HOW I WORK
I keep on experimenting mainly because I like it: I experiment new technologies and materials but I am also passionate about ancient techniques, especially as regards the production of natural finishes.
I love doing fine work with a sharp chisel as well as drawing a piece in 3D and programming a numerical control machine. Both of these sides of craftsmanship intrigue me, that’s why I’m using both method for building my instrument. I just think that some steps are better done by a human hand, some others with the help of a machine.
Of course an artisanal musical instrument is far more expensive than a factory made one, but if you are a little bit into the professional handmade ukulele scene, you’ll notice that my prices are below average. Is that because I lack in quality? Is that because the other makers ask more than the necessary? None of these! It’s just because I chose to take a different path. I’m aiming for a leaner production and a smart design. I like minimal looks and therefore I try to avoid too many decorations; when I do them I really like to study an intelligent way of creating them that combines beauty with optimization of time. Certain processes are left to modern machines and digital manufactury, so I have more time for the ones in which human hand, creativity and sesitivity are indispensable.
STRINGS AND ACTION
My standard action for soprano, concert and tenor acoustic ukuleles is 3mm. I set baritones a little higher (3,5mm) while I set all the electrics lower (2,5mm)
I put a 0-Fret in all of my ukuleles: I think it helps a lot in finding a good intonation and in having the most comfortable action at the nut. This feature also gives a better tone balance between fretted and unfretted notes.
I like to control the final sound of the instrument also through the string choice. I personally “produce” my own strings starting from high quality fluorocarbon fishing line spools. After a lot of experiments I now found the combination of brands and gauges that I like. I gained enough experience to retouch the instrument’s feeling and sound by working on these variables.
I won’t tell you that I use natural finishes because I think they sound better than synthetic ones, or because they can be spread in thinner layers thus leaving the wood free to “breathe”, I’ll be honest: I use them because I don’t want to get sick of some bad disease related to those products.
The use of those finishes, to be done in full safety, would require a series of installations and precautions that I cannot take in my small home-workshop.
This is why I focus, study and research, so to get the best out of traditional finishes of natural origin. The fact that they are of natural origin does not automatically make them all healthy, but the precautions in this case are within my reach.
Obviously natural finishes are less resistant than synthetic ones, but remember that there are many centuries-old instruments finished with these methods that are still in excellent condition.
They just need a little more attention and care, but I’m sure that’s exactly how you will treat your beloved handmade instrument.