM
Whoa! He did a fantastic job on it. Love the finish, and the new neck is gorgeous.

I have pretty much exactly the same instrument as the one you started with. My mom bought it for my grandpa in 1979 because he was a uke player, and he always tuned it as a baritone since it's the same size. It does have an extremely narrow fretboard, but other than that it's a great instrument in its own right. I have it strung with Guadalupe's GCEA strings an octave below standard tuning.

Never thought I'd see another one, let alone one completely hot-rodded by a great luthier into a completely different instrument. Congrats!

UK Paulie
04-05-2012, 07:28 AM
Congrats on your new uke, I just love the idea of bringing an old forgotten instrument back to life and making it useful and beautiful again!! Tremendous!!

Tommy B
04-05-2012, 07:29 AM
Thanks, everyone. Lori, I'll try to get a sound sample up soon, although my recording skills are right down there with my playing skills. :eek:

Haole, you have one of these? I swear, I found absolutely no information about the four-string model online. I'm not sure what Aria intended with the four-stringer. I mean, their smallest six-string Pepe, the PS48, is supposed to be for "4- to 7-year-olds." So what were these four-stringers for, toddlers?:D I even contacted Aria, but got no response.

RyRod
04-05-2012, 09:08 AM
Awesome! I think he was working on this when I dropped off my Talsma for some repairs.

Dave is a great guy and he makes amazing instruments. I miss mine :(, but it should be done soon.

haole
04-05-2012, 09:36 AM
Haole, you have one of these? I swear, I found absolutely no information about the four-string model online. I'm not sure what Aria intended with the four-stringer. I mean, their smallest six-string Pepe, the PS48, is supposed to be for "4- to 7-year-olds." So what were these four-stringers for, toddlers?:D I even contacted Aria, but got no response.

Yup! Just looked at the label of mine and it's a PS-49-4. So it might not be the same exact model after all, but very similar. I hadn't seen another one or met anyone who knew anything about it either, until now! Haven't modified mine much, since it's a family heirloom and all (just swapped the original tuners for some gold Grovers, installed a passive pickup, and stuck a gold mermaid charm to the headstock), but after seeing the sunburst on yours, I'm starting to think that a refinish wouldn't hurt...

35920

Tommy B
04-05-2012, 10:06 AM
Yup! Just looked at the label of mine and it's a PS-49-4. So it might not be the same exact model after all, but very similar. I hadn't seen another one or met anyone who knew anything about it either, until now! Haven't modified mine much, since it's a family heirloom and all (just swapped the original tuners for some gold Grovers, installed a passive pickup, and stuck a gold mermaid charm to the headstock), but after seeing the sunburst on yours, I'm starting to think that a refinish wouldn't hurt...

35920

Interesting! Mine is, or was, a P-44-4. So I think the first number is the scale length in centimeters (mine would have been 17.3 inches; yours is just over 19 inches) and the second number denotes the number of strings. I wonder what the difference is in "PS" vs. "P." Is yours also rosewood?

If mine didn't have a bowed neck, I probably would have left it alone and played it as is, but the wider, radiused fingerboard really makes it easier to play.

(An aside: I have had two Aria Pepe six-string guitars. The smaller one, which was made in Spain, was a cedar/mahogany 1/2-sized guitar and was model number PS48. The larger one, which was made in Nagoya, Japan, is a 3/4-sized cedar/rosewood guitar and is model P59.)

PoiDog
04-05-2012, 10:07 AM
I'm not sure what Aria intended with the four-stringer. I mean, their smallest six-string Pepe, the PS48, is supposed to be for "4- to 7-year-olds." So what were these four-stringers for, toddlers?

Maybe these were actually intended to be ukes, but Aria just marketized the name to guitar because back then 'ukulele was a four-letter word?

Stevelele
04-05-2012, 10:26 AM
Dave Talsma is out of control.... that guy can do anything

Tommy B
04-05-2012, 10:36 AM
Maybe these were actually intended to be ukes, but Aria just marketized the name to guitar because back then 'ukulele was a four-letter word?

I thought of that, PoiDog, but I kind of doubt it because Aria has been building ukes for a long time, and their vintage ukes are pretty conventional in size, shape and materials. This Pepe of mine wasn't built anything like an ukulele. Even though its scale was close to tenor, the body was closer to baritone width but very shallow. And the neck was very chunky and really narrow, almost like a mandolin's. We may never know, but it's fun to speculate about this stuff.

Plainsong
04-05-2012, 11:17 AM
I think if just about anyone else tried this, the results would be so and so, but a Talsma is a Talsma and Dave did an awesome job as per usual. Don't be shy with the sound samples. :)

dkcrown
04-05-2012, 01:44 PM
I don't know what it sounds like Tommy, but it sure is pretty.

hmgberg
04-05-2012, 02:05 PM
Off the hook!

Canoe Lady
04-05-2012, 02:48 PM
That is very cool!