3/13/2018

1920s/2018 Oscar Schmidt-made Electrified Ukulele




I've had this extra-stiff, birch-bodied, little '20s Oscar Schmidt uke for a long time and I've always liked it but never really had a use for it. Strung with nylon or fluorocarbon it sounded thin and a little thwacky and it was always my fourth or fifth choice of the ukes in the house to pick up and strum. A year or so ago I modified the bridge and tuners to string it like a cavaquinho with steel in gauges suited to DGBE tuning (with the high E the same pitch as a mandolin's high E). I liked that, but because it's not a familiar voicing for me, I still only played it once in a while.

So -- seeing as this was the third school snow-day in two weeks (I feel like when the kids are home, my work schedule must involve a bit of play), I figured I could spend an hour or two solving my problem and making it useful. I've always wanted a steel-string electric uke, so I yanked the almost-dead original bridge off, made a funky metal bridge for it (for grounding and weirdness purposes), installed a mandolin-sized, blade-style, Fender-ish pickup, and wired it up. The pickup was marketed as a 4-pole, Strat-style, Alnico mag unit but I have my doubts -- what arrived was a single-blade-style pickup under a nondescript cover. It sounds good, though! The strings are gauged 13, 22w, 18w, 12 for high-G, GCEA tuning.

It sounds the biz and through a clean amp it has a mellow tone that really suits uke-style strumming and fingerpicking. I'm thinking this will be excellent for filling spaces on recordings.




The inlay is non-original. I added this stuff years ago from random, ex-banjo pearl bits in my parts-bins.



Miraculously, the strings intonate almost perfectly along a straight line. The "saddle" is ebony-on-maple left-over from a broken banjo bridge.




The cut-down tuners were scrounged off of an old Levin-made Goya. I had Gotoh UPTs on here for a spell and I'm tempted to put a set back on at some point. 




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