View Full Version : Bear in the woods. New Uke Day!

Hippie Dribble
02-20-2014, 11:21 AM
Hey gang, not usually one to show off my ukes but this one is very special to me. It arrived while I was on vacation and was built by the wonderful Duane Heilman of Black Bear Guitars and Ukuleles.

I have kinda been looking for a soprano to end my restless searching, buying and selling for years and this time I have her. It is truly everything and more I ever dreamed of in a soprano ukulele, in terms of tone, playability and beauty.

I gave Duane a pretty detailed but kinda "loose" description of the wood I'd like him to use, and of what I was looking for aesthetically, just enough elbow room for his creative artistry to blossom and man, has he delivered.

Here are the detailed specs as described by Duane:

Body wood and head plate overlay are Macadamia. The neck is Mango reinforced with a graphite truss rod. The neck fingerboar and bridge are a combination of maple, Apricot wood for the center strip bordered by white and rosewood wood strips. The neck dots and side dots are orange wood dust, orange dye and CA glue. The bindings around the body, heel cap and inside edge of the sound hole and peghead are ivoiroid vinyl. Inside top purfling and sound hole rosette are a combination of rosewood, maple, and apricot wood strips. The bear logo is orange colored reconstituted stone inlaid into ebony with a maple ring. The nut and bridge saddle are bone. The tuning pegs are gold colored Grover friction pegs with Apricot wood knobs. The playing scale is 13 3/4" and the nut width is 1 3/8". The finish is gloss nitrocellulose lacquer hand rubbed to a semi-gloss look with a satin feel. The colored is added to the lacquer for only one coat, sprayed on after the sealer is applied, then 5 clear finish coats are sprayed on after that. The strings are Worth BM brand and they sound very nice for this uke. The strings are installed with a string-through the bridge type of arrangement.

Here are some pictures I took this morning:


The neck is smooth as silk and it is a joy to play. It has a warm tone and excellent volume. Duane took my ideas and made them real and I am so grateful. I know I have bought and sold many instruments but this is one that will be with me always. Did I mention how gorgeous it is?

Here is a little demo sound clip I made with the uke yesterday. Strings are still bedding in but you'll maybe get an idea. Macadamia seems to have a very punchy, responsive sound very much like mahogany.


Thanks for looking folks, I'm really excited about this instrument, it will be getting a lot of play time. :)

02-20-2014, 11:30 AM
Love the sound - great song! Great job singing as well. What a striking instrument. Everything is gorgeous and so balanced, both in sound and looks. I love it!

02-20-2014, 11:44 AM
Beauty Jon, the fingerboard and the rosette are very sweet!

I thought you would be doing "Teddybear Picnic" for the sound bite :)


02-20-2014, 11:52 AM
Great look and wonderful sound. Duane is true visual artist. I think you have found the one, my friend.

02-20-2014, 12:01 PM
Hey gang, not usually one to show off my ukes

I think most of us wish you showed them off more. I love these types of posts. Description, pics, and sound sample of a nice custom uke. I could read these types of posts all day.

02-20-2014, 12:11 PM
Ooooh .. a bear on the headstock! Congratulations on owning a fine-sounding ukulele!

02-20-2014, 12:15 PM
Congratulations Jon! That's a truly stunning one-of-a-kind Black Bear!

I've got a 'basic' macadamia model, but I've got to say... macadamia is an amazing tone wood. I love the shimmer, the dark red curly grains and the warm & deep sound of macadamia. Personally I think it sounds closer to koa than mahogany (especially compared to my Timms S0 and my Martin S0).

02-20-2014, 12:48 PM
Oooo!! Gorgeous!!

02-20-2014, 01:01 PM
That's a real beauty Jon and it sounds as good as it looks!

02-20-2014, 01:31 PM
wow, congrats! It's gorgeous....the fretboard design is very creative....

02-20-2014, 01:32 PM
A golden beauty--congratulations!

02-20-2014, 02:03 PM
Jon, congrats. That thing is badass :cool:

Ukulele Eddie
02-20-2014, 02:30 PM
Really nice. So nice when a special project turns out just like you hoped.

02-20-2014, 03:24 PM
Congratulations, Jon! Great ukulele: wonderful sound and appearance. Love it.

Hippie Dribble
02-20-2014, 05:31 PM
Thanks a lot everyone for sharing my joy. :)

02-20-2014, 06:47 PM
What a beauty, Jon! Can't wait to hear more. Glad you got a keeper!

Hippie Dribble
02-20-2014, 07:00 PM
What a beauty, Jon! Can't wait to hear more. Glad you got a keeper!

Thanks a lot Randy.

A FYI...just hooked onto FMM and noticed Duane has a new spec macadamia soprano on the board, without all the bells & whistles, just sayin... :old:

02-20-2014, 07:09 PM
Beautiful uke! Love the way you put yourself into the song.

02-20-2014, 09:17 PM
If you were a uke, Eugene, you'd look just like this little beauty....

02-21-2014, 01:52 AM
That is one stunning black bear. Duane is an artist. Side note: did you ever take possession of your Ono baritone?

02-21-2014, 08:13 AM
Great looking uke and wonderful performance!


02-21-2014, 08:43 AM
What a beautiful and unique instrument. Gotta love that fingerboard!

02-21-2014, 09:03 AM
Good sound, good tune, and great looking instrument! Are those frets as tall as they appear to be? I like taller frets.

Your Macademia, Apricot, and Mango description reminded me that I should have eaten lunch, rather than doing a string change at noon. Jeez, I'm hungry now...LOL!

02-21-2014, 09:10 AM
Beautiful looking. You are lucky Duane even sent it to you after finishing it. I might have claimed that it 'inexplicably went missing'. :)

02-21-2014, 09:54 AM
That looks and sounds spectacular. I love these sorts of posts too - keep 'em coming!! (The rest of us can dream, can't we????)

Brian W
02-21-2014, 10:35 AM
Now that is one great, custom-designed uke; I like it!!! The sound ain't too shabby either ;)