Builder/Blogger: Steve Eubanks
The Grover Beach Custom was a special build in the CalStyle workshop because it was our first custom commissioned Caltone instrument. The client contacted us about building him a unique, custom-designed ukulele, and his one major requirement was that it be a "blonde" instrument with a striking quilted western big leaf maple body. We spent about a month looking at interesting designs, talking about his preferences and playing styles, and what evolved was an assymetrical body with an offset soundhole, unlike any ukulele I've ever seen.
To get started, I built a set of side-bending forms for the offset body shape, and resawed top, bottom and sides from two billets of beautiful big leaf maple. The sides went into the forms, and the back was attached with some simple ladder bracing.
The top bracing was a little more adventurous with a no-touch x-brace. The crossing braces were carved in an over-under design so they don't touch and can move independently of each other as the top resonates. The oval, offest soundhole was cut, then detailed with black/cherry binding on the inner edge of the hole. This would match the body binding to be installed later.
The neck presented another unique challenge because the heel does not connect to a flat surface at the top of the body. Rather, both the heel block insid the body, and the heel at the bottom of the neck are shaped to the curve of the offset body. The neck itself is made from a billet of flame maple that really compliments the quilted maple of the body. The neck profile is hand shaped, and the headstock shape is again custom designed to the preferences of the client.
Once the body came out of the form, the top and back were trimmed, then channels cut for binding, and end graft. The binding is black veneer topped by cherry binding with a cherry end graft. The body and sound hole binding compliment each other perfectly.
The quilted maple body and flamed maple got a birdseye maple fretboard and bridge to complete the maple trifecta. And of course, the fretboard and bridge got the black/cherry binding treatment. They also got abalone marker dots, and a shiny set of frets.
The headstock got Tune-a-lele geared post tuners from Graphtech. I don't love these tuners because they are all plastic and look a little cheap. However, they are 6:1 ratio post tuners, which you can't get anywhere else (even the Gotoh UPTs are just 4:1), and they were specifically specified by the client, so he got what he wanted. It also got a quilted maple veneer with the Caltone logo, then got hung up for lacquer. Finally, a saddle and nut finished it off.
The completed instrument is beautiful, and sounds great. It has a bright, traditional sound, and that big, unbroken expanse of soundboard resonates clear and long.
The Grover Beach Custom got its name from the client's hometown. We are planning to offer a production version of this instrument, with a couple minor tweaks to preserve the one-off uniqueness of the client's custom instrument.