I met the inimitable Paul Hemmings at a California Coast Music Camp where he was an instructor in 2014. I was mostly building guitars at the time but I was beginning to show increasing interest in ukuleles. His instruction and some conversations we had got me hooked on making more. By 2015 I had built several ukuleles and at camp we talked about the features he appreciated on ukuleles. His beloved Ko'olau had suffered overhead compartment abuse during a flight and I reasoned that it could be a good idea to have a back up.
After camp we pursued our exploration of ideas by email. Paul encouraged me to scale down the shape of my small jumbo guitar for a tenor ukulele. He even sent me a rough sketch of what he envisioned for a cutaway shape. I had already drawn up a working plan for a cutaway but I drew up another one incorporating Paul's design. After showing both to my wife she preferred Paul's. That made me alter my neck block but the design yields excellent access to the upper frets.
Paul was interested in an arm bevel for comfort. In the photo you can see my approach to the structure that reinforces the bevel. I like to have layers of laminated wood rather than one solid piece that might distort over time. You can also see the laminated and carved linings that I let in to the neck and tail blocks to continuously support the top and back.
Paul wanted a slotted headstock headstock which I fitted with Gotoh tuners. He prefers a lack of ornamentation so his ukulele only has an ebony bound soundhole and a satin finish. There is a clear pickguard for protection of the softwood top and an oval sound port that acts as a monitor. The body is East Indian rosewood and the top is Sitka spruce. The neck is mahogany with an ebony fingerboard and there is a twelve hole ebony tie bridge.
I feel privileged to have worked with such a talented artist who has elevated my instruments overall. This ukulele has even made it to a few of Paul's recordings. I especially like Prelude to a Kiss and It Don't Mean a Thing (if You Ain't Got That Swing) from his Duke on Uke videos. They are just two of the many videos, mostly done with his Ko'olau, that can be used with his Duke on Uke arrangement book and CD. Buy it. It's a masterpiece. If you want to hear Paul really dig in try his Scrapple from the Apple from the more recent Bird on Uke arrangements for ukulele.
To the best of my ability I aim to tailor the build to the customer's wishes. Paul uses high tension Worth Clear strings. He values the fundamental over partials with just the right amount of sustain. He usually plays plugged in publicly so the feedback of overtones can be an issue with overly lush harmonics. Paul can dial in the output he wants and adjust it for the tune he's playing. But if you'd like to hear this ukulele less plugged in I believe there's limited amplification on Girl from Ipanema.