August 6, 2011 by Tim
I have not done a NSA (No Strings Attached) review in a long time. So far most of the vendors are nice enough to let me play the instrument for a few months then I review them. Sometimes that is not an option and I do a quick play and look over the ukulele and give my impression based on the little time I had with the uke. In this case I don’t think the actual owner would have been cool with me delaying her getting her custom uke, and I don’t blame her. So here we are with a NSA of a Custom M style tenor from Boat Paddle ukuleles.
Just keep in mind that this was a quick play of the instrument, but…I have played a ton of Boat Paddle ukes. The ratings are all going to be awesome since it is a $1700 uke…and it should be super awesome.
Here is the quick rundown on the owner. Her name is Danielle Asernault and she currently lives in South Korea, but was in the states climbing and traveling. Not sure what brought her to Boat Paddle, but she wanted a custom uke, and Jerry was happy to do it.
Here are some links so you can get to know her.
And some songs that she did.
I was at Boat Paddle to get my concert 12 fret started and Jerry had Danielle’s uke there. I figured since I was there I could do a quick thing on it. How often do I get to play really nice custom ukes? Also I think Boat Paddle makes great ukes that more people should know about, and I am not just saying that because I will soon be a proud owner of one.
Read on and I will try to explain why Boat Paddles are so great, and what on this uke makes my heart go pitter patter.
Tenor : 19 Fret
Tuners: Grover Stay-Tite 18:1
Nut & saddle: Bone saddle, and Bone and Metal Nut
Top: AAA Red Spruce
Sides: AAA Cocobolo Rose wood with Maple Binding
Back: AAA Cocobolo Rose wood
Neck: Mahogany with an Ebony Fretboard, Custom Heart MP Fret markers
String Attachment: Tie
Finish: Gloss with a Dark Sunburst Top
Pickup: Mi-Si Acoustic Trio
Case: Being delivered with a Fremont case
First look: (5) I would have to say that when I first saw it I was already in love, hell it has hearts on it. The tobacco sunburst finish on top that matches the natural darkness of the rosewood sides and the contrasting maple binding are attributes that you can’t help but notice. The heart inlays are not for me, but I am guy (You know, all manly like and stuff). The inlay is really sharp; don’t get me wrong, I am not a hearts kind of person. I would do flames and skulls if it where mine. One of the unique things about all Boat Paddle ukes is that you can tell that it is not a regular uke from a mile away. The M style is so sexy and also very elegant with the large curves and sharp edges. I love how the body is not symmetrical, it just gives it such style.
Fit and Finish: (5) Of course it is perfect. Super high gloss and everything is done with highest of care. I think the only thing that Jerry does not make by hand are the tuners and the fret wire, and I know if he wanted to he could do both (Interesting fact about jerry. He was a master blacksmith for many years). One of the great things about Boat Paddle ukuleles is that Jerry is not afraid to look at the instrument that he just made and fix the issues it may have. I have seen him cut the back off a uke he completed, and I mean high gloss buffed out, to fix the bracing because it did not sound right. That to me is amazing and shows that he is only happy with perfection.
Sound Type: Bold and Smooth. I think the low G makes it sound bold to me. I would not say that it is guitar like, defiantly a ukulele, it is a confidant sound.
Intonation: (5) One of the coolest things about Boat Paddle is the nut. If you look it has no slots cut out. He uses metal pins to separate the strings. The whole nut is shaved down to the proper height. The preciseness that Jerry uses to setup each instrument means that there is no need for setup after you buy it, and it will be perfect.
Volume: (5) I am not use to playing tenor ukuleles. This uke seemed really full and loud. I was amazed how the whole thing vibrated, including the neck.
Sustain: (5) Of any uke I have played, ever, this one rang the longest. When I was making the sound sample I was blown away how long it went between the different sections. The funny part was that I did not play the uke that hard, I used a soft touch since the uke was not mine and it was going to be picked up some time soon and it still rang like I just hit it with everything I had.
String Height: (Medium) Setup perfectly. This is one of those things that I did not really pay attention to. It played really easily and seemed like it too no effort to make each not clearly. It did not feel like an electric guitar either. I had to use my normal pressure to make the notes and cords.
Neck Radius Depth: (Not Sure) Basic C shaped neck. Note the fact that the M Style does not have a heel like other ukes. Jerry uses this really cool neck attachment method where it is slid into the front block. Look on his site for pictures of it.
Frets: (5) No binding and it is still smooth as butter. Great care is taken to make sure that each fret is dressed and is perfect.
Comfort: (5) Surprised by the weight. This uke felt a little heavy, where most of his other ukes seem so light. It might be the fact that I am not use to the tenor size, and this one also had a pickup installed. It was super nice to play. The M style really lends itself to being played sitting down, although I had no issues playing standing up. For a uke like this I would use the strap button that the pickup makes since having it plugged in will possibly make it a little weird to just hold.
Sound Hole Smell: Like a woodshop. A mix of fresh cut wood and lacquer.
Some might say that $1700 is crazy for a ukulele, but if you compare his prices to most any high end custom ukulele builder he is cheap. A uke like this from DeVine or Collings would be $2500+. I would have to say that this is one of the most beautiful ukes I have had the honor of playing, and I have played my share of lookers. I would be hard pressed to knock it for any reason, well…except for the hearts J
Jerry at Boat Paddle is a true craftsman. He is always researching and thinking about what he could do differently and what makes a ukulele truly sing. I love sitting down with him and talking about what it takes to build a uke. He always points out that many builders come from the world of guitars, and that is all well and good, but the ukulele is a different monster. There are things that work for ukes that would make a guitar implode if you braced them the way he does his ukes. I would say that the M style uke is one of the ukes that show his full understanding of the complexity of making a truly amazing ukulele and Daniele’s is truly a work of art.
Funny thing about Jerry is that he has been a craftsman for 20+ years. I have been told he was one of the best blacksmiths in North America. He wrote the Blacksmiths Journal (227 issues in total) for many years. The work he did as a blacksmith was really cool, at least the stuff I have seen, like a guitar stand that weighs a good 40 lb. I asked him what he likes to do better, Build ukes or metal stuff, and he gave the greatest answer. “It is a matter of what color you want your boogers to be. Black or brown. I prefer Brown for now”
I would recommend that you play a Boat Paddle ASAP. They are worth every penny. I know he will be at the Milwaukee uke fest this year, and will hopefully come to Ukulele World Congress like he did last year. If all else fails get your butt to New Haven Missouri to his shop.
All Rating on a scale of 1-5
Click here for an explanation of reviews
|Fit and Finish||5|
|Sound Type||Bold and Smooth|
|Neck Radius Depth||Not sure|
|Sound Hole Smell||Woodshop|
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