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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adventures of a Little Red Ukulele

How did my little red plastic ukulele end up on French TV news? Read, watch, and find out. Also, you can learn how to restore frets on a plastic ukulele (or guitar, for that matter).

The Unknown Playwright with the now famous red plastic ukulele

Well, it began with me selling a Maccaferri Islander Baritone ukulele to my pal Antoine Carolus, an architecture professor in  France. He's also a ukulele player who runs this website devoted to the plastic ukulele of the 1950s and the automatic chord player made popular by Arthur Godfrey.

So, Antoine got the uke and was thrilled with it. He asked me what else was available from my collection. Being a bit short of folding money at the time, I mentioned the red uke -- even though it needed a bit of repair work on the frets -- and he made a generous offer. After all, it was a red Playtune made by Mario Maccaferri's company. Red is rare in the world of 1950s plastic ukuleles,
especially Maccaferri ukes, which are hands down the best plastic ukes ever made..

Antoine being the planetary impresario of plastic ukuleles, promptly restored the frets. Please see the photo essay after the video.

So, this month France held an international ukulele festival. Antoine went, of course. He took the red plastic Play Tune with him. You can see him playing it in the news video below at 35 seconds into the report. He also lent it to Finn and Gus, a Scots duo of ukulele thrashers, for their stage performance at the fest. You can see them from 1 minute thru 1:15.

As the founder of NY Uke Fest, I got a chuckle out of seeing this coverage, and of seeing how far the little red uke has traveled, so far.

PHOTO ESSAY: How to repair plastic frets by Antoine Carolus

First you need resin.
I bought mine in France, but you should find equivalent in the US, for sure.I use it for everything, cast new pegs, etc.

it is a bi-component polyurethan resin.
it could have been anotrher type (acrylic ...) , what's important is  to have the same colour than what you want to repair, and that it solidifies quickly (mine solidifies in 5 minutes)

So, I put adhesive tape tightly around the fret :

then made a hole in the tape over the fret :

then prepared my resin, and put it in the hole. It doesn't matter much if some resin flow on the tape :

Then i put the uke upside down during the 5 minutes of solidification, in order to get the resin take the right shape :

When it it solid enough, cut the resin that had flooded over the tape, and let the resin solidify more.

One hour later, i removed the tape, and scraped/sculpted the resin in excess. And then sanded gently with very smooth sanding paper.
Then let solidify/dry several hours before playing. That's all !

 Photo essay copyright Antoine Carolus.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this story! The baby is beloved and well cared, and will know other adventures !