1/28/2009

c.1930 U-King Banjo Ukulele


Here's a U-King banjo-uke I just finished off. It's fun, with a chromed or nickel-silvered aluminum rim, 14" scale, Gumby headstock, and a bright and loud sound. The head is original as is everything save the bridge, strings, and a replacement (but period) bakelite tuner button. Plays nicely (under 1/8" at 12th) after setup, too!


Most of the overhaul on this uke was setup and polishing: that rim is blinding now! The hooks have some tarnish but it doesn't reduce the effect of the bright rim.


It's too bad the picture is so light: in reality the black paint of the fretboard and headstock really is a nice dark, shiny black, and the neck is a worn but warm deep reddish brown with plenty-shiny finish.


Frets have been polished and are just fine.


Interesting tailpiece and it works quite nicely, unlike a lot of "standard issue" banjo-uke tailpieces which are ill-fitting for gut or nylon strings. These strings happen to be brand-new Martin fluorocarbons.


Back. Colors are a little more true in this pic.


The "tonering" part of this is a lot like an old 1880s-style Dobson banjo, a "donut" ring... raised and curved. Also, the designers fortunately decided to curl the bottom of the rim too and include an integral bracket band -- all making this a cozy, light uke.


Tuners.


Neck join -- can't quite tell the wood type.


Back 3/4 -- a nice proportion to this uke.


Front 3/4.


Some of that kitchen-pot sheen!


And here's the tailpiece again. Like I said -- a well thought-out banjo-uke with a simple and comfortable design. Not super-fancy, but it definitely gets the job done and feels quite solid in the hands.

5 comments:

From the land of Bakelite (Baekeland) said...

Extremely nice! U-king isn't a ukulele or banjo brand, but a model (or brand) of ukulele banjo tailpieces - just like the 'no-knot' or 'elite' ones.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Ah, great, thanks much!

I didn't realize that -- never did the research I should say -- because friends of mine have always just called them U-Kings.

Great info!

Jake

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great site. I purchased a U-King this morning at a yard sale. I also have one from a yard sale a few years ago. I don't play but they looked beautiful to me. Do you do any restoration work? One of them has an X pattern on the "sound amplifier", the other has what looks like a giant mayo jar lid. Thanks for any help you can give. Tom

This is Charlie Trotter. said...

This looks just like a Maxitone Banjo Uke I just bought and am restoring. The headstock is the same shape. This one is a beauty. I have one question: Did you remove the skin?

Mine was so dirty and rusty, I had to totally disassemble it to clean it, so I had to remove the skin. I've read in one place they can't be used again, which is a concern because it doesn't have the tone ring I see other, loose skin rims being placed on and folded. Just curious as to your experience. I'm really enjoying your site. You can check out my restore here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaztoo/sets/72157623071668699/

Anonymous said...

I've been trying to buy one of these. How much do they usually go for?