And I'm not really any the wiser? No makers mark or anything, and I've had the resonator off to check. The tuners are fairly modern; but are they original? my feeling at the moment is that is is factory made, rather than an individual, professional or otherwise. That it is fairly modern, (there is a date of 2006 written on it but no feeling that it's anything to do with the maker so could just be from a previous owner?) It is very "artisan" in quality but things like the tone ring do make it appear to be more a musical instrument than just being a cheap tourist piece would need? Whatever the full story, it is very interesting and I shall look out for any further clues about its origins.
The Mandolin coming is an Epiphone MM30 (so A style) that has sadly lost its scratch plate at some time in the past. This loss is the only thing wrong with it though, Well I think it needs new strings to But I do have a set somewhere), and doesn't affect to sound or playability at all. I also don't think it adversely affects to look. This clean front, along with the ƒ holes (I'm a sucker for ƒ holes) and the (I believe discontinued; certainly it doesn't feature in Epiphones website?) red colour I think makes it look a little different from all of the more budget A styles about; and having checked out the prices for a new one it's not a budget Mandolin either. OK it's not a "Masterbilt" but it's still made to a good standard and is more than good enough for my skills.
and I don't think it needs new strings that badly, I can certainly play with it with the strings it has on, (OK I am never sure when new strings are needed unless they are broken or covered in rust). It tunes up ok, the strings are murder on my fingers and too close together after a Ukulele. The chords are odd, (but I've dug my mandolin chord chart out) and one day I'll learn something more complicated than sweet home Alabama (with the open G). I will also have to look out for a pick guard with the big Epiphone E logo on; it doesn't need it for playing but for completeness...
and the case is even nicer than I thought with plush burgundy velvet lining and lots of cushioning...
But I'm not suppose to go on about cases The Mandolin itself is very nice too though it does need a little work; re stringing, tightening the head, the action seems very high, (though the bridge does look fairly original, or at least contemporary?) and it needs a good clean. I did think the fretboard might be radiused but it isn't, and I did hope I would be able to see some kind of maker's mark, but I can't. Maybe there is something under the head when I take it off to clean and tighten. I do hope so because it is well made and I would like to be able to say "XXX makes good chordophones"
And it arrived just as I was going out of the door for a long weekend; literally! As I opened the door to step out there was the postman co-incidentally just raising his hand to knock. Anyway I took delivery when back inside and unwrapped it; and its lovely. I just had to knock out a couple of tunes before I left to catch the train and they were good tunes. I didn't have a great opportunity to look it over before I left but I'm certainly now looking forward to getting back to Ukulele Corner to play with it
and the back does badly need to be reglued but apart from that it's in fine fine shape. Not crack anywhere, including the back plate, the decal is in as good a condition as the seller's photo showed, the bridge is firmly attached with no sign of having come off and been reattached, true there are some grooves where it had steel strings on, (but I had them off and in the bin as soon as I got it), but they are not too bad and there is still plenty ;of saddle left: if anything they will make the Ukulele better because they will lower the action and older Ukuleles generally have a higher action than I like. The frets could use a light redressing and the 12th fret, though there, looks a little loose. This is probably because the neck is not under tension at the moment with no strings on and it will be better once I string it up again, (once the back is glued). I will shoot off a few pictures just to put here instead of the seller ones and then get on with fixing it up
What I have invited here is a Ukulele - really. It's the Ashbury "Lonely Player" travel Soprano and is such an unusual design that I knew I would have to invite one at some time, but Gremlin are a big distributor so there would be plenty about and they would be easy to get hold of, (with Gremlin behind it I'm surprised it went in the Ashbury lineup and not the Blue Moon one? Anyway...). They are also not very expensive so it was something that could sit on my list for a bit for when I hadn't invited anything for a while, or and I think this is the actual case, when I could resist no longer. Well it is certainly a striking design and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how it is to play and to how it sounds
And it's definitely different! Very different indeed; and small too. It came is a standard Soprano size box and when I saw that I thought "they could have packed it with more padding, maybe a box within a second box too..." but when I opened it they had. Inside the standard Soprano box was plenty of protective padding and a much smaller rectangular box that the Ukulele came in. The box is cardboard and not a case or a soft case but given its size and shape I have seen pencil cases that could easily be used as a soft case for it and there would be plenty of options for repurposing something for a hard case too. To the Ukulele itself and the first thing was to tune it and this was "different" too With its headless design and the tuners at the base it was not as easy to tune as normal. Firstly you have to use the same hand you pluck the strings with to turn the tuner which is a little inconvenient; or use your other hand to pluck the strings, but then you need a third hand to hold it. Secondly as the tuners are at the other end of the Ukulele you have to turn them the other way than you normally would. Neither thing is majorly difficult but it adds to the oddness of it, and once it is in tune the tone is not great, more like a cigar box instrument than a nice Ukulele, (I suppose that is to be expected, it is built like a cigar box Ukulele really). It's also not very loud, but like its looks it's sound is distinctive and different. It is not a Ukulele for beginners but it is certainly one for a collection and one that is very welcome at Ukulele Corner.
Possibly a mistake? Certainly it wasn't as much fun as I had hoped, and whilst it was a learning experience I have invited things back to Ukulele Corner that maybe I shouldn't have?
The first lesson I learned is to go before if you can and make sure you know what you are bidding on the next lesson is to get a catalogue (they don't necessarily hold up what is being sold at the time so you need to be confident you are bidding on the lot you want)
I was keen to go to the Auction as one of the lots was described as a"Fender Star Caster and a Hohner electric Guitar" but there was no pictures in the online catalogue. Now I know the Star Caster it was a kind of semi-hollow vaguely stratocaster shaped Guitar Fender had out for a while in the 60's and reissued in 2013 and I could guess from the Star Caster that the Hohner might be one of their semi-acoustic too. I would very much like a 60's Star Caster, I would still be happy with the re-issue; and a nice German semi-acoustic would be a treat too. What I didn't know is that in between the 60's original and the 2013 reissue Fender reused the name Star Caster in the branding "Star Caster by Fender" for a line of budget, Squire type instruments, (they even included a drum kit in the range), that were sold through some specific department store chains primarily in the U.S.
I hadn't seen the Guitars before the auction and when I got there I couldn't find them in the saleroom. As the auction was under way I couldn't ask either. Still I know what, (I thought), a Star Caster was and at the guide price this was going to be a real bargain. What I did find though was a Balalaika and an acoustic Guitar in a really nice hardcase. I got a good look at the Balalaika, and with a guide price of £10-£15, (I had seen it mentioned on line), though I'm no great fan of Balalaikas I thought I'd go a tenner or so. And the cased acoustic, well it was tucked away under a table next to where I was sitting so I could see a bit, but I couldn't get it out and have a good look while the auction was going. Still it was a nice case if nothing else and I did think "if the case is that good, the Guitar should be OK too?" so I'd have a bid on that if it was cheap.
Well first up was the Balalaika, and though I did get a bid in it went for a lot more than the guide price and a lot more than I was willing to pay. A few lots later was the Star Caster and someone else in the room was interested too, but thankfully they dropped out fairly quickly and I won it for just over the low estimate, (which was a good thing as I still hadn't seen it and was prepared to go a lot higher). Next the cased Guitar, and I was the only bidder in the room, someone had put a commision bid in, but I went higher and paid what I though the case alone was worth. So I'd brought three Guitars and I hadn't really seen any of them! At this point the reality of it hit home; I hadn't really spent that much but there are other consideration than money. It's Ukulele Corner after all because Ukuleles are much smaller than Guitars so easier to find room for; and I can play the Ukulele and I can't really play the Guitar. So I left the hall at this point and went to paid for what I had won then found a porter to collect it so I could go home. First he got the Fender and the Hofner; and of course it was a black(!) Star Caster by Fender Stratocaster thing, not the semi-acoustic I was hoping for. Then since this wasn't a semi' neither was the Hohner, it was another strat copy (but at least this one was blond) from their Arbor series. Both Guitars had seen a LOT of experience, both need new strings, and some work done, and both are real pawn shop specials. There's nothing drastically wrong with them but I didn't really want another strat copy, I'm quite happy with the Power Play, and I especially didn't need another black strat copy, (still I suppose however tenuous this one is an actual Fender Stratocaster). Eventually we got the cased Guitar out, and this one, (and I later found out it was listed in the catalogue), was an E-Ros 606 Dakota Jumbo. Made in Italy by the Fuselli Brothers, (who also made Ekos), and the same model as the one Jimmy Page used to record the rhythm track for the song "Thank You" at Morgan Sound Studios in 1969. So a good Guitar? Well at least a reasonable Guitar? Well it may have been but there is a very bad crack in the neck at the headstock and along with all of the other faults, (needs a new tuner, new strings, a new nut, a fret dressing and possibly a full neck reset?), I'll be surprised if I ever get it playable again; still the case it good... (but as has been said to me since, "what do you need a Guitar case for?") and there was a good capo in the case, (but I don't really need a capo either). At the end of the day if I had seen any of them first I wouldn't have bothered with any of them. Well I hope I have learned the lessons now and I guess I am looking for new homes for at least two strat copies
What is coming this time is a Lanikai SOT-6 spruce top Tenor Lili'u, and it's coming from the same seller in Germany who is selling the LU2-8 as well. Basically what happened was the seller put up 3 Lanikai multi-string Tenors, this one the LU2-8 and a Lanikai SOT-8e, (the Taropatch in this range) all with a starting price of 1€ Now the SOT-8 was up first which was nice, probable the best of the three, (certainly the most expensive), and if I was only going to get one that would have been the best, but there was no guarantee I would get any and no reason why I couldn't bid on all three. Of course with this tactic I could have ended up with all three. this wouldn't have been that disastrous but I didn't really want two Lanikai Taropatch Tenors, nor did I really want the Taropatch and the Lili'u from the same range so the best outcome was to get the LU2-8 and the SOT-6; and this is exactly what has happened. Not quite the plain sailing though as I came second in the auction for this one; I was outsniped by 1€ and that is always a bitter pill to swallow but "c'est la vie". I was outsniped by the person who also won the auction for the SOT-8e and I don't know what happened, maybe they didn't cancel the second snipe having one the first, maybe they just changed their mind, (they didn't bid on the LU2-8?) Whatever the reason when I logged on today I found that I was getting a second chance offer for this, (and this was a bit lucky on my part because with the disappointment of yesterday i didn't bother logging on until late and when I found I had got the second change it was going to expire in 45 minutes!) Well whatever reason the original winner had, I was still up for two, especially as it was the two I wanted the most, so I said yes straight away and sent off the invite to Ukulele Corner
and it too is very beautiful, if anything even more beautiful than the LU2-8 Taropatch. But then it is part of a higher spec more expensive range so it should be. What it is is a nice spruce top with abalone rosette and binding (very pretty), and an okume back and sides. Now I don't know okume as a wood and I don't have any other Ukuleles made with it but from this example it's a very pretty wood a bit like maple but slightly golder in hue and with grain patterns to compete with the finest flame maple; as I say very pretty. its got a good tone too the spruce top does make it very different from the Asbury Lili'u; and the LU2-8 Taropatch obviously as a spruce top it's more trebly but the low A string does mellow out the sometimes strident tone from a spruce top. Once again as its new I need to let the strings stretch and settle quite a bit but its still fun to play with and I'm very glad I invited it.
And it is every bit as lovely as I had imagined (though well out of tune and I forgot how much "fun" tuning a Taropatch is; especially with new strings that are still stretching so the high G has gone at least a full tone out before you finish tuning the A strings!) I have managed to get in in tune for a bit though and got one and a half songs out of it before it was so badly out I had to start again; and it sounded great too. A little more bass perhaps than the Kala Taropatch but I will need to get the string to settle and then have a marathon tuning session to really compare the two. Enough writing - back to tuning...
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