Maybe you're thinking that I'm starting a line of clothing to go with my ukuleles. But no, this unusual ukulele name belongs to an unusual ukulele. The owner is Joy Lynn, partner to Steve Baughman, who thought it was about time that she got a custom instrument too.

 

She had a good reason. She was taking mandolin lessons and the double courses of steel strings were proving to be a challenge. Local mando and uke instructor Topher Gayle knew that some soprano ukuleles were tuned in fifths like a mandolin so Steve asked me if I could build one like that for Joy Lynn.

 

After talking with Joy Lynn I found out she also wanted the instrument to remind her of her retriever, Bikini, who had passed away. Tall order but I was up for it.

 

My neighbor had decided a while back that a sycamore tree was blocking his view and creating more fall work for him than he wanted. I told him that if he ever cut the sycamore down I'd be more than happy to take 36 inches of the trunk off his hands. The next day I found a large section of it that he had rolled down into my yard. I quartered it and resawed some into ukulele sets. Luckily it was dry in time for Joy Lynn's ukulele because that's what she wanted for Bikini.

 

I had read some reviews about nylon mandolin string sets for ukulele. The problem for traditional tuning with those sets seemed to be that the first string often broke prematurely. I learned that some Seguar fishing line could could be used instead and would last longer. I tried it out on one of my sopranos and it worked fine. The resulting tuning is GDAE with the E a fifth above the usual ukulele first string. That takes a thin, strong string. And the fourth string needs to be a low G which sometimes struggles on a soprano. I used a GHS .031 winter silver string for that.

Bikini has an Engelmann spruce top, manzanita fretboard and bridge, a cherry neck, Gotoh UPT tuners and Pau Ferro bindings.

Steve wrote this tune, The Unknown Waltz, for Joy Lynn. Here he is on Bikini in an iphone recording. 

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