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14 April 2013

Daniel Hulbert Ukuleles

Today's post is a celebration of good friend and fellow ukulele enthusiast: Mr Daniel Hulbert. Daniel is a shining light in what is a growing army of people who are building their own musical instruments. I can't begin to count the number if times that Daniel's come to my rescue with advice and ideas for my builds and I just love chewing the fat with him over his projects.

"Someone on YouTube suggested that I make a lightsaber
shaped ukulele. It honestly upset me a little bit. It makes
me feel that people merely see me as a trained monkey
that only makes novelty ukes. It made me mad. It made
me...okay. It does sound pretty fun. I'll do it!!
Does anybody have any bananas?"
~ Daniel Hulbert 2013

Daniel is nothing if not prolific, and he works with the speed of a man possessed; Some of his projects are over before I've even realised that they've started! ALL of his builds are unique and each one pushes a building technique or a design concept forwards. It is obvious to me that Daniel likes challenging himself; He loves the thrill of the unusual, and the battle of making something unworkable workable. Don't be fooled into thinking that Daniel's projects are simply follies... there's often more at play than first meets the eye. I love this, and I also love that Daniel's not adverse to the odd folly too! :-D

As is becoming my thing... I'm going to jump around a bit in this post. Hopefully, in the process, you'll learn a little bit about Daniel and the wonderful things that he does... Enjoy...

Here's a collection of "board" instruments. Top left is a tenor scale uke
that Daniel made out of a skateboard. The inspiration was the surfboard
guitar you can see bottom left. I don't know who the gentleman is in that
picture, or who made the surf-guitar. Drop me a line if you know. On the
right is my own concept art for a double-bass made out of a surf board.
My favourite double-bass player of all time, Lee Rocker was kind enough
to model it for me! ;-D

Daniel has an eye for turning everyday household items into musical
instruments. Daniel can make a ukulele out of anything. Read on...

Daniel does a pretty good job of surprising me on a regular basis. The
only instrument pictured above that he didn't make is the one he is holding:
It's an Eddy Finn ukulele. You can tell by the distinctive sharkfin soundhole.
Hey, hold on a second! Sharkfin!

Daniel won this ukulele by coming second in the Utah Uke Fest open-mic
 competition where he wowed the crowds with a Jeff Buckley-style
 rendition of Hallelujah. His prize was an Eddy Finn EF-22-C, which is made
out of bamboo! Fancy that! And later, just when I'd forgotten all about this
 glorious victory, Daniel informed me that he's become an official "Endorsing
Artist" for Eddy Finn ukuleles! Go Daniel! Whatever next? Ha ha!
Daniel can do ANYTHING!

This wonderful Jag-Stang electric ukulele was probably the first instrument
made by Daniel that I ever saw. I instantly fell in love with it. I remember
bombarding Daniel with questions. From memory this was about the
time we both signed up to post our builds up on the Electric Ukulele Land
(which we're both still doing... so go check it out). It was this
instrument and those first conversations with Daniel that inspired me to
build my Kingcaster electric ukulele. And just so you know... sound checks
of pretty much all of Daniel's instruments can be found on his YouTube
channel: Circuits and Strings, Go subscribe now!

The original Fender Jag-Stang guitar was designed by Kurt Cobain when he
allegedly cut and stuck together two Polaroid pictures of Jaguar and
Mustang guitars. At the time of writing Fender aren't producing this model
any more, but they're probably due another batch sometime soon. My
 prediction is that they'll do a run in 2014... let's see if I'm right. And no,
 Daniel's not a leftie... this picture is backwards! 10 points if you can
figure out why... ;-)

I love this photo! Ha ha. Check out some of the ukuleles hanging on the
wall. Yep... there are ukes made out a tennis racquet, a biscuit tin and...
a bed pan! Do you think that Daniel's taking the... "Michael"? ;-)

I'm going to call out the travel uke on the far left. It's Daniel's very own
DIY travel ukulele. I've mentioned this instrument before. Daniel has
been kind enough to share the plans. If reading this post is giving you
the urge to perhaps have a go at building an instrument all of your own
then you might want to consider checking his plans out for ideas. Go,
on... get building!!! As an aside, Daniel is wracking his brains at the
moment to try and come up with a design for a ukulele that requires
as few tools as possible to build. Hmmm... sounds interesting...

Remember that you can see the ukes in this picture above on Daniel's
blog. Drop him a comment or five... I know that he'll appreciate the

As well as making instrument to hang on his wall, the trend these days
has been for Daniel to build instruments for friends and family. He's
even considering starting to sell some of his creations to free up some
space and to help fund his newer projects. I asked him is he would
consider making custom ukes to order, but Daniel tells me that this
doesn't really excite him... though he does do the odd custom project
 from time to time.

Daniel made me laugh recently. We were talking about our respective
ukulele obsessions and Daniel mentioned his fear of waking up one
morning and wondering what on earth he's been up to. Ha ha. It'll
never happen mate! (yes... I have the same fear... :-S )

The gentleman in this picture is the ambidextrous shredder Michael Angelo Batio.
I'll be honest and say that I'd never heard of Michael prior to Daniel showing
me the video below. What a video! What a talented guy! Check this out...

Michael has got pretty much every guitar trick in his arsenal and is credited
with inventing the "over-under" technique which involves playing the
strings from either side of the fretboard in fast succession. See the capos...
They're to allow Michael to quickly switch to his favoured F# scales
(F# minor and F# phrygian dominant). Just nod along with me...

Daniel has been considering making a multi-necked ukulele a la Michael
Angelo Batio. The cunning twist is for each of the necks to have a
different scale. You can see the concept drawing above. Daniel's intention
is that you can spin the body round to get to the other two necks.
What a great idea! I can't wait to see this one go into production! I've
cheekily suggested that Daniel also includes a piccolo facing upwards and
u-bass pointing downwards for the full ensemble.

Actually, this project is somewhere down the line. Closer on the horizon,
is a build Daniel has all but finished protyping for a Jimmy Page-like
double-necked Gibson. I've been watching this one taking shape and
I'm in awe... Daniel has even made his own Tune-o-matic bridges! This
instrument will be one half 8 string mandolin and one half 4 string uke.

The Turtle Shell is probably my favourite of Daniel's instruments. I think that
the dimensions are just perfect. And before anyone goes getting all emotional
about this, the turtle had vacated the shell long before Daniel got his hands
on it. It reminds me of the instrument Kirk Douglas played on the Disney
version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, although if you track that down,
you'll see that the two are very different. Daniel has done a great job of
matching the wood to the shell. It's a very poorly kept secret that I'm
, but to my eyes, the colours are perfect!

Kirk Douglas admires his handiwork in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.
Photo courtesy of Sidewalk Crossings.

In case you haven't put two and two together, the Daniel Hulbert of this post is the same Daniel Hulbert that helped me to complete my song for Christmas 2012! Each year I set myself the challenge of creating a Christmas song, only last year I extended the challenge to Daniel and in true Hulbert fashion, he was up for it! The end result of our collaboration was a song called "Snow" which has turned into one of my all-time favourite homegrown songs. It got me back into recording again, so I've got Daniel to thank for that. Cheers mate!

Here's another favourite of mine from the Hulbert workshop. This is special in as
much as it has an optical pickup! I know! Remember what I was saying about
trying out new techniques?  Lo and behold if it doesn't play too! Don't ask me
how it works... as far as I'm concerned it's magic...

Another thing I'm going to call out is the head. I love it!. I don't know why, but the
placement of the tuning pegs reminds me of a hill-billy's dentures! Ha ha! I couldn't
think of anything more perfect for a CBG build.

BTW - do you remember that it was Daniel that put me up to joining Cigar Box
? I still haven't created my CBG... although I do have my cigar box ready.
Do you think Daniel would mind if I stole his idea for the hill-billy tuners?

I could go on and on here, but I'd better close this post off. I think you can tell that I've really enjoyed putting this post together for you. Let me finish by saying a big thank you to Daniel for all the great stuff he shares, especially his time. Daniel is generous to a fault! What a great guy. Putting this post together has reminded me of all the ways he's helped and influenced me over the past couple of years. I'm loving it! Here's to many more scrapes!

I almost forgot! Last year Daniel was looking for a design for a label
he could stick inside his ukes. He made the mistake of letting me
see his prototype. I took his design and added my own little touch.
Can you guess which bit I added?


  1. Apparently your song "Snow" is going great guns in Columbia,and they don't even realize that it is a Christmas tune.-)

  2. "great guns in Columbia"
    I wonder if Shakira would be up for a collaboration. I know she'll give me a straight answer because it's common knowledge that her hips don't lie.

  3. Thanks for the post! It's fun to see what Daniel's other crazy Uke friends think of his projects. Oh, and you are right, he does make his instruments with the speed of a man possessed. I live with him and I'm still surprised how quickly he finishes things sometimes. The amazing thing is he balances it all so well, he builds, spends time with family, works, etc.

    -Janel (Daniel's wife)

  4. "Daniel's other crazy Uke friends" - can't think who you're referring to there...
    Ha ha! I did mention in passing to Daniel that you must really love him Janel ;-)
    I'm constantly amazed by how much stuff Daniel fits into his busy schedule. Here's to keeping that balance! Thanks for commenting!