Chris Perkins T25 Makore Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

12 Mar 2017

Chris Perkins T25 Makore Tenor Ukulele - REVIEW

Time for something rather special on Got A Ukulele as we take a look at a luthier built instrument from the UK, crafted by Chris Perkins.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele

Chris is a luthier based in Staffordshire who makes a variety of stringed instruments to some high level acclaim and who has also been building ukuleles. Chris doesn't take commissions, but as he explained it to me, he builds to his own tastes on individual instruments and then moves on to the next one. I was delighted to meet him recently and take one of his tenor ukuleles on loan.

This one is in standard tenor scale and shape with a very curvy lower bout and made of all solid Makore wood. That's not a wood name I had heard of before, but it's more commonly known as African Cherry. And boy is it pretty. The two piece top, back and sides on this one are simply stunning with a colour verging on the red end of the scale and rather beautiful flaming that moves and shimmers under lights. Certainly one of those instruments that made me say 'wow' when I opened th case, as Chris himself saw when he dropped this one off with me.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele top


The body is finished in a hand sprayed gloss which surprised me as most small scale luthiers don't tend to do this as it's both difficult and time consuming. Chris chooses to though, and has clearly put the effort in and taken great care - we are talking many thin coats here and lots of sanding back, as he has created an impeccable mirror finish on this wood that really makes the Makore wood pop and shine.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele tail


The back on this one is very delicately curved to assist with projection. Like the top, this really shows of the wood pattern and is nicely bookmatched.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele back


Bridge wise, this is a pin bridge style and quite complex in it's build. It's made from American walnut with a burr walnut cap and sycamore stripe detailing. The pins themselves are made of boxwood and the saddle is made of ebony. Phew! It looks incredibly pretty and that use of walnut and sycamore becomes a motif that repeats in other parts of the ukulele as you will see. The first repeat of this is in the tail which is inlaid with a walnut burr and sycamore edged detailing stripe and houses the tortoiseshell strap button.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele bridge


Glancing inside and we have an extremely tidy build, delicate fan bracing, delicate kerfing and absolutely no mess. The linings and bracings are made of Sitka Spruce. Even the makers label looks extremely classy, with the instrument numbered and signed by Chris. In fact the whole body build is clearly extremely nicely done with no gaps or issues. That top wood is also supremely thin and a tap of the body shows the resonance of a drum.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele sound hole


Up to the neck, this is made of a single piece of mahogany with a heel cap of walnut and sycamore matching the tail and bridge.  Like I said, this detailing repeats around the instrument and I really do like that. Or rather, I really DON'T like instruments that use a confusing mix of detailing as if they have just thrown everything to hand at it during the build. Repeating details show an attention to detail in the styling that really matters to me. The neck profile is very traditional and shallow at the nut end and is also finished in the same gloss. At 39mm it's also wider than the average factory built neck which is wonderful. The neck is bolted and glued in place which I think is a sensible choice as in the fullness of time it means it can be more easily removed and adjusted if needed.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele heel


Topping the neck is a fingerboard of flamed black American Walnut with dressed edges. It always surprises me that many ukuleles don't use the fingerboard to show of more attractive woods, yet Chris  has done just that here. It shimmers under the light with the flame look running in diagonal stripes down the board. It's stunning. The fingerboard itslef also runs down over the body and is shaped over the top of the sound hole.

Fitted into this are 20 nickel silver frets which are pleasingly chunky and dressed impeccably. We have no outward facing position markers, as Chris explained to me, why would you want to detract from that flaming on the wood? I personally think small delicate dots would set it off myself though. Thankfully we DO have side position markers at the 5th, 7th, 10th and 12th in small inlaid pearl dots. The nut follows the saddle in that it is made from ebony.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele fingerboard


Up to the headstock and we have more pretty. It's a simple design, and thankfully not another Martin clone. It's face in the same burr Walnut over a sliver of Sycamore and is simply beautiful. In fact when you look at it, your eye is immediately drawn to the headstock.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele headstock


Fitted into this are Grover open geared tuners with gold metalwork and cream buttons. They are tuners I regularly recommend as they are extremely decent and it's good to see them here.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele tuners


Chris supplies his ukuleles with a pod case and Titanium D'Addario strings and in this sort of spec you would be looking at a price of around £895. I actually think that is an extremely keen price when you consider that this is hand made and take int account the level of detailing on display here.  And bear in mind, as I say, Chris doesn't build to order. His ukuleles are all 'one-off's' and no two are the same. In that sense you really are getting something unique with each one.

So rather wonderful build and rather wonderful looks. You guessed it, but it's also one of those that I worry about reviewing for the simple reason that I am just not good enough of a player to do it justice.

In the hands though this is lighter than you would expect and perfectly balanced. The gloss is also nicely applied all over and in no way feels sticky or grippy as can often be the case with more crudely applied finishes. It really is an instrument that made me smile when I picked it up.

The setup and intonation is absoluetely spot on with both saddle and nut being just about perfect.

The first thing that struck me about this one was the sustain, which is long and deep. Really satisfying for fingerpicking play. And that's where this instrument really shines to me. It has a very pretty tone that was actually brighter than I expected it to be for a tenor - bell like I suppose you could call it.

Strumming is good too of course, with a real jangle to the sound as the harmonics play with each other, but not a confused or muddy tone. One thing I would say is that when strummed it's not as loud as I would have expected it to be. I strongly suspect that this is to do with the Titanium strings as I am not a fan and had exactly the same experience of them on another tenor - lovely for fingerpicking, less to my tastes for strumming. But like I always say, strings are a personal choice and I know many people who like these ones. Personally though, I would change them. It's not a ukulele with a bark or sharp attack, but I guess that would be missing the point a little.

It's a very mature and high quality sounding instrument that is a far cry from the harsher sounds you get at the cheaper factory end of the ukulele world. One would also expect wood of this calibre to open and improve with age.

But the string choice is about the only thing I would change about this one, and that's hardly the fault of the luthier. Absolutely evertything else about this one is from the top drawer, both in looks, build quality, finish and of course the tone.  Just delightful.

Chris Perkins Tenor Ukulele body


You can contact Chris through his YouTube page below, but as I said, don't expect to send him a shopping list for what you want. What you may find though is he will let you know what he is building next and when to expect it. I can think of a few lovers of high end instruments who will be beating a path to his door.

https://www.youtube.com/user/perkinsukulele or email him on perkinsukuleles@gmail.com

UKULELE PROS

Wonderful woods, finish and build quality
Use of repeating wood trims giving it a 'theme'
Love that bridge
Great tuners
Great bell like tone

UKULELE CONS

I would change the strings myself..

UKULELE SCORES

Looks - 9.5 out of 10
Fit and finish - 9.5 out of 10
Sound - 9 out of 10
Value for money - 9 out of 10

OVERALL UKULELE SCORE - 9.3 out of 10

UKULELE VIDEO REVIEW



4 comments :

  1. Useful information and as usual a good comprehensive review. Don't know this builder until now and the wood choice looks like a smart one

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  2. Lovely piece of work and a great review. I am acquainted with a bespoke luthier here in the U.S. who also omits the markers on the face of the fretboad, limiting himself to markers on the edge. The argument for showing the wood best is valid enough but his logic is that markers on the face tempt one to actually look at them. This distorts the position of the left hand and forearm, compromising playing. I quite agree with him.

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  3. I'm wondering if the lower volume is due to the thicker (glossy varnished) finish and not the strings. Any of our Ukes with the high gloss shellac finish have a diminished volume, pretty as they are to look at. Also you didn't mention whether the fret markers are a smooth glide - have come across some Ukes with fret bars not as finely filed on the very outside edges and so can be rough on the finger tips as one slides up of down the frets in chording. Thanks - beautiful instrument for certain. Fine work of art. Well done!

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  4. Gloss always affects tone to some degree - but this is ultra thin, so I suspect it's less that. The frets are perfectly finished.

    ReplyDelete

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