Wunderkammer May Soprano Ukulele

EDW

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The very first time I saw any of Liam Kirby's ukuleles I was in love with the look. I was drawn to the vintage styling that made them look as if they were made a hundred years ago. One unique element is that he builds "old style" using hand tools rather than using more modern methods. I think that it just adds to the charm. Once I heard clips online I was taken with the lovely sound of his builds as well. After debating for a while and having some email correspondence with Liam, I got on his build list about two years ago. At the time it looked as if it would be a bit over a year until completion. For various reasons, the time extended beyond that.

Sometime in the fall I heard from Liam that he was about ready to begin and we firmed up the details. Because I have a vintage Martin, I thought it might be fun to go with his other vintage soprano style, which he calls the May. It is designed like the early Hawaiian style instruments with a bit more of a figure 8 shaped body. We discussed a few options, but I had a pretty good sense of what I wanted the uke to look like. My goal was an instrument with a classic look and a little bit of simple styling. Liam made some nice suggestions along the way. I was rather surprised that once it got going, the build time was relatively quick. With a little more time for finishing and curing, set up and shipping (which was delayed a little because of postal issues in the UK), I received the instrument in mid December or so.

The ukulele is made from repurposed mahogany. Liam told me that the neck is made from old woodwork that he salvaged from his previous shop. It has a rosewood fretboard which is complimented with simple diamond and dot fret markers. The tuners are Waverly friction tuners, which are based on the design of those 1920s era tuners that were found on Martins and others. We chose to use a fairly simple rosette and a holly binding. The headstock is similar to what was found on some early Hawaiian instruments, which Liam calls a spear shape. I think Liam came through brilliantly in making an instrument that has a classic vintage look.

Of course, that would not mean much if it did not sound good. This uke has been settling in very nicely over the last few weeks and it has a nice chime and a full voice that seems much bigger than the size would suggest. It was a pleasure working with Liam and I am enjoying the results of his fine craftsmanship.

Wunderkammer May 1.jpegWunderkammer May 2.jpegWunderkammer May 3.jpegWunderkammer May 4.jpegWunderkammer May 5.jpegWunderkammer May 6.jpeg
 
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Wow, wow, wow!

I just recently learned of Wunderkammer (stumbled across Christopher Davis-Shannon who has one) and have been enthralled since. Color me jealous!

Very beautiful instrument and I love the understated and tasteful style!
 
The very first time I saw any of Liam Kirby's ukuleles I was in love with the look. I was drawn to the vintage styling that made them look as if they were made a hundred years ago. One unique element is that he builds "old style" using hand tools rather than using more modern methods. I think that it just adds to the charm. Once I heard clips online I was taken with the lovely sound of his builds as well. After debating for a while and having some email correspondence with Liam, I got on his build list about two years ago. At the time it looked as if it would be a bit over a year until completion. For various reasons, the time extended beyond that.

Sometime in the fall I heard from Liam that he was about ready to begin and we firmed up the details. Because I have a vintage Martin, I thought it might be fun to go with his other vintage soprano style, which he calls the May. It is designed like the early Hawaiian style instruments with a bit more of a figure 8 shaped body. We discussed a few options, but I had a pretty good sense of what I wanted the uke to look like. My goal was an instrument with a classic look and a little bit of simple styling. Liam made some nice suggestions along the way. I was rather surprised that once it got going, the build time was relatively quick. With a little more time for finishing and curing, set up and shipping (which was delayed a little because of postal issues in the UK), I received the instrument in mid December or so.

The ukulele is made from repurposed mahogany. Liam told me that the neck is made from an old beam that he salvaged from his previous shop. It has a rosewood fretboard which is complimented with simple diamond and dot fret markers. The tuners are Waverly friction tuners, which are based on the design of those 1920s era tuners that were found on Martins and others. We chose to use a fairly simple rosette and a holly binding. The headstock is similar to what was found on some early Hawaiian instruments, which Liam calls a spear shape. I think Liam came through brilliantly in making an instrument that has a classic vintage look.

Of course, that would not mean much if it did not sound good. This uke has been settling in very nicely over the last few weeks and it has a nice chime and a full voice that seems much bigger than the size would suggest. It was a pleasure working with Liam and I am enjoying the results of his fine craftsmanship.

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Love all the details including the headstock, which I’d call “banjo style”. Is nut & saddle made from ebony?
 
That sounds exactly like a uke should sound--love love love it.
 
The very first time I saw any of Liam Kirby's ukuleles I was in love with the look. I was drawn to the vintage styling that made them look as if they were made a hundred years ago. One unique element is that he builds "old style" using hand tools rather than using more modern methods. I think that it just adds to the charm. Once I heard clips online I was taken with the lovely sound of his builds as well. After debating for a while and having some email correspondence with Liam, I got on his build list about two years ago. At the time it looked as if it would be a bit over a year until completion. For various reasons, the time extended beyond that.

Sometime in the fall I heard from Liam that he was about ready to begin and we firmed up the details. Because I have a vintage Martin, I thought it might be fun to go with his other vintage soprano style, which he calls the May. It is designed like the early Hawaiian style instruments with a bit more of a figure 8 shaped body. We discussed a few options, but I had a pretty good sense of what I wanted the uke to look like. My goal was an instrument with a classic look and a little bit of simple styling. Liam made some nice suggestions along the way. I was rather surprised that once it got going, the build time was relatively quick. With a little more time for finishing and curing, set up and shipping (which was delayed a little because of postal issues in the UK), I received the instrument in mid December or so.

The ukulele is made from repurposed mahogany. Liam told me that the neck is made from an old beam that he salvaged from his previous shop. It has a rosewood fretboard which is complimented with simple diamond and dot fret markers. The tuners are Waverly friction tuners, which are based on the design of those 1920s era tuners that were found on Martins and others. We chose to use a fairly simple rosette and a holly binding. The headstock is similar to what was found on some early Hawaiian instruments, which Liam calls a spear shape. I think Liam came through brilliantly in making an instrument that has a classic vintage look.

Of course, that would not mean much if it did not sound good. This uke has been settling in very nicely over the last few weeks and it has a nice chime and a full voice that seems much bigger than the size would suggest. It was a pleasure working with Liam and I am enjoying the results of his fine craftsmanship.

View attachment 147246View attachment 147247View attachment 147248View attachment 147249View attachment 147250View attachment 147251
Congrats and thanks a lot for sharing. Lovely write up and playing. It’s really a beaut. I’ve been very interested in the May soprano as well and I’ve got two vintage Martin sopranos. In your opinion, how does the May compares to the Martin?
 
If it wasn't for Brexit I'd definitely be on Liam's waiting list. I adore the style of his ukes. Congrats.
 
Congrats and thanks a lot for sharing. Lovely write up and playing. It’s really a beaut. I’ve been very interested in the May soprano as well and I’ve got two vintage Martin sopranos. In your opinion, how does the May compares to the Martin?
It is a little tricky for me to compare them since the strings I have on them are pretty different as I have Nyltech on the Martin. Offhand, I would say that the May has a little more midrange while the Martin has a little more bottom end, but it is pretty subtle. The best way might be to pass on what Liam told me when I started on this project:

"I would say the shorter scale takes a little of the edge off the tone of the May, compared to the Ike, but they are both loud with plenty of warmth and "low-end"
( or at least as low as a Soprano Uke can be)....The Ike, on the left, has a very slightly wider bottom bout, and the May has a tighter, slightly higher waist, with a little wider and more pronounced upper bout.
The May scale is 13", the Ike's is 13 5/8"

image_6487327.jpeg
 
Wow, wow, wow!

I just recently learned of Wunderkammer (stumbled across Christopher Davis-Shannon who has one) and have been enthralled since. Color me jealous!

Very beautiful instrument and I love the understated and tasteful style!
Yes, that seems to his favorite - that and his new electric.
 
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