New Uke Day (NUD) Oliver Pijoan Baritone Ukulele

Kei

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A day and a half in to playing this instrument a LOT, I am left to wonder why this luthier is not more well-known. Legendary even, if I dare say that. It could be that he doesn’t have a huge output. In our correspondence he relayed that he spends an average of 90 hours on each ukulele he builds. Considering he is a one-person shop and doesn’t exclusively build ukuleles for a living certainly suggests that Pijoan Ukuleles are not all that common. Moore Bettah Ukuleles are uncommon too – and we have all heard of those.

No matter, I am blown away here. Purchasing this ukulele without having seen it in person, much less having played it, was a gamble. But I could see from Oliver’s detailed photos that something very special was happening with this. I could tell from the way he wrote about his craft that he is someone that has long years of experience building wooden things with his hands and that he very seriously strives for a level of craftsmanship that is rare and becoming more so all the time.

I want to state in the early going that this ukulele would not be for everyone. There are people who very much dislike what they call “chunky” necks and this would possibly fall into that category. Others have no use for widely spaced strings on a 1.5” nut and this ukulele most assuredly has that. And finally, this rig is a heavier build. It isn’t “heavy” but it has heft to it (some of which seems to come from the aforementioned neck) and strays into a space where some might possibly use the term “overbuilt” to describe it. I will explain why I not only do not subscribe to that notion with this ukulele – but rather I see it as a positive here.

Upon first removing the Pijoan from the included O'ahu Case, it was clearly something of great substance. I had seen detailed photos but those did not prepare me for the level of craftsmanship evident here – or the feel of the instrument. Oliver had loosened the strings prior to shipment so it needed to be tuned and here is where I despise guitar-style tuners on ukuleles. It takes forever to dial these in with the 18:1 gear ratio. The 4:1 on the Gotoh UPT tuners is perfect for me, and Oliver and I had discussed replacing the gears-and-ears with UPTs with him filling the screw holes himself with wood from a distinguished tree I have gotten to know in my career doing communications for our State Forester. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to force him to muck up his carefully-crafted build – so it will remain with its original ears.

Once I got it back to tune, I strummed the traditional first-strum C chord and it was immediately clear that this was going to be an entirely different experience from any previous baritone I have played. I shared my thoughts on my Beansprout redwood/Oregon walnut and how quickly I bonded with that fine ukulele and none of that is diminished or changed. But this ukulele easily joins it in the permanent lineup. I think the result of the substantial build here causes the Pijoan to ring out fully and confidently with a sustain that approaches a half-minute. That is not a typo or hyperbole. Which is almost unheard of on an unplugged ukulele.

I arrive at this opinion by way of my experience with the only other heavier ukulele I have, the Ko’olau K-100 I recently acquired. There is a similar heft to it and it also rings out in a way one does not typically experience with ukulele. I will be unable to go back have these to reach for when I want that feel and that sound. A month ago, I didn’t know it was “a thing” and now that I do it has become a part of my routine as I work through the rotation. Sometimes it is exactly what I want and these two ukuleles deliver without hesitation. The Pijoan will never stand accused of being a shrinking violet.

The other side of that coin with this ukulele is that it is capable of some absolutely mind-blowing dynamics. It is able to sing softly but still quite present and then turn on a dime into the loudest unamplified ukulele I have ever heard.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room: the appearance. I have stated in this space before that I am not a bling guy. I don’t like gloss finishes and I don’t need fancy abalone inlay around the perimeter of the body. I love WOOD. All the different natural variations of the curl and the grain and even the smell of some woods (seriously, y’all, get an ukulele with a Spanish cedar neck and check that out).

The Port Orford ceder top…are you kidding me? Just look at that. Add to it the massive, sweet sound it pulls and it is something I have trouble fully grasping, that I get to be the custodian for this ukulele for the years I have left on this marble. The walnut is perfectly bookmatched and that grain speaks to my Forestry Services heart. Now let’s consider the rosewood on the neck, headstock, fretboard, rosette and in the binding. It perfectly complements the two types of walnut. And that’s another point about the wood in this thing: I count 10 different species here. My tree-loving heart is as excited about that as much as it is my all-koa ukulele from Pops. That the top, back, and sides are from old-growth wood that would otherwise have gone to waste is a huge bonus.

The paua abalone inlays for me are perfect. They are diminutively elaborate and detailed; understatedly elegant and detailed without being ostentatious. Obviously, I would be and am a fan of the pine tree logo. I chose none of these accents as this ukulele was built before I ever knew who Oliver Pijoan is. He chose them. But if I had been the one to do it, the ukulele could very well have ended up looking something just like this one. With his personality, mindful approach, and kind/considerate/deliberate outlook on life we are probably just kindred spirits and that is another reason I love this ukulele.

I sincerely hope that more of Oliver’s instruments get out there to our group and beyond. I wish that everyone could play one of these. I would love to see his name as one of those out there as an option for high-end custom builds because it deserves to be there. I won’t volunteer him to host folks if they’re ever in his Oregon neck of the woods, even though he is quite the affable gentleman and would probably tell anyone inquiring to come on over. I will volunteer myself though. If you’re ever in central Oklahoma and want to play this ukulele (or any of my ukuleles), drop me a line. We will absolutely do that. I think you will be equally blown away and offer this caveat: you’re going to have a UAS flareup because you will want one too.


Specs per Oliver:
Back and Sides
~ Environmentally, responsibly salvaged old growth Claro Walnut from old logging site.
Top ~ Environmentally, responsibly salvaged old growth Port Orford Cedar from old logging site.
Binding ~ Indian Rosewood on both the body and fretboard.
Rosette ~ Indian Rosewood & Paua Abalone from New Zealand.
Bridge ~ Crelicam Ebony with an inlay of New Zealand Paua Abalone.
Neck ~ Bookmatched Black Walnut around Indian Rosewood, hand carved. It is joined to the body with a compound dovetail for unsurpassed strength.
Fretboard ~ Crelicam Ebony with medium high / wide frets bound with Indian Rosewood & Rock Maple.
Headstock ~ Bookmatched Black Walnut around a spine of Indian Rosewood. The headstock veneer is Indian Rosewood. The headstock is attached to the neck by a scarf joint for maximum strength.
Tuning Machines ~ Grovers geared.
Internal Bracing ~ Quarter-sawn Sitka Spruce except the bridge brace which is Ebony. The linings are made in the traditional way from Basswood.
Heel & Tail Blocks ~ The heel & tail blocks are carefully shaped from Sipo Mahogany.
Nut & Saddle - Nut and saddle are individually made from unbleached natural bone.
Inlays ~ The fretboard & bridge inlays are New Zealand Paua Abalone. The side dots are Mother of Pearl. My inlaid logo, a pine tree, is also New Zealand Paua Abalone and refers to my Cátalan surname, Pijoán, "Jon of the Pines".
Strap Button ~ The Waverly strap button is made of Ebony.
Strings ~ Strings are Aquila Red Series, Low G.
 

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Everything about this instrument is visually striking yet at the same time tastefully done. Congratulations on a beautiful ukulele and thanks for exposing me to a luthier that I was unaware of but am now glad to know about
 
A day and a half in to playing this instrument a LOT, I am left to wonder why this luthier is not more well-known. Legendary even, if I dare say that. It could be that he doesn’t have a huge output. In our correspondence he relayed that he spends an average of 90 hours on each ukulele he builds. Considering he is a one-person shop and doesn’t exclusively build ukuleles for a living certainly suggests that Pijoan Ukuleles are not all that common. Moore Bettah Ukuleles are uncommon too – and we have all heard of those.

No matter, I am blown away here. Purchasing this ukulele without having seen it in person, much less having played it, was a gamble. But I could see from Oliver’s detailed photos that something very special was happening with this. I could tell from the way he wrote about his craft that he is someone that has long years of experience building wooden things with his hands and that he very seriously strives for a level of craftsmanship that is rare and becoming more so all the time.

I want to state in the early going that this ukulele would not be for everyone. There are people who very much dislike what they call “chunky” necks and this would possibly fall into that category. Others have no use for widely spaced strings on a 1.5” nut and this ukulele most assuredly has that. And finally, this rig is a heavier build. It isn’t “heavy” but it has heft to it (some of which seems to come from the aforementioned neck) and strays into a space where some might possibly use the term “overbuilt” to describe it. I will explain why I not only do not subscribe to that notion with this ukulele – but rather I see it as a positive here.

Upon first removing the Pijoan from the included O'ahu Case, it was clearly something of great substance. I had seen detailed photos but those did not prepare me for the level of craftsmanship evident here – or the feel of the instrument. Oliver had loosened the strings prior to shipment so it needed to be tuned and here is where I despise guitar-style tuners on ukuleles. It takes forever to dial these in with the 18:1 gear ratio. The 4:1 on the Gotoh UPT tuners is perfect for me, and Oliver and I had discussed replacing the gears-and-ears with UPTs with him filling the screw holes himself with wood from a distinguished tree I have gotten to know in my career doing communications for our State Forester. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to force him to muck up his carefully-crafted build – so it will remain with its original ears.

Once I got it back to tune, I strummed the traditional first-strum C chord and it was immediately clear that this was going to be an entirely different experience from any previous baritone I have played. I shared my thoughts on my Beansprout redwood/Oregon walnut and how quickly I bonded with that fine ukulele and none of that is diminished or changed. But this ukulele easily joins it in the permanent lineup. I think the result of the substantial build here causes the Pijoan to ring out fully and confidently with a sustain that approaches a half-minute. That is not a typo or hyperbole. Which is almost unheard of on an unplugged ukulele.

I arrive at this opinion by way of my experience with the only other heavier ukulele I have, the Ko’olau K-100 I recently acquired. There is a similar heft to it and it also rings out in a way one does not typically experience with ukulele. I will be unable to go back have these to reach for when I want that feel and that sound. A month ago, I didn’t know it was “a thing” and now that I do it has become a part of my routine as I work through the rotation. Sometimes it is exactly what I want and these two ukuleles deliver without hesitation. The Pijoan will never stand accused of being a shrinking violet.

The other side of that coin with this ukulele is that it is capable of some absolutely mind-blowing dynamics. It is able to sing softly but still quite present and then turn on a dime into the loudest unamplified ukulele I have ever heard.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room: the appearance. I have stated in this space before that I am not a bling guy. I don’t like gloss finishes and I don’t need fancy abalone inlay around the perimeter of the body. I love WOOD. All the different natural variations of the curl and the grain and even the smell of some woods (seriously, y’all, get an ukulele with a Spanish cedar neck and check that out).

The Port Orford ceder top…are you kidding me? Just look at that. Add to it the massive, sweet sound it pulls and it is something I have trouble fully grasping, that I get to be the custodian for this ukulele for the years I have left on this marble. The walnut is perfectly bookmatched and that grain speaks to my Forestry Services heart. Now let’s consider the rosewood on the neck, headstock, fretboard, rosette and in the binding. It perfectly complements the two types of walnut. And that’s another point about the wood in this thing: I count 10 different species here. My tree-loving heart is as excited about that as much as it is my all-koa ukulele from Pops. That the top, back, and sides are from old-growth wood that would otherwise have gone to waste is a huge bonus.

The paua abalone inlays for me are perfect. They are diminutively elaborate and detailed; understatedly elegant and detailed without being ostentatious. Obviously, I would be and am a fan of the pine tree logo. I chose none of these accents as this ukulele was built before I ever knew who Oliver Pijoan is. He chose them. But if I had been the one to do it, the ukulele could very well have ended up looking something just like this one. With his personality, mindful approach, and kind/considerate/deliberate outlook on life we are probably just kindred spirits and that is another reason I love this ukulele.

I sincerely hope that more of Oliver’s instruments get out there to our group and beyond. I wish that everyone could play one of these. I would love to see his name as one of those out there as an option for high-end custom builds because it deserves to be there. I won’t volunteer him to host folks if they’re ever in his Oregon neck of the woods, even though he is quite the affable gentleman and would probably tell anyone inquiring to come on over. I will volunteer myself though. If you’re ever in central Oklahoma and want to play this ukulele (or any of my ukuleles), drop me a line. We will absolutely do that. I think you will be equally blown away and offer this caveat: you’re going to have a UAS flareup because you will want one too.


Specs per Oliver:
Back and Sides
~ Environmentally, responsibly salvaged old growth Claro Walnut from old logging site.
Top ~ Environmentally, responsibly salvaged old growth Port Orford Cedar from old logging site.
Binding ~ Indian Rosewood on both the body and fretboard.
Rosette ~ Indian Rosewood & Paua Abalone from New Zealand.
Bridge ~ Crelicam Ebony with an inlay of New Zealand Paua Abalone.
Neck ~ Bookmatched Black Walnut around Indian Rosewood, hand carved. It is joined to the body with a compound dovetail for unsurpassed strength.
Fretboard ~ Crelicam Ebony with medium high / wide frets bound with Indian Rosewood & Rock Maple.
Headstock ~ Bookmatched Black Walnut around a spine of Indian Rosewood. The headstock veneer is Indian Rosewood. The headstock is attached to the neck by a scarf joint for maximum strength.
Tuning Machines ~ Grovers geared.
Internal Bracing ~ Quarter-sawn Sitka Spruce except the bridge brace which is Ebony. The linings are made in the traditional way from Basswood.
Heel & Tail Blocks ~ The heel & tail blocks are carefully shaped from Sipo Mahogany.
Nut & Saddle - Nut and saddle are individually made from unbleached natural bone.
Inlays ~ The fretboard & bridge inlays are New Zealand Paua Abalone. The side dots are Mother of Pearl. My inlaid logo, a pine tree, is also New Zealand Paua Abalone and refers to my Cátalan surname, Pijoán, "Jon of the Pines".
Strap Button ~ The Waverly strap button is made of Ebony.
Strings ~ Strings are Aquila Red Series, Low G.

That's beautiful!
 
A day and a half in to playing this instrument a LOT, I am left to wonder why this luthier is not more well-known. Legendary even, if I dare say that. It could be that he doesn’t have a huge output. In our correspondence he relayed that he spends an average of 90 hours on each ukulele he builds. Considering he is a one-person shop and doesn’t exclusively build ukuleles for a living certainly suggests that Pijoan Ukuleles are not all that common. Moore Bettah Ukuleles are uncommon too – and we have all heard of those.

No matter, I am blown away here. Purchasing this ukulele without having seen it in person, much less having played it, was a gamble. But I could see from Oliver’s detailed photos that something very special was happening with this. I could tell from the way he wrote about his craft that he is someone that has long years of experience building wooden things with his hands and that he very seriously strives for a level of craftsmanship that is rare and becoming more so all the time.

I want to state in the early going that this ukulele would not be for everyone. There are people who very much dislike what they call “chunky” necks and this would possibly fall into that category. Others have no use for widely spaced strings on a 1.5” nut and this ukulele most assuredly has that. And finally, this rig is a heavier build. It isn’t “heavy” but it has heft to it (some of which seems to come from the aforementioned neck) and strays into a space where some might possibly use the term “overbuilt” to describe it. I will explain why I not only do not subscribe to that notion with this ukulele – but rather I see it as a positive here.

Upon first removing the Pijoan from the included O'ahu Case, it was clearly something of great substance. I had seen detailed photos but those did not prepare me for the level of craftsmanship evident here – or the feel of the instrument. Oliver had loosened the strings prior to shipment so it needed to be tuned and here is where I despise guitar-style tuners on ukuleles. It takes forever to dial these in with the 18:1 gear ratio. The 4:1 on the Gotoh UPT tuners is perfect for me, and Oliver and I had discussed replacing the gears-and-ears with UPTs with him filling the screw holes himself with wood from a distinguished tree I have gotten to know in my career doing communications for our State Forester. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to force him to muck up his carefully-crafted build – so it will remain with its original ears.

Once I got it back to tune, I strummed the traditional first-strum C chord and it was immediately clear that this was going to be an entirely different experience from any previous baritone I have played. I shared my thoughts on my Beansprout redwood/Oregon walnut and how quickly I bonded with that fine ukulele and none of that is diminished or changed. But this ukulele easily joins it in the permanent lineup. I think the result of the substantial build here causes the Pijoan to ring out fully and confidently with a sustain that approaches a half-minute. That is not a typo or hyperbole. Which is almost unheard of on an unplugged ukulele.

I arrive at this opinion by way of my experience with the only other heavier ukulele I have, the Ko’olau K-100 I recently acquired. There is a similar heft to it and it also rings out in a way one does not typically experience with ukulele. I will be unable to go back have these to reach for when I want that feel and that sound. A month ago, I didn’t know it was “a thing” and now that I do it has become a part of my routine as I work through the rotation. Sometimes it is exactly what I want and these two ukuleles deliver without hesitation. The Pijoan will never stand accused of being a shrinking violet.

The other side of that coin with this ukulele is that it is capable of some absolutely mind-blowing dynamics. It is able to sing softly but still quite present and then turn on a dime into the loudest unamplified ukulele I have ever heard.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room: the appearance. I have stated in this space before that I am not a bling guy. I don’t like gloss finishes and I don’t need fancy abalone inlay around the perimeter of the body. I love WOOD. All the different natural variations of the curl and the grain and even the smell of some woods (seriously, y’all, get an ukulele with a Spanish cedar neck and check that out).

The Port Orford ceder top…are you kidding me? Just look at that. Add to it the massive, sweet sound it pulls and it is something I have trouble fully grasping, that I get to be the custodian for this ukulele for the years I have left on this marble. The walnut is perfectly bookmatched and that grain speaks to my Forestry Services heart. Now let’s consider the rosewood on the neck, headstock, fretboard, rosette and in the binding. It perfectly complements the two types of walnut. And that’s another point about the wood in this thing: I count 10 different species here. My tree-loving heart is as excited about that as much as it is my all-koa ukulele from Pops. That the top, back, and sides are from old-growth wood that would otherwise have gone to waste is a huge bonus.

The paua abalone inlays for me are perfect. They are diminutively elaborate and detailed; understatedly elegant and detailed without being ostentatious. Obviously, I would be and am a fan of the pine tree logo. I chose none of these accents as this ukulele was built before I ever knew who Oliver Pijoan is. He chose them. But if I had been the one to do it, the ukulele could very well have ended up looking something just like this one. With his personality, mindful approach, and kind/considerate/deliberate outlook on life we are probably just kindred spirits and that is another reason I love this ukulele.

I sincerely hope that more of Oliver’s instruments get out there to our group and beyond. I wish that everyone could play one of these. I would love to see his name as one of those out there as an option for high-end custom builds because it deserves to be there. I won’t volunteer him to host folks if they’re ever in his Oregon neck of the woods, even though he is quite the affable gentleman and would probably tell anyone inquiring to come on over. I will volunteer myself though. If you’re ever in central Oklahoma and want to play this ukulele (or any of my ukuleles), drop me a line. We will absolutely do that. I think you will be equally blown away and offer this caveat: you’re going to have a UAS flareup because you will want one too.


Specs per Oliver:
Back and Sides
~ Environmentally, responsibly salvaged old growth Claro Walnut from old logging site.
Top ~ Environmentally, responsibly salvaged old growth Port Orford Cedar from old logging site.
Binding ~ Indian Rosewood on both the body and fretboard.
Rosette ~ Indian Rosewood & Paua Abalone from New Zealand.
Bridge ~ Crelicam Ebony with an inlay of New Zealand Paua Abalone.
Neck ~ Bookmatched Black Walnut around Indian Rosewood, hand carved. It is joined to the body with a compound dovetail for unsurpassed strength.
Fretboard ~ Crelicam Ebony with medium high / wide frets bound with Indian Rosewood & Rock Maple.
Headstock ~ Bookmatched Black Walnut around a spine of Indian Rosewood. The headstock veneer is Indian Rosewood. The headstock is attached to the neck by a scarf joint for maximum strength.
Tuning Machines ~ Grovers geared.
Internal Bracing ~ Quarter-sawn Sitka Spruce except the bridge brace which is Ebony. The linings are made in the traditional way from Basswood.
Heel & Tail Blocks ~ The heel & tail blocks are carefully shaped from Sipo Mahogany.
Nut & Saddle - Nut and saddle are individually made from unbleached natural bone.
Inlays ~ The fretboard & bridge inlays are New Zealand Paua Abalone. The side dots are Mother of Pearl. My inlaid logo, a pine tree, is also New Zealand Paua Abalone and refers to my Cátalan surname, Pijoán, "Jon of the Pines".
Strap Button ~ The Waverly strap button is made of Ebony.
Strings ~ Strings are Aquila Red Series, Low G.
Wow that is crazy gorgeous. Does it sound as ridiculously gorgeous as it looks?
 
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