Can anyone ID this uke for me? Some kind of Vita

necessaryrooster

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Lots of damage that will need to be repaired, but can someone ID this uke for me? There are no manufacturer marks inside that I can see. I've googled "HMD Ukulele" and nothing comes up, which makes me think it was a personal customized inlay. vitabody close.jpgheadstock close.jpgvita full.jpgHMD Stock.jpg
 

ksiegel

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It looks like a mahogany copy of the original Harmony Roy Smeck Vita-Ukes, which had a spruce top and nothing around the sound holes. The end of the fretboard also differs significantly from the Harmony models, and the shoulders on yours look shallower.

1633818340750.png

I remember seeing what looked like an all-mahogany Vita Uke at Ukulele Source in San Jose, CA 10-11 years back, but didn't look too closely at it after a glance at the price tag.

The headstock on the one you are showing looks like a modification, and the inlay also looks added.

How is the body? Any cracks?

And the most important question is, of course, how does it sound?


-Kurt
 

necessaryrooster

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It looks like a mahogany copy of the original Harmony Roy Smeck Vita-Ukes, which had a spruce top and nothing around the sound holes. The end of the fretboard also differs significantly from the Harmony models, and the shoulders on yours look shallower.

View attachment 136251

I remember seeing what looked like an all-mahogany Vita Uke at Ukulele Source in San Jose, CA 10-11 years back, but didn't look too closely at it after a glance at the price tag.

The headstock on the one you are showing looks like a modification, and the inlay also looks added.

How is the body? Any cracks?

And the most important question is, of course, how does it sound?


-Kurt
Oh yeah, the back has multiple cracks. The center joint is separating, there's a couple of smaller cracks, and then another big one all down the back that looks like someone tried to fill it in but did a bad job. I'll probably need to replace it entirely. Not sure if you can tell from the photo but the neck is crooked as well, on top of the fretboard damage. I'm probably going to take the whole thing to pieces and then see what I can salvage. The sides and top look okay (no cracks, just some dings and scratches as one would expect from an old uke).

On closer examination, the fretboard appears to be part of the neck, not a separate piece glued on top. Huh. I can't really tell what it sounds like because it won't stay in tune. Not sure if it's the fault of the strings, the crooked neck, or the tuners. The tuners are cheap-feeling plastic (friction).

Also, the wood on the neck is weirdly stripey, like maybe it was painted with stain or something to look more interesting. The action is also super low (like, at the 12th fret it looks just as low as the 1st fret). Not sure if I should just sand the paint of the bridge, or repaint it, or just replace it entirely.
 

lakesideglenn

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The top is not mahogany if you look close it’s stained spruce. Look at the grain. I believe it’s an original Vita that somebody just really messed up and added binding to. Just my opinion after looking at the pics
 

necessaryrooster

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The top is not mahogany if you look close it’s stained spruce. Look at the grain. I believe it’s an original Vita that somebody just really messed up and added binding to. Just my opinion after looking at the pics
I think you might be right. I can clearly see grain lines in this top that look very much like spruce. I'm not sure if the neck is even the original, but it was definitely removed and put back on by an amateur judging by the amount of glue that's still visible...and the heel cap is either missing a bottom piece or they just cut off a piece of it so the binding would fit and never did any finishing to it. Also, I think the neck isn't sitting on there straight/is coming off because the binding goes underneath it.

I wonder if I'll be able to sand the stain off or if they used one that soaks down into the pores. The good news is that on closer examination I think the fretboard is a separate piece of wood, it just doesn't look like it because of how they shaved the sides off so the binding would fit. Basically every time I examine this thing I find something else weird about it.

But yeah, to your last point, they definitely messed up this poor uke!
 

necessaryrooster

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The top is not mahogany if you look close it’s stained spruce. Look at the grain. I believe it’s an original Vita that somebody just really messed up and added binding to. Just my opinion after looking at the pics
I got the back off, and I don't think this is a real Vita. There's no Harmony logo on the inside like with others I've seen. The lower brace was angled, which seems like they just glued it on wrong. They used what looks like gauze to join the two halves of the back instead of a strip of wood (but maybe that's just old building techniques?). The lining for the top was a thin piece of wood, and in one spot it had broken when they put it on. The bottom lining was kerfing. The bridge brace is a thick piece of wood that goes all the way across, and underneath the soundholes it looks like they shored it up with another thin piece of wood, but it's not neat at all. The tail block is also not neat; its sides look like bits of wood have been torn away from it. The fretboard is also a disaster. I was able to easily pop all the frets out. A lot of the fret slots aren't even straight.

I think this whole thing was just an amateur copy. Not sure how they got the seal holes cut so well; maybe they took an actual Vita top and built around it?