Ukulele Guild of Hawai'i 2016

In November, I was again able to attend the annual exhibition of the Ukulele Guild of Hawaii.  This year's event was much larger than last year's and was very well attended by both builders and enthusiasts.  I showed two tenors that were left after the show with Andrew Kitakis of (Hawaii Music Supply). Sound samples of both by Kalei Gamiao are on my OnoMAS page.  I was also able to do a podcast with Andrew: epi-17-david-ingalls-ono-ukulele.

Here are a couple of photos:

  Andrew and me

Andrew and me

  Outstanding builder and musician, Aaron Oya, and ukulele enthusiast extraordinaire, Eddie Monnier

Outstanding builder and musician, Aaron Oya, and ukulele enthusiast extraordinaire, Eddie Monnier

Incredible Quilted Maple!

I recently found some very nice quilted maple that has amazing 3D depth to the grain pattern. It's on its way to being turned into a 16' concert with an Adirondack spruce top.  The appointments are bloodwood and bubinga and it will likely get a rosewood fret board. Here are some photos taken today after the initial coat of finish.


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Whether bindings are purchased or cut in the shop from larger stock, they have to be accurately dimensioned for the particular instrument. Getting them to the right thickness is easy. Just run them through the thickness sander:


Getting them to the right height is a little more work. In addition to the correct height, the edges need to be square with the flat side. I've been using a funky method that took too much time and finally got tired of it so a new fixture was in order.

This clamps the binding strips between two straightedges that are 1/8" thick. The one on the right is fixed and the other slides laterally over a range of 1/2". The binding strips are placed in the slot between the two straightedges and the left one is slid firmly against them so they can't wobble from side to side. The sliding side is held in place with hex head screws.


The whole assembly is then run under the thickness sander. There are always any number of ways to skin cat but this works well for me.


One of the members of the Ukulele Underground Forums recently posted this comparison:

I once owned a Collings tenor and have the highest respect for Collings instruments so it was treat to follow this thread!

Here is a review of this tenor that the owner posted on Ukulele Underground:

"Well, I confess, I was the lucky person who got the latest Ono tenor (Adirondack Spruce top with Bolivian Rosewood). I am really enjoying it.

"Here are my first impressions. This new beautiful Ono tenor is an outstanding instrument. David Ingalls builds as light as anyone, and his perfection in build execution is on par with very best (John Kinnard, Chuck Moore, Ko'olau,...). As an example, look at the end seam in the lower bout, the grain match is as perfect as you can get. There is no gap at all. One can only faintly make out the seam because of the flash photography. I thought the sides were 1 piece when I first saw it. The neck thickness and profile are just right (not too thin or thick). No pain at all playing this one for an hour or more. Another cool and important feature is the cantilevered fretboard. It allows the entire top to vibrate more freely.  

"The finish is a good, oil finish. The thinness of the finish must surely help create the large sound this uke produces. The tone is nicely even with crisp notes, good warmth and resonance. This Ono is currently in reentrant B tuning, with South Coast Medium strings. Not sure if I prefer C or B tuning better with this tenor. 

"Here’s a sound sample in B tuning.   It sounds terrific, even though it is still opening up.

"Decided to add a C tuning sample:

"I highly recommend David Ingall’s work. My Ono is a stunning instrument."


The linings that are installed along the edges of the sides have two important functions. First, they widen, and therefore strengthen, the glue joint between the sides and the top and bottom plates. Second, they increase the thickness of the side at the corner so that binding and purfling can be added. Wide, multi-layer purfling can be done only where wide, kerfed linings are used inside the box. Kerfed linings are very flexible and easy to install. I use solid linings that are much thinner but have to be bent to match the sides.  This is often a two step process of first bending the linings over a form in the same way as the sides are bent and then perfecting the shape by hand on the hot pipe.  Also, solid linings are more demanding and time-consuming to install even when properly bent.  For visuals, take a look at the prior post on the 16" concert. The point of this technique is to maximize the surface area of the top that is free to vibrate and results in a top that has a vibrating area nearly 1/3" wider across the box. A ukulele top doesn't have much surface area.  In comparison to a guitar, the proportion of the top that is taken up by wide, kerfed linings is much greater. Does this make a difference in the tone of the instrument? Like so much in lutherie, it isn't possible to say for sure but one of the important goals of this craft is to improve our instruments in small increments. It has been said by others that there is no single thing that can be done to improve an already good instrument by 10% but perhaps we can do five things that each contribute 2%.


A New 16" Concert

This concert is well underway. The back and sides are claro walnut and the top is Port Orford cedar.  After some experimentation, the owner and I decided on bindings made from some super curly maple heartwood that is light brown rather than the usual white.


More to follow, so check back.

This one is now finished and will soon be on its way to Canada. I've posted a set of photos in the Gallery.

Ukulele Guild of Hawai'i Exhibition

I attended the annual Exhibition of the Ukulele Guild of Hawai'i in Honolulu on November 21 and 22, 2015.  This was a great opportunity to compare notes with other builders, to see some very fine instruments, and to exhibit a myrtle/Alaska yellow cedar concert and a myrtle/redwood baritone that were just completed.  A couple of days before the Exhibition were filled with sightseeing, a pilgrimage to the Kamaka factory for the famous tour given by Fred Kamaka, Sr., and a visit with John Kitakis and his staff at the Pono and Ko'olau facility and with Andrew Kitakis and the crew at The Ukulele Site and Hawaii Music Supply. 


Ziricote fingerboard

I usually tend toward "simple elegance" but sometimes like to take a walk on the wild side. I'm working on a 16" concert ukulele featuring a highly figured myrtle body and Alaskan yellow cedar top. The customer was interested in something a bit different for the fingerboard so I selected this stunning ziricote for the fretboard and bridge.

 And now for somethign a little different: a Ziricote fingerboard

And now for somethign a little different: a Ziricote fingerboard

The Joys of Selecting a Top

To achieve this customer's tonal and visual goals, I presented him with four choices for a top wood. From left to right: Adirondack spruce, Sitka spruce, Alaskan yellow cedar and Port Orford cedar. He chose the Alaskan yellow cedar top because of its tonal qualities and how nicely in matches the myrtle body.

 Choices, choices!

Choices, choices!