South Portland luthier Joel Eckhaus gets ready to carve a brace for a canoe paddle-shaped ukulele he calls a "paddlelele." He makes them out of ash, the traditional wood used for a canoe paddle. Buy Photo
Luthier Joel Eckhaus performs a traditional tap tone test on a ukulele back after carving its braces in his South Portland workshop. Eckhaus has made ukuleles for the likes of Neko Case and Eddie Vedder. Buy Photo
Ukulele parts sit on a workbench at Earnest Instruments in South Portland. Luthier Joel Eckhaus is a nationally known ukulele teacher and maker. He studied with famed vaudeville star Roy Smeck, who is known as the "wizard of the strings." Buy Photo
Terry Smith and Elizabeth Watson share a laugh while playing with the Falmouth Library Ukulele Ensemble, better known as the FLUKES, on a recent Wednesday night. The group meets once a week and is getting ready for a performance on June 22 at the Falmouth Historical Society. Buy Photo
Tim Emery of Buckdancer's Choice Music Company in Portland said he sells about a ukulele a day and even more at Christmas time. He keeps about 300 in stock, with prices ranging from less than $50 to several hundred dollars. Buy Photo
The ukulele is a small instrument with a big following. Popular in the 1920s and again in the 1950s, the diminutive relation of the guitar and charango is back and more in demand than ever.
“Whatever goes around, comes around again,” said Joel Eckhaus, a South Portland luthier who specializes in making ukes.“Ukuleles have been one of my mainstays for the past 10 or 15 years.”
Eckhaus made his first uke in the 1970s. Since then, he’s made hundreds of plucky instruments for the likes of of Neko Case and Eddie Vedder. He also studied ukulele with old master Roy Smeck in the early 1980s. Eckhaus now travels across the country, spreading the gospel of the uke and teaching lessons.