Notes on playing the banjo uke (and the regular ukulele), as well as some of my favorite songs and videos, but mostly, you'll find information here on my particular obsession - the many models of banjo ukulele offered by Stromberg-Voisinet in the 1920's to 1931.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Crocodile Skin Ukes...

One of the strangest ukuleles produced by Stromberg Voisinet has to be the Style 1 variant covered with "faux crocodile skin".

The substance, referred to in a couple of places as faux crocodile (which it doesn't look like) and "Duralene" seems to be some sort of epoxy paste, applied to the resonator back, part of the pot and also, a large diamond on the back of the headstock - echoing the Stromberg Voisinet diamond logo. This was sculpted into a pattern of swirls and then painted a grey green and lacquered over with a sort of pearlescent finish that gives the instrument an organic, art nouveau look, like one of those Tiffany dragonflies. I've only seen two of these, one I owned and another offered by Elderly instruments over a year ago.

Other than this bold decorative adornment, the ukulele is a regular Style 1, but instead of sporting an ebonized finish, this version has a dark, russet-brown stain, nicely complimentary to the greenish crocodile skin.

Elderly's offering, seen here and above, had that mahogany-stained neck and pot. With broken neck dowel, it sold for $100.00.

Here, you can follow yet another restoration series, this one done by my friend Tim Caneulle (Two Trax on Banjo Hangout). The difference between Tim's restoration project and the Elderly instrument is that the Duralene comes more than half-way up the pot side instead of just being confined to the cap and this instrument has that uncommon six-mop fretboard inlay pattern.

I bought this from Tim in January 2011 along with that neat little no-name uke next to it in the final photo. I really enjoyed playing it, but it's now owned by my extremely talented buddy Ben Mealer, who really does it justice!

See Ben here: on his YouTube channel

Those are the only two examples I've seen of the Crocodile Skin Style 1. I expect Stromberg Voisinet didn't make a lot of these - and indeed, they're probably not for everyone. I think its one of the most interesting and unique instruments made during the banjo uke golden age of the 20s and 30s.

That's it for now. I've been busy with a new job for the last 2 months, but in the time, I've lined up several interesting ukes to show you. I'll share them soon, and in the meantime, keep strumming'.


  1. Sometimes rare is rare for a reason. While I would snap one up at $100, that's kind of like kissing your sister for me :) Great article on them though- I am sure most folks have never seen one of these.

  2. "Like kissing your sister" :) Not for me, but I take your point. I liked it, but was trying to finance another uke!

    Thanks, Dave. :)

  3. Ahhhhhhhhhh, I have this one and I need its resonator! It's driving me insane!