Barebones Handmade All Solid Colonial Tenor Ukulele
This is something very different indeed, a handmade tenor ukulele from Barebones Folk Instruments in New Zealand. These arrived in the country just as the awful news came through of the mass shooting in Christchurch. Of course, just a co-incidence that these would arrive from New Zealand at the same time, but I decided to donate all profits from these instruments to charities supporting the families of victims and the emergency services who assisted at the scene.
The Colonial tenor ukulele is the (very) original design and construction of instrument maker Graham Hurlock, born in London but resident of New Zealand since 1974. The body is made from sapele, a solid wood from the mahogany family, with the same full, warm tonal properties. Inside, sitka spruce bracing supports the top, while the fretboard, cutaway cap and headstock are made from native New Zealand black maire, an attractive and very hard wood that was used to make traditional Maori fighting sticks. The fret markers are made from paua shell (the Maori word for abalone).
The sapele bridge has nice bridge pins fitted to keep the Aquila strings in place, while the 37mm bone nut is complemented by a zero-fret, which helps make the open strings sound more like the fretted notes. There's also a jumbo bone saddle. Very good quality closed Grover tuners are fitted to the large headstock, perhaps a bit bigger than you'd expect on a ukulele, but befitting the large body of this instrument.
It is a very solidly made instrument, and the large body shape makes the use of a strap preferable in my opinion for comfort. While it isn't fitted with a strap button, I will fit one as standard unless you say otherwise! It is quite weighty - I mean, nothing compared to a guitar, but heavy compared to a regular tenor. I have no problems holding and playing it, but online, weight is a tricky thing to portray so I thought I'd mention it!
The tone has a bit of everything. The mahogany-esque warmth forming a backdrop to the well-projected trebles delivered by the Aquila strings, both complimented by pleasing harmonics. The volume is in the hands of the beholder (he says, mixing his metaphors), with a delicate melodic tone when you play softly, with plenty of 'oomph' if you want to give it some.
The build quality is very good indeed, and the unusual body shape makes it stand out from the crowd. It doesn't have the factory-made finish of some instruments - it is a hand made, workshop-built uke. Not that that is a criticism, but it the reason to want this instrument is the uniqueness, the innovation and the lovely tone.
This model has been made by Graham exclusively for World of Ukes, and is one of six that has been made in this format, a strictly limited edition.