Since that video we’ve had dozens of fantastic custom ukes from Pepe and a few of them were documented here in our blog articles-LINK:Pepe.
Pepe now has an import line, one of the best options for a high quality uke in the mid-price range. We give an overview of them here – Romero Creations.
But this page is for the instruments he personally makes. For the last 20 years he’s been following this passion and hand making guitars and now ukes that truly inspire players. Speaking of, isn’t it great that we can showcase these wonderful instruments with such incredible musicians! But no matter how much of a “master” you are, Pepe’s custom instruments are a treat to any enthusiast of great tone. “Those who feel it, know it”
Spruce/Private Reserve Rosewood 5 Series Tenor
For many premier acoustic builder’s this is the most choice tone woods. An Adirondack spruce for power and clarity, and a South American Rosewood for richness and depth. Another key feature to this ukulele is the hand rubbed French polish. This highly skilled finishing method optimizes the vibration of the wood while still protecting it from the elements.
Mike plays an original on his Pepe Spruce Rosewood custom tenor
“Beetle Kill” Tenor
The beetle kill ukulele was inspired by a documentary that I am working on about the devastation that bark beetles are causing all over the forests all over North America. There are many entire forests that are standing dead because of the beetle infestation. Now there is a massive supply of this beautiful wood that is either rotting away in the standing dead trees or creating major risk for out of control wild fires.
The beetle enters the bark of the tree and lays its larva. When it enters the tree it introduces a fungus which is what kills the tree. It is also what gives the blue gray stain and beauty to the wood.
I have been inspired by this project to start a line of ukuleles using this wood and promoting awareness of the problem that we have with these beetles and demonstrating a great use for this wood.
The first Beetle Kill ukulele from Pepe was auctioned for charity. Zach and I went down the road and filmed this in his back yard.
Spruce/ Maple TenorThis is an amazing custom tenor with a Spruce top, Italian flame maple back, and sides, Madagascar rosewood bindings, bridge, and fretboard, a mahogany neck, and Gotoh UPT tuners. It is extremely light in weight, comfortable to play, and has a huge warm tone.
These builds had Pepe’s reverse fan bracing system. Basically, instead of fanning out from the sound-hole area, the fan braces point toward the end block. This opens up the “sweet zone” of the soundboard a bit with and alternate direction of support. Have I mentioned yet how light in weight Pepe’s ukes are? Like, under 20oz light! Way lighter than your average uke. And you can really feel it resonate against your body.
These are “raw” sound samples with no compression of mastering. Use quality headphones or monitors for most accurate sound.
There’s a ring of sustaining overtones to Pepe’s customs that’s like no other ukulele. It’s just a beautiful sound and this ukulele was a joy to play. Mahogany continues to make great ukes with a clear balanced voice like this one.
Other aspects include Madagascar rosewood fingerboard and bridges which is light and dense giving it excellent acoustic properties. The string thru bridge, reverse fan bracing, Gotoh UPT 4:1 gear tuners, medium slender neck, all of these things make Pepe’s tenor unique.
Went with Zach down to the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens at lunch one day to record this.
Spruce Rosewood Guilele
“The Little Pepe is my answer to guilele style instruments. I made a much wider neck so that the left hand would have room to play comfortably and allow for the player to work much easier. I braced it with 5 reversed fans for my typical open, warm, powerful tone.”