c.1925/2011 Resonator Ukulele

Update 2015: I got this uke back in trade and summarily modified it a bit more. I've updated the description where needed and have updated all of the pictures and included a soundclip. 

I need to also mention that this uke has a scale length slightly shorter than regular soprano at a hair longer than 11 3/4" -- this makes it roughly comparable to the ~12" Gibson banjo uke scale. What does this mean? It means that if you want to play in standard GCEA tuning a heavier set of strings is suggested (Worth heavies, maybe) but for ADF#B tuning or even the slightly jazzier BbEbGC tuning (both of which were somewhat popular in the 20s) this thing really sings. Don't get me wrong -- GCEA sounds just fine with the regular soprano "Super Nylgut" that's installed right now, but it sure starts pumping a bit more tuned up to ADF#B. Now back to the original post info...

So... I picked up this nice little mahogany-necked banjo uke, c.1920s... with a rather messed up fretboard... and I had these new uke resonators hanging around... and the coverplate for said resonator happened to fit perfectly in the routed-out banjo head mounting area... and I just happened to have a spare mandolin-scale fretboard on hand... you get the picture.

While the body and neck are old, the rest is new hardware... and I had to cut a bunch of rim out to get the resonator in at the right level, but now that it's all done... what a fun project!

Turned out very cool, too -- this is a reso uke that has volume between a wood and banjo-headed instrument, with a sweeter overtone -- and has fret access all the way up the neck into places most ukes don't even have. 

New rosewood fretboard, MOP dots, new banjo-style frets.

Rosewood biscuit on 6" spun cone, nice gleaming coverplate.  

Update: the coverplate screws are now longer and more substantial.

The pot itself is poplar, though the inlaid sides are veneered with mahogany.

Neck is one-piece mahogany with inlaid stripes on the face of the headstock. Zero fre1t, bone nut.

The backplate of the rim has f-hole soundholes and is made from a solid piece of 1/8" thick mahogany. Looks really snazzy.

Update: the tuners are now vintage guitar-style Kluson units as the owner who had this a while didn't like friction pegs. They look smart and work well despite 2 turning in "reverse" to get them to squeeze on the headstock correctly.

While doing all the other work I also reset the neck with a bit of glue and an extra bolt-reinforcement.

Here you can see the side dots and little bit of a joint left over from the worn edges of the original neck/board.

Gotta love the pretty red-brown mahogany on this uke. The finish looks great for all those years, too!

The strap button is on-center but there are a couple patched screwholes from trying different tailpiece ideas out.


Liesbeth en Karl said...

Perfect! I'd love to see more of these! Ukulele Ike used to have some larger version, the Tenor-trope. A soprano-trope?

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to hear how it sounds, Jake. Great idea to marry the new and old.


Josh said...

Oh how lovely! That must be fun to play.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Liesbeth: The tenortropes are cool as heck! I played one last year -- not very loud -- but definitely distinctive and sweet-toned! I love the durability and reliability of reso instruments for travel.

Ben: Thanks!

Josh: It's lots of fun to be able to reach wayyyy up there. :)

craig said...


Anonymous said...

I must admit - that's an incredibly cool - looking little instrument! Sound sample?

Also - I would expect there could be a market for these....