May 22, 2011 by Tim
In full disclosure I must tell you that I have been to David’s house/workshop a few times and consider him a friend, but when I purchased my Concert Pineapple he did not give me any kind of deal or discount. I paid the normal $350 (that was what he charged at the time, I think he might of raised his prices a little, like $10-$20 since then) and I may in the future ask him to build me a fluke tenor, but I will pay the normal price like everyone else, so on with the review!!
I think around Christmas David sent me a picture of this uke and asked me to review it and tell him what I thought. I was like “Hells yeah!!” I love my pineapple and figured that this would also be just as nice if not better. When I got it, my mind socks were completely blown off. Partly because of the smell when I opened the box. It smelled like cedar, not just a little bit either, with a hint of smoke (Yes, David gill smokes around the ukes, so they smell like smoke for a little bit if you get them from him directly, just so you know) The smoke smell went away in a week but the cedar is here to stay. When I show it to people I say “Smell my hole!!” most think I am crazy, but once they do it they light up and say “That is so awesome”.
NOTE: this uke is sold. After the Mighty MO, one of the people contacted David and bought it. I will send it out Monday morning. I hope it likes Kansas City Missouri.
Concert : 18 Fret
Tuners: Open Geared
Nut & saddle: Bone
Top: Solid Aromatic Cedar
Sides: Solid Aromatic Cedar
Back: Solid Aromatic Cedar
Neck: Mahogany and Walnut with a Rosewood fretboard
String Attachment: Knot in a slit
He has No Webpage
First look: (5) When David sent me the picture of this, it had a mahogany version in it too, I was blown away. I thought the cedar one was the prettier of the two by far. When I got it I was just in awe of how it is just striking to look at. It is so different with the white lines of the cedar in the middle and the other two little lines. The back is equally as nice, he even left the little knots in. Most people would never use that part, but he did and it makes it so much cooler. I love the way he book matched the top, back, and headstock veneer. Also if you look the fretboard it is also really nice with its super tight grain and diamond shaped fret markers. I think the fact he leaves all his ukes plain, with minimal decoration is really his signature style, but never seem boring.
Fit and Finish: (4) Yes, I love this uke, but it is not perfect. I see two issues with it. The first is the finish is a little spotty in parts. Near the fretboard on the body it is kind of dull and easily scratched and dented. I play all the review ukes like I own them, and sometimes that is a little hard, and my Concert Pineapple has the same issue, the finish is a little too thin and scratches easily. The other issue is that the top is not perfectly flat. I think the minimal H-bracing lets the bridge come up a little, making the top not perfectly flat. By no means will this effect anything with sound, intonation, or the setup. He sets up his ukes so low it is unbelievable, and there are no buzzes or issues. I have had my pineapple for years now and it has the same issue but has stayed super stable.
Beyond that this is how an engineer would build a ukulele, because that was what David was before he retired. Everything has a purpose and is all centered around playability and sound. Notice how the perfiling is backwards, that is so the top can vibrate more. The bracing is the way it is and is not attached to the side so it can vibrate freely. Also the neck is attached with a dovetail joint to make it super strong and it also adds to the sound and feel of the instrument. The most amazing thing is the neck. Notice the dark walnut stripe? that is not for looks, it is sandwiched in the middle with the grain going the opposite direction of the mahogany to add a ton of strength to the neck without having a truss rod. The sum of these things, and many others I did not mention, make this one hell of a uke.
NOTE: Most, if not all of David’s ukes fit in regular cases. I have a Fremont Concert case for my concert pineapple and the cedar fluke fits perfectly.
Sound Type: Mellow with a punch. Sounds weird but this is a mellow sound, and I figure through time it will change a little.
Intonation: (5) This is where he shines. I have never played a $350 uke that is as perfectly on as all of his ukes are. it can actually be annoying. If it is not in tune, you know it. When I play this one I kept the tuner on as I played. Every chord and note was spot on. When I play a G, both in the normal way and the barred at the 2nd fret, the tuner says G with the needle dead center.
Volume: (5) Loud and it projects. with the giant sound board it just sings. I had no issues hearing my uke when I played with others at the Mighty MO uke fest, so when I screwed up it could be heard J.
Sustain: (5) Long and nice.
Neck Radius Depth: (5/8″) Basic C shaped neck but skinnier than “Normal” ukes,
Frets: (5) Not a bound fret board, but you will never feel a fret on the side. Also the frets are not super low, making every note super crisp.
Tuning: (5) I always wish for peg tuners, and if you ask David he can do that, if he has not already put the geared ones on. The open geared tuners that he uses are super light and do not make the uke head heavy at all.
Comfort: (5) When people pick up this uke they are amazed how light it is. it looks like a tank. The nice rounded edges and the shape of this makes it super easy to hold an play without a strap. The neck attached at the 15th fret gives you tons of room to play all the way down the neck.
Sound Hole Smell: Cedar Chest. Its aromatic cedar, what did you expect?.
I thought long and hard about buying this uke myself. I am glad someone bought it. I want a tenor version anyways, at least that is what I tell myself when I cry myself to sleep at night thinking about it leaving me soon. In reality, David makes awesome ukes and I think he is part of a small group of garage builders who have great ukes, that they make, well…in their garage in their spare time, or as a way to stay busy. Usually they are inexpensive and super well made. Basically they cover their costs of tools and wood, and a little more to buy more tools and wood to keep going and growing as ukulele builders. I have found a few other garage builders, Brad Donaldson is one I just started talking with, and he is sending me one of his this week. I think that some feel it is a risk to buy a uke from these types of builders, but really you get so much more for your money and they usually will go way beyond what other higher priced people would do. This is fun for them, not all about business and making a living. Please do not think I am knocking people like Chuck of Moore Bettah, or Jerry Boat Paddle, it is their profession and they make ukes that are works of art and you know you are getting the best uke. All I am saying is that some of these guys that may put out 50 ukes a year tops are worth a try. I recommend David to anyone who is looking for a great uke below $400. He does not do massive inlays or use AAAAAA woods, but it is amazing how they sound for the price.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||4|
|Sound Type||Mellow and Punchy|
|Neck Radius Depth||5/8″|
|Sound Hole Smell||Cedar Chest|
Places to buy on the web:
Weed Patch Music in Nashville, IN usually has them on hand
Contact David Gill to see what he has or to ask if he will make a specific one
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