Bonanza Ukuleles Homestead Baritone - REVIEW

bazmaz

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To be honest with you, I don't know. Pete advises that non USA buyers email him direct to discuss options. The box this came in suggests shipping of about £50, but I know he sent this on an expidited super fast service so there may be slower and cheaper options.
 
Nice review. Like you I appreciate the elegant simplicity of the Homestead. Much like a Martin D-18, no bling is needed.

My only concern with the "hollowed out" design would be the size of the internal bracing that Pete has left on the underside of the top. Since these "braces" aren't made of straight grain wood glued across the grain of the top wood (the way typical bracing is done) they could perhaps more readily suffer a crack along the grain right through the top. As such I might wonder if they are up to the job of supporting the top long term. But for now they do look rugged and up to the task, and as you say the uke is both resonant and loud. Well done Pete!

I wonder how difficult it would be for Pete to set up his CNC machine to be able to carve out an archtop version? That would be something.
 
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Totally agree with the D-18 comparison - well put.

Yeah - I think Pete was concerned about strength and stability when he moved to the integral bracing. I remember him telling me he stress tested the first prototype bodies in both a fridge and an freezer! - No issues. Made me laugh when I read that!
 
Great review! I love my walnut baritone, and it gets a lot of great comments when I play it out. Appearance-wise the dark walnut really stands out, and the matching fretboard looks great. In general I like bling. This one really doesn't need it.

Mine has a few differences from yours beyond selectable options (the wood and the tuners), and I'm curious if they're changes that Pete's made in newer models or just some extra magic for your version:

  • Mine had four flouro strings and no wounds. The low-D was really bad. It sounded dead and buzzed horribly.

    I switched to wound D & G strings and that's much better. I kept the B & E (actually swapped them out and back).
  • My fretboard is slotted through not with blind slots.
  • My fretboard has pearly dots not wood
  • My neck is clearly two piece

The strings are the only major problem - the out-of-box experience was really disappointing, and if I hadn't planned on changing strings and felt confidant doing so I could have been unhappy.

The others might be slightly nicer on yours, but not enough to notice if I weren't looking for them. I'd chalked up the through slots as a logical price saver over the Oreo, and the pearly dots and two piece neck are fairly standard.

I was surprised at the volume and geeked out with a decibel meter to compare with my Caramel baritone. My unscientific strumming puts them in the same ballpark as each other by the meter, but subjectively the homestead feels louder and richer.
 
I'd assumed the self bound fingerboard was one of the 'feaures' that Pete wanted to showcase in the Homesteads - the kind of 'best bits of the others'.?
 
Wow, that baritone almost drowns your voice in the video. The sound and volume of that thing is amazing.

Of all the uke builders out there, Bonanza is probably the most interesting brand to me since they do such unconventional but functional designs. I'd really love to order something from them. The trouble is that shipping from the US to Europe is fairly expensive and you have to deal with customs on top of that. Maybe some day...
 
To make a trivial correction to a point you made in the review, my concert homestead is #496, so they started producing this line before #500. I’m certain mine wasn’t the first.
 
I have a #493 tenor Homestead in cherry. An attractive woody sweet voice, albeit on the soft side. The action was slightly below 2.5mm at the 12 fret—too low for me and a low wound G—so I cut a bone saddle set to 2.75mm. Perfect, no buzzes even at forte and the volume bumped up a notch as well. The tone exhibits slightly more chime in the treble range so bone transmits the tone better than the plastic (Corian) saddle. Plus Corian is not attractive and a mismatch for the natural vibe of the Homestead design. When I have more time I'll replace the plastic nut as well (grooves are super deep and seem to choke the strings). All in all a super good deal for the sound had.
 
I have a #493 tenor Homestead in cherry. An attractive woody sweet voice, albeit on the soft side. The action was slightly below 2.5mm at the 12 fret—too low for me and a low wound G—so I cut a bone saddle set to 2.75mm. Perfect, no buzzes even at forte and the volume bumped up a notch as well. The tone exhibits slightly more chime in the treble range so bone transmits the tone better than the plastic (Corian) saddle. Plus Corian is not attractive and a mismatch for the natural vibe of the Homestead design. When I have more time I'll replace the plastic nut as well (grooves are super deep and seem to choke the strings). All in all a super good deal for the sound had.

I swapped in an ebony nut and saddle when I raised the action on mine. They now match the black tuners for a more unified look.
 
To make a trivial correction to a point you made in the review, my concert homestead is #496, so they started producing this line before #500. I’m certain mine wasn’t the first.

Ah right - just repeating what I was told!
 
I have a #493 tenor Homestead in cherry. An attractive woody sweet voice, albeit on the soft side. The action was slightly below 2.5mm at the 12 fret—too low for me and a low wound G—so I cut a bone saddle set to 2.75mm. Perfect, no buzzes even at forte and the volume bumped up a notch as well. The tone exhibits slightly more chime in the treble range so bone transmits the tone better than the plastic (Corian) saddle. Plus Corian is not attractive and a mismatch for the natural vibe of the Homestead design. When I have more time I'll replace the plastic nut as well (grooves are super deep and seem to choke the strings). All in all a super good deal for the sound had.

Hmmm Corian saddle AND Corian nut on this one. No plastic. I quite like the look of the speckled Corian - been on every Bonanza i've so far seen.
 
Hi everyone. Chime in here if I may.
First, yes we did a few homesteads prior to #500. As I say on my website "After almost 500" Sorry Barry if I mislead you.
As far as the nut and saddle goes it is Corian. Some may think of it as plastic. We repurpose remnants from cabinet makers. The color would be a personal choice I guess.

Necks and fretboards. For years we have used necks and fretboards from a well known and respected supplier. Mainland ukuleles. When the Cites regulations went into effect we were forced to make our own fretboards from walnut for international shipments. We were getting more and more requests for a wider nut so I december I invested in a 3d program so I could cut my own necks. At that time I changed the profile slightly as well. The neck I sent to Barry was a 2 piece neck. Because the heel is cut from the same board it will often look like a one piece neck. Not always though as grains can run different. Because the headstock is a scarf joint I apply a matching cover plate. This does 2 things. I covers the scarf joint and gives a channel for the nut to set into. Our standard on all sizes will now be an approximate 38mm (1 1/2") nut.

Durability of our integral bracing. I have been a full time woodworker for almost 40 years. Custom furniture and over 600 kitchens. I have alway been taught don't bind wood cross grain. Let it float. Kitchen cabinet doors are built with floating panels. They expand and contract as humidity changes. They are less prone to cracking. Then the strength issue. I have done an integral bridge plate since I started building wood ukuleles. Not a failure.
Yes I tested applying tension. no failures. I put bodies in a heated oven then into a freezer. No issues. To tell you there could never be a failure I would be lying. Things can alway happen.

On the plus side we are finding better sustain up and down the neck. Volume has increased over our earlier builds. Will a thinline be as loud as some deep bodies? Maybe not.

I know there have been questions brought up over my using full thickness wood and machining it out. Running a business I always have to compare material versus labor. I have tended to use renewable woods. Wood is cheap, labor isn't. That said I still don't want to waste a resource. The sawdust that I generate, probably 2-3 gallons a week is used in my composting toilet, saving water. Any excess is used to heat my shop. It doesn't go into a landfill. Less environmental impact than an instrument shipped half way around the world.

Shelley and I are proud of the instruments we build. Occasionally something slips out the door wrong. We are more than happy to take care of the issue.

We appreciate the ukulele community and the support we have received. Feel free to ask questions.
 
Hmmm Corian saddle AND Corian nut on this one. No plastic. I quite like the look of the speckled Corian - been on every Bonanza i've so far seen.

According to DuPont, the maker of Corian, Corian is made of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate (ATH). Sounds like a plastic like material to me. I do like my Homestead and, of course, it's okay to prefer speckled Corian but I like my nut and saddle plain vanilla!
 
I concur. Bonus points to Pete for using excess material that would normally go to waste, though.

On the subject of waste, banging the environmental drum here, how much wood is wasted in the production process of these ukuleles as opposed to conventional top+sides+bottom manufacturing?
I might be totally wrong - I don't make my own- but surely a lot of wood is wasted by routing out 2 pieces of solid wood rather than slicing thin layers off?
 
On the subject of waste, banging the environmental drum here, how much wood is wasted in the production process of these ukuleles as opposed to conventional top+sides+bottom manufacturing?
I might be totally wrong - I don't make my own- but surely a lot of wood is wasted by routing out 2 pieces of solid wood rather than slicing thin layers off?

Read or re-read Bonanza Pete's post #14.
 
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