5/25/2016

1925 Lyon & Healy Flatback "Camp Uke" Ukulele





How many of these have I worked on? So many! Too many! Never? I love Camp Ukes. Every single one has been a charmer in one way or another. This one is the relatively-rarer version that doesn't have a "turned resonator back" and, instead, has a simple flatback design. My experience has been that these sound a few degrees mellower and more like a "normal uke."

This one is made from monkeypod (as are the vast majority of Camp Ukes) and has the usual mahogany "smile" bridge. There were some old repairs done to it (sloppy crack repair on the side and back) but otherwise it came to me in OK condition. I reglued some back/side seams, cleated a set of three tiny hairline cracks above the soundhole, leveled/dressed the frets, and "reset" the neck and modified the bolted-neck setup a little bit (more on that later).

It plays spot-on at 1/16" action at the 12th fret, has a straight neck, and is strung-up with fluorocarbon strings on its 13" soprano scale. The uke is also all-original, too, and ready to go. I think this could be a fun one tuned-up to ADF#B, too, if you're of that inclination -- though it does sound sweet and friendly in C.


The monkeypod wood is thinned-up quite nicely on all of the Camp Ukes I've worked on and, as a result, they have and outsized sound for the size of their bodies. The extra frets before the body let one play a bit more complicated music, too, and give the instrument a "banjo-uke" feel in the arms.


This has a  1 5/16" nut width.


The black celluloid used for the dots, nut, and top binding looks classy against the tan-brown of the monkeypod.


You can see the three hairline cracks (tiny) above the soundhole that area cleated and two (tiny) ones below the soundhole which are secure/stabilized via the main brace and bridge.


I haven't had to reglue a single Camp Uke "smile" bridge -- a testament to the design of the things. These are seen on almost all of L&H's uke builds.



There's a long crack at the "right" of the back in the above picture. It was glued-up "functionally" long ago, but I added cleats to make it more "pat."


The L&H patent friction pegs always work like a charm these many-years down the road.




No cracks on this side...



...but there's this long, old-repair to one on this side running from the neckblock to the endblock. It's stable and I cleaned it up a bit in a few places, but it's still there.

Monkeypod can be a bit frustrating, methinks -- a lot of the old L&H products that used it dryed-out and got hairlines as they aged and the old 30s Kamaka ukes I've handled that were monkeypod did the same. Still -- a bit of "spit-n-polish" in terms of repairs -- and you're ready for the road.





The 690 serial number suggests a 1925 build-date. This originally had one "neck-mounting-screw" at the top of the heel. Someone later-on added a second screw to the bottom (a good idea). I removed the neck and then drilled the heel to accept two, bigger, drywall screws (much more secure than random antique standard-slot wood screws).

These I installed, with finish washers, through the soundhole (with a tiny right-angle screwdriver/wrench) and shimmed the neck slightly back to get action "spot on" without needing to shave the saddle. This is all "like" factory setup... but about a million-times more practical and stable.

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