boat paddle ukuleles

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More great players/singers:

This one by "Dan", who is sporting a formidable Ahab beard and kazoo singing Georgia Brown introduces a great mix of Formby and traditional Dixie stylings into his solo break.  I found many other great videos in his uploads too.
Great playing Dan!

Next, another favorite of mine, Ben Mealer, who has a nice looking Stromberg Voisinet banjo uke and  wonderful Italian Greyhound:
Ben does a great job on many of my old 20s 30s favorites.  Gus Kahn etc.  Check out "Gypsy in my soul" too and his Jack Pepper cover.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ub 4/5 Resonator Thumb Screw Replicas

I am offering these as a custom replica that I machine on my small metal lathe.  They are $22 each or 2 for $40.   Solid Steel with nickel plating.   They are very time consuming to make and I make them to the exact dimensions of the original Gibson parts.   I couldn't find an exact duplicate anywhere when looking for these.
The ones pictures have not been polished or plated yet.   I can leave them unplated for UB5 owners.

I take paypal :    please add $2 for shipping

Allow one week for delivery.

Friday, November 18, 2011

John Bianchi's wonderful blog about Banjo Ukes:

John has a lot of videos playing and singing up on YouTube and his blog is very informative.  Many great photos and in depth information about makers/distributors.    Check it out!
By Request:   Formby's "Alexander's Ragtime Band"   a  video .   Chords are in the description (tuning to the video will be needed to strum along)   Once again Mr. Formby takes a lovely solo break full of shakes, splits, syncopations and the usual effortless virtuosity.
  I hope to be loading more videos of the  more obscure songs with chords.  I started with sharp photos of my Stromberg Voisinet but the windows movie maker pixelates them into a painful focus.  Sorry!

Chords:  Chords:

 G|G|A7 D7| G G7| C x 4|G x 4| A7 x 2| D| D7| G x 2| A7 D7 |G G7|C x4| G|G7|C| C# o | G|D7|A7 D7| G

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mya-Moe Beansprout Banjo ukulele released:
This new design sounds GREAT!!  I like the colors offered and the new changes.  Bravo!  I can't wait to give one of these a try.  Curved frets, various neck widths, Black, Reddish and Amber finishes, brass or plated tension rings.  I love the sound on the video.   Serious quality Aaron!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Day, Another Brit!
Richard Stubbs:
What a man wears in the privacy of his youtube garden is his own business!!  I hope his neighbors appreciate his "raw" talent though..........  A wonderful player, singer and he plays on great looking
Banjoleles:  An Abbott, Keech and Dallas.   I hope to post information on his CD soon.

some more great songs (with shirt):

I could watch him all day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

David Barlia,

New Orleans by Hoagy Carmichael.

This video contains the rarely played middle section which was originally the Verse in the sheet music.

I shot this with my old phone out in my garage with a great friend and Uke player David Barlia.  David is one of those rare musicians that can most often just play and figure out an old song if you just hand him a ukulele and insist on it.  If he was a pianist he would aptly be called a "piano man".      If I had to consider anyone a teacher it would be David, who handed me a Red Maholo and taught me the chords to Five Foot Two.  Check out his websites:  &

David is a Flash developer, video game designer, learning slide Hawaiian guitar, chef  and an active freelance ukulele/singer.

Just to mention a few of his many talents.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lange Banner Blue Banjo Ukulele for Sale      SOLD
Lovely, solid, heavy, big sound, ornate, tone ring, original hardware and skin (in great shape).  Nice finish.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

FOR SALE:   Gretsch Clarophone Banjo Ukulele
These are punchy little 7" head banjo ukes.  Everything original but the tuners which were cracking and falling apart.  The replacements hold tuning very well and are smooth for fine tuning.  Some rust on the
hooks, all original hardware and skin, great finish solid maple, hefty neck.   I used it tuned to high F and it sounds great at C,D or higher tunings.  Minor dings or nicks, a great user.
some pics:

Monday, October 10, 2011

For Sale, I am thinning down the collection of wonderful banjo ukuleles.  This is the 8" Maybell by Slingerland that is made of solid walnut.  A very husky model with a clear tone and long sustain.  Brand new Jeff Menzies skin, no rust, all original hardware and finish.  These are quite heavy compared to many brands and the reason is that the hardware is a bit heavier duty than most banjo ukes, and the walnut is heavier than the selection of woods that various makers used.  Lovely grain throughout, Ebony fret board and peghead, real mother of pearl diamond fret markers.

Here is a short sound clip with pictures: sorry about the sound , it seems to get harsher when I compress the video through movie maker.  Blogspot won't allow a simple sound file.

the auction is listed on Ebay and will include a nylon padded gig bag for the instrument along with another new set of my own strings.  Here are the pictures:

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Headless Wonders!
You have all seen them.

 They seem to be everywhere.  Strumming away effortlessly, perhaps singing on or off key but never without spirit.  Men and women, too shy to point the video camera a little bit higher and reveal the face behind the talent.  I would bet these are the same sort of people who scoot the to back line in photo ops and obscure their faces or completely eclipse them if possible.  I think it's probably a phenomenon that will be eternal to You Tube.  Here's to all of you, keep it up!  ( the playing, not the camera)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Great U.K. players:
Peter Nixon!
  Another great set of tutorial and performances from the U.K. ,  Peter Nixon's videos really got me going on many of the aspects of banjo ukulele playing.  He has posted tutorials on the fan stroke, split stroke and break downs of many of George Formby's solo breaks.  A very crucial one for me was his second fan stroke tutorial because it sorted me out on the best order to use the fingers in the fan stroke in relation to "tapping".   It's very important to learn the fan stroke correctly from the very beginning because the timing of the tapping technique depends heavily on which strings are being strummed.  For most cases of this technique, you stroke this order:   thumb on high string down stroke, index finger on high string up stroke, followed by a down stroke with the back or side of the little finger across all of the strings.  (as you get familiar this pattern you emphasize the outer strings for melodic clarity)
  Peter's video explains this carefully and was a revelation for me when I first saw it because I could not seem to coordinate the ragtime rhythm with the fan stroke.  (123,123,12)
  I highly recommend having a look at Peter's Channel which includes tutorials, performances at the Formby Society and various other items of interest.
P.S.   Peter is a lefty and is kind enough to aim his camera into a mirror so that the videos aren't completely confusing to observe.  Thanks for the help Peter!

Monday, May 30, 2011


UB-3   fine condition, fine example.  Sounds lovely.  You can read much more about the UB-3 model on my post about the Gibson line of banjo ukes.  Here are some more pictures for the auction:

I forgot to mention, the UB-3 that is for sale is the same one pictured on this post:

I hope to be loading a video in the morning.  
Ebay Auction:   Maxitone Banjo Ukulele   SOLD

A fine example of the metal body Maxitone.  These came in Nickel, Brass and Aluminum.  This one is solid brass with a copper flange for the hooks and tension nuts.  New skin, strings and has modified tuners that are smooth and easy to fine tune.  Very rugged banjo ukes with the famous "Gumby" headstock.  Decal is new and printed with lacquer coating to protect it after applying.
Please contact me for any other questions.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Hello Banjo Uke Players!  I've been pretty busy doing what I do for a living which is play the clarinet here in Los Angeles.   I'm going to be posting some new posts soon and putting up some fine instruments for auction including two restored and lovely Gibsons.   A UB-1 and UB-3.  These should go up for auction with in a day or two.   Sorry about not posting much lately but I plan on  getting back to this blog soon and have many topics to cover soon.  Keep strumming!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Decal Transfers
I've been interested in this topic for quite a while now and the local model train store here in Pasadena Ca. helped me out. As it turns out, the decals are an accepted part of model train restoration.  What this means to them is that if the decals are missing, or in such a bad condition as to be illegible then it is considered fair game to replace them with new ones.  I think in terms of banjo ukuleles there is so little nomenclature on these instruments that any sort of indication would be acceptable.  I set out to find as many sources as possible and luckily I have a different model banjo uke that happens to have a transfer on it and it was in good enough condition to reconstruct in photoshop and print out on  Ink Jet transfer paper that has a clear base. This paper is also made with white background and is available for Laser or Ink Jet printers.  I'm sure there are those collectors that would cringe at the thought of a new transfer on a vintage instrument and to a certain extent I would agree. I think honesty is the best policy here and I plan to include the before and after picture on the auction when I sell this fine little banjo ukulele.  Also, if you wanted to remove it, be my guest, just remember how it looks underneath, where the previous restorer took sandpaper or coarse steel wool to the transfer when they were removing the original copper colored spray paint. For me, I really like how it came out.  It has a logo now, a branding.  If you are interested in having one for your Gumby style Bruno Maxitone banjo uke, send me an email.  I made some spares.  I have a few other ukes that are missing most or a good portion of the original decals, and I plan on restoring the decals on those too.
   the process is fairly simple.  You need a good source like a photo or jpeg of the object.  When you have it sized you can print it out, coat it with lacquer , soak it and apply it.  After applying coat it again with lacquer and it is protected.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview:  Aaron Keim  Beansprout Banjo Ukuleles
  This is the first in a series of short interviews with current banjo ukulele Luthiers.  I first noticed Aaron's fine instruments on You Tube when I was searching for a tutorial on the clawhammer or Frailing technique.

Below is one of his videos on the clawhammer style.  This technique works very well on the banjo uke as well as the ukulele.

I noticed Aaron's banjo ukes have a robust, clear tone and became interested in them.  Here is a link to his website.  also, here is his Two Chord Songbook:

The photo gallery has pictures of his entire banjo uke line.
Here is the interview:

1.  Did you start right out on the Banjo Ukulele or was there a period of design and experimentation? 
I made two prototypes that had laminated cherry rims and mahogany necks.  then i made two more with the maple block rims and maple necks.  after that I got started with a batch of 10, just how I wanted them.
2.  Did you make other instruments before the banjo uke , and if so in any numbers?
I have made one mandolin, two guitars, 5 five string banjos, 90 banjo ukes and 75 or so regular ukes.
3.  What convinced you that you could produce a superior banjo ukulele?
well, even the good vintage ones were missing the mark on major modern design issues such as geared tuners, comfortable sized necks, good setups, correct intonation, careful fretwork, etc...all I did was bring the banjo uke up to proper luthiery standards!  there were a couple of other luthiers doing the same thing around the same time as me, but I seemed to beat them to the punch as far as marketing and sales go.

4.  How long have you been using reclaimed wood and is it more stable than kiln dried stock?  Does Myrtle provide a unique sound quality? 
-I have been using reclaimed wood for about 3 years.  almost all of it is so old that is has dried out long ago!  I think myrtle is halfway between koa and mahogany and I really like how it sounds.
          6.  Are any new models in the works?
-I am working on a new five string banjo and focusing on my collaboration with Gordon and Char of Mya-Moe  I would like to get a soprano banjo uke with a 7 inch pot going, but I haven't found the time yet!
7.  Do you make custom or special order instruments?
Not really.  I am willing to alter some basic things about my designs, but I am not a true custom builder like Mike DaSilva.  I am a simple luthier and I stick to what I am good at.
8.  Can you tell me a little about the Renaissance heads that you include with your instruments?
They sound like skin heads but are louder, warmer and more consistent.  Also, they are not affected by climate changes.
           9.  I understand that your method of frailing (drop thumb) has reached a lot of players in the EU.  Are you excited to have been so influential abroad?
Yeah, that is pretty cool!  I wish I could tour over there, I haven't had the chance yet!  (except for a festival in Italy)
         10.  Are you still active with your music ensemble and do you tour?
Yes, I play about 100 shows a year with Boulder Acoustic Society and about 30 under my own name (The Quiet American) 
11.  Have you considered making a piccolo banjo?

I have made a couple of banjo ukes with 5 strings tuned cgceg.  I guess that counts as a piccolo banjo!

                              Thanks Aaron!  I am looking forward to that 7" rim.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The readers are sending me catalog pages and here is a brochure listing the basic Gibson models.  There is no date on the brochure but it must be a later publication since it lists the UB-5 and UB-4 separately. Click to enlarge.
I would guess that it must have been published after the 1934 catalog which describes the UB-4 as having Gold plated hardware.  This image can be seen on this website:

Monday, March 21, 2011

The seller of the Gibson UB-5 was kind enough to send me the catalog page on the UB-4 that mentions the UB-5 in the text.   I hope this helps with the designation issue that seems like it might outlast the actual instruments at this point.  Gibson states it pretty clearly in the text beneath the pictures.
                                 If you click on the picture it will expand and be readable.  
Gibson Flat Resonator assembly

A friend and reader, Clive Stanton,  had a brilliant suggestion for keeping the spacers in place when you put the flat resonator back on the Gibson ub1 , ub2 and ub3 models.  First put a toothpick in the four holes, then put the spacer over the toothpick.  Fit the resonator over the toothpicks and remove each one before putting the screw back in place.  Works like a charm!  Thanks Clive!
British Flat sided Cases
A reader asked this:  "Did american makers supply their banjo ukuleles with flat sided cases like the majority of British made cases?"
Answer:    To be honest I have never seen this type of case included with ukes made in the U.S. unless they were for sale in the U.K..   I can't say for sure but to my knowledge the flat sided cases were not sold here. Also, I have seen Gibson's sold in the U.K. as having the "original" case that are the flat sided style you find there.  It's possible that Gibson might have outfitted the export ukes with those cases, or had the distributors include them.  I really have no idea.  This is a difficult question to answer and perhaps the elders in the GFS might shed some light on it.
P.S.  I've always wondered why they put the flat side upward?  Seems like it would sit more firmly flat on the ground.
Catalog PDF request:

I would like to upload any pages from catalogs that the readers would like to send to my email address.  I can make pdf files of them and upload them so that we can all enjoy them at no cost.  This would probably not affect resale of the original catalogs since there would be no way to duplicate the old paper and aging of the originals.  I think any serious catalog collectors will bid on originals for their value as collectibles.   I've seen this in the used camera market.  Many sites have manuals for download on vintage cameras and the "real" manuals continue to sell for market prices despite the accessibility through downloads.
   I would like to include all of the makers as well as accessory companies like Grover and Elton.
These would be public domain by now since that is a 62 year limit.

 The Gibson UB-2,3,4,5?   What is it?
  This is a response to several emails with questions about Gibson terminology.
Thanks to a few catalogs and possibly a few typos, we are left with a mountain of confusion about the Gibson line of banjo ukes.  I've written more on this in my post about the various Gibsons but after seeing a few auctions recently I think it might help to propose something to the various sites and collectors out there.
We won't ever get any help from Gibson because they moved from Kalamazoo long ago and anyone working there that might help with this topic is probably long since retired.  Also, they had a serious basement flood at their current factory and my guess is that any records on this topic might have been ruined .
  First of all what I see is what might be a typo in the catalog that clearly lists the fancier inlay model (the one we all call the Ub-3) as a UB-2.   Now, to my knowledge this was a bit of back labeling since the UB-2 and UB-3 had already been listed in their catalogs and were very established high production models.  Also on that same page the catalog pictures a "UB-3" that looks to me like a UB-2 with an added diamond flanged resonator.  This same page lists the UB-4 as gold plated !  That is three big changes in the terminology in one catalog.  This must have been confusing to even the merchants and distributors at this point.  For instance, you go to order a UB-3 and the resonator model shows up at your store? A nickel UB-4 shows up in gold?  A UB-2 has fancy inlays and a sunburst finish?
  I've tried to put myself in the shoes of the Gibson folks  and have a theory about this catalog.  By this point they had the UB-4, and of course, the ub-1,ub-2 and ub-3 as well.  Now, we have this resonator that we want to include on the less ornate UB-2,  and put a maple version of it on there and leave the fingerboard pear wood and leave the mother of pearl dots......oh, and leave out the tone ring that the UB-4/5 has.   What are we going to call it?  For some reason, calling it the UB-2 deluxe or something like that was not their choice and they chose to call it the UB-3.  I also think they might have dropped the original ub-2 at that point.  Also, I have to wonder, what would they have called the UB-3 with an added diamond resonator?   I think it is obvious that they were boxed in by the UB designation that had a basic model at one end, and a fancy model at the other, leaving them three already used numbers to restructure the whole labeling process.
   Since we have no serial numbers on most of the Gibson models, the best we can do is go by the fret boards.  To me they hold the key to the terminology.  Also, if we use the "Deluxe" term it vastly helps with this topic.   Since catalogs contradict each other and there is no way to trace what the factory was actually producing in a given year with serial numbers or factory records.
  I would like to propose that we name them all according to the fret boards, and use the deluxe as a further indicator when there is a diamond flanged resonator.  This might help to end what I am going to call "Gibson Catalog Wars"

so here is my proposition that is based on current usage:

UB-1               6" head, flat resonator, dot markers
UB-2              dot markers, 8 inch head, flat resonator
Ub-2 Deluxe   dots, 8" head, diamond flanged  resonator
UB-3              Fancy diamond fret markers with rosettes, with or without sunburst ,8" head, flat resonator
UB-3 Deluxe   Same as UB-3 above with diamond flanged resonator (walnut back, tone ring?)                
UB-4              8" head, Diamond resonator, nickel plated hardware, Walnut burl back, rosewood fret
                      board, mother of pearl inlay "The Gibson" and fancy inlays.
UB-5               Same as above but with gold hardware

Also, for any custom models it would help if we called them nearest to what they might have been as listed above.  ie. custom Ub-3 etc.

I know this is contrary to some of the catalogs, but it seems like what many banjo uke players are already calling these models anyhow.
I don't have every model in my collection, and would love it if anybody with the deluxe models would write me about the tone ring, number of frets, type of wood on the backs etc. to share with my readers.   Pictures would be greatly appreciated too!

Monday, March 14, 2011

I've had quite a few letters and will answer them soon.  It has been very busy here and my heart goes out to the victims of the tragedies in Japan and New Zealand.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Dallas "B" George Formby banjo ukulele.  These little banjo ukes are underated.  They feature a 7" head, rim mounted flange and wooden resonator.  I first became interested in trying one of these when I heard it on Matthew Richards' excellent video comparison of four different banjo ukuleles.
It's the second uke he reviews and it had a very distinctive brilliant tone that I haven't heard very often on banjo ukes. It's rather bright in the best sense of the word and I was interested in the carrying power of it.  It took a few months to find one and when I did I wasn't disappointed.  Actually I was surprised that not only does it have that sound in the lower position chords, the high positions have excellent sustain and intonation.
If you look at the features of the Dallas B more closely it almost defies the norm in construction.  The flange has no venting and the sound is almost trapped completely within the resonator.  The rim is possibly the thinnest I've ever seen on banjos made later than about 1925 and it has only 8 hooks for a 7" head.

  I'm going to guess that part of the reason these have such a big full sound is that they possess one of those magical sets of dimensions where the acoustical  properties line up and the proportions are exactly what they need to be to produce a great sound.

 I also suspect that the tension ring, which is quite unique on the Dallas Ukes, has a great deal to contribute.  If you were to cut a cross section of it, it would seem like an "L" and the flesh hoop is concealed inside of it, giving it a clean profile.  Also the tension ring is notched to  keep the J hooks spaced evenly around it.  The tension ring is quite heavy and I suspect that it is cast brass.  Banjo makers often cite the tension ring as a critical aspect in the tone they achieve since the vibration of the vellum can either be absorbed or reflected by the density and design of the it.

 I was glad to find a sample with the original vellum and hardware mainly because I wanted to be sure that it would possess the tone I was after.  It's probably a bit thinner vellum than many have but not too thin, and I think these ukes would sound great with anything but a thick vellum unless you were trying to mellow out the tone of this model.  I've never been able to compare but would suspect that the signature is a rubber stamp.

You might have noticed the "ring rash" on the back of the neck and I'm not going to refinish it.  In general I would say that the finish is probably not up to the usual standard on the higher models of the Dallas Ukes, but it has that mahogany color that so much of the furniture influenced by the British Empire had.  It came with Nylgut strings and I will probably leave them installed since they lean towards a strident quality that I wanted this uke to have.

                                                        all photos copywritten by Lucia Loiso

Thursday, February 24, 2011

By request another video of the Avalon Banjo Ukulele.  I was able to get my video camera to work and here is a little "Five Foot Two"  It has a medium/high bridge (for me) and will include a lower "Formby" style bridge and a set of my new formula strings at no extra charge.  Also, as stated in the questions, I will include a nice padded gig bag.  Good luck bidding!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

For Sale                     

  Avalon banjo ukulele.  These can be seen with various labels or inlays and fret board designs.  This one has the typical star and two nail holes on the dowel where the Henry Stadlmair Company of New York City would have put their label.  I've seen them with "vernon" or "the vernon" on labels there as well as Bruno.  They seem to have been designed by one original maker and distributed or manufactured by several companies along the way.  I have heard them called Lange and Stewart too.  I'm not sure anybody really knows who made them, but they are very well made banjo ukes and the finishing is a cut above many of the mass produced banjo ukes.

They have a laminated 7" laminated rim that has an "arched top" style meaning that it curves up to the inner curve of the rim.  These also feature 8 brackets per side which is quite a bit for 7" rims.  Most have 5 or 6.  The tension ring is thick and made of solid brass and is grooved.

It has 16 frets so the range on the high string goes from open A to high C#.  This uke has a rather wide fret board and would be excellent for players with larger hands that find the banjo uke cramped.  I have seen this model of the Avalon converted into a picollo banjo with plenty of room left over for the four strings. I put a "no knot" tail piece on that is low profile like the original "Bell brand" tail piece would have been.  Also, these came with pegs like a violin and I installed my own tuners that are modified and similar to mainland tuners and have nickel plated solid brass bushings to seat the tuner buttons. see picture below

I have refinished this uke in a deep brown with a hint of red.  It is has 5 thin coats of semi gloss (not matte) lacquer. the bridge is my own design for this uke and is made of maple, black walnut and with a blood wood saddle for the strings.  the skin is a medium weight calf by Jeff Menzies.

This one has a nice clear sound with ample volume.  It is very suitable for picking and plucking with the string spacing being so liberal.  Some of the hooks have rust and will be de-rusted and polish during the week of the auction.  All hardware except the tailpiece is original. 

  The original violin style pegs will be included in the auction and can be used if preferred.  There are no dot inlays on the fret board but it has fret markers inlayed on the side of the 3,5,7,10,12th frets.
Please email me with any questions and the pictures enlarge to full size if you click on them.  For some reason if I have cropped a few of picture they won't enlarge to full size. Try using: control + on your keyboard. Use control - to reduce size. 

thanks for looking!