Much thanks to an Ebay seller, I got a little present in the post, a vintage ukulele to play around with fixing up, after several attempts to buy other banjo ukuleles I managed to get this one at a fraction of the bids I’d made on others. So it’s a little bit beaten up compared to others, this isn’t really a concern… its still essentially the same and with a little love and affection I am sure we can nurse it back to being fighting fit.
What's in the box?
This uke is a Slingerland Maybell Banjo Ukulele, from around the 1920′s, it’s in an OK condition, there’s some modern replacement parts – notably one tuning peg and the new bridge. The tuning peg however is very sympathetic to the original ones and is not immediately apparent – which I like, so I don’t think it’ll be necessary to replace the pegs to make them all identical.
It was great to get the ukulele at a very good price, and to have a ukulele that even in it’s current condition is not a bad player, and would be much better indeed simply with a lower bridge. I am hopeful that when fully fixed up it will be a great little player, and a lovely looking vintage ukulele.
The major issues to be worked on are:
1. The fingerboard is coming loose in some areas and needs reattaching. It’s also a little cracked, but, I’d rather live with that than replace the fingerboard, it doesn’t appear to make it difficult to play. So I think it’s really just an aesthetic issue.
2. The Uke is loosing some of its varnish or lacquer and paint work, so will probably want to sand it all down and reapply a lacquer and possibly paint also.
4. A new bridge will need to be added. The current one is a nice grover bridge but it is at the wrong height and needs to be cut down, these bridges are built for the height of modern banjo ukulele’s which is somewhat different.
4. The metal work has some light corrosion in some areas, so will need to be cleaned as much as possible.
Things I don’t want to damage in the restoration project.
1. The ‘Maybell’ name and ‘stars’ pattern in the headstock. At first sight it looked like these were very deeply impressed into the wood, but, on second closer inspection I am not so sure. Which may mean I cannot remove the paint surface. This is still under consideration, and will be investigated further once the ukulele is taken apart.
2. The words ‘slingerland’ and ‘maybell’ on the dowel stick. There doesn’t actually appear to be any need to do anything to the dowel stick, it’s in excellent condition.
3. The original skin – which is in good condition, with just one small tiny patch made in the past under the tailpiece. I’ve seen others re-whiten their skins but I appreciate the aged look.
4. The general feel of the instrument, I want to keep the ukulele looking slightly aged or slightly beaten up, and well used. That’s my personal aesthetic, there’s something very steampunk about the modern ukulele movement and the internet, that I think my aesthetic somewhat comes from.
But, I’ll know a little bit more about the condition, and what choices I will make once the ukulele is taken apart.
So, it’s off to the shops to stock up on a few supplies that’ll be needed for this project, and I’ve ordered some Aquila Nylgut Strings, to spur me on.