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Tigeralum2001
09-23-2014, 09:31 PM
I've been playing for a few years now and in my time I have had the good fortune to play ukuleles that I have no business getting my hands on. I'll never play like Jake, or likely better than most on this forum, but I LOVE playing the uke. The one thing I have yet to have done was to have a true custom uke built for me. I have bought custom ukes second hand, but I've never gone through the process.

A while back I heard about this 2850 year old Sitka and it caught my attention. It has this unique gray color from having been buried in the mud in Alaska for who knows how long, and several luthiers have built ukes and guitars from it. I have two Spruce top ukes and they sound great, so I thought one day that this might make a nice (different) custom top. The wood supplier hadn't had any in stock for quite some time, so when I saw more was available I bought enough for two tops.

Meanwhile, about a year and a half ago, I met a local luthier through Craigslist. This guy has been building guitars for over 13 years and decided to try a uke, he was basically looking to get it in the hands of a player to get some feedback so he sold it at a great price. I replied to the ad and went to meet him. I was really impressed with the tone, though as any guitar builder's first attempt is likely to have, it had its flaws. We talked about those flaws and he built some more ukes, and they were markedly better. I was super impressed!

Anyway, I decided to have him build me two ukes from this ancient Sikta. The first one is currently under construction. It will have Cocobolo back and sides and it is now taking shape. I think it looks pretty darn good and I can't wait to try it out. It will still be several weeks until it is done, but I thought I would share some progress pictures.

71160
71161

Any advice for a first-time custom buyer? Any mistakes you made or something you wish you had done differently?

Camsuke
09-23-2014, 09:53 PM
What fabulous news Tigeralum2001! Those ukuleles sound very special, 2850 year old Spruce! I'm sure they'll be absolutely wonderful. Congratulations on your first custom ukuleles!

hawaii 50
09-23-2014, 09:56 PM
Nice CJ....

just tell him what binding/purfling and headstock(slotted would be my choice)tuners you want.....
how about a Cocobolo backstrap and faceplate(or Ebony)....and binding on the fretboard too...

what kind of fretboard are you asking for?

then get out of his way and let him do his thing...good luck.....

dkcrown
09-23-2014, 11:52 PM
Congrats CJ. That is some nice looking cocobolo. It will be interesting to see how it looks with that ancient spruce.

As for advice on your build, after choosing what woods will be used I always defer to the builder for their expertise and suggestions. I would tell him what your preference is for neck thickness and profile.

Good luck and keep us updated with pics!

PhilUSAFRet
09-24-2014, 02:30 AM
Gorgeous cocobolo, can't wait to see it finished. I love the sound of even average cocobolo and spruce ukes, your's will likely sound amazing.

Tigeralum2001
09-24-2014, 03:33 AM
A couple of people have PMed me about the builder. His name is Byron Barnes and his shop is called BB Strings - http://www.bbstrings.com/

Being from Northern California, he has an affinity for using local woods but he will build with "exotic" woods when asked. The first uke listed is the first one he built and includes a short video with sound sample.

coolkayaker1
09-24-2014, 03:35 AM
Congratulations, CJ.

Advice: get the guitar-maker to thin that topwood down to a whisper. He's right there--if it dishes, he can fix it for you. Thick topwood is a uke killer. Especially since you are familiar with resonant, thin-walled and loud ukes, like your Sceptre (maybe let him gauge the Sceptre for topwood thickness with a micrometer?).

Ukejenny
09-24-2014, 04:03 AM
No advice here. Just wanted to say how beautiful the woods are. It will be stunning.

graybones
09-24-2014, 04:19 AM
I googled the wood you mentioned. Wow. This is going to make an incredible and unique instrument. It's almost a denim color, very beautiful.

wickedwahine11
09-24-2014, 04:29 AM
Congratulations. I am very excited for you. Keep us updated with its progress! :)

ksiegel
09-24-2014, 04:38 AM
Well, now I know why you were selling some of your instruments...

It sounds like you have a winner coming! Best of luck with it!



-Kurt

ericchico
09-24-2014, 05:37 AM
I would let him build it the way he knows how and patiently wait for it to be done. Suggest wood and playing style and leave the technical stuff to him. I cant wait to see the finished product keep us up to date.

coolcow
09-24-2014, 05:49 AM
Congradz CJ...excited for you. Please keep us update ...would like to see the ancient spruce top :) the cocobolo is gorgeous :drool:!!!

BlueLatitude
09-24-2014, 05:52 AM
I'm drooling for something with that ancient spruce. :drool: Looking forward to seeing pics of yours finished!

Patrick Madsen
09-24-2014, 05:58 AM
All my ukes are customs. For me, it's all about the feel of the neck; thin, slightly radiused, low action. I have used only three builders and all know their stuff so as far as thin soundboards etc., they already know about it. I may make suggestions on tuners and woods but usually heed their advice.

Congrats. it's going to be a fun instrument and one of many customs I recon.

gyosh
09-24-2014, 06:38 AM
Hey CJ, congratulations.

Hope to see it soon :)

As for advice, I would talk to him about little things that he might not think about coming from the guitar world . . . like clearance around the peghead to make certain chords. I've noticed that a few ukes I've played from first time builders or even the build class I took that the people don't take into account the way you need to position your hand for chords like a G7 for instance. Peghead's too large, or the nuts are too sharp etc.

Steve in Kent
09-24-2014, 07:19 AM
No advice, but that bookmatched wood looks amazing, and using really old spruce, awesome.

Looking forward to seeing the build, may I ask you to get LOTS of photos and post them please?

What are you going to use for the neck, fingerboard, and bridge?

Oh, and what size?

mds725
09-24-2014, 08:06 AM
Congratulations! Those woods are beautiful.

I like what Gary said. I once played an ukulele made by a guitar builder and there was something about the angle of the peghead that made it a little cumbersome to make a few of the chord shapes on the first and second frets. By and large, though, I find that good builders know what they're doing and think about stuff like this when they design something they've never built before. Your custom is going to be great!

Doc_J
09-24-2014, 08:47 AM
Great design CJ! That ancient sitka has always fascinated me, and I swear Cocobolo may be the prettiest rosewood out there. Heard the ancient sitka sounds good, just like regular sitka. Allen McFarlen has built a few ukes with that kind of top. They looked great!

Looking forward to your next build update.

Martijn
09-24-2014, 09:02 AM
Wow, thats awsome!

Tigeralum2001
09-24-2014, 09:39 AM
Looking forward to seeing the build, may I ask you to get LOTS of photos and post them please?

What are you going to use for the neck, fingerboard, and bridge?

Oh, and what size?
I'll post photos as he sends them. I don't want to burden him with photo requests.

This uke is a tenor. Still deciding on the neck wood and joining method. Actually, I gave him free reign for that; I just said make it look nice when paired with the Cocobolo and use whatever method he wants to join it to the body. I did request a thin neck, though. Finger board and bridge will also be Cocobolo. I'm trying to decide if I want a radiused fingerboard or not. I don't have any ukes with one and I have heard several folks say they don't make a difference on a uke...

mm stan
09-24-2014, 10:15 AM
Congratulations CJ, sounds good, keep us updated on

mds725
09-24-2014, 12:47 PM
I'll post photos as he sends them. I don't want to burden him with photo requests.

This uke is a tenor. Still deciding on the neck wood and joining method. Actually, I gave him free reign for that; I just said make it look nice when paired with the Cocobolo and use whatever method he wants to join it to the body. I did request a thin neck, though. Finger board and bridge will also be Cocobolo. I'm trying to decide if I want a radiused fingerboard or not. I don't have any ukes with one and I have heard several folks say they don't make a difference on a uke...

If you can, try to get your hands on a Mya-Moe tenor, which should have a radiused fingerboard. To me, radiused fingerboards feel a little different, but I don't think it affects my comfort while I'm playing. I'm not sure the typical ukulele fingerboard is wide enough for it to make much of a difference.

kohanmike
09-24-2014, 02:00 PM
...get the guitar-maker to thin that topwood down to a whisper... Especially since you are familiar with resonant, thin-walled and loud ukes, like your Sceptre...

I agree. My recent custom seems like the solid curly maple top is too thick, it's on the dull side, not a lot of projection or sustain. The builder in Vietnam says to give it a couple of months to open up, other members of the forum say curly maple could take up to a year to open up. My two hole acacia koa is thin and light and has much better projection.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-24-2014, 05:37 PM
Congratulations, CJ.

Advice: get the guitar-maker to thin that topwood down to a whisper. He's right there--if it dishes, he can fix it for you. Thick topwood is a uke killer. Especially since you are familiar with resonant, thin-walled and loud ukes, like your Sceptre (maybe let him gauge the Sceptre for topwood thickness with a micrometer?).

A whisper? Really? I hope CJ establishes a very good relationship with the builder because if the top is as thin as you suggest he'll be sending it back soon for a rebuild. I do understand what you're saying however, as most guitar builders and novice builders overbuild during their early stages of building ukes. But I would never recommend that a top be thinned down to a whisper. Thin tops can be loud (at least until they fail) but they can also produce a thin sound. In lutherie it's all about balance.

Redeyejedi
09-24-2014, 07:17 PM
Congrats!!
You're stoked!

coolkayaker1
09-25-2014, 03:16 AM
A whisper? Really? I hope CJ establishes a very good relationship with the builder because if the top is as thin as you suggest he'll be sending it back soon for a rebuild. I do understand what you're saying however, as most guitar builders and novice builders overbuild during their early stages of building ukes. But I would never recommend that a top be thinned down to a whisper. Thin tops can be loud (at least until they fail) but they can also produce a thin sound. In lutherie it's all about balance.

Offender for a word from the master of all things inlayed. It's a figure of speech.

I stand by my advice, CJ. I've had two custom ukes from transitioning guitar builders, both overbuilt, especially the topwood. One tried to deny it, and then changed his build proces; the other agreed completely from the get-go after building again. One had built twenty-plus ukes by the time I bought mine, the other over fifty (both names UU'ers would know--PM me if you want to know, CJ, but they're not the guy you're speaking to). Again, bring in your Sceptre to show him, since you do say he is a new builder for ukuleles. Good advice. (Whether he wants to attempt a uni-brace, well, that's another story, CJ. lol) That's precisely what I would do if I was working with a new ukulele-making guitar luthier that lived within driving distance of my house.

coolkayaker1
09-25-2014, 03:38 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCmMwkvW9_k

CJ, check out this video at 1:50 minutes. I know your guy has built a couple ukes already, but still: wood thickness and bracing are key. Especially with a custom since he builds it, you own it.

Good luck with the build.

sukie
09-25-2014, 04:02 AM
It's like having a baby, huh? The waiting, the waiting......

Congrats!

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-25-2014, 05:58 AM
Offender for a word from the master of all things inlayed. It's a figure of speech.

I stand by my advice, CJ. I've had two custom ukes from transitioning guitar builders, both overbuilt, especially the topwood. One tried to deny it, and then changed his build proces; the other agreed completely from the get-go after building again. One had built twenty-plus ukes by the time I bought mine, the other over fifty (both names UU'ers would know--PM me if you want to know, CJ, but they're not the guy you're speaking to). Again, bring in your Sceptre to show him, since you do say he is a new builder for ukuleles. Good advice. (Whether he wants to attempt a uni-brace, well, that's another story, CJ. lol) That's precisely what I would do if I was working with a new ukulele-making guitar luthier that lived within driving distance of my house.

I just question the wisdom of commissioning an uke from a builder where you feel compelled to school him on his craft. Why would you choose that particular builder in the first place. You either trust you builder based on their past experience or you don't. Just make sure there is a full money back guarantee.
If you've ever checked out David Hurd's ukes you will notice that his tops are not at all considered thin (usually between .075" to .080") and yet have a huge voice and dynamic range. While top thickness is extremely important, there are so many other factors involved in building a great sounding ukulele. If a customer had the cajones to to tell his builder how to build I would suggest instead to offer him a copy of David's book "Left Brained Lutherie". That could be done tactfully and would really benefit builder in furthering his understanding of acoustic instruments.
BTW, I've probably said more than I should regarding this. I don't know the builder in question. I am commenting on the builder/customer relationship in general.

hawaii 50
09-25-2014, 06:53 AM
I get what Chuck is saying....you can work with your builder on rosette material binding purfling....but when it comes to the thickness of the top,that is the builders job...

I would ask questions on his theory on top thickness or bracing but if do not like what he says I would not tell him I want it thicker or thinner.....I would just ask someone who I believe has the same thoughts/theory as me and that I trust to build for me....

I got a uke 2 years ago from a builder(over 800 builds) who had a very thin Mahogany top on my uke and it sounded like a banjo to me....so I learned having a thin top like I thought was good not really true...the builders experience the main reason for the tone of the ukes

btw CJ I like Spanish Cedar for the neck.....

Tigeralum2001
09-25-2014, 06:55 AM
I appreciate everyone's feedback. I am not concerned about the "guitar to uke" transition as he is a very good luthier and he has learned those lessons already. Plus, I have no clue how to take wood and turn it in to an instrument. To me that is close to magic and I have tons of respect for anyone who can do it!

My question is more around what I should do as a first time commissioner of a custom instrument. It sounds like - pick my appointments- like wood, purfling, rosette, hardware, etc., and get out of the way. At least that is what I have taken from this thread- and I agree.

I'll post more pictures as they come and a sound sample when finished. I'm excited about this uke and can't wait to play it!

Nickie
09-25-2014, 10:12 AM
I've been playing for a few years now and in my time I have had the good fortune to play ukuleles that I have no business getting my hands on. I'll never play like Jake, or likely better than most on this forum, but I LOVE playing the uke. The one thing I have yet to have done was to have a true custom uke built for me. I have bought custom ukes second hand, but I've never gone through the process.

A while back I heard about this 2850 year old Sitka and it caught my attention. It has this unique gray color from having been buried in the mud in Alaska for who knows how long, and several luthiers have built ukes and guitars from it. I have two Spruce top ukes and they sound great, so I thought one day that this might make a nice (different) custom top. The wood supplier hadn't had any in stock for quite some time, so when I saw more was available I bought enough for two tops.

Meanwhile, about a year and a half ago, I met a local luthier through Craigslist. This guy has been building guitars for over 13 years and decided to try a uke, he was basically looking to get it in the hands of a player to get some feedback so he sold it at a great price. I replied to the ad and went to meet him. I was really impressed with the tone, though as any guitar builder's first attempt is likely to have, it had its flaws. We talked about those flaws and he built some more ukes, and they were markedly better. I was super impressed!

Anyway, I decided to have him build me two ukes from this ancient Sikta. The first one is currently under construction. It will have Cocobolo back and sides and it is now taking shape. I think it looks pretty darn good and I can't wait to try it out. It will still be several weeks until it is done, but I thought I would share some progress pictures.

71160
71161

Any advice for a first-time custom buyer? Any mistakes you made or something you wish you had done differently?

Congratulations on finally getting this uke built! That's some OLD wood! Bet it could tell some stories.
Make sure you tell him how you want your neck shaped. This is crucial. If the neck is wrong, to me, the uke is useless!

gyosh
09-25-2014, 10:22 AM
CJ are you going to the festival on Sunday?

BigD
09-25-2014, 10:30 AM
Awesome! Im sure itll sound great and it will be a fantastic conversation point! Also ive yet to have a uke or guitar with Cocobolo but ill be damned if it isnt some of the most interesting wood ive seen, especially when it is as highly figured and colored as yours! Good LUCK!!

gyosh
09-25-2014, 10:38 AM
Chuck, this us Uke Talk, not Luthier's Lounge. Read it: CJ's luthier asked him for feedback. Then CJ asked on UKe Talk for anything we'd (the buyers of custom ukes) wish we had done differently.

Preach to your peers on Luthier's Lounge, Chuck. Not here on Uke Talk when the question is asked of the OP to buyers of custom ukes.

Nice.

And we wonder where Pete, Rick, Timbuck and others have gone?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-25-2014, 11:45 AM
What, I'm not allowed to advise on a custom build in Uke Talk? I'm just telling you that "whisper thin" is not the way to go for an instrument top unless you're looking for problems. I've had many other builders (guitar builders included) write me and ask my advice along the same lines. These are just opinions based on experience. If you don't care to hear or accept that, that's your decision. It's your money and your uke. Sheesh!

mm stan
09-25-2014, 12:08 PM
Oh no not again...I'm gonna take your ukes away I think you may be wrong on this one Steve, everyone here has a right to their opinion..it is a free forum
even Chuckie, and he is a valued member and most experienced and many value his opinion... go get some ice cream and cool down...no get mad at me, it's just my opinion
remember the old days on the forum when we had differences, we were more polite and PM the person....not over talk his/her previous post in public..

Kanaka916
09-25-2014, 12:09 PM
Chuck, this us Uke Talk, not Luthier's Lounge. Read it: CJ's luthier asked him for feedback. Then CJ asked on UKe Talk for anything we'd (the buyers of custom ukes) wish we had done differently.

Preach to your peers on Luthier's Lounge, Chuck. Not here on Uke Talk when the question is asked of the OP to buyers of custom ukes.
Check your ego at the door. Anyone can post here . . . consider this a warning and the next complaint will cost you.

Dan Uke
09-25-2014, 01:10 PM
Nice.

And we wonder where Pete, Rick, Timbuck and others have gone?

hahaha...I wouldn't classify Timbuck in the same category.

Ukulele Eddie
09-25-2014, 02:03 PM
BTW, I've probably said more than I should regarding this. I don't know the builder in question. I am commenting on the builder/customer relationship in general.

It's not like you're qualified or anything... ;-) Seriously, I think I can safely say that the vast majority of us truly appreciate your wisdom, Chuck, which you are always so gracious in sharing.

ericchico
09-25-2014, 02:20 PM
hahaha...I wouldn't classify Timbuck in the same category.

Oh man leave Timbuck out of this. Lets all leave this thread and go have a drink its stuffy here.

gyosh
09-25-2014, 02:26 PM
hahaha...I wouldn't classify Timbuck in the same category.

The man is genius machinist with outstanding ideas and he makes a damn fine ukulele too. He has much wisdom to share and he shares freely . . . and that's what I'm referring to.

. . . and actually, I know a pretty well respected luthier that said if he ever wanted a uke that he didn't build, it would be a Timm's so he's got that going for him too.

Dan Uke
09-25-2014, 03:05 PM
s
The man is genius machinist with outstanding ideas and he makes a damn fine ukulele too. He has much wisdom to share and he shares freely . . . and that's what I'm referring to.

. . . and actually, I know a pretty well respected luthier that said if he ever wanted a uke that he didn't build, it would be a Timm's so he's got that going for him too.

ok, I was trying to be vague but I was complimenting Ken.

gyosh
09-25-2014, 03:19 PM
s

ok, I was trying to be vague but I was complimenting Ken.

I haven't been on the threads to often lately. Are you still posting videos? Thoroughly enjoyed the videos you've posted in the past.

NewKid
09-25-2014, 04:20 PM
My first custom was from Gordon, Char, and Aaron at Mya-Moe. Gordon has the patience of a saint, because I changed my configuration twice after discovering all the different wood combinations they offered. Afterwards, I realized what a pain in the butt I had been even though Gordon said I wasn't horrible.

I learned my lesson and my subsequent commissions from Mike Pereira, Luis Feu de Mesquita, and Jerry Hoffman all went much smoother since I left them alone after selecting my wood combinations and accessories.

I liked the custom experience but realized that I would have accepted almost any instrument from these builders. I don't need any more ukes but after my youngest daughter graduates from college I would like to add a Compass Rose Mini Jumbo tenor from Rick Turner because he is a legend. However, I'll buy my Compass Rose from Gryphon, Sylvan, or the Blue Guitar because I will need instant gratification by then.

I'm looking forward to seeing how your two customs develop CJ. Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

Don

mds725
09-25-2014, 05:53 PM
CJ are you going to the festival on Sunday?

The Kapalakiko Hawaiian Music Workshop Band is playing at 9:00 a.m.!

mds725
09-25-2014, 05:57 PM
It's not like you're qualified or anything... ;-) Seriously, I think I can safely say that the vast majority of us truly appreciate your wisdom, Chuck, which you are always so gracious in sharing.

I agree wholeheartedly. I poke my head into the Luthiers Lounge now and again (and, by the way, I love that UU luthiers are willing to talk about their craft in front of the rest of us), but I particularly appreciate when luthiers take the time to post in other forums, like Uke Talk, and especially in threads that raise questions that luthiers are uniquely qualified to answer. If I were the OP asking questions about my first custom build, I would especially want luthiers to weigh in on what the luthier-client relationship looks like from their point of view.

gyosh
09-25-2014, 06:39 PM
The Kapalakiko Hawaiian Music Workshop Band is playing at 9:00 a.m.!

Darn! Now I need to wake up a little earlier.

See you Sunday.

Dan Uke
09-25-2014, 07:23 PM
I haven't been on the threads to often lately. Are you still posting videos? Thoroughly enjoyed the videos you've posted in the past.

I haven't made as many lately. I have noticed you haven't been around as much. I'm always happy to see Asians on this website contributing.

mds725
09-25-2014, 08:16 PM
Darn! Now I need to wake up a little earlier.

See you Sunday.

If it makes you feel any better, I have to wake up at 6:00 to get there at 8:00 for rehearsal. See you there!

hawaii 50
09-25-2014, 09:09 PM
If it makes you feel any better, I have to wake up at 6:00 to get there at 8:00 for rehearsal. See you there!

6 am...I get up 530am everyday if not earlier....:)

mds725
09-25-2014, 09:13 PM
6 am...I get up 530am everyday if not earlier....:)

Yes, Len, but you wake up to Hawaii. :)

hawaii 50
09-25-2014, 09:25 PM
Yes, Len, but you wake up to Hawaii. :)

you got me there...

btw CJ what time do you wake...with 4 kids(1 new baby) must be early too....:)

perep
09-26-2014, 03:14 AM
Hey CJ, really nice wood. Looking fwd. to the finished uke, then you can sell me that scepter

hoosierhiver
09-26-2014, 04:09 AM
Exactly how many mm's is "whisper thin" anyways? Reminds me of people who say they want "the lowest action possible", but have no idea what height they are talking about and then complain it buzzes if they pluck it hard.

caukulele
09-26-2014, 04:15 AM
I agree wholeheartedly. I poke my head into the Luthiers Lounge now and again (and, by the way, I love that UU luthiers are willing to talk about their craft in front of the rest of us), but I particularly appreciate when luthiers take the time to post in other forums, like Uke Talk, and especially in threads that raise questions that luthiers are uniquely qualified to answer. If I were the OP asking questions about my first custom build, I would especially want luthiers to weigh in on what the luthier-client relationship looks like from their point of view.

I agree with Mark and Uncle Eddie! We can learn so much from the Luthiers! I love it that they take the time to share with us and spread the Aloha spirit!

gyosh
09-26-2014, 04:16 AM
6 am...I get up 530am everyday if not earlier....:)

I'd get up early every day too if I lived on Oahu!!

Pueo
09-26-2014, 11:53 AM
I'd get up early every day too if I lived on Oahu!!
This! :D