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View Full Version : Scored this little gem tonight...Favilla Soprano



sbpark
10-06-2012, 08:20 PM
I've been regretting selling my ukuleles last year and recently started searching for another. Was going to pull the trigger on a KTS-4, but didn't want to spend that much, and was heavily considering getting another Ohana since the CK-35G I used to have was a great instrument. I was checking out Craigslist for the off chance of finding a deal and came across this old Favilla soprano. It looked great in the pictures that were posted on the ad, and the seller described it as a great player with no major flaws, great intonation, etc. aside from the plastic ring inside the sound hole being removed at some point by a previous owner. I decided to take a chance and drive the 40 minutes to go check it out, and was glad that I did! It looked even better in person. I'm guessing it's anywhere from the mid-40's to 60's because Favilla used black friction tuners from the mid-40's and earlier, and around 1945 and on switched to the white tuners.

The neck on this uke is flawless, no fret wear at all and the action and playability are ridiculously good with zero dead spots and great intonation. The bridge appears solid. Aside from the expected wear and tear that an instrument of this age would have, it has zero cracks or major issues that need attention. The other two ukuleles I have owned (a new Ohana CK-35G, and a used Koaloha concert) both needed set up work, and I am blown away that this little uke just feels really nice as is. It came with Aquilla strings on it and they sound good, but am wondering what others have found works for this little Favilla soprano. The owner was super nice, was really great to deal with, and the ukulele looked even better in person, which is not always the case on Craigslist. Here are some quick iPhone pictures I took earlier. Will try and take some nicer ones soon.

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0736.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0737.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0733.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0735.jpg

sbpark
10-06-2012, 08:22 PM
Here are a few more pictures. I am currently on the road working as a traveling nurse, so I had to leave my other instruments at home, but have one banjo and one guitar with me currently. Everything I travel with has to fit in my car since I move to a new assignment every 3 months, but don't think I will have any problems finding room to pack this little guy in the car!

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0739.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0730.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0734.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_0743-1.jpg

Roselynne
10-06-2012, 08:35 PM
What a sweetie it is! Great addition to your fine crew. Congratulations!

Newportlocal
10-06-2012, 08:43 PM
Wow,that's great! Congratulations!

TheCraftedCow
10-06-2012, 09:15 PM
I am glad for you!! I just got one, also. Yours is one of the later ones as evidenced by the double dots at the 7th fret. It is called a Model 2.

I refinished many Favillas. I have talked to Tom Favilla on the phone to find out what the family did to get the final finish. He said his grandfather used mahogany wood filler either brown or red mahogany, and when they got low, he mixed the two together. There is no "authentic" Favilla colour. As far as semi gloss or satin: there were two of Tom's uncles ran the two spray guns, the cheaper ones were to get satin, and the better ukes were to get semi gloss. It really just all depended on which uncle had which gun that got the next ukulele. When I refinish, I put back what it was. The front of the headstock doesnt get anything done which will alter the Favilla label. If you would like to have it in even better shape than it is, I would like to do it for you. Mine shipped from Connecticut to Oregon cost $11.14.

I taught school in Hemet and San Jacinto for 14 years, so I can brag about being from SoCal ..and gladly for 36 years!!

I can show you pictures of the one I just refinished, and of a couple other I did. All it will cost you is the shipping. Why would I do it for no charge? Almost all of my ukuleles have a story which goes along with them. It sound like yours also has a story. I would like to be a part of it.
www.thecraftedcow.weebly.com or www.pegheds.net or www.classicalgoats.com show what I currently do.

sbpark
10-06-2012, 11:38 PM
I emailed Thomas Favilla with the pics above attached in the email asking him about this particular ukulele and it's approximate age and this was the reply I received:

"Scott,
You have a model U3 ukulele (better model) built in the late 1940's (possible
very early 1950's). A better model ukulele, not very many were built over the
years. It was in prduction from the late 1930's to 1963.
You can quickly tell the difference between the U2 and U3 by looking at the
fingerboard. The position marks are painted on the U2, but are inlaid on the U3."

Pretty stoked, I have to say!

barefootgypsy
10-06-2012, 11:41 PM
Wow, what a great thread! I'm enjoying this story already! Whatever happens with the Favilla, congrats on finding it, good luck with it, and keep us informed! :D

sbpark
10-06-2012, 11:55 PM
Wow, what a great thread! I'm enjoying this story already! Whatever happens with the Favilla, congrats on finding it, good luck with it, and keep us informed! :D

I can tell you I am going to keep this ukulele! It isn't going anywhere! As generous as the offer is from TheCraftedCow to refinish it (and believe me, that is a VERY generous offer!), I think it will remain 'as is', and think it wears the scratches and blemishes well, and just gives gives it a more dignified look, and each of those 'blemishes' tells a story! The only think I would like to do is have the missing purfling around the sound hole replaced somehow, but not at the risk of damaging the instrument, or having to have it refinished.

sbpark
10-07-2012, 06:14 AM
Can anyone who has played these or owns one suggest a particular type of string for these? Should I string it with the same strings that seem to be favored by vintage martin collectors? Any suggestions would be appreciated!

RyanMFT
10-07-2012, 06:17 AM
I have a Favilla Soprano, a Favilla Teardrop Soprano, and a Marca Aquila Soprano and I really like Martin M600 strings on them. Aquila strings are a bit harsh on these little guys.

Enjoy your vintage ukulele!

jackwhale
10-07-2012, 06:36 AM
The guitar also caught my eye. Which guitar and model is in picture?

sbpark
10-07-2012, 06:55 AM
The guitar also caught my eye. Which guitar and model is in picture?

The guitar is a VERY inexpensive, low-end model Recording King ROS-06. They cost close to $290 currently, but I picked mine up shortly after they were released and paid around $200 for it new. It's not perfect, but for the money it really is an amazing guitar. I took it to my repair guy and had the 'soft' stock bone saddle replaced and action adjusted, frets cleaned up a bit, and it is a great sounding guitar. It has a pretty wide fretboard with a nut width of 1 13/16", which makes it really nice for finger picking. What you can't see is the really nice faux tortoise shell binding and really nice faux tortoise shell heel cap and the finish is really nice for a budget instrument like this. It's not perfect, but for what they cost you can't be too picky. I have read how some have complained about the tuners being cheap, which they are, but they work absolutely fine for me and have NEVER slipped or not stayed in tune. Maybe I just got a good one, but have owned mine for about a year and a half now and love it. I have owned other Recording King instruments, and all of them have impressed me with their quality and sound, including two RK banjos. Usually they just need some fine tuning in the form of a set up from a good repair person, some fret polishing, etc, but almost any instrument these days coming out of a factory is going to need a good set up. Can't recommend their instruments enough. The newer RP-06 that was recently released is a smaller '0' body style with a slightly different neck profile and 1 3/4" nut width. Here's a link to one on the Elderly site: http://www.elderly.com/new_instruments/items/RP06.htm Below is another picture of mine.

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_1881.jpg

sbpark
10-07-2012, 10:19 AM
Just received another email from Mr. Favilla, who has been wonderful enough to answer my questions. THis was regarding dating the instrument, the color of the tuners, etc.

"Always good to go to the source for information. In all fairness the story of the black and white buttons
is a generalzation and not 100% true. In general black buttons up to WWII and white buttons after that.
I would say that holds about 90% of the time. The give-a-way on your ukulele was that the inlay was
at the edge of the soundhole and not 1/8" of in inch in. That was discontinued in the 1940's."

sbpark
10-07-2012, 12:22 PM
Here are some better pictures I took...

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_2912.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_2914.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_2922.jpg

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh275/sbparker01/IMG_2929.jpg

sbpark
10-07-2012, 05:55 PM
Restrung it tonight with Worth Clears and although I lost a tad bit of volume compared to the Aquillas, it has a slightly more mellow, 'rounder' pleasing sound that seems more fitting for a mahogany ukulele. But I have to say, the Aquillas did not sound that abd on this ukulele, and I usually can't stand Aquillas on anything! I've mentioned this in the past, but Aquilla strings just sound mismatched to each other and never have sounded like a 'set' to me. They always have differences in tone and volume compared to each other, giving the uke an unbalanced sound to my ears. Worth browns and Worth clears have always come through for me. I only had a set of clears sitting around, but they seem to compliment this uke nicely. Although browns have been my go to string for another mahogany ukulele I owned in the past, they may be too mellow for this one.

TheCraftedCow
10-07-2012, 07:52 PM
I am glad that we still have Tom around to answer our Favilla qstns. I did not know that there is also a model 3 and the difference. Some ukuleles carry their stories on their fronts-backs or sides. Can you imagine someone trying to "repair" Willy Nelson's guitar. The inlay does not require refinishing to accomplish that rstoration

sbpark
10-07-2012, 08:05 PM
I am glad that we still have Tom around to answer our Favilla qstns. I did not know that there is also a model 3 and the difference. Some ukuleles carry their stories on their fronts-backs or sides. Can you imagine someone trying to "repair" Willy Nelson's guitar. The inlay does not require refinishing to accomplish that rstoration

I am just wondering if it is possible to actually have that purfling/ring around the sound hole replaced? Is this something a respectable luthier can do?

didgeridoo2
10-07-2012, 08:40 PM
Restrung it tonight with Worth Clears and although I lost a tad bit of volume compared to the Aquillas, it has a slightly more mellow, 'rounder' pleasing sound that seems more fitting for a mahogany ukulele. But I have to say, the Aquillas did not sound that abd on this ukulele, and I usually can't stand Aquillas on anything! I've mentioned this in the past, but Aquilla strings just sound mismatched to each other and never have sounded like a 'set' to me. They always have differences in tone and volume compared to each other, giving the uke an unbalanced sound to my ears. Worth browns and Worth clears have always come through for me. I only had a set of clears sitting around, but they seem to compliment this uke nicely. Although browns have been my go to string for another mahogany ukulele I owned in the past, they may be too mellow for this one.
When I had my Favilla soprano, I really liked Aquila concert strings on it. Much more than the Aquila soprano set. Maybe even more than I liked worths on it, and I like worths on mostly everything.

garyg
10-08-2012, 03:35 AM
I have owned four Favilla sopranos (all U2's ranging from late 20"s/early 30's) to late 30's/late 40's) and my favorite strings are Fremont Blacklines although Worth Browns also sound great on these ukes. I don't like either aquilas or Martin flourocarbon strings, and the two mentioned above and Orcas are my favorite strings for vintage ukes. There was a u-3 that sold on ebay recently, the vendor was Mrfogg I think. I passed on it because I just have too many ukes but it was a great looking uke and the guy seems to know a bit about the instrument. IMO Favilla's are the absolute best buy in a vintage uke. You simply can't get a better sound for the money and nowadays you can get a U2 on ebay for less than $300. Enjoy your uke. If you want to hear a Favilla here's a little video that I made when I was trying to sell one of mine www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFmRiPdGUHM . There seem to be some minor discrepancies in information about pronunciation and dating, various people have been told by family members that it's both Fa'villa and Favilla' and also slightly varying percentages on the ukes with black tuner buttons vs. ukes with white tuners. I'm always glad to get the information but as with many uke brands the past is a little blurry. OTOH who really cares when these ukes sound so good and cost so little.

RyanMFT
10-08-2012, 02:13 PM
I'm curious what the "plastic ring" around the sound hole looked like? Have you located any pictures on the web? I watch for Favilla pretty closely on eBay cause I love em' and I haven't seen one with a plastic ring yet.

garyg
10-08-2012, 02:28 PM
Ryan, here's one that was on ebay and sold for under 200, should have pulled the trigger but I've already got 3 Favilla U2 sopranos, now if you want one of those we can work something out <g>. It's not a plastic ring but an inlay I suspect, that's popped out on this uke. Here's the link http://www.ebay.com/itm/Favilla-Model-U-3-Soprano-Ukulele-Solid-Mahogany-1950s-60s-Vintage-Antique-Rare-/261101438836?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3ccadbc774&nma=true&si=vOi%2BUOAa54DQSSxMFLFEERXrXzU%3D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557 hope that works, it looks odd, if it doesn't go to the bay and do advanced search for completed auctions and Favilla u3 ukulele ciao baby, g2


I'm curious what the "plastic ring" around the sound hole looked like? Have you located any pictures on the web? I watch for Favilla pretty closely on eBay cause I love em' and I haven't seen one with a plastic ring yet.

sbpark
10-08-2012, 02:55 PM
Ryan, here's one that was on ebay and sold for under 200, should have pulled the trigger but I've already got 3 Favilla U2 sopranos, now if you want one of those we can work something out <g>. It's not a plastic ring but an inlay I suspect, that's popped out on this uke. Here's the link http://www.ebay.com/itm/Favilla-Model-U-3-Soprano-Ukulele-Solid-Mahogany-1950s-60s-Vintage-Antique-Rare-/261101438836?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3ccadbc774&nma=true&si=vOi%2BUOAa54DQSSxMFLFEERXrXzU%3D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557 hope that works, it looks odd, if it doesn't go to the bay and do advanced search for completed auctions and Favilla u3 ukulele ciao baby, g2

THe ring was purfling that went around the inside edge of the sound hole. According to Thomas Favilla, I was told in an email that this is how he was able to date the instrument somewhere in the 1940s. Sometime in the 1940s they stopped putting this purfling around the inside edge of the sound hole and moved it onto the top, actually 1/8" in from the soundhole. This example goes to show, and Mr. Favilla even mentioned that this is why the color of the tuners are not a dead giveaway on the age of the instrument, although typically he said that black tuners were used up until WWII, but this was not always the case. Also, mine is a U3, which according to Mr. Favilla is a U3, which he describes as 'the better model' because it has fret markers inlaid instead of being painted on, which was the case with the U2 models. Apparently there were a lot less U3's produced than U2's.

garyg
10-08-2012, 03:35 PM
Scott, it would be great to see a picture of the uke with the purfling or was it posted at the beginning of the thread. Here's the main "history" site for Favilla, there are a number of pics of a later U3 if you scroll down a bit. cheers, g2

garyg
10-08-2012, 03:49 PM
Ooops forgot to put the link in http://www.catfish1952.com/favilla.html

Scott, it would be great to see a picture of the uke with the purfling or was it posted at the beginning of the thread. Here's the main "history" site for Favilla, there are a number of pics of a later U3 if you scroll down a bit. cheers, g2

sbpark
10-10-2012, 03:26 PM
Took the Favilla to my repair guy who does the work on my guitars and banjos. I knew there wasn't anything wrong with this ukulele, and it's darn near perfect as far as set up goes, but he is a ukulele guy, and loves old sopranos. He opened the case and was stoked. He agreed and said it's absolutely perfect and needs nothing, and sees no need to replace the missing purfling around the sound hole. Was hard to get it back from him because he wouldn't stop playing it!

TheCraftedCow
10-10-2012, 08:56 PM
In that it is right on the edge, it would be much easier to do the black-yellow-black than if it were a thin inlay with the mahogany inside of it. What did you do to get rid of the white-eyed scratches on the back? I was going to suggest a Tibetan Almond stick (on line purchase)

sbpark
10-11-2012, 01:19 AM
In that it is right on the edge, it would be much easier to do the black-yellow-black than if it were a thin inlay with the mahogany inside of it. What did you do to get rid of the white-eyed scratches on the back? I was going to suggest a Tibetan Almond stick (on line purchase)

I did nothing to get rid of the scratches. Honestly, I have done nothing to the ukulele since purchasing it aside from changing the Aquillas to WOrth clears and tightening two of the tuners. The scratches don't look as bad in the second run of pictures because I took them without a flash in the camera. The first set of pictures were taken with my iPhone and flash, which brought out every little detail, making it look worse than it actually is.

SailingUke
10-11-2012, 06:57 AM
My experience is with most vintage instruments the Aquilla are a little to harsh.
Aquillas also have more tension which I am not a fan of exposing my vintage instruments too.
I will gladly trade volume for nice tone. If I need to be loud I'll use one of my modern ukes with a pickup.