Brad Donaldson Build Part 1

April 27, 2011 by Tim


I am always out on the hunt for the best ukulele for your money, and I try to stay in or below $300 for the ukuleles I review. Every so often I find a true gem that blows my mind when it comes to quality, sound, and price. One of my favorite builders right now is David Gill, who builds awesome solid wood ukuleles in his garage and sells them for about $350. That is so cheap it is almost criminal to buy one. But that is what he wants for them, and I was happy to give him the money.

What does this have to do with the Brad Donaldson build? You see I am a talker, and I love to talk about ukuleles. When Uke chat had its first 2 shows I could not resist calling and putting my 2 cents in. One of the shows he asked people about their favorite uke and why, I had to call in about my lovely David Gill Pineapple concert and we got to talking and I said “I am always on the hunt for awesome ukuleles that real people can afford” fast forward a few weeks and I get a private message on the Ukuleleunderground.com forums from Brad asking me if I would like to review one of his ukes, I looked at his profile and his posts. I was amazed at some of his stuff (Fun Build, Mendel Build, Fun Build 2011) and thought there is no way he could be making these under $1200. I e-mailed him me deal about how I do reviews ($300 and under, I bring it with me everywhere, blah blah blah) and he responded with this:

“Thanks for getting back to me.  Your review process sounds like a very well considered plan and I like it.  So I’ll build you something that I would sell for less than $300.  That is in the low range for my custom ukes.  My lowest price sopranos sell for $189 in the stores that carry my instruments, and the custom pineapple that was just delivered to UU’s Shrink9 was $650.  The reprised Fun Build for mendel will be $375.  That will give you some idea of my prices.”

3 days ago I got this little e-mail and then pics a few days later:

“I’m going to try and get going on your review uke next week.  I’ve decided to send you one of my Vintage Model sopranos.  It is based on a 1920 Jonah Kumalae .  The two big differences are, I add a bridge patch and a raised fretboard.  It will be all solid koa, with PegHed tuners, normal retail price is $299.  I donated a similar uke to Uketoberfest in Eugene,OR, last October.  Everyone there loved it and they fly out of Dusty Strings in Seattle when I take them some.  I think it makes more sense for you to review a model I regularly make on spec, than something custom.”

The build has started!!! WHOO, already looks so cool. I will post other things as he sends them. When I get it I will play it for a month or two and do a full review of it just like all the others I get.

He does not have a Website…yet, hoping soon so I can point you to that.

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