Spiral Nautilus Rosette with Matching Fingerboard End ~
"I recently received my Beau Hannam tenor and am delighted to share my review thoughts with UU readers.
I originally heard a Beau Hannam on the HMS site, a model with redwood top and Tasmanian blackwood sides and back. I was hooked. I was particularly interested in something other than koa. The rich, clear, balanced tones and the artistry of the wood design were what I was looking for. I originally got on Beau’s waiting list with a Player selection, which is generally a simpler design but with all the sound characteristics of his Custom models. But by the time my turn in queue came up, some ideas were swimming in my head. I decided, with Beau’s guidance, to keep the Players redwood/blackwood combo and add some upgrades: side soundhole, bindings and most especially a designed rosette.
I felt the rosette especially would give it a special quality if we could find the right design. Initially I asked about something reminiscent of a nautilus shell, with a developing spiral. I knew going from very small to large width would be somewhat limited by the soundhole, but I asked anyway. Beau wasn’t sure, he said it would be a technical challenge to get the smoothness of the arc just right. But after some thought he came back with a number of possibilities, one of which I chose as a “direction.”
I’d like to suggest to any of you reading this who are considering a custom, from any luthier: as much as possible, agree on an idea, a direction for the builder’s creativity and then let him/her design and build. You can never know <exactly> what a custom will look, sound or feel like. What you can know is the builder’s aesthetic and quality. From there, I have always found that luthiers like to follow their own instincts to a large extent. That’s what happened here. I didn’t know exactly what the inside of the spiral would look like, only that I wanted some sense of change and movement within it.
I think what Beau came up with, moving from dark (at the small end) and finalizing with the lightest (at the widest end) is brilliant. Very dynamic, full of details (consisting of wood variations and mother of pearl dots), and it really pops in contrast to the beautiful redwood.
Originally, I had thought Beau might sculpt a cut corner on the end of the fretboard that would accept the widest part of the rosette. That was my idea, but Beau completely transcended that obvious choice with a reverse connection. As soon as I saw it I was thrilled. It had such a sense of liveliness but without any overstatement. The colors, the subtleties of the lines and variations, all the while moving from dark to light are stunning.
I have never had a side soundport on a uke before, but I now understand why it is such an excellent addition for the player’s benefit. I can instantly hear changes in my technique that before I could only pick up on when recording.
Outstanding. There is not one slip among all the surfaces and connections. All lines are clean and clear. Inside appears pristine and precise. Frets are smooth and make for easy fretting. Little details like the semi-hemispherical fret ends, the swoop on the headstock coloration, and the sculpted heel enrich the playing experience. It is exquisite. The finish is excellent (an upgrade, it is the high gloss finish used on his customs).
Playing and Feel
The overall balance of the uke is superb. I find the neck thickness on the thinner side which I much prefer. Light or heavier touch, this uke responds very well. I think the tone has a richness and balance that make the sound distinctive. Equal response across all strings. Intonation is excellent all along the neck. The uke vibrates so easily in response to action. Sustain is long and clean. I’m currently using Oasis brights with a Fremont soloist low g and like the relative tension. Although the size is not that much different from other tenors I have played, overall this uke somehow feels just a bit smaller and more responsive to position as I play.
Working with Beau Hannam was a true pleasure. He is funny, deeply knowledgeable and very creative. We would text each other with ideas and he was always responsive. As I’ve said, when I wasn’t sure about a choice, I usually left it in the end to his judgment and taste. I’m glad I did. His wait list is long these days, but when he gets to your uke he is focused on making it special. I recommend his work without reservation."
~ Craig T ~