5/26/2016

1930s Gretsch-made "Camp Uke" Ukulele





While not a "true" Camp Uke, Gretsch made these knock-off versions from the late-20s through the 30s and 40s. They're simpler than the Lyon & Healy products and a little rougher around the edges, but this one has a nice, chipper tone that carries pretty well. It's also in really great shape, too, with the only crack extant a tiny 1/4" hairline one just above the soundhole (no sweat, there).

I did more work on this one, maybe, than I should have -- but the result is a uke that plays "like new." I added a "neck bolt" to reinforce the neck joint (these are doweled at the top of the joint which is a mechanically dumb place to put a dowel), refretted it, and reglued the bridge. It plays perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret.


The strings are fluorocarbon and the scale length is 13" -- so if you're an ADF#B player, the strings will tune-up nicely to that pitch, too, and with ease.


The original wooden pegs were missing except for one, so I replaced them with period parts-bin friction pegs instead. This has a 1 3/8" nut width.


A brand new set of medium-sized frets is a nice addition, no? The neck is nice and straight, too. I had to do this as the original frets had crept all over the place.





The whole uke is made from solid birch -- though the neck is probably poplar.






It's simple but pretty darn adorable.




There's my hidden little neck bolt. I drill the pilot hole from the outside of the heel on these because the dowel would need to be removed to do otherwise, so it's a bit off-center, but works as prescribed.

I tighten these up with a tiny little right-angle screwdriver/wrench and, like on all my past Camp Uke fixes over the years, the bolt at the bottom of the heel solves all of those dumb "typical neck separation issues" that plague many of these doweled-joint ukes from the 20s/30s/40s.

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