Iriguchi Wabi Sabi Finishing


We do finishing a little differently at Iriguchi… quite differently in fact. We leave surfaces a bit rough, oftentimes with with noticeable maker’s marks. Not only does this emphasize the handmade nature of our ukuleles, it also creates a very different tactile experience when you handle them. You don’t feel a glossy finish, you feel wood, texture and shape. Initially they look somewhat coarse, but over time, as you play them, they develop a unique patina and get burnished by your handling of them. You quite literally, personalize and complete the finish of your Iriguchi ukulele by playing it.

wabi sabi

represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection and it’s one that we subscribe to.


the aesthetic

is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.


It is a concept

derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence , specifically impermanence , the other two being suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature .


characteristics include

asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. In other words, clean lines with modest bling.


Wabi Sabi Iriguchi-style


When we build our ukuleles we focus on two things above all else… sound and playability. We strive to build ukuleles that both sound beautiful and which feel comfortable in your hands. The beauty of our ukuleles is a function of these two things. When people try our ukuleles, we love to see them close their eyes…to listen to and feel the instrument. And when they are done trying our uke, instead of holding it out at arm’s length and admiring it’s appearance, they instead clutch it closely to them while imagining the music they could make with it.


At the end of it’s life, we feel an ukulele should have a array of dents, dings and scratches that testify to a lifetime of making music. We want them to look like they never got left at home, safely in their cases. To paraphrase an old saying, “An ukulele is safe in it’s case, but that’s not what ukuleles are for.” We try to build ukuleles that never get left at home.


Imagine how beautiful this ukulele will be when it’s been played for twenty years!

It might be said that our ukuleles are the least attractive they’ll ever be on the day they leave our shop. They have no life experience. They lack the hand-rubbed neck, the buffing marks on the body and the “beauty marks” that only a lifetime of playing can impart. We don’t finish with deep, flawless French polishes or other glossy materials. We use a thin-coat, semi-gloss urethane. You can still feel the grain of the wood. You can still see the “maker’s marks” left by me. We sand only down to 220 grit sandpaper, which is what many builders start with. Over time, your hands, your body and the elements complete the finish. Your Iriguchi ukulele gets more beautiful the more you play it…the more experiences it has.


Think of the dining table in the kitchen of your childhood home. Not the fancy table in the “dining room” that was used only on holidays and when guests came over. No, think of the everyday one that you did your homework on, the one with the burn mark that only you know the origin of, the table you spilled paint on, that you grew up around and where you shared family meals. It was comfortable and familiar and when you go home, as soon as you sit down at it, you know you’re “home.” That is the aesthetic we hope our instruments can achieve over their lifetimes. So that one day, they end up being the most beautiful ukulele in your collection.

Smile when you play that!