Date of Writing : 02/02/2015
Larry’s wife has been kind enough to send some pictures of his matchstick ukulele, which – with luck – should be reproduced herewith. I thought I would share it with you, as it really is rather impressive. It’s built almost entirely from matchsticks and wood glue, with no hidden supporting substructure. The fretboard and frets (the required positions of which I had the privilege of calculating) are made from several score of disposable coffee-stirrers (gathered from the visits hall) for their durability. There is part of one half of a clothes peg forming part of the bridge, and the nut and main bridge are ‘bones’ bought from the same supplier as the machine heads and strings, but aside from these parts it’s all matchsticks.
I had the chance to play it a little before it was handed out of the prison on a visit, and it sounds, well, just like a ukulele! Many people make things from matches in prison, and I’ve seen countless boxes of various kinds, knick-knacks of all varieties, a truck rig and flatbed trailer complete with tank (altogether over two feet long), and other miscellaneous manufacturings. I’ve even had a go at it myself a few times. But what sets Larry’s work well apart from most I’ve seen is the sheer quality of the workmanship and finish. The surfaces are a smooth continuum that is immensely tactile and a pleasure to hold; the hours of patient sanding certainly pay off. Moreover, in this case the end product is not just some ornament of curiosity, but a fully playable musical instrument that will have a life of its own.
Larry is already well on the way to finishing his second ukulele, and has mentioned the possibility of a third. He’s considering the feasibility of building a guitar – and I believe he could do it. In any case, I thought I’d share this with you so you can have a glimpse of some of the caged creativity there is here. I could also tell you about the ventriloquist’s dummy someone was constructing that was confiscated for fear it could be used in an escape attempt, but that’s another story.