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I usually gravitate toward a natural looking ukulele but sometimes I like a little bit of bling. On a small instrument it can seem right. But purpleheart is a tricky wood to work with and not just because there are a number of purpleheart varieties. Even the best purpleheart can deceive you into thinking it will always be beautiful. Then it can slowly morph from purple to maroon. The end result isn't particularly unattractive but somehow you feel cheated even if the tone remains exceptional. So this bling is a challenge but I have some ways to minimize the change. I generally use a thin semigloss penetrating oil varnish which has low damping of the tonal response and a natural wood look. Unfortunately that doesn't bring out the beauty and chatoyance of purpleheart. So here I've used a high gloss water clear catalyzed urethane lacquer with UV inhibitors for the most vibrant color. To get the best tonal response from this finish I applied very thin coats and didn't fill the wood pores with another product. Then I had to wait longer to minimize shrink back before buffing. The acoustic result is much like my other finish but makes the most out of this beautiful wood.

So what does purpleheart sound like? It has a lively tap tone more toward the rosewood end of the tonal spectrum than the mahogany end. I've paired it with an old redwood top to bring out the warm clear tone that purpleheart can support. And the sustain is exceptional. After years of making guitars, the first ukuleles I sold were to my friend and music instructor Janet Lenore. Even with her red hair she loves the color purple. The back of her purpleheart ukulele is on my home page. That wood has a more magenta hue than this instrument but the important thing is that it's held that beauty for nearly ten years and in that time has made some beautiful music. I'm a better instrument maker than a photographer so these photos don't even show the range of hues this purpleheart has.

The redwood top I used here is quite dense for redwood and not at all prone to splitting which is rare for redwood. It's the same wood that I used on my Lefty ukulele that I had at The Ukulele Site. Mika Kane called the resonance of that instrument powerful. This top won't disappoint.

I decided to use some Brazilian tulipwood for the binding, fingerboard and bridge. It is a true rosewood so it has strong acoustic properties as well as a different look than most rosewoods. I've used it in the rosette too along with purpleheart, yellowheart and some yellow veneer which is also in the purfling.


The neck is spanish cedar which is sometimes used in classical guitars. It is very light and stiff. It has a unique odor but you can't smell it in this application. The color plays well with the rest of the instrument. The fingerboard is mostly tulipwood with some purpleheart, yellow veneer and brass inlays. It has a 16 to 20 inch compound radius.


The frets are Stewart MacDonald gold fretwire. They're not as hard as Evo Gold but very similar to standard nickel silver fretwire and go well with the brass strap buttons and gold Gotoh UPTL 4:1 tuners. The tuners have Gonçalo Alves wood buttons.

There is an oval soundport acting as a monitor for the player. It also functions to even out the tonal response.

The strings are Worth BT with a GHS .029 winter silver wound low G. They pair well with the beauty and clarity of the instrument. Ukulele Site demo.

This Ken Franklin tenor ukulele comes with a hard case. $4500 Sold

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