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Flea Market Music offers an on-line community for ukulele players, informative books on the ukulele, ukulele CDs,songbooks, videos and information on our instrument manufacturing of the FLUKE ukulele. Brought to you by "Jumpin" Jim Beloff.
Roy Smeck Concert Ukulele


Original Post By: mLKauai Date: 3/4/2019 4:18:03 AM
My favorite player is a custom William King (all Koa) tenor with 14 frets to the body. I realize this is the common build these days but it wasn't too long ago (15 years?) they were mostly12 to the body. I'm guessing that there was not enough difference in tonality to prohibit the extra couple of frets so everyone got in on it.

That said my main question here is what is the standard 14 fret to body tenor scale length?
I believe William was labelling "long scale" tenors as an option that were 14 fret and like 18 inch scale.

I'm thinking that most 14 fret tenors are 17 inches.
Is that correct?

It was 10yrs ago, I did quite a bit of back and forth with him for my tenor and I had him agree to make a 17.5 inch scale because it could be noticeably easier in fingering. I was correct. But as I recall this may have been the only time he customized his standard scale lengths.

I do equal amounts of solo notes and strum/finger picking playing so I'm really persuaded if I were to fork out the bucks for another custom tenor it would have a similar scale length.

I also have an 18" tenor that is not as easy on my medium sized left hand.
I had a few tenors to compare at the time, and I I also got the fretboard width just right for me.

I'm curious if
1. any of you can affirm the standard tenor scale lengths
2. if any of you have custom scale length, and
3. if anyone got a 14 fret tenor from William King that was 17" scale...???


Posted By: Dave Means Date: 3/5/2019 1:29:13 PM
I would assume that William used a longer scale on his 14-frets-to-the-body tenors for the same reason as I did when I was building:

The bridge drives the soundboard most efficiently when it is mounted at the widest point of the lower bout. If you put a 14-fret neck on a body originally shaped for a 12-fret neck and keep the same scale length, you must move the bridge toward the soundhole to a spot that is considerably narrower than the widest point. That is what Martin did when they introduced 14-fret tenors, and they don't sound as good as the 12-fret models, IMHO.

The price one pays for the longer scale length -- assuming the same tuning and sting gauge -- is higher tension, of course.
Posted By: mLKauai Date: 3/6/2019 8:03:10 PM
Mahalo Dave!
I assume you mean you and William kept the bridge in the wide area and lengthened the scale? (From 17")
Wow thats interesting about vintage Martin 14 fret Tenors. I did try a couple vintage tenors back circa 2005-6 and was not impressed at all.
What do the current custom tenors makers do to bridge placement for their 17" scale 14 fret tenors? I know that lack of sound is not an issue. ( I guess I could only look at photos of professional player tenors to figure that out but...would rather hear your expert comments).

What scale length do you use for 14 fret Tenors Dave? Have you overcome the limitations of bridge placement for 17" scale? Or do you like William make them 18"?

I imagine keeping a standard length like 17 is common practice.

I'm trying to establish what the conventional practice is for custom tenor builders because like I mentioned, if I were in the market I would want a 17.5" scale.

Posted By: Dave Means Date: 3/7/2019 12:12:57 PM   (Updated: 3/7/2019 12:13:51 PM)
Yes, your assumption is correct. The first couple I did I went to an 18" scale, but felt the tension was too high. I backed off to 17-1/2" and it seemed to be the best compromise.

When I was building, I used the classic Martin body shape for most of my tenors, but I did do a couple of tenors with a custom shape that allowed me to have a 14-fret neck and still keep the bridge at or very near the widest part of the lower bout. I haven't been building for about 5 years now (my hearing is shot -- totally deaf in the left ear, and no highs in the right -- and some lung problems from not being as careful as I should have been about wood dust), but I suspect most current custom builders are using a body shape designed especially for 14-fret necks.
Posted By: mLKauai Date: 3/7/2019 4:26:54 PM
Cool. things have changed with so many custom builders today who follow in your footsteps.
God bless Dave. You certainly made a lot of folks happy in your day!
Posted By: ed w Date: 3/10/2019 9:54:20 PM
Hi Dave, What a pleasant surprise to see your name again and hear from you. You may recall that back in the day you made a mahogany tenor for me (#3). It was a lovely instrument. I sold it a number of years ago, not because I didnít love it- the sound, feel and action were incredible and build was impeccable. I got away from playing tenors and settled on soprano as my instrument of choice. I regret that I did not get a soprano from you when I had the chance! At any rate, I hope you are doing well. It is amazing what a great contribution you made to the world of lutherie and the ukulele in a relatively short time. Your craftsmanship and instruments are still unparalleled.

Take care,

Ed
Posted By: Dave Means Date: 3/11/2019 2:09:42 PM
Thank you both!

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Flea Market Music offers an on-line community for ukulele players, informative books on the ukulele, ukulele CDs,songbooks, videos and information on our instrument manufacturing of the FLUKE ukulele. Brought to you by "Jumpin" Jim Beloff. -