Moore Bettah

Before I knew Chuck, I was a fan of his work. I loved his designs and the musical quality of his ukes. Over the years we became friends and he’s truly an awesome guy! Clever, wise, humble, really a one-of-a-kind.

His wife Bonnie next to him there is equally special, always givin’ out good vibes. So these two found each other in the late 80’s on the island of Molokai. One of the things Chuck was pursuing at that time was scrimshaw art. Not everyone knows what that is but it’s the first American art form. First to the game but for some reason there aren’t many people now that can take a blade to a piece of mastodon ivory and come away with an image that’s even remotely beautiful. It might be the first American art, but it seems to be in it’s final moments and I understand, seems like a really tough medium. Somehow Chuck does it and this unique skill adds many more possibilities to his inlays as he mixes it in with all the other materials to achieve his vision.

A few years back I asked Chuck if he had any pictures of scrimshaw he did when he was on Molokai and, check it out, wow, visually powerful. Click for gallery size.

In 2005 Chuck and Bonnie moved to a gorgeous plot of land at the southeast corner of the Big Island. There Chuck set up to build ukuleles full time and hasn’t looked back. Or maybe he has, but his ukes have only gotten better and he keeps stretching his creative ideas into new territory.

Before I started doing Moore Bettah auctions at our online store, The Ukulele site, I would review them over here and sell to someone on a wait list we kept. So the last tab has links to a number of truly epic ukes. I rarely use that word. But I also wanted to document some ukes we’ve had with videos and thoughts. Some were auctioned, some went straight to customers, and some just aren’t online anymore. These are special ukes. They are concepts from the artist himself, Chuck Moore.

Btw, Bonnie makes beautiful and unique jewelry you can find HERE.

Corey and Kalei together sampled the last few that came in.

I prefer art to be the expression of a concept from the artist. I become a fan of the artist. Their look, style etc. But I like to just let them do what’s in their heart. If I like it and get it, I feel like it’s a true piece of art from them. Plus, I think instruments like this come from an artist challenging themselves. Could you imagine requesting this scene?

Spruce/Amazonian Rosewood

Here Chuck uses many different types of woods, dyed, making trees and jungle, flowers, the shell is amazingly chosen, the movement of the water, that kills me! The ancient mastadon ivory for the women. So many materials and choices. This puzzle came together for a stunning scene!
Corey gives us a “raw” sound sample. Strung with Chuck’s mix of fluorocarbons and high quality flatwounds.

Koa Tenor -Cool Mermaid-

Why is she cool? Cause she plays uke brah!
This ukulele features an incredible master grade koa body with a side sound port, ebony bound with the smoothest and most elegant arm bevel, and shown off with a perfect thin gloss finish. Headstock and fingerboard are inlayed with scrimsahwed fossil mastodon ivory, amboynia burl, acrylic, koa, ebony, and silver to create this gorgeous image of a mermaid playing ukulele. Talk about a unique and beautiful art piece to go along with this superb instrument!

This ukulele has Chuck’s new string-through bridge and body shape with a slightly wider lower bout. The sound goes from sweet and clear when played lightly, to powerful and focused when you dig in. It has excellent balance in tones and this is in part because of the Thomastik Infeld Low g and c strings. They aren’t as boomy or dominating as regular wound strings. They are also smooth when sliding, not squeaky like wound strings, but they have better sustain and tension balance than plain strings, especially on the low G. Chuck continues to refine his offering and this is another area he has been striving to improve on. He continually enlightens us on just how great an ukulele can be.

Corey gives us another sound sample.

Hula Theme Koa Tenor

Hula is more than just a dance. It’s an artistic representation of the islands themselves.The nature of the dance and the “mele” (hula music) together share the essence of Hawaiian culture. Paul Theroux recently did a video for the Smithsonian where he said this,

“Something that unites Hawaii is the spirit of Aloha. You don’t find it anywhere else. I’ve never found it any other place in the world. It’s love, it’s understanding, it’s respect. it’s behaving, it’s the way people drive, it’s the way people deal with each other, and it’s something that softens the edges of all encounters.

Hula is aloha in action. It encompasses a great deal of life. It’s philosophical, it’s melodious, the dance is to the ancient spirits. So it’s history, it’s society, it’s mythology, and then it’s a way of being happy. And it’s something that’s very vital in the society. It’s not some surface thing that’s danced in a hotel as a sort of folkloric dance the way you might find in some other countries, but it’s something that penetrates to the very roots of the society.”

The grace and elegance of hula is mirrored in this breathtaking custom tenor ukulele from renown Big Island luthier, Chuck Moore. With the rare art of scrimshaw, Chuck creates a real expression and dimension that you don’t normally see in inlay. The fact that the wahine here was etched out and shaded with an x-acto knife and dye is pretty staggering. Burled woods were cut up, dyed, and pieced together for the traditional hula wear and the ipu, a gourd used for percussion in hula. Meticulous construction and spectacular original art, along with the finest musical quality make this a classic master piece from the most famous custom ukulele builder!

Bryan Tolentino gives us a “raw” sound sample. Strung with Chuck’s mix of fluorocarbons and high quality flatwounds.
These are “raw” sound samples with no compression of mastering. Use quality headphones or monitors for most accurate sound.

Adirondack Spruce Macassar Ebony Mermaid

This tenor has a slew of wonderful appointments like an ebony bound side sound port, the smoothest arm bevel you could dream of, mitered purflings flowing along with ebony bindings nicely rounded off, and thin high-gloss nitro finish smooth to the slide. Little details went into every aspect of this build. The asymmetrical rosette is set off with a swell from the ocean (carbon fiber reinforced).

Beautiful scrimshaw art as well on this one with the face and body of this gorgeous sea babe. And together with recon stone, dyed woods,amboyna burl, and hand made composite materials Chuck’s done a beautiful job on this inlay.

Adirondack Spruce Macassar Ebony “Akiohala”

This ukulele features wood inlays of the popular Hawai’ian hibiscus (ʻAkiohala) flower, a beauty of nature that is synonymous with Hawai’i. The way that Chuck composed this inlay shows his distinct artistry starting with the careful selection and arrangement of woods and dyes to give realistic dimension along with vivid natural coloring. As you can see, this uke is a joy to admire.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles are not the most sought after custom ukes simply because of their beauty to the eye. The sound is equally mind-blowing and this one, with the Adirondack spruce top and macassar ebony sides and back has as much volume and power as any ukulele we’ve heard. And beyond the power is a delicate and dynamic voice with impeccable intonation all the way up the neck.

Adirondack Spruce/ Macassar Ebony “Waterfall”

This is another beautiful tenor with this magical combo of tonewoods. Not as ornate as some MB inlays, but it’s really amazing how Chuck creates, with such dimensional accuracy, the steep descent of water cascading down. Abalone shell inlayed around the top and rosette, the attention to detail and beautiful design, all of these things make this an extra special instrument. But especially the sound. Kalei and Corey give us sound samples.

Spruce/ Black & White Ebony “Bamboo”

This marbled black and white ebony is amazing to just look at, but is also a most excellent tone wood. Coupled with spruce it’s really choice. The concept of this uke with the bamboo inlay and bridge having the same striking ebony. I was so captured by it that I couldn’t help myself. Having two Moore Bettah’s now is about as indulgent as I could ever justify so I’ll be selling ones that come my way from now on. It’s a tough job!

Bearclaw Spruce/Milo

Features on this instrument include a bearclaw spruce top and milo sides and back. Bearclaw is sitka spruce but a little bit stiffer and for this reason it is one of the most desirable soundboard tonewoods. Milo is a highly respected wood throughout Hawaiian history and a rare and awesome tonewood. Its rich red and brown colors weave with a delicate lacey grain. It’s a similar weight and density of koa but seems to have a bit more resonance in the deep bass tones. Together with this bearclaw spruce it makes for a very resonant body.

The carbon fiber reinforced Spanish cedar neck adds sustain. It’s light weight, well-balanced, and is shaped for the ultimate in comfort and playability.

Chuck has a really organic design to this one with only woods being used for the inlay and accents. All of his ukes are extremely beautiful and this one is as classy as they come, but the noteworthy bling is the sound. Kalei even mentioned sparkling diamonds when describing the overtones he was hearing.

Bearclaw Spruce/Milo

Moore Bettah Ukuleles have a signature sound and this one shows it swimmingly. In fact, this dry recording is wet with sustaining overtones. When recording, engineers usually try to create those sounds with compression or reverb. Not so here. That’s just the natural sound as Corey noodles around and enjoys the superb playability and tone on this ukulele, and sure, not many can play as fast as he does at times, but just listen to the sound!

The carbon fiber reinforced Spanish cedar neck adds sustain, a balanced light weight, and is shaped for ultimate comfort and playability. Speaking of comfort, notice that this ukulele features a smooth and beautiful koa arm bevel. The area your arm rests on is soft and will never cut into your arm after long periods of play!

Comments 7

  1. I have a dream to get my own Moore Bettah uke one day. Hopefully he’ll be making them long enough for me to save enough and get on the wait list. 🙂

  2. How beautiful. I especially love the waterfall and mermaid themes, and they play very well. Thanks for the videos!

  3. I am lusting after one of the beautiful instruments! Love to look and listen every time one is posted!

  4. An artist from luthier , inlay artist , scrimshaw, innovation master , a true ukulele Monet. My personal favs are south sea and Hawaiiana themes .
    “Kauai dreams” and ” Wailele ” ( waterfall) ukes ( hard to choose ) and of course ” Pinup girl”

  5. I love my Moore Bettah. It’s one of the less adorned ones (no custom headstock, fretboard or soundboard inlay), but it is practically plays itself. Chuck has said that he puts his heart into each ukulele he builds, and I can sense that when I play mine.

  6. I had seen several of the Moore Bettah ukuleles in the magazine’s and just marveled at the artistry of Chuck’s work, but knew little about him or his ukuleles beyond the fact they were Freekin’ GORGEOUS!

    More recently, I started following Chuck’s builds on his Facebook page and not only learned about his ukuleles and their building process, but also the inspiration and thoughtfulness his puts into each of his masterpieces.

    This insight to how special Chuck is as a person and Luthier, became obviously apparent in one of his most recent builds, of the Hokule’a Ukulele that he made for auction, with the help of Andrew and crew, as a fundraising project for the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

    Not only did Chuck take us on a step-by-step photo diary of the build, he taught everyone the history and story of everything that surrounded the Hokule’a, the people and culture that were and continue to be a part of it…and to me, a tangible example of Chuck and the detail, heart and soul that he puts into his craft.
    Truly and inspirational and a compelling journey he took Us on, from start to finish.

    I came to appreciate that the Ukulele can me more than just an instrument to make music, but teach Us so many facets of life itself.
    I even learned that several people I knew, actually owned a couple of his Ukuleles…how cool is that!

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