I design and build ukuleles, classical guitars, steel string guitars
and other instruments such as an electric violin
using exotic wood species and local hardwoods.
My preference is to mill my own lumber relying on small independent
sawmills to obtain custom cuts, colors and species of woods.
Finally, I collect, restore, repair and sell a variety of other stringed
Tomi Strings Artistic Philosophy:
Through the use of various colorful veneers, bindings and purfling schemes I strive to create a harmonious blend of old and new techniques combining traditional and modern methods.
My artistic vision is to produce a solidly constructed instrument that will last for many years, as well as to engender a pleasing, colorful aesthetic that will be sought after by those who demand something out of the ordinary.
"All ukes look the same to me." In a manner of speaking, this is true.
So, what is it about my ukes that is different?"
Neck: For a start, many mass-produced necks have a short grain at the junction of the headstock and nut. This problem is very prevalent when these mass-produced necks are dropped. They typically crack at this weak juncture. Our necks are made with a traditional scarf joint which glues long grain to long grain making an exceedingly strong joint, reinforced with a hardwood headstock veneer, adding stability and rigidity. I test my necks by throwing them from 5 feet on to a concrete floor to see if they will break or fall apart. I prefer slightly harder woods for my necks as I feel they are more durable over the years.
Nuts and Saddles: All my nuts and saddles are made from bone or dense hardwoods. Typical factory instruments use plastic for both. I spend a lot of time creating and carving a custom nut/saddle to ensure correct string spacing for a comfortable playing position.
Tops, Backs and Sides: The tops, backs and sides are individually scraped and sanded. For finishing, I like a more traditional look as opposed to the embalmed in plastic, ultraviolet and synthetic finishes done by factories. These finishes are difficult to repair. I also prefer to use natural animal/fish glues which are easily repairable.
Fingerboards and Bridges: Here again, I prefer lighter local exotic woods such as honey/black locust, osage orange, persimmon and walnut. Lighter density walnut seems to have a better balance for the top. Using a rosewood or ebony bridge with its added mass seems to inhibit the top response. While aesthetically the rosewood or ebony might look nicer, one does sacrifice a certain amount of energy. The same applies with the fingerboard where I feel a lighter fingerboard coupled with a slightly denser neck creates more sustain and livens up the top with a more pleasing sound.
My latest addition...WOW!
Take a look at this unique instrument currently "under construction"...
4 String Tenor Pineapple Uke
Hawaiian Island Chain motif!!
8 String Pineapple Tenor Uke with Traditional Bracing
Click to see video!
Douglas fir top, tamarind back and sides, sycamore neck, locust fingerboard, bookmatched persimmon veneer headstock, walnut handcarved bridge, carved bone and nut saddle. Very pleasant midrange, treble and bass response.
My first falcate-braced uke, a Tenor Pineapple Uke.
See article below for explanation of Falcate Bracing.
Click to listen.
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Falcate Bracing: What is It?
Definition of falcate: Curved and tapering to a point; sickle-shaped.
Falcate bracing is a style of guitar/ukulele construction that has evolved in Australia through the work of some notable luthiers. A new book by Gore/Gilet, Contemporary Acoustic Guitar Design and Build, goes into detail describing the construction process and physics of falcate bracing.
Falcate bracing is basically a sickle-shaped brace on the underside of the top of the guitar/ukulele. In my bracing system, the falcate braces consist of 2 longitudinal sickle-shaped braces extending from the upper transverse brace to the lower end of the top, complemented by 2 "C" shaped laminate braces and a bridge patch. The construction process involves either spruce or mahogany laminates glued together to create a 3 piece sickle or "C" shaped brace. Furthermore, with the addition of carbon fiber weave on the bottom and top of the falcate and "C" braces, a degree of stiffness is added which changes the fundamental pitch of the top.
One other aspect of the falcate bracing system is the live radial back which improves the top's sound reflection qualities by using tiny diagonal bracing in addition to the conventional back braces.
In comparing falcate bracing patterns with conventional bracing for the uke, here are my observations: most koa/mahogany tops with conventional bracing tend to have good mid-range and bass response. Ukes with more guitar-style tops such as douglas fir, western red cedar, spruce and yellow cedar seem to me to have more even treble and mid-range response and less bass response.
On the other hand, the falcate-braces ukes seem to respond better and more evenly with balanced sound that includes treble, mid-range and bass response.
So far, I have only found this to be valid for the ukes made with western red cedar tops and tamarind back and sides (similar in density to East Indian rosewood).
Nylon string 60's style folk guitar
"A Trip Down Memory Lane"...
designed and built by Ernie Kleinman
Spruce top, Russian Baltic birch back and sides, figured Locust pick guard, Persimmon fingerboard, Cherry neck, Locust headstock overlay, Locust bridge, acoustic sound port.
Easy to play, sweet mellow sound.
Click for Sound