Tuesday, January 14, 2014

NUD (New Ukulele Day)

This last image is closer to the true color, which is kind of a gingerbread shade.

I didn't put anything in to give you the size, but in the first photo, that sound port on the upper bout is just a little bigger than the last joint of my thumb.

I have been playing ukuleles for less than a year, and I claim no expertise in any aspect of them. I have, however, been fortunate enough to lay hands on several top-of-the-line instruments from well-respected luthiers, including Woodley White, Alan Carruth, and Gordon & Char Mayer, so I do know what a well-made and beautiful ukulele looks, feels, and sounds like.

The Zukulele that Michael Zuch has made for me is as good as any I've had a chance to play.

In his signature on UU, Michael has the term "Aspiring Luthier."  He has a full-time job, and does this for love, but I'm thinking he should drop the first word in that sig. He has made more than a couple-dozen of these, and I believe this one by itself certainly qualifies him as more than "aspiring;" he's there enough to drop the modifier.

This is a lovely instrument, clean, with a great tone, especially considering it hasn't opened up at all. I expect that six months down the line, it will sound better still. It is Low-G,CEA, and the action is smooth, the intonation great.

Here, the specs:

Back & Sides: Tulip Magnolia
Top: Adirondack spruce
Bracing: Sitka spruce
Neck: Spanish cedar with carbon fiber reinforcement
Neck joint: Mortise and tenon with bolt
Rosette, headstock overlay, end graft and heel cap: Brazilian rosewood
Fretboard and bridge and pins: East Indian rosewood
Bindings: Faux tortoise shell with B/W/B purfling
Inlays on headstock, fretboard and pins: Mother of pearl
Finish: Nitro-cellulose lacquer (over epoxy sealer and pore filler where needed)
Tuners: Grover Sta-Tite, for slotted headstock, with replacement buttons
Strings: Worth BT-LG Fluorocarbon

As you can see from the pictures, there uke is clean and form-follows-function. That works for me, though I've got nothing against tastefully-done bling. When we started talking about this, I allowed as how I had two things I wanted: Low-G tuning, and a slotted headstock. This latter is a want based on having played classical guitars for a while and I like that look and feel.

Other than that? Luthier's choice.

Michael had a set of back and sides in Tulip Magnolia which had a great tap-tone, he said, and he'd never built one using that wood. How would that be?

I'd never even heard of Tulip Magnolia as a tonewood. Go for it. 

Would I be interested in a sound port? 

Yes, I would. 

Would a fretboard a bit wider work, since I was coming from classical guitars?

You betcha.

What about trim?

Go with what looks and feels good, you're there, I'm here ...

So he did those things, and I couldn't be happier with the result.

The build went quickly, and the uke left Michael's shop in the middle of the Arctic blast that froze most of the U.S.

I expected it to be fairly bright, given the spruce top, and it is, which is good, since I think that works for fingerstyle playing, a thing to which I aspire. 

As soon as the strings settle in and I have some time, I'll do a sound sample and stick it up. 

This is just soooo cool!


My wife and I decided to go out for lunch, to celebrate this 'n' that, and give the Zukulele time to warm up in its case before I opened it, so we went to our favorite rustic Italian place. Got there, sat down, and there, on the decorative table next to us … ? 

Tulip magnolia branches with blossoms …

A coincidence, of course, but really, it seemed awfully auspicious. 


Mike Byers said...

Nice work, really nice work. Now we need to hear some music played on this beauty. The perfect instrument for playing "Schrodinger's Cat", I'd say.

Steve Perry said...

I was thinking maybe Bohemian Rhapsody …