one at a time, in The USA, by luthier Robert Edney
Sounds Great -- No Worries!
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Available now in tenor size!
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Prototype Orcas For Sale!
We learned a lot when developing our carbon fiber violins. Years of messing around, testing, audio spectrum analysis and prototyping went into those efforts. The violin is a particularly complex instrument to work with, and violinists/fiddlers are typically pretty serious about getting the voicing, tone and projection they're after. Bench made, one at a time, we now have over 100 violins sold and out in the world. There are Elixir violins in most US states now (including Alaska), as well as Africa, Bali, Austria, Israel, England and more.
For many years now instrument makers have been messing about with carbon fiber as a body material for stringed instruments. Although on the basis of strength to weight carbon fiber is stronger than steel, it is also remarkably resonant. The trick comes in taming and focusing that resonance when designing an instrument.
Our current design is a far different instrument than we started out with. The top is hand-laid carbon fiber with V bracing to focus and tame the sound. The back, sides and neck are a single sculptured piece of ABS, an extraordinarily tough plastic that we form, one instrument at a time, under vacuum. Both the top plate and back are braced with carbon fiber ribs. Although this design facilitates a hollow neck, used in other composite instruments, it turns out that the mass of the neck has a definite impact on voicing and sustain, and we ultimately found that filling it with a blend of epoxy resin and phenolic micro-balloons provided the best results to date. This also provides a nicely balance feel when playing the instrument.
As above, the back and sides of the instrument are sculpted into a continuous piece -- no corners or linings. Because it is possible with the materials and design we employ, we tested prototypes with no internal bracing. This produced a loud instrument with lots of resonance and sustain -- and lots of people loved it. However, Robert was looking for a cleaner, more balance tone with good string separation and very low distortion. Several bracing schemes were tried and rejected. This new instrument is the first that produces the tone we want, regardless of what the instrument is made out of.
Does it sound like a wooden uke? That depends a lot on which wooden uke you choose to compare it to. Does it sound like a uke? Absolutely, and we think it sounds great!
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Introducing the Orca tenor ukulele prototype from the makers of Elixir Carbon Fiber Violins
We're a small shop located on San Francisco Bay in California. Literally on the Bay -- in a boat; a 60', 50 net ton steel trawler. All of our instruments are made one at a time, on the bench. When Robert Edney -- who developed the Elixir Violin -- got hooked on ukuleles it just had to happen: A new and different uke with great sound and maximum durability.
The ukulele is an incredibly user friendly and fun instrument. It's easy to start learning to play but unlimited in its musical potential -- just listen to Jake Shimabukuro or any of the other fabulous players who are exploring the potential of the instrument.
I developed a serious craving for really well made ukuleles and did a lot of shopping -- as well as some buying. There aare some wonderful makers out there doing some truly excellent work in a variety of woods -- and wood is my first and enduring love.
However, I found myself wanting to take the uke with me pretty much wherever I went. Using a strap, I'd slide it around so it comfortably rides on my back and is always ready to play. It's great to walk the dogs on the beach, sit down on a chunk of driftwood and strum, pick out a tune or practice some.
Carbon fiber and ABS are incredibly tough materials. Both have been used in a variety of demanding applications where high strength, low weight and extreme durability are specified.
We love wood and simply had to include its rich warmth on our instruments. We use select hardwoods for the fingerboard, bridge and headstock veneer, all bound to carbon fiber with a specialized epoxy formulation. So long as you keep these wood parts well finished your Orca can take a lot of humidity, spray and even rain. We supply a tin of the finish we use -- a mix of pure bees wax and almond oil -- with every instrument.
Out prototype instruments don't live in cases or gig bags. They've been all over our harbor, out on fishing trips, to barbecues and parties. We've handed these instrument to kids to do what they well with, and used them to teach people a few chords and let them have at it in all sorts of settings. At one party the kids got a layer of ice cream all over an Orca, and a quick wipe with a wet cloth got the instrument back into circulation.
Moreover, our newest design has got some seriously good acoustics going on -- like carbon fiber hybrid instruments can produce when designed well. It's powerful, resonant and rich in tone.
For me, it's what the ukulele is all about: Fun! Go anywhere, play anywhere fun. No worries, be happy!