The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2013

It’s official! I don’t get out much!

I’m back from my visit down to the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain in Cheltenham and I have a heap of photos and recollections to share with you below. Forgive me if I jump about a bit, but this weekend has been a bit of a blur. View this as an alternative review of the festival… You read this blog for a reason right? Welcome to my world…

“Who’s Kev?”I can’t say that I was very impressed with the hotel we stayed in at Cheltenham. What a dump! There was a sign on the wall in reception that read along the lines of: “Please don’t abuse the staff… They’re here to help you.” The hotel was one and three-quarters of a mile from the centre of Cheltenham. It was a walk I was to do many times.

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Are you going too the Ukulele festival of Great Britain 2013?


This weekend, myself (julesd) and the one and only King Uke are set to sound clash with Ukes for the first time at the THE UKULELE FESTIVAL OF GREAT BRITAIN 2013!

We have never met before, and so it will truly be a first. Both of us with be tooled up, but the weapons of choice remain secret for now. All we really know is, we will sound better than this guy does :-


Here’s 3 chords…now form a band

(photo curtesy of  Diana More)

(photo curtesy of Diana More)

Our good friends and London’s most amazing punk ukulele band The pUKEs have received Arts Council England funding to deliver a series of punk rock uke workshops for beginners at festivals and community events this summer.

The fun and friendly workshops, based on the theme Here’s 3 Chords…now form a band, are guaranteed to get complete beginners strumming along to a classic punk song in less than an hour.
Festivals confirmed so far include Brighton’s Paddle Round the Pier, Rebellion in Blackpool, Deer Shed in Yorkshire and the aptly named 3 Chords in Cornwall. The band are producing a cut’n’paste style fanzine to hand out at workshops which will include chord charts, song sheets and playing tips.

Clara Wiseman from the pUKEs said: ”Playing punk rock on the ukulele is a lot of fun and we’re stupidly excited about this project. It’s a relatively simple instrument to learn, so we’re going to have people of all ages strumming along to punk classics in no time. We believe in the DIY punk ethos that making music is for anyone who wants to have a go ­ and that’s what this project is all about.”

The 21­strong group, who are mainly women, play quirky covers of well known and more obscure punk songs. Around half the band were ‘non musicians’ before they learned the uke two years ago, the others have been in bands such as UK Subs, Extreme Noise Terror and Lost Cherrees. Their massive stage presence and raucous live show has landed them support slots with many of the bands who inspired them, including Sham 69, Bad Manners, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, Menace and Subhumans. Their debut EP is set for release on Damaged Goods records in May.

The original ‘3 chords’ illustration featuring drawings of three guitar chord shapes, captioned, ‘this is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band’ is often incorrectly credited to Mark Perry’s fanzine ‘Sniffin’ Glue’, but it first appeared in another fanzine ‘Sideburns’ in January 1977 and was later reproduced in The Stranglers’ fanzine ‘Strangled’.

The project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.



To find out more, register your interest in a workshop, or book The pUKEs for your event:

July 7 Paddle Round the Pier ­ Brighton
July 13 Music in the Park ­ Wanstead, London
July 21&22 Deer Shed ­ North Yorkshire
August 10&11 Rebellion ­ Blackpool
August 24 3 Chords ­ Cornwall
October 12 Sound & Vision ­ Norwich
More tbc

Cthukulele – Fretless, electric bass ukulele

We have been talking to David Iriguchi at and he has kindly allowed us to tell you some more about this amazing bass ukulele, the Cthukulele… The words and pictures that follow are his, but we are sure you will agree, this is an amazing looking instrument. The Chtukulele will make her public debut at the 2013 Reno Ukulele Festival in Sparks Nevada, April 11-14, 2013.

When we decided to make a bass ukulele we decided to go all in and make a true freak.  We wanted a creature not of this world. This is that creature. The Chtukulele…

Hewn from a single split piece of spalted maple the Chtukulele’s body is an ergonomic masterpiece (how’s that for some nice hyperbole!). The semi-hollow body is extremely rigid and gives the Padauk soundboard a solid foundation to vibrate off of.
The Cthukulele gets her name from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu, another creature not of this Earth.
From the top you can see that the body is just two inches deep and it is nothing but smooth curves. The top edge where your right arm rests is part of the body and not part of the soundboard so your arm does not rest on the soundboard.

Whether you are sitting or standing the Chtukulele is very comfortable to hold. It sits very close to your body and all the contact points are smooth and rounded.

This end view shows the Cthukulele’s unusual profile. The angled side (to the right in this image) rests flat on your thigh when sitting and playing. Extraordinary comfort.

The spalted Maple has a wonderful ‘dirty’ patina. The small port in the lower bout is to insert the strings. The strings pass through the soundboard and easily fit through this port.
The Chtukulele uses dual “Jet Intake” soundholes. These ports are carved into the upper bout. With this design we don’t have to cut a hole in the soundboard. Because of this, the soundboard is suported all the way around which allows us to lighten up the bracing. Plus it looks wicked cool, right? It is this view that gives the Chtukulele it’s name.

The ports are quite deep and there is also a channel below the end of the fretboard. We are currently designing an acoustic semi-hollow ukulele with these Jet Ports.
There is a cutout in the body to give access to the highest frets. The Maple neck is inset into the body about 9mm.

The adjustable bridge is our own design. It allows 12mm of compensation adjustment, from -3mm to +9mm. The compensation is very easily adjusted using a 2.5mm allen wrench.

As with our other ukuleles we used a zero fret on the Chtukulele. This allows us to make a much lower profile nut.
The Chtukulele is fretless and has white styrene fret markers. There are also side markers at 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12.

The Maple neck uses our ‘comfort’ profile. It is bladed so that it is slightly thicker at the G-string edge and tapers smoothly to the E-string edge.

The bridge has a very flat appearance and there is a K&K Sound Big Twin pickup installed.

In this view you can see that the arm rest is part of the body and not the soundboard. The bridge adjusters attach to the edge of the bridge and can slide horizontally.
We use standard Hipshot Ultralight tuners instead of the spooled style. A ziptie is used to secure the string in the tuner because those polyurethane strings are slippery little buggers. The zipties work just great though and we like the standard tuners a lot better than the spool style.

So there she is, the evil-looking Cthukulele! A strange creature not of this world.

Type: Semi-hollow, electric bass

Size: Tenor

Body: Hand-carved, Spalted Maple

Soundboard: Padauk

Neck: Maple – medium “comfort” profile

Scale length: 20″

Total # fret markers: 16

Fret markers to the body: 12

Special Features:
Semi-hollow back and sides are hand-carved from a single block of Spalted Maple

Includes K&K Sound Big Twin internal pickup

Dual “Jet Intake” soundholes

Custom adjustable bridge

Hipshot Ultralight tuners

Pahoehoe polyurethane strings
Smile when you play that!™

Utah’s Uke Fest

I attended Utah’s Uke Fest on July 27-28, 2012.  This festival had classes and workshops during the day with amazing concerts at night.  I learned new things and was inspired to take my playing to the next level.   My favorite part of the festival was getting to meet other ukulele enthusiasts from the surrounding area.

Sarah Maisel and Paul Tillery and  “The Quiet American” performed on Friday night.  The groups did separate sets, but they performed a song together at the end.

On Saturday at noon, there was an open mic contest.  The performances were great,  with lots of brave people displaying their talents.

I was lucky enough to take 2nd place at the open mic contest!  My prize was a beautiful Eddy Finn Bamboo ukulele  and a hard case for it.

Paul “Tommy” O’Connor played a few Celtic tunes on the ukulele at the Saturday evening concert.

Bolo Rodrigues also played on Saturday evening.  He attaches a ukulele to the bottom of his guitar and switches back and forth between the two instruments.

Brittni Paiva was the headliner of the festival.  Her spectacular performance was a great capstone to a very fun couple of days.


Jakata Street Punks (video)

A group of friendly street punks in Indonesia’s capitol, Jakarta.

We had heard the punk ukulele scene in Jakarta was big. We bumped into these punk kids the first time we went out for a walk around and they were happy to let us record them playing uke. In the few days we were there, we meet more new ukulele friends than you ever could have expected. It seems a uke to these kids is like a PSP or a blackberry is to kids in the UK. It gives them amusement, entertainment and above all, a voice to tell everyone else about how they see the world.

The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2012

Today’s post celebrates the fun that was the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain. I dragged my family along kicking and screaming and a great time was had by all! Apologies in advance for the poor photography. I’ve included as many of the photos as possible, with a few scans interspersed in between. There’s no particular order to the pictures. If it’s uke-related then it’s probably got a mention somewhere below. I’ve stuck in as many plugs and links as possible. Sorry if I missed anyone. And sorry if I’ve got any of my facts wrong. Just shout if you want anything fixing…

The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain; Cheltenham; 1st – 3rd of June, 2012
There’ll be no festival next year apparently. No details were given. I’m as much
in the dark as you.

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The PUKES @Boston arms,Tufnell Park 5/3/2012

As Promised, last night I went all the way up to Tuffnell Park to see a band called ‘The Pukes‘. Well, I say ‘band’ but that really does not do them justice. They are more of a ‘punk ukulele collective’ or, to use their own terminology ‘a ukulele anti-society for punks’.

I am guessing, but I would hazard a guess that there were around 15 or more people on that stage thrashing the guts out them little Ukuleles. Mostly ladies, mostly with different colored hair. Mostly tattooed. Totally a spectacle to be seen.

I have been talking to Clara from the pukes over email for a little while now. She sent me a list of their gigs a while back (see the events calendar for their next gig). Now there a few guys in my office over from New York for a few weeks running training courses. One of them asked me if we could go to a punk gig, and I remembered Clara had told me of this gig, so I took my New York workmates up to Tuffnell Park. They couldn’t believe what they saw. The pub was full of leather jackets, bright coloured mohawks and big boots, but my New York mates just couldn’t understand people looking like that but still able to ask them ‘scuse me, mate when they wanted to get past. Apparently, New York punks have much lower standards etiquette than London punks.

So the Pukes rolled through a great list of 2 1/2 minute punk standards that, although admittedly never written for ukulele, belonged on the 4-stringers, if they belonged to be played at all. Further more, every member of the band and the crowd enjoyed what was going on. If you play Uke yourself, you will most likely know that sub-conscious grin you get when you play a tune on it, and you know that by all the rules it just should not work, but it does. That exact same grin permutated through the crowd. Even the most hardened punks were bouncing.

Of course, if that wasn’t enough, to top my evening, I went back stage to meet the band, and I was also lucky enough to get a quick play on what we think might be the only solid body Kala U-Bass in Britain at the moment. It’s owner, Paris, was kind enough to let me take some photos of it, but I am going to save most of them for another day. These U-basses need further investigation, and I know just the website… stay tuned!

Want to try punk uke yourself? Download ‘The Pukes Punk Songbook‘ now!

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Exclusive Interview : Daniel Hulbert

We have been lucky enough to find another Ukulele builder, Daniel Hulbert, for the latest instalment in our Exclusive Interview’s. Daniel lives in Utah, USA with his wife and two young children. When he is not working as an electrical engineer, he spends his spare timewith tools in his hands making some really nice electric ukes.

Explorer Ukulele: (2011) - This futuristic design works very well as an electric ukulele. The color scheme and hardware closely resemble a full-sized Classic White Gibson Explorer.

How did you get into building Uke’s, Daniel?
I started to build instruments in 2009. My first instruments were basic instruments made out of altoids and cookie tins. My confidence increased, as I built more instruments. I soon made my first solid body electric ukulele. I learned a lot from and that build and have continued to gain knowledge. With solid-body electric ukuleles, I have also fashioned playable ukuleles out of tennis racquets, a frying pan, and even a bedpan.

How much planning goes into making your ukes? Do you draw out your own designs or did you manage to find designs somewhere else?
I start my planning by staring, ofttimes longingly, at different guitar designs. When one suits my fancy, I begin to figure out the needed parts and supplies. Another thing that helps is to make a full-sized paper mockup of the ukulele. Doing this helps to ensure that the end product will be able to accommodate the pickups, tuners, control plates, etc.

So far, my electric ukuleles have been tributes to regular-sized electric guitars. In this respect, much of the design has been done. The task is to figure out how to pack the essense of the guitar into uke form.

When you set off building a uke do you design the ukulele based upon the parts you have, or are you hunting down the parts to fit? Are there any parts you struggle to find?
A more prudent builder would cobble together an instrument with on hand parts. Unfortunately my ukuleles require me to scour heaven and earth (i.e. the internet) to find specific parts. Luckily, there are plenty of resources for luthiers online. Four string electric bridges are fairly easy to track down, although the variety is quite limited.

Someday I’ll fashion together a “Mulligan uke” with the loose parts that I’ve accumulated. That will save money on merchandise and eliminate shipping time.

We know how hard it is to find 4 pole pickups, especially with re-entrant G designs. We have noticed you use 6 pole guitar pickups on your ukes. It looks like you line up the strings with poles 2-5 Do you find this changes the sound at all? Did you ever consider winding your own pickups? Have you tried using hot rails?
When I first researched the idea of building my own electric ukulele, the dearth of 4 pole pickups became very apparent. I toyed with the idea of making my own, but the cost of the supplies and equipment quickly squelched that plan. I’m more than happy to simply buy affordable guitar pickups that suit my needs.

My reason that I have never used hot rails? They haven’t matched my build’s aesthetics. (It’s not a great reason, but it’s a reason.) Maybe I’ll incorporate them into future builds because they’d probably offer an elegant solution.

Telecaster Ukulele: (2010) - This was the first electric ukulele that I built. I wanted it to function in the same manner as a full sized telecaster. You can see that the parts are the same as would be used on a full sized Tele. I roughed out the body with a borrowed scroll saw and router, and then did the rest of the work in our small apartment.

Which strings do you use and what sizes? Do you tune low or high ‘G’?
I use “D’Addario EXL110W Nickel Wound, Regular Light, Wound 3rd, 10-46” electric guitar strings. That may seem overly specific, but they work great for my electric ukulele builds. Having the wound 3rd string actually makes a big difference. The four thinnest strings of the electric guitar set are shuffled around for my instruments. They are in this order (guitar string – ukulele string): (b – g), (d – c), (g – e), (high e – a). This order has the two wound strings in the middle.

My electric ukuleles are tuned in a “high G” configuration. My foray into ukuleles started when I bought my very first uke six years ago. Having a guitar background, the non-reentrant “low G” seemed more natural. After buying a fingerstyle ukulele book that called for a “high G” tuning, I tuned the ‘G’ up one octave and haven’t looked back since. I feel that the reentrant tuning is more characteristic of the “ukulele sound” that we love.

Which other guitar parts have you found you can salvage?
I love musical instruments. I feel a twinge of sorrow when I see an instrument at a secondhand store or garage sale that is in disrepair (incidentally, I’m not a fan of Pete Townshend’s on stage behavior). When I acquire one of these castoffs, I’ll try to repurpose every part it that I can. This can be a great way to find tuners and pickups, along with smaller items like strap pegs and screws. Everything else gets placed in the “to-be-used-later” bin.

Jag-Stang Ukulele: (2011) - The Jag-Stang electric guitar is a modern classic. It combines elements of both the Fender Mustang and Jaguar into an intriguing hybrid.

Which woods do you use for the bodies and the neck? You mentioned that you use a scroll saw to rough shape the body and a router to cut out the cavities, but are their any other tools you can recommend while building?

I’ve used ash and alder for my ukulele bodies. They are sturdy, fairly easy to work with, and cost effective. I also have a 1.5 inch thick piece of mahogany sitting in my garage that I’m saving for a “stain-grade ukulele”. It would be a shame to paint over that wood, so that ukulele will have a “heritage cherry” finish. My necks are made of maple. Lots of electric guitar necks are made from it for a reason. It’s solid and sturdy wood.

Besides a scroll saw and a router, a drill press would be nice to have. I say “nice to have” because I haven’t bought one for myself yet. I do my drilling with a handheld electric drill. It works, but not as well as a drill press. A thin bladed saw is also a great thing to have for cutting fret slots.

Do you carve the necks yourself? How do you go about fretting them? What scale of neck do you prefer?
Necks can be intimidating. A lot of my apprehension was allayed when I became familiar with the “scarf joint”. A one-piece neck is obviously the best solution, but it is difficult to make. Gluing on a head is a great way to make a neck, especially for angled headstocks.

I slot my boards with an online fret calculator, a precision miter box, and a thin bladed pull saw. Then, I tap the fretwire into the slots with a plastic mallet. I trim the excess fretwire off with a Stewart-MacDonald fret cutter. A soprano scale (13”) is my most used, but I may branch out to concert and tenor scales soon.

DIY Travel Ukulele: (2011) - I wanted to make a ukulele with parts and wood that is readily available. I added a rod piezo to the bridge to amplify it. It's great for traveling. I made plans for it which are available for free by emailing

We presume that you paint up your uke’s just like electric guitars. Your finishes look really nice for home made instruments. Can you share any insight?
My ukuleles are painted in my garage with spray cans. My first instruments were finished with spray paint from a hardware store. I figured that paint was paint and there was no need for the expensive “instrument grade” nitrocellulose lacquer. I was very wrong. I was trying to scrimp on the paint and I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted. I got some lacquer from Reranch and the stuff worked great. I now follow the “Nitrocellulose Finishing Schedule” provided by Stewart-MacDonald. If you follow it properly, you should get good results. Filling the grain, sealing the wood, along with wet sanding and buffing the finish are some of the steps essential for a good end product.

Any final advice for other hobby uke builders? Is there anything you reckon we should all avoid at all costs?
Making an electric ukulele takes a lot of work. It also takes some money. If you want to make an electric ukulele, make something that you can be proud of. Avoid the desire to go cheap on the paint. It is silly to spend hours and hours of time to make an instrument, and then finish the ukulele with bad looking paint. The rest of the components don’t have to be top of the line, just find some that are of good quality.

Where can we see the ukes and you playing them?
I have two YouTube Channels. These channels have a variety of electric and acoustic ukuleles, as well as some other instruments.

If you want to contact Daniel or want a copy of his plans for building the Travel Uke, you can do so by emailing and telling him sent you 😉