Ukulele News from Lichty Guitars
While Jay is keeping busy with custom guitar orders (currently in line: a custom guitar for Geoff Achison, a Brazilian Rosewood Dreadnought, and a Pau Ferro/Sinker Redwood OM, to name a few) he is also on a ukulele-building high!
Recent ukuleles have shipped to NC and to Maine and current custom projects include a Brazilian Rosewood / Curly Redwood tenor bound for LA and a Brazilian Rosewood tenor – destination Indiana. One of these days he will be building a special ukulele for himself!
With all the uke happenings we thought it might be a good idea to round-up some of our latest news and favorite features and post them in one place.
Latest Praise from a Custom Ukulele Customer
Jay, if I’m a magician you are an absolute wizard. After weeks of checking into every well-known and highly respected luthiers throughout the U.S.A. I found you. Initially I had concerns about entrusting the construction of my ‘Dream Tenor Ukulele to a luthier without 10 or 20 years experience. Boy, did I make the right choice. Please know that I currently own and perform with custom tenor ukuleles from John Mayes, infamous Saul Koll (arch top), and Ko’olau solid body. All wonderful instruments, but they are not my perfect nor dream ukulele because they were not custom designed and built for me.
I found your website, www.lichtyguitars.com, by searching the web and then did my due diligence. I was surprised and pleased to read about your history, training and to learn about your thought process, which told me we would work well together. When I saw the famous guitarists and musicians from the who’s who in the world of music that have gone Lichty, that also sold me.
As a very high-profile professional magician (featured on ABC’s 20-20, VH1 Video, performing as a headliner of the NICKLEODEON NATIONAL TOUR – Universal Studios Hollywood, to name a few) you accepted a difficult client with very high standards.
To anyone considering a Lichty Ukulele, here is what I’d like to share:
I called Jay about one month ago and asked him to build a custom, one of a kind tenor ukulele, unlike any other ever made. I have to admit that I think he was crazy to accept me as a client, especially after hearing my needs and demands. This is my Dream Ukulele – “ANGEL”. I saw her in a dream in all her glory. She had to be Brazilian Rosewood with exquisite detail, have a slotted peghead with custom inlay, feature custom pearl inlay purfling and rosette, a customized, radiused fretboard with inlay of my name and, of course, have an upper bout sound hole.
Not only did Jay accept my dream ukulele, but he has met or surpassed all my expectations.
By the way, I absolutely adore Corrie, Jay’s wife and business partner. This fabulous lady is responsible for their magnificent website and for providing a steady stream of pictures of our custom instruments as they are being built. Trust me, you will love this special gift from these fabulous and kind people.
As a thank you to the Lichtys and with a desire to help their lovely community of Tryon, N. C. Denise and I donated a large magic collection (59 books of magic, 100 videos and 90 brand new magic tricks) to be donated to the library and local schools. If this small gift brings another form of the arts to them and touches even one child we feel blessed.
Magically yours, Paul Newman Ruben.
Ukulele Review by Custom Pau Ferro Tenor Ukulele owner, Craig Turner
Features: Made in North Carolina, December-January, 2010-11
These are the specs:
- Sinker Redwood Top
- Pau Ferro Back and Sides
- Neck: mahogany
- Fingerboard and Bridge: Ebony
- Fingerboard markers: Paua Abalone dots
- Tie Beads on the Bridge
- Back strip of white
- Head Plate Wood: Pau Ferro
- Nut and Saddle: Bone
- Binding Material is Cocobolo with B/W strips, black white perfling on top binding
- Gotoh tuners with amber knobs
- Sound hole rosette: Paua Abalone w/ black/white/black inner ring
- No pickup
- Gloss finish
- Tenor, standard shape
- String through body, beads create knot
- 14 frets to body, 19 total
- Purchased a hard case
Like many custom uke buyers, I wanted something different in my tenor uke. I sent Jay some sound clips of ukes I liked and I have to say he delivered. I enjoy picking/strumming, jazz and Hawaiian, and wanted an instrument that gave balance and clarity among all strings. This uke has it, big time. I was amazed at how clean the uke could sound; my wife instantly heard the difference, noting how distinctive it was compared to my other, Hawaiian built, ukes. This is also—without forcing—a full sound uke. No effort to get volume. I suspect, based on what I’ve read and researched, that the redwood adds a lot of sparkle to the top notes. The highs really ring. Sustain is very, very good and retains balance in the sound. Checking the fretboard, the intonation is excellent: compensated saddle is surely part of the reason along with precise fret alignment and height.
Action, Fit & Finish
Jay took the time to ask me about action when we first planned the uke. He even measured height on my Kanile’a to see how that felt to me. I am very pleased with what he did in this regard. Fingerpicking is very easy, fret height is very good indeed and it is a pleasure to play this uke.
Another aspect of action was the neck thickness. He pointed out that his neck would be thicker than the K’s I had been playing, also that I would probably find it a little easier to fret since the thumb underneath would have a bit more efficient space to back up the fretting. He was right. This uke is very easy on the left hand and I find it takes less pressure to make efficient chording. The thickness makes this uke seem a bit more substantial than my others, a bit heavier in absolute weight, but with the balance it rests comfortably in the hands.
The woodworking on this uke is outstanding. As soon as I found out something of the history of sinker redwood, I knew it was for me. The Pau Ferro’s rich, classy dark look was also a must-have. Hearng the taptone in the shop as we discussed wood options was exciting. Jay is a master craftsman and his skill in fit and finish amazes everyone I’ve shown this uke to. Bookmatching on back is lovely and the center stripe adds a nice geometry to the look. The shape of the body is a bit more hourglass-like than some other makes I’m familiar with: the lower bout on this uke is about 1/2″ wider than my Kanile’a tenor, upper bout maybe 1/4″ wider. The back has a subtle bow from top to bottom, feels really nice in the lap. The binding of cocobolo is exquisite, absolutely trim to the surface of the body with a lovely color that is subtle yet distinctive. There is also a very delicate perfling in the top binding that really sets off the distinction between the sides and top. There is no flaw I can find in construction. The hand carved neck is cleanly placed and set, the hand carved inner bracing as far as I can see is immaculate and clean.
The neck and frets are so well done, smooth and silky to the touch. The abalone fingerboard dots look great against the ebony background. I really like the ebony look and feel in the bridge and fingerboard, never played on ebony before and I’m glad we made that design choice. The Gotoh tuners with amber knobs is really cool: he happened to have a set when I was in the shop and it makes a nice focus point at the headstock.
The uke came with Aquilas, low g. I have not been a big fan in past of wound low g (the sound of finger riding up a wound string on slides is not pleasant to me, but maybe that is just taste, I know). However, these strings certainly feel good and sound great on this instrument, so I’m glad he went with Aquila to start. In a while, though, I want to try some Worth HD Low G.
The finish is smooth and just enough shine to bring out the depth in the sinker and the pau ferro. The two different woods have their own subtle looks when finished. I am very happy that the two tonewoods together give such a great sound and look good as well. I like the sound hole rosette (matches the fingerboard dots). I am not a big fan of lots of inlay, but this is just right and sets off the darker wood.
I don’t have any doubt this uke will last a lifetime. Absolutely solid.
One of the best parts of this whole experience was working with Jay Lichty. He was so knowledgeable, and took the time to listen to my questions. His understanding and selection of woods is terrific. He has a great way of suggesting options without being heavy-handed at all. He gave me all the time I needed to make a decision I could be excited about. I would recommend his work and his expertise without reservation. He is one of the nicest guys, an accomplished player and singer who brings all that performing skill to creating pro quality instruments. I was sent emails and numerous pics as the uke was built which I really appreciate, though it made waiting that much harder! : )
I’ve been playing uke for over three years now. I own a Kanile’a K-1 concert, a Kanile’a K-2 tenor, and a Koaloha soprano. I can’t imagine losing this Lichty tenor uke, but I’d go back to Jay for another custom, maybe a nice Brazilian rosewood!!
Investing in a custom uke makes you think about the aspects of uke playing that are important to you and what parts of the experience are most satisfying. For me, these parts were: low g, fingerpicking, jazz chords, and a balanced sound without muddy bottoms or screechy tops, and a wood combination that was unlikely to be replicated, all pulled together in master construction. When it comes to “bang for the buck,” a custom can give you the elements you prefer that might never be found in any one single production uke. I am delighted with the total experience. This is a superb custom uke and I couldn’t be happier.
One of the interesting things about buying a custom is, once the down payment is submitted all you can do is wait. And the thoughts come in: what if I don’t like the sound? What if it is just awful to try to play? Whenever you can’t play a uke before buying there will be this feeling. But then it arrives, you play it for a few moments and the anxiety changes to great satisfaction. You have a uke unlike any other and that makes it specially yours.
If you’re looking for a custom builder, I recommend you contact Jay Lichty, you won’t be disappointed.
I have recorded a brief sound file: http://www.unc.edu/~cwt4885/Uke.html
For a video/sound file of my uke, Jay Lichty playing, go to:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcwflmeL6p8&hd=1
And to wrap this up, here are just a few of our Favorite Ukulele Sites!