Custom Ukuleles

April 29, 2015

Kinnard Mahogany Baritone Uke Review from Don Hall of Seattle Washington

Hi Kevin and John,

I’ve had my Kinnard baritone ukulele for a month now and have not missed one day of playing it.  It’s a wonderful instrument!  Easy to play, great sounding, and beautifully made.

For your prospective customers, my Kinnard baritione is a Series One model with two upgrades:  inlayed MOP logo on the head stock, and a side sound port.  It is all Honduran Mahogany including the neck.  The headplate, fretboard, fretboard binding, bridge, and tail strip are made of East Indian Rosewood. It has a radiused fretboard, bone nut and saddle, and Gotoh UPT tuners.  It also has a beautiful satin finish.

The real custom work on my ukulele was to make it a 19” scale like traditional baritones instead of John’s modern 19 7/8” scale.  The shorter size feels more comfortable to me after previously owning both 19” and 20” baritone ukes in the past.  My Kinnard has 13 frets to the body.

This ukulele looks very plain at first glance. But when you look closer, you really appreciate the sophistication of the build.  For example, the Rosewood binding on the fretboard is nearly invisible.  So is the seam between the two-piece neck. The joins are all perfect, and the rosewood heel cap is just another wonderful touch.  I also think John’s bridge design is brilliant and my favorite way to string a ukulele.

The Honduran Mahogany on my instrument was an upgrade and just a beautiful set of wood.  I’m sure the top and back are book matched, but again, it looks like one piece.  The Gotoh UPT tuners are my favorites and they work wonderfully. The shape of the headstock is classic Martin guitar – simple, sharp lines and I love it.

How does it sound?  Like a guitar! It’s deep, full, and resonant right out of the box!  I can’t wait to hear how this will sound in a year.  I play mostly jazz standards and chord melody so I don’t need sustain when I’m changing chords every two beats. However, my daily warm-up is Bach’s Prelude for Cello (a three-minute dexterity exercise) and these single notes ring beautifully and there is plenty of sustain when you want it.

I like baritones because they are comfortable to play, sound great, and have lots of tuning options.  My Kinnard is currently tuned to Bb (F-Bb-D-G) which is a great key for jazz standards.  I just put Aquila Nylguts on it and it feels much better but sounds just as good as the previous fluorocarbon strings.  The set-up on my uke was also top-notch with perfect action and intonation.

I’ll close with a heartfelt thank you for the blessing to own this exquisite instrument. I’m thrilled with my Kinnard baritone and feel like I got tremendous value for what I paid.  

Kevin, you made the ordering process very easy.  You had me at hello when you called to follow-up on my online inquiry.  Customer service is difficult to deliver in this industry because builders need to build and not talk on the phone. I appreciated all the pictures you sent of the build progress, and also our great conversations. But the highlight of the process was getting a video of Kimo Hussey himself demonstrating my Kinnard baritone!  Yes folks, Kevin and John have that power.  

Have fun at the Reno Uke Fest this weekend and I look forward to meeting you and John in person in the near future.

Don Hall


Nov 3, 2014

Kinnard Tenor Review-

 Kevin Smith of Roseville California on his Cocobola/Cedar tenor 

​Hi Kevin,
            Thank you so much for taking such good care of me with my custom Kinnard uke build. I know that you do this every day, but the great communication and attention to detail made it a great experience for me. Now that I have had a chance to play my new uke, I wanted to forward over my review of it (all positive). In the business I am in, customer feedback is a critical piece, so I thought you might enjoy my perspective.

.      Ordering and options available

o   I was at the point in my uke journey where I wanted to buy a custom uke and be able to define my instrument. I think the 3 price points you offer and the options that you have are exactly right. I was able to define exactly what I wanted.

o   You input was critical. I know a lot about uke’s, but moving up to this level is a whole different ball game. Your expertise and insights were invaluable to me. Picking the tone woods was the hardest part, and you really helped to simplify it for me. Coco and cedar… perfect.

o   I think the most helpful factor for me was the communication from beginning to end. You took the time to answer all of my questions, guided me when I needed your help, and encouraged me to define the best instrument possible.

·         The build

   Keeping me updated as we moved along was greatly appreciated. I never felt out of touch or anxious about getting the project done. The pictures along the way were fantastic. I felt like I was part of the team building my instrument. I was able to share the pictures with a lot of friends as the build progressed.


·         Playabilility   

o   I had moved up to a Mike Pereira uke last year due to its easy playability. My uke instructor found that I was getting limited by the instrument I was playing (Kanlilea Tenor), as it was hard for me to shift chords and finger pick. After Buying the MP uke, my playing improved dramatically (moving from a beginner to a solid intermediate). I didn’t think that the MP uke could be improved upon. Boy was I wrong. I wish I knew all of the details that go into it, but the playability of my Kinnard is unmatched. Barring chords, strumming, and finger picking are like “butter”. So easy to play that I am hitting the tougher chords much easier and with a lot less strain on my fingers (and especially my thumb). I don’t buzz frets nearly as often, and my chords and finger picking have a depth and chime to them that I could not do before. And, this is after only 4 days of playing.

o   I am certainly no expert, but I have played with over 100 ukes and I have never played an instrument that is so easy to use. I’m not sure if it is the radiused fret board, the perfect action, or the string selection (or a combination of all three) but the ease of play is simply awesome.

o   I love the string selection. I am not a huge fan of wound low-G strings, but the one you selected works really well. Are these Worth Clears?

·         Tone   

o   We selected the perfect woods for this uke (for me at least). The high notes have a chime and sparkle that I have not heard on other ukes. The low G resonates through the whole instrument without dominating the other strings. Wow.

o   The sustain on this uke is insane. It goes on, and on, and on. I have already modified the way I play – I am holding the chords longer before moving to the next chord because of the long sustain.

o   The sound hole makes a big difference for me. It really helps me to appreciate the tonal quality as I can hear every note clearly

o   The note separation is tremendous. Each string can be heard. There are no muddled tones.

o   You can play this uke whisper quiet, or pound on it for volume. It never disappears in quiet playing and never “booms” when punched hard.

o   Most ukes seem to favor either strumming or finger picking. This uke is the best at both of any uke I have ever played.

o   Simply stunning tone. I can’t seem to stop playing this uke. The notes are crisper, and the chords are more balanced. The quality of my playing, because of the quality of the uke alone, has improved.

·         Aesthetics  

o   There were so many choices to make: woods, back stripe, binding, purfling etc., that I was a little intimidated when we started out. As we talked through it and I looked at the examples you sent me, it didn’t take long to dial it in. I must admit that I did second guess myself a little as the build went along (should I have gone with a back stripe?), but in the end, I would not change a single detail. Seriously… not a single detail. You nailed the design for me.

o   The attention to detail is simply unmatched. The first thing I did was to go over the uke with magnification as John does when he builds it. The seams and joints are incredible. Holy cow.

o   The cocobolo and cedar were perfect choices not only for tonality, but for the aesthetics as well. A perfect combination. The cocobolo is an amazing wood. The figure and “depth” are just beautiful. Perfectly book matched. I can’t stop looking at it. And let’s face it, who looks at the back of a uke??? Me, I guess, lol. The cedar adds a warmth to the top and does not overwhelm the instrument. I agree with you that Spruce provides too much contrast between light and dark colors. But that honey gold of the cedar with the coco is stunning. A friend of mine looked at it and just couldn’t put it down – just looking at the physical beauty. The koa binding was also a perfect choice. It goes so well with the other woods. I couldn’t be more pleased with it

o   John added a very nice touch with the neck cap piece. A tiny detail, but the “knot” of wood in the end cap is beautiful. I had to laugh when I saw it. I was thinking that John probably looked around for the perfect piece of wood to use and probably figured no one would notice it. I just love it. Again, just amazing attention to detail.

   The sound hole rosette perfectly complements the other woods. The coco rosette was the perfect choice.

So, overall, it was an amazing experience from end to end. I know I chose the right luthier to build the uke I will play the rest of my life. Playability, tone, and aesthetics all were better than I could have hoped for, and I had very high expectations! Your communication throughout the process, helpful suggestions (13 frets to the instrument etc.) and expert knowledge was the perfect complement to John’s ability to craft an extraordinary uke.  If I could go back to the beginning, I honestly would not change a thing. I cannot thank you and John enough for making my dream uke come true. I know that I will be playing it for the next 20 years. How fun will that be?

All the best,



Nov 30, 2014

​​On our recent trip to Hawaii we had the opportunity to drop off a couple of Kinnards to Andrew Kitakis of Hawaii Music Supply and wanted to share his write up...