Scott Wise Ukulele FAQ Page 3
Why so light?
When I had to put a new side in an old early 1920’s Kuamalae soprano many years ago, I marvelled at how lightly built it was. It had the wonderful full, loud sound I was finding elusive. It started me on the path ……
A few years of experience has taught me that ukuleles have the volume, the tonal complexity and warmth I like when they are made from koa or blackwood of the right thickness, with carefully shaved and tuned spruce braces. Violinmaking has taught me how robust very thin sides with hand bent solid linings are. Classical guitar making has taught me that an arch in the top below the soundhole enables a thinner, lighter, more responsive top and allows for a lower, lighter bridge. Without this arch I would not be able to make the instrument so light.
All this is only possible because the total tension on a ukulele string set is much lower than on most other instruments. Even with this low tension I reinforce and stabilise the neck block area of the back with an extra brace adjacent to the block, which distributes the torque from the strings to a wider area of the back. These ukuleles may be light and responsive, but they are built to last.
My ukulele bridges are very small. They have a small footprint with bamboo pins linking them through the top. Strings are anchored in the old Hawaiian style with knotted ends in sockets at the rear of the base of the bridge. No tie block, no bridge pins, no extra weight. The bottom of the bridge is curved to fit the top, which makes the whole thing stronger and resists warping.
Another advantage of the lighter build is that the instrument can be held easily in playing position for a long time without a strap. My friend Douglas Tolentino and his band Pa’ahana play 3 long sets, 3 nights a week at the beautiful “House Without A Key” restaurant at the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki. Doug uses one of my tenor instruments without a strap, without a pickup, playing only near his vocal mic. Simple…..