«Cinquecento»

This is a bass ukulele, or to be more specific an octave bass, that is it is tuned according to the low strings of a standard guitar E-A-D-G, an octave above standard bass tuning.

The body is based on a modern interpretation of a 16th century bass viola da gamba (the Italian term Cinquecento is often used to designate the period of the 16th century). At some point I noticed the similarity to the Weissenborn guitar and decided to adopt some elements of that theme as well, particularly in the bridge and the headstock. Originally I was planning to use a floating bridge and tailpiece, and the bracing is designed so that it would support that setup as well as the string-through/pegged bridge.

There’s an interesting story about the Cinquecento: I had all the pieces practically finished and ready to assemble – the back and top were cut and braced, the soundholes were cut and lined, the sides were bent and glued and the neck joint was slotted, the neck was carved and the headstock was shaped and slotted… everything was essentially ready for assembly. Some time before, I had looked around for a case that would fit and decided on the Ortega bass ukulele case. When the case arrived, I unpacked it, opened it up and my head goes “click,click… it won’t fit… it’s not deep enough… click, click, click… you need to reduce the depth of the sides by about 16 mm… click, click… OK, let’s do it…

There’s a saying in German: if it don’t fit, well, then make it fit! And that’s what I did: marked a pencil line around the back edge, took out my trusty kataba, and sawed off a 16 mm strip all the way around. Somehow it worked out exactly as designed, with very little variation off the line, so there wasn’t even much sanding to do afterwards.

Details:

  • Scale: 530 mm / neck joint at the 14th fret
  • Top: Western Red Cedar
  • Soundhole edges: Ebonized Robinie
  • Back and sides: African Mahogany (Sapele/Tipo)
  • Bridge: Indian Rosewood
  • Neck: Spanish Cedar
  • Fretboard and head plate: Ebony
  • Tuners: Schaller ST6 Vintage – Gold
  • Pickup: MiSi Acoustic Trio
  • Finish: TruOil

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