View Full Version : Decling work

Pete Howlett
03-10-2015, 12:50 PM
I don't get many of these but I have effectively turned it down by quoting out of the park. Can you see why?

I would like a Price on 5 string low G tenor solid all mahogany ukulele please:-
Finger board & bridge of African Black Ebony, with bridge pegs to retain strings.
15 frets total on a short fret board with 14 frets​ clear to the body , similar to a soprano type, just covering the neck/body joint.
Grover open gear or Gotoh closed gear tuners.
Bone nut and saddle.
Strap button.
The same reinforcement wood used under the sound hole as the body.
Head shape as diagram (Not shore)
Deep body as you deem appropriate to the instrument.
The neck at the nut 38mm.
The A string not too close to the edge of finger board
Fret markers in colored Abalone bright green or blue.
Can you supply and fit a pickup preamp ETC and it's not immediately obvious....

Michael Smith
03-10-2015, 01:27 PM
The headstock shape was not one you felt comfortable making?

03-10-2015, 01:29 PM
It confuses me with 5 strings and a low G this means one of the C E or A has to be double or is he asking for octaves on the G ?...So how do you design a bridge with pins to anchor them ? Maybe put one pin behind the other..Or anchor two strings in the same pin hole....or maybe there is another reason for giving the order the elbow.:D
I love riddles me!

03-10-2015, 01:51 PM
A 38 mm neck? Kind of narrow, ain't it?

Dan Uke
03-10-2015, 01:59 PM
Not shore??

03-10-2015, 03:11 PM
That's the kind of customer that would never be happy

03-10-2015, 04:51 PM
I don't know Pete. I get these sorts of requests quite regularly.

The only thing there that I'd say no way to is the headstock shape. Clients don't get to dictate that to me.

03-10-2015, 05:40 PM
I didn't think you did ukes with pickups and pre-amps, and - as a consumer - I don't understand "The A string not too close to the edge of finger board", or "The same reinforcement wood used under the sound hole as the body."


Hoping to be able to order another custom uke one of these years, I am always interested in what a luthier will/won't do, and why.

Pete Howlett
03-10-2015, 10:15 PM
Well done - all of the above + he just didn't do his research. Why would I build 'his' uke when I am, as others here are, about building my brand. His design ideas are such a dogs dinner as to read 'disaster' from the get-go. I have enough work. I don't need a piece that I am going to see coming up on eBay time after time.

03-10-2015, 11:09 PM
From this order I feel no respect/understanding to builder, its like instructing a ukulele building robot to build a already designed ukulele. I feel sorry.

03-11-2015, 05:09 AM
But you get to decide how deep the body is!

03-11-2015, 06:51 AM
This is why I switched to build and sell last year. Even "good" custom build customers can sometimes be a pain in the ass.

03-11-2015, 10:41 PM
Whatever this instrument would cost, I would add the "You-Think-That-I-Am-A-Prostitute-Fee", which should not be under 500 .

03-12-2015, 08:40 AM
It's true in any service business. You'll be miserable unless you learn which work to turn down. In my business I turn away about a half dozen potential clients for every one that I take. Over the years I've learned that if you are going to be self-employed you need to learn which work not to take.

03-12-2015, 11:03 AM
And another vote for "you were right to turn it down". I make part of my living putting websites together, but I have a habit of turning down any job where a) I would be working for a committee, rather than an individual (you'll never please everyone), or b) where the client gives me a drawing or a powerpoint slide of the website and expects it to look just like that - (it won't.)
You are an artist as well as a builder, and if there is hardly any room for your input, where's the fun in that?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-12-2015, 01:14 PM
The most valuable time I can spend in my shop is when I decided what work to accept and which ones to refuse.

03-12-2015, 04:09 PM
That's the kind of customer that would never be happy

This was my guess, too.

03-13-2015, 05:45 PM
As a customer (which I will be from one of you one day) I would place an order like this:

One Tenor ukulele
Wood builder's choice for best build
Inlays builder's choice within $ x price range
Setup per builder's experience for fingerstyle
Hardware builder's choice based on preference within $ x price range

Seriously, I would never commission a painting; why would I want to hinder your experience of what you feel would make the best instrument based on your experience and style? I would also guarantee my acceptance of the piece, and I would trust that you would return excellent value. One of you will get that order. I'm financially able to place it now, I'm just not ready from a player/owner standpoint to receive it yet. As for price, lots and lots of folks buy new bass boats for their leisure... Me? I play the ukulele.

03-13-2015, 10:07 PM
Back when I was doing some ghostwriting, I got an offer to work with a fairly-well known TV news personality on a novel. The money was outrageously good, and I was tempted to put a bag over its head and do it. In the end, after some back and forth with the potential client, it became obvious what an idiot the newscaster was, and what a terrible nightmare it was going to be if we went forward. In the end, what I realized was that life is too short to work with assholes if you can afford not to do so.

Sometimes, you do what you must to keep the wolf from the door, but now and then, you can afford to walk away.

Never regretted the choice to turn it down.

There's a story I heard somewhere, a luthier talking about building for clients. His comment was something to the effect of, a client comes to you with a commission, and what he wants is a good guitar. By the time you are halfway through, he wants it to be the best guitar ever built.

Probably not a client who will be pleased ...

03-16-2015, 08:21 PM
Yes, you have to know when to say no. Even with turning some customers down, we average 50 emails and phone calls for each custom build at May-Moe. It's a lot of extra work that takes a great deal of Gordon and Char's time. I am glad I get to keep my head down and just hit the shop, although I like the customer interaction when I get the chance.

03-16-2015, 10:54 PM
Politely declining work you're not keen to do is one thing, but did this customer really deserve a public shaming?

The guy's only crime was to be a bit naive about how Pete likes to handle custom work. If he sees this thread he'll be left in no doubt that it's him being talked about and will be feeling well and truly humiliated.

Pete Howlett
03-16-2015, 11:10 PM
I think I had the good grace to anonymise them. Besides:
I politely declined and suggested he contact you or my former intern since I know you both like a challenge. I hope you can help him out...

03-17-2015, 03:28 AM
[QUOTE=Pete Howlett;166322I don't get many of these but I have effectively turned it down by quoting out of the park. Can you see why?
and it's not immediately obvious....[/QUOTE]

My brother-in-law used to be a cabinet maker and considered himself an "artist," but was always struggling financially. He didn't like building with Formica or other laminates, but got a lot of requests from doctors offices to build cabinets with those kind of surfaces. Finally, his wife told him that when he got the opportunity to bid on one of those jobs, to bid twice what he would otherwise. Reluctantly, he did, and was soon very very busy building medical offices. His wife was happy.

03-17-2015, 04:14 AM
I can't blame the guy for asking. Isn't that one of the selling points for having a custom build? If I ever have a custom built uke, it sure isn't going to be the same as something I can pick up off the shelf in any uke shop. But then I see Pete's point, because maybe he doesn't do custom ukes in that sense of the word. I mean, there are custom ukes, where one chooses from a list of options, and then there are "custom" ukes, where one gets to choose everything but maybe the shape of the headstock, which I assume identifies the uke. Anyway, I don't think that the request was so terrible, and I don't blame Pete for not wanting to build it. But I don't see how it is such a big deal that it ends up as a thread.

Pete Howlett
03-17-2015, 07:21 AM
My point was that it was more than a 'custom' uke. Despite having visited my website and read the blurb he still went ahead with the enquiry. I'm not going to tell the whole story but there were other alarm bells ringing all over the communication I got both mail and phone call. I think the deal is to hilight the conflict between needing work and taking work and to raise some discussion about this amongst luthiers in this section - after all, this is the luthier's lounge last time I looked.

03-17-2015, 07:46 AM
I don't get many of these but I have effectively turned it down by quoting out of the park. Can you see why?
and it's not immediately obvious....

It was the bone nut and saddle request that did it, wasn't it? ;)

Pete Howlett
03-17-2015, 08:50 AM
That I can deal with...

Piedmont Uke
03-17-2015, 09:52 AM
One of the few "luxuries" of being self employed is being able to make your own business decisions. Good or bad you get to live with them. Sometimes for a long time.

Dan Uke
03-17-2015, 10:00 AM
I've had 6 customs built so far and a few might say I was a bad client and others would say I'm a good client. It's important for both parties to be happy.

A couple of things I learned about myself:
1) You learn a lot of what you like and don't like as you get more customs...Your expectations tend to go up as well.
2) I really enjoy the interaction and journey just as much (sometimes more) than the finished product. I'm sure that has to do with the great luthiers I've worked with.

03-17-2015, 10:03 AM
I've got to ask ;) What's decling ??..is it a posh little duck. :confused:

Piedmont Uke
03-17-2015, 10:19 AM
I knew we could count on you Ken!