I thought it was an interesting challenge and also something environmentally worthwhile, so I took the order. What came out of it was an "unintended consequence", which is why I'm here on KickStarter.
How I Started The Project
I found the wood I needed in a local dumpster and in a free firewood pile next to an industrial complex nearby. I also discovered there is a huge supply of beautiful decaying wood, just in my area alone, that make wonderful sounding and looking ukuleles. Admittedly, most of the great sound qualities are due my construction process which is very different than most instrument makers, but the wood speaks for itself.
Below is a photo of the actual ECO-UKE I built for my customer in New York City. It was made from scrap pine (2x4's) and a recycled tropical wood serving tray along with some maple pieces from a set of old electric organ foot pedals.
Below are photos of the free firewood pile I took the 2x4's from and a recycled tropical wood serving tray.
After checking a few other places, I found magnificent maple, cedar, mahogany, walnut and poplar from old electronic organs that were destined for the landfill. They were old and starting to rot, but when milled, planed and sanded they have made incredible instruments.
So, the bottom line is this...scrap wood is available in abundance once discovered. However, it takes special handling to get the wood in a condition so it's ready to use. Most, if not all of it, must either be milled or re-sawn, re-constructed, re-conditioned, planed, and sanded before it can be used in the construction process. Time is not necessarily the issue, but equipment is.
Please note: If you visit my website, you will notice that some of my regular ukulele designs (non ECO-UKES) are priced below the $200 reward. The reason for this is simple. To make my regular ukes I order wood for the construction process already milled to my specifications. For example, the top and back of the ukes are pre-milled to approximately 1/8". Other pieces are also shaped and milled specifically for my needs.
Obviously, with recycled or scrap wood it takes expensive special woodworking tools to deal with these woods and not ruin them. It also takes a heavy toll on the equipment when you find nails, staples and such, or should I say don't find nails, staple and such before using the equipment.
That's why getting quality and specialized equipment is the ultimate goal. With the right equipment, I believe I can make my ECO-UKES even more affordable for everyone -- at or below my regular uke prices.
Since I began my ECO-UKE project I've expanded to include woods from invasive wood species like the Tamarisk. The Tamarisk, or Salt Cedar, is the most invasive tree in the Southwest killing native trees by starving them for water. I've begun using pieces from local fallen trees for tailpieces, bridges, etc.
I love building ukuleles and other experimental instruments out of scrap or recycled wood. Since my initial order I've become passionate about it. They sound great. They look great. They are great for the environment. I don't expect to stop global warming, or win the pulitzer prize, but I do think I can make a small difference one Unkulele at a time. I am now striving to use as much recycled wood as I can in my regular ukulele building process.
Portions of the two Unkulele's featured above were made from Walnut organ tops and Curly Maple organ foot pedals while the Unkulele below was made entirely from scrap/recycled wood including walnut, pine, maple, a salt cedar bridge and a tropical wood top from a discarded serving dish.
So how do I continue to make my ECO-UKES?
It takes expensive machinery to prepare scrap or recycled wood for the actual building process. This machinery includes, a mill saw, thickness sanders (to stop grain pullout), surface planers, spindle sanders and more. I have cheaper models of some of this machinery and use them in building my present ukuleles, but to utilize the recycled wood that is available, it takes better and more specialized tools.
I really believe my Unkulele's are pieces of art along with being quality musical instruments. They have been used on stage, in churches and with school choirs. There are several YouTube videos showing my ukes. Go to my website: www.unkulele.com to see some of them or type in Unkuleles on YouTube. I would love to make hundreds, if not thousands of my artisan ukuleles and provide them inexpensively for people across the globe. What's more, with your help, I can craft them just as beautifully using recycled eco-friendly scrap wood and market them as such. Thank-you in advance for any support you give to this project. UNK
What our customers have to say:
morning Unk.....My name
is Keith.....I am the extremely happy owner of the tenor strat ukulele that you
made for me. This
was a gift from my son James, it was a
birthday gift that I was going to purchase myself, until my son heard about it and he
wanted to get it for me!....A proud father I am....
- "I got it like an hour or two after I emailed you lol sorry. It's
awesome by the way. Smaller than I expected but still great!" spidey
- "Hello! I was lucky enough to receive one of your firebird-style
ukes for my birthday (Tess A bought it for me). Just a question - what
should it be tuned to? I have another uke tuned to AECG but I noticed the
strings on yours are a different gauge. Can you please let me know? Cheers." Tim
"Just wanted to follow up with a big thanks! This is one gorgeous
uke. Been playing it all afternoon since it came in : Posted a little photo on my artist page on facebook tooCheers!" John
my telecaster deluxe ukulele yesterday. Already wrote a new song! Pictures
coming soon :)." N. T. Scott
my new tenor jazz-box! Does anybody know of a case or gig bag that it will fit
in?" Tony B.
received my Tenor "Telecaster" yesterday - what a beautiful piece of
work. I'll share pics (and maybe a video) soon. Thanks a million - consider me
an overly-satisfied customer. You may have a flood of orders from Mississippi
coming soon..." Jason A.
Our rewards program includes the following:
Above: Never lose your keys again with our Mini-guitar key chain and dock for mounting on a wall. Made from scrap/recycled wood. Below: Become our ECO-UKE partner by wearing a Black or White T-shirt or pin-on badge that says; Me and Unk: Saving the Word One Uke At A Time.