Saturday, 25 May 2013

Happy Tune Plastic Ukulele

Somehow a plan hatched, and I'm pretty sure that Meri was responsible for most of it. The idea is that we all get ourselves plastic ukuleles for playing pool- or beachside this summer. What could be more fun than scaring off every poor swimmer within earshot?

There are modern plastic ukuleles for sale (these, for example, which retail at $160; or this new product which costs $100), and you can get plastic toy ukuleles for about $20. Meri decided to go with the third option: buying a vintage plastic ukulele on eBay.

Back in the '50s, plastic ukuleles were part of a huge wave of the instrument's popularity. Plastic was cheap and easily molded. It was also durable and relatively impervious to the elements. A number of manufacturers made plastic ukes, marketed both as toys and as real instruments (albeit with phrases like "play like a pro without lessons" printed on the box).

So popular were plastic ukes back in the day that they still regularly turn up on eBay. While some sell for well over $100, they can also regularly be had for around half that.

Meri bid on and won a Happy Tune ukulele for $25, shipping included. An incredible bargain, probably due to its bedraggled appearance. It arrived missing a couple of strings (no matter, as these would be replaced in any case) and with scuffs and dirt on the body.
Inside was sand, grass and an unidentifiable muck. It seemed like it already had plenty of beach playing experience.
Meri washed it with dish soap and rinsed out the inside several times.
When it was dry, she took out the rest of the blemishes with fine (0000) steel wool.
Then it was polished, restrung with Aquilas, and—wait, let's look at the 'before' picture one more time:
And here it is afterward, clean and beautiful and ready to play:

For more on plastic ukuleles, please see these pages:
You can also find videos of them being played on youtube and elsewhere. Ukester Brown has an entire channel devoted to them. Or you can just watch this clip, which says it all:

1 comment:

  1. Smiles- many smiles over here. You know how I like a happy ending. And a great movie line.
    Coming soon -- to a pool near me, I hope.