It’s July … and nothing in the instrument world says “fun in the sun” like the humble ukulele! Fun to play and fun to build, the popularity of the ukulele has ballooned over the last ten years, so much so that you would have to have been living in a cave to not notice it.
A wide assortment of ukulele manufacturers have joined guitarmakers on the floor of the NAMM show to supply the mass market, and also (to a lesser degree) at shows like the Healdsburg Guitar Festival. Seasoned guitar makers like Rick Turner, Steve Grimes, Rob Lee and Kenny Hill are joining in and helping to fill the need for high-end handmade instruments. Uke clubs, festivals, and classes abound and the instrument has graduated from novelty status with the aid of performers like Jake Shimabukuro, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Eddy Vedder. It’s no longer just a souvenir you’d take home from your vacation to Hawaii!
LMI has been happy to play along, working with major manufacturers (among them: Kamaka, Kala, Ko’olau, G-string, Sonny D) as well as enjoying long relationships with builders like Bob Gleason, Peter Hurney, Jake Maclay, Bill Hardin, Dave Sigman, Tony Graziano, Gordon Mayer and many others.
Our inventory of interesting uke products continues to expand. In addition to precarved uke bridges and necks, you will find a variety of small-sized fretwire, tuning machines, kerfing, nut and saddle blanks, strings and plans. Of course many items (binding, purfling, bracewood, tools) carryover directly from our regular guitar offerings.
Things get really interesting when we come to tonewoods! Just look under our “Tonewood” category where ukulele woods share space with woods appropriate for flat top mandolins, tiples, churangos, and other diminutive axes. Our inventory is constantly changing, but at the time of this writing (July 2014), we have Bocote, African Blackwood, Bubinga, Mahogany, Machiche, Ovangkol, Walnut, and Malaysian Blackwood (and many others) cut for ukulele backs and sides. Indian Rosewood is due in soon!
We support the growing trend to build ukes similarly to guitars and other stringed instruments (with a resonant softwood soundboard and hardwood back and sides–as opposed to all-hardwood). For this reason, we supply uke soundboards such as Adirondack and Engelmann Spruce, along with Redwood and Yellow Cedar.
Finally, we will continue to offer ukulele sets cut from Koa, the traditional Hawaiian wood, but the availability of quality raw materials has diminished substantially, so expect that there will often be times when we are out of stock–and that prices will continue to rise.