In 2013 Detroit-area luthier Gary Zimnicki was given some advice from a friend–why not use reclaimed wood from abandoned homes to build instruments? So that’s what he did. Zimnicki built a Soprano Ukulele from reclaimed wood. And it’s a beauty.
“…I had no idea how to go about it,” he told Ukulele Magazine. “I wasn’t about to grab a flashlight and a crowbar and just start taking a house apart.”
Luckily he found out about Reclaim Detroit, a project that takes abandoned Detroit homes and sells everything that can be sold–right down to the floorboards–for use in new products and projects.
The Soprano Uke was made primarily from woods that came out of a house in Detroit built in 1910. The maple in the back, sides and neck came from the house’s floorboards. The Douglas Fir soundboard came from a section of ceiling joist. The contrasting dark lines are Black Walnut, from a locally grown tree that was harvested a couple of decades ago. Since the maple was originally used as floorboards in the house, it has some nail holes, but Zimnicki says that’s OK.
“I don’t mind nail holes though, because they can be filled and they serve as a reminder of where the wood originated,”he told the magazine.
A mother-of-pearl likeness of the house is inlaid into the peghead of the Uke.
Zimnicki has gotten enough wood from Reclaim Detroit to build two more Ukes and a mandolin.