Name: KEVIN ROBINSON
Mission: TO SPREAD THE UKULELE LOVE WITH THE POWER OF THE TINKULELE
I really love walking round the markets in Bristol and I first met Kevin last year when I saw his stall at the top of Corn Street. We recently met properly as I was working at the Mini-Maker Fair in At-Bristol and Kevin was exhibiting there.
Prior to the ukulele Kevin doesn’t have a musical background, “That’s why I in 2013 decided I needed to man up and learn to play something! I love the ukulele as its very easy to get started and you can play a tune within half an hour, but its also an amazing instrument that you can spend the rest of your life mastering!” He is inspired by the ukulele genius of Jake Shimbukuro and James Hill.
He decided to start making tinkuleles after seeing a guy from the USA on YouTube fixing a broken ukulele neck to a cookie tin. “I didn’t have a broken uke, so had to make a neck. The first one was a bit chunky with copper wire frets but it worked!”
Since then he has refined his design and makes the necks out of reclaimed hardwood from old front doors. “Once I have a door its then a case of dismantling it into usable pieces, which are then cut into the rough neck shape with a bandsaw. I then shape and sand these by hand. The fret slots are then cut and frets fitted. After this I apply 2 coats of teak oil. Normally I make a batch of 6 tinkuleles at a time.”
The body of the ukuleles Kevin makes are made from old tins. “I am always on the lookout for different tins, car-boot sales and charity shops tend to be the best hunting grounds. Every tin varies in size and shape and I really enjoy the challenge of the more unusual shaped ones.”
Due to the fact that he hand-makes every tinkulele and a lot of his work is commission based. “People will send me a favourite tin of theirs to turn it into a tinkulele for them. I made one for a lady from her grandma’s old biscuit tin from the 1950’s. She rescued it from being thrown out when her grandma’s house was cleared and its now an instrument that can be passed down through the family.”
Kevin plays with the Bristol Ukulele Club who meet at 7pm on Sundays at The Collusiem near to St Mary Redcliffe Church. “We have a few little gigs throughout the year and they tend to be low key but a lot of fun. We play at street parties or in pubs and one of our claims to fame is playing at Tyntesfield ‘Live From The Lawn’ on the same bill as The stranglers. OK it was two days later, but on the same stage!” The club are “always looking for new members, so come along and say hello! We play and sing all sorts from The Beatles to The Zutons with a bit of Mumford & Sons for good measure.
In the future Kevin hopes to keep making tinkuleles. “I had never been to a festival until I started selling tinks, and now I love it! We attend Folk festivals and none of them are anything like the Folk music I expected. I intend on building a campervan so we can and go to more festivals, and enjoy life! If I can make a living doing that I will be very happy!”
If you’d like to see Kevin in action you can catch the Bristol Ukulele Club perform as part of the Totterdown Front Room Art Trail in November. Or if you’re keen on getting your hands on your own unique tinkulele visit the links below.