Skylark brand Soprano Ukulele made in the peoples Democratic republic of China

Was nearly
My PDRC Skylark

1970's skylark Soprano Ukulele made in the peoples democratic republic of China
Side
Shang hai skylark chinese vintage soprano ukulele back
Back
https://sites.google.com/site/ukulelemakers/multi/late-20th-c-chinese-ukuleles/20c-china

knew I'd seen it before
but slightly newer


I put Rotosound strings on and tuned it to g~C~E~A





Skylark Brand (made in Shanghai)

This popped on eBay and I thought it looked interesting, a lot of experience showing on the finish but from the pictures it looks basically sound and whilst I know I have seen that S shaped fret board end before I couldn't remember if I saw it on a 1930's German model or a 1950's Japanese one? Either way it looked interesting and I though, though I should know better by now, I would at least have a small punt, (like I do for interesting instruments and generally get outbid), but this time I didn't so its coming to Ukulele Corner. I am excited at having it come and looking forward to finding out if the pretty binding is inlay or decal, if there are any makers marks and if it is pre-war solid woods or post war laminate? (or possibly still solid woods). Meanwhile I will hunt through my notes to see if I can remember where I had seen the design before? Now the tuners are the 60's shark tooth ones but they may be replacements - or a number of Occupied Japanese makers copied Harmony's design and they are original? The bridge is a one piece wooden affair but its not a design I recognise but I enjoy all of the detective work, as well as playing the Ukulele and the workmanship that went into making it and I shall look forward to reporting who made it once I have solved the misery.

Now its arrived and buying it was a bad idea!!
Once I unpacked it there were two main problems - the first is its in a lot worse condition than I was led to expect with a crack that runs the length of the sound board, (which at least shows it is solid wood though probably pine; (hence all of the scuffs pine is really to soft for instruments - though it does have a good tone while it lasts; and the binding is a decal), and a place where the body is coming away from the soundboard. There might also be a crack in the side and a place where the back is coming away from the sides too; plus all of all the original scuffing and chips mentioned. 

The other thing and its not a problem other than a problem of my attribution, is as soon as I took it out of the packing I knew it as a late 20th c. Skylark Ukulele made in Shanghai, Peoples, Republic of China, not a brand, location or period that was known for its quality! (There is also a small piece of the blue label still in the sound hole)

Now I knew that one day one would find its way to Ukulele Corner, there are just too many about, but I was expecting to be given one or find one in a skip; and if I was going to buy one? Well I have passed up lots in the past for the same sort of money I paid for this; and in much better condition. Oh well its here now so I will have a good look at it so I can recognise them more easily, (its already made me go back and look at a lot of the unbranded Ukulele pictures I have to see if I have miss-attributed them to pre-war Germany), clean it up a bit and learn to love it for what it is. I'm not so sure I will try to get the cracks fixed though? I try and string it and make a sound sample and it can hang with all the other clunkers representing a period and a location that done make up the full history of the Ukulele.

I have put some strings on - partly for the photograph and partly to see what it sounds like - and for a few minutes it sounded quite nice, better than I was expecting, but the string tension started opening the crack up a lot more and demonstrated, with a bad rattle, that the internal bracing is coming apart. Basically this Ukulele is unplayable in its current state so I will ask for my money back from the seller

So a couple more comments before I send it back, Build wise it's made of quite poor material, hence the splitting and ungluing but it is actually better made than I thought it would be! The neck is chunky but smooth and quite nice to play, the action, and this doesn't look to have been messed about with, is surprisingly nice too. The tuners also work better than I expected too, but again the quality of the materials used looks a little suspect with very soft plastic for the sharks teeth; I would worry if I have to tighten the screws up. The frets are OK for intonation but seem a little short across the fretboard? on the plus side this does mean they don't need dressing so possibly it's a design feature and not poor workmanship? I do wonder with this if it was an early one or maybe a top of the line deluxe one as my impression is it was better than I thought they were before it started falling apart?  What I have learned from this, apart from hubris and overconfidence is no substitute for proper research, (but I did already know that and should listen to myself) is that maybe some of these PDRC era Ukuleles aren't as bad as I thought? - Some are though!!! don't doubt that - but perhaps I should give them slightly more respect and consideration next time a good condition one comes up?