The Happy Ukulele is Happy to Feature Iriguchi UkulelesIriguchi Ukuleles are handmade in Carmichael, California
Iriguchi Ukuleles are made by hand, by me, Dave Iriguchi. Each instrument is unique, like a snowflake. I love building them. To take pieces of wood, sculpt them, carve them and assemble them by hand into something that makes music, is ridiculously satisfying. But then to hear it being played and watching the happiness it brings…I simply can’t tire of it.
This unique ukulele is a semi-hollow, archtop, electric tenor in quilted maple and padauk. She has a haunting tone and handles like a dream.
Beauty in ukuleles, as in all things, is in the eye of the beholder…and truth be told, it’s not our main focus. We certainly want to make beautiful ukuleles but we come at it from a “form follows function” perspective. If we can make an ukulele that sounds wonderful and is comfortable and easy to play, then it is necessarily beautiful. If that ukulele is pleasing to the eye and also respectful of the Earth’s limited resources, it becomes spiritual. That is the ukulele we feel is most beautiful.
There is more to an ukulele than exotic wood. My favorite ukulele is very plain indeed. It’s a simple little soprano that was given to me by my Mom & Dad and it’s the only one I will never sell. Your ukulele should be something you play and treasure your whole life and then you give it to your kids and they do the same. That’s what makes it truly beautiful.
We are trying to avoid using too many exotic and rare woods. Instead we are looking for alternative woods that give great tone but that are from more sustainable sources. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the look of those exotic woods that I see on many instruments but I just have this feeling that if I can get beautiful tone out of something a little more common, then perhaps I could sit in the shade of that exotic tree and strum my simple uke. Have my cake and eat it too.
For backs and sides our wood of choice for now is simple Poplar. Often used in solid body electrics, we’ve found that poplar makes a great sounding body. They may not look as timeless as highly-figured Koa but our bodies just sing and we sure like ’em. Colors in Poplar range from bright gold, to a weird green like the inside of an eggplant to deep streaks of purple or grey. It’s nice stuff and I like working with it.
For soundboards we’ve been using a variety of different woods. Cedar, Mammoth Kauri, Spruce, Redwood and several varieties of Maple. Our redwood source says that their boards come from naturally downed trees. We can’t verify that but it is the direction we want our journey to go so we’re going to trust them and proceed. We have been given several pieces of wood lately and we use those as well.
Kerfing is used inside the ukulele to strengthen the joint between the front and back boards with the sides or ribs. We’re told Mahogany has outstanding structural properties for this function and we also like it because it contrasts nicely with the Poplar sides and backs. Our ukes are cool to look at inside and out!
CNC Machining and Laser Cutting Technology
We don’t use any CNC machining or laser guided cutting technology to build our ukuleles because, well… those machines are really expensive! And besides that, we like a more organic approach to lutherie. Our ukes are truly functional art, sculpted by hand, one at a time. And they will be done that way, forever… or at least until we can afford a CNC or laser machine and a room big enough to hold one. I have to admit, I’ve seen one of these in action and it sure would be fun to have one.
It's a journey and we'd love to have you along.
Every ukulele we build is another step on our journey to find meaning and happiness. It’s a very organic and fluid experience, building ukes. As we work on the wood, we become intimately aware of the grain structure, changes in density from place to place, the very nature of each board. We mark these and make note of them as we go and keep them in mind during the build. We are constantly experimenting with bracing patterns and forms, neck attachment techniques, neck shapes…while we have great respect for tradition, we are not bound by it. It’s sort of like Bruce Lee’s take on martial arts styles. He didn’t care which style a particular fighting technique came from, as long as it worked. We are the same way…only with ukuleles, not kicks and punches. If an unusual modification to your uke makes your playing more comfortable, then, “Damn the traditions, full speed ahead!” My own personal uke (no. 002) has a very asymmetrical neck simply because it fits my hand better.
As we make our way along this journey we hope to get input from all manner of people and we will offer for sale the ukes we develop along the way. Gotta pay for that CNC machine right? Why don’t you come along and while you’re at it, bring a friend! “Smile when you play that!”
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org