Pete Howlett Firefly: Ukulele Window Shopping

I’ve been underwhelmed by the electric ukes I’ve tried but I’d certainly be willing to give this Pete Howlett Firefly Ukelectic a go.

String Tinkers cigarbox ukes (and other instruments).

Kickstarter for a plastic ukulele. Looks interesting but the minimum is more than I’d lay down on a Kickstarter. Plus it’s got a huge goal and a very long way to go.

A Turturro turnover mandolin ukulele (mandolin on one side, uke on the other) that actually looks in pretty good nick.

Photos: 1943 Camp Shelby, Ivan Petrovitch.

Keyboard baritone ukulele.

Lyon and Healy bell ukuleles turn up quite often but I think this is the first Lyon & Healy Vintage Bell Tiple I’ve seen.

View Comments


  1. Herman Vandecauter August 31st, 2012 7:16 pm

    Was looking for the plastic one but if I have to add 21% taxes ans sending kost the one can buy a nycer uke but of coarse not to take in my sea kayak!:(

  2. Ron Hale August 31st, 2012 11:10 pm

    Uber-cool plastic uke, Al. $125. Kickstarter deal seriously understates its true value as far as I’m concerned.

    Personally, am not aware of a full or partial plastic uke that beats it. Love the simple, dark look, too. Hope Scott pulls it off. Be a shame if this doesn’t become available as this is one
    nice instrument.

  3. cardboardfrog August 31st, 2012 11:21 pm

    Not sure i agree tbh, yeah the plastic uke looks solid but at $165 to ship to the uk without grover tuners, i’d rather buy an old school plastic uke from ebay or keep an eye on jake at antebellum instruments.
    I hope he makes his goal and maybe when i have some disposable income i’ll change my tune but considering you can get an okay uke to kick around on the acceptable side of £50 i wouldn’t be bothering with this for now.

  4. Woodshed September 1st, 2012 10:31 am

    Herman: No doubt. Import taxes are a pain in the arse.

    Ron: So you’ve put your money down? Didn’t see your name on the list.

    cbf: I don’t know that we disagree. “Looks interesting,” is a long way from being willing to put my money down. Especially on a Kickstarter – I don’t put money on a Kickstarter that I couldn’t just shrug off if it disappeared.

  5. Sunny Jim September 1st, 2012 11:27 am

    Re. the plastic uke. The neck profile looks fugly and I can’t imagine it being much of joy to play. One of the main weaknesses of the Islander era ukes was the neck which although a lovely rounded shape was hollow and made from the same thin gauge styrene as the body – the only thing preventing the tension of the strings bending the neck was the strength of the thicker fret board – if the uke was left somewhere too warm with the string tension too high the necks could and often did bend leaving the instrument with an uncomfortably high action. I don’t see why it is necessary for “each fret [to be] backed up with a reinforcement rib to compensate for finger pressure” – lateral braces will do nothing to conteract the median forces produced by the strings. Why couldn’t they mould a rounded neck that was strong enough to withstand the string tension?
    They seem to have missed a few other tricks as well. Would the following really have added that much to the production costs?
    – a removable saddle so that the action could be adjusted
    – contrasting coloured frets and position markers, the lack of these on Flukes can be a pain
    – different colours for sound boards, bodies and necks – might as well make it aesthetically pleasing too
    A couple of other points, when Maccaferri started producing Islanders in 1949 they retailed at $4.50, a little over $43.00 today taking inflation into account. If you want a plastic uke how about this Mauna Loa, which recently went on Ebay for under $30?

  6. Mat September 2nd, 2012 3:13 pm

    Jim, come back to ukulele club please we miss you. Pete brings a new ukulele every week

  7. Woodshed September 3rd, 2012 12:23 pm

    Sunny Jim: Good points. Thanks!

  8. karthik September 4th, 2012 8:58 am

    Al: Sorry if you already know this, but you won’t be charged any money if the kickstarter project does not hit its target. Kickstarter only charges you at the end of the funding period, and only if the project succeeds. So if you like their pitch (and want their product), you have nothing to lose by backing them.

  9. karthik September 4th, 2012 9:51 am

    EDIT: Oops, sorry. On reading your comments, your concern appears to be that the (fully funded) project’s product might never materialize. Which is very valid.

  10. Woodshed September 5th, 2012 10:57 am

    karthik: Yeah, that’s my concern. That and the possibility that it might be a huge disappointment. I have backed one Kickstarter that didn’t deliver what was promised (not through the fault of the starter). Shit happens.

  11. Simple Sounds September 7th, 2012 3:08 pm

    The plastic one on kickstarter has intrigued me as well. If they get closer to their goal I most likely will buy one.

  12. Woodshed September 9th, 2012 2:04 pm

    Simple Sounds: It’s only going to get close to the goal if people sign up.

  13. Simple Sounds September 9th, 2012 2:58 pm

    You are exactly right.

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