Cox’s Coconut Ukulele: Window Shopping

I’ve always associated coconut ukuleles with tacky tourist ukes. But here’s a Cox’s Cocolele from 1937; the year it was invented. You can see the patent here. Turns out old Coxy didn’t intend them as a cheap souvenir but a vast improvement over the heretofore crappy sounding ukulele.

Heretofore ukeleles have been made of mahogany, ohia, monkey-pod or redwood and, in spite of the exhaustive efforts made, fine tonal qualities have not been obtained.

It is therefore the principle object of my invention to produce a ukelele having fine tone, and I accomplish this by constructing a substantial portion of the main body of the ukelele from cocoanut shells.

Strange how that didn’t work out.

Sedlacek Jazz Ukulele

I was quite interested in the Blackbird Carbon Fiber ukulele being a uke impervious to heat and moisture (even if it doesn’t sound that great). But the $1,300 price tag makes it much less appealing.

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14 Comments

  1. Herman Vandecauter March 11th, 2011 8:06 pm

    Interesting! now I tend to buy 2 coconuts for a next project! First eating, drinking and then the luthery job.

  2. Josh Gordon March 11th, 2011 9:32 pm

    Regarding the Blackbird uke — I’ve got one of the first ones. The sound, though not the sound of wood, is a very nice sound on its own. Amplified the instrument sounds very good; the Fishman electronics suit it. The action is magnificent, the best I’ve ever played, better even than my Compass Rose (and that’s saying a lot.) Worth the money? Hard to say. If you like to play outdoors, it’s great for festivals and such where you might be jamming at all hours in all weather.

  3. Ron Hale March 11th, 2011 11:02 pm

    Time to rethink the ‘jazz ukulele’ designation based on appearances alone. Almost every ‘jazz’ uke that I’ve seen being played was not being used for jazz. And since any uke can be used for jazz and you’re almost always going to see a non-‘jazz’ uke playing jazz…

  4. Josh Gordon March 11th, 2011 11:05 pm

    At least a couple of those archtop “jazz” ukes have a basic problem — they’re way quiet, and pretty much demand to be played electrified.

  5. Woodshed March 12th, 2011 12:24 pm

    Herman: Good plan. I may use the same process to make a lagerlele.

    Josh: Thanks. Good to know. It does seem like it could come in handy. I think a cheap plastic one would be my choice until the price comes down.

    Ron: Or maybe ban people from playing jazz on all other ukuleles.

  6. snojimbo March 13th, 2011 8:12 am

    I’ve just returned from a holiday in the Cook Islands; a very beautiful place btw. Lots of coconut ukes for sale, and although they can be played they are mostly souvenirs. However, I did buy an island-style uke. It’s made from cedar, has 8 strings (actually 20lb fishing line…), has a solid cover for the sound box with the sound hole on the back. Mine has a hand-carved turtle design on the front. These ones are played ALL THE TIME on Rarotonga (the main island). Actually there is only one radio station, Radio Cook Islands, and they broadcast local uke music almost exclusively. Wife and I had a great time.

  7. Woodshed March 13th, 2011 11:37 am

    snojimbo: Thanks for that. I’ve been checking out some music from the Cook Islands (and ended up on tour of the South Pacific).

  8. Herman March 13th, 2011 2:18 pm
  9. CountPancake March 13th, 2011 2:26 pm

    I didn’t think the carbon fibre one sounded that bad.

  10. snojimbo March 13th, 2011 10:36 pm

    Herman: Yes it very much looks like that. Has a very distinctive ‘plinky-plinky’ sound. Thanks and well done on following my description. I’m considering replacing the fishing nylon for real strings as I find the fishing nylon too thin. But that may not work.

  11. Herman Vandecauter March 14th, 2011 8:20 am

    Snojimbo, they are from Haiti, but instead of travelling to Haiti they came to Belgium! A lot easier.

  12. Woodshed March 14th, 2011 12:32 pm

    CountPancake: It’s not ‘that bad’, but it’s not over a grand’s worth of good either.

  13. Healani Rego November 4th, 2011 4:43 am

    Aloha from Hawaii! The person that invented this cocolele that you speak about is my husbands grandfather, Manuel Cox. He and his brother invented the cocolele and yes, it is pretty cool! Glad to see you find it as amazing as we do! Mahalo! ;)

  14. Woodshed November 4th, 2011 7:41 am

    Healani: Wow! That’s a talented grandfather-in-law!

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