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View Full Version : A formula for success and a matter of taste?



robinashby
04-02-2016, 06:07 AM
In jewellery (in which I trained) ask ten differing gem setters what makes a good setting and you ll get ten different answers. After 25 years in the jewellery design field I think only now do I know what makes a good piece of jewellery, a kind of formula that is gained from doing it for quite a while.

In the uke field I think I am starting to know from looking at ukes which types of woods and designs I like and there are some specific makers that just seem for me to have the right balance of it all going on. I am gathering my own taste I guess of uke aesthetics most of which for me I can only aspire to!

I like to hear from makers on here in terms of what makes a good uke design for them? My knowledge of ukes and makers is slim so may I ask who the true historical greats of the instrument are so I may seek them out to see the best?

Kekani
04-02-2016, 08:43 AM
I like to hear from makers on here in terms of what makes a good uke design for them? My knowledge of ukes and makers is slim so may I ask who the true historical greats of the instrument are so I may seek them out to see the best?
Casey Kamaka, Martin, with a little bit of me.

Personally, for my style and what I do, there are really no historical greats. "Living Legends"? Yup, we have a few of them here, some active, some not so much, and some unfortunately have been chased away by those lesser in the know, and some that just focus on building now. Either way, the Internet is a wonderful thing, and we are in a good time in history.

BlackBearUkes
04-02-2016, 11:22 AM
There are lots of things that make a good design. It isn't that hard to figure out. Use a time tested system, the best well seasoned woods that are light in weight, stiff and good looking. If you can make a uke that sounds good, you can sell it. However, making a living at being a builder in this present day environment requires money., lots of it to start out. You should have enough to make a living, purchase tools and all the rest. If you don't know what all the rest means, do something else. Just remember, you are competing with every uke on the market, past, present and future. And many times you will be asked to build something that sounds just like the vintage 75 year uke and build it for a lot less money

Living legends? Most good builders are here today and gone tomorrow.

Pete Howlett
04-02-2016, 11:57 AM
Amen... I am known for not re-inventing the wheel. My first tenors were Kamaka copies. There is only so much room in the UK for ukulele makers and sooner or later there will be a price war. Sad really...

Kekani
04-02-2016, 01:57 PM
There are lots of things that make a good design. It isn't that hard to figure out. Use a time tested system, the best well seasoned woods that are light in weight, stiff and good looking. If you can make a uke that sounds good, you can sell it. However, making a living at being a builder in this present day environment requires money., lots of it to start out. You should have enough to make a living, purchase tools and all the rest. If you don't know what all the rest means, do something else. Just remember, you are competing with every uke on the market, past, present and future. And many times you will be asked to build something that sounds just like the vintage 75 year uke and build it for a lot less money

Living legends? Most good builders are here today and gone tomorrow.

What Duane said.

As for living legends, my definition would be those that I turn to for motivation, inspiration, and knowledge. And most of them are alive today.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
04-02-2016, 02:20 PM
I just try to be myself.

I would say there is no innovation, just nice tastes that perk some people's interests and not others....After all, not everybody likes Picasso, Rembrandt or Henry Moore.

Popularity is no indication of talent.

robinashby
04-02-2016, 02:31 PM
I already have a fairly good business and do okay so I am not looking to start up a ukulele making company so theres no chance of me being asked to build something that sounds like a 75 year old uke mainly because i make only for selfish reasons so I need not take commissions from others as I already do that in my day job so seek rest bite from it. So aim to make only a about 10 ukes per year maybe I sell the odd one or two if anyone wanted the outcomes!

I enjoy the design and the problem solving and wanted to hear about makers passions and what they like to see and appreciate in the good work of others..... rather than the business side of it all.

Okay good builders are here to today and gone tomorrow but their work still remains which is the area that interests me!

My aim in this thread was to discuss design really both good and maybe bad.

I was more interested in a kinda hall of fame design wise of what the makers enjoyed seeing......... call it a pin up uke !.... In my daytime field I see god dam buckets of everyday stuff but every now and again something special comes along that is jaw dropping good is is simply a pleasure to see and often the maker is unknown to me but i still try to imagine who and why they were so particular in what and how they made...... it was made with pure dedication that lives on the piece.

When I was a young designer maker in jewellery I would try to innovate and use every technique and material and over complicate and truly try to re-invent the wheel! As times gone on one can appreciate more classic design done to perfection and like blackbearukes says made with the best materials. With jewellery your painting/designing with light, refraction and contrast of texture and material balancing proportion and answering a design brief that is very personal to its wearer often with hidden meaning......... sounds a bit deep hey !

Was looking what wowed makers here and why it wowed ....... for which we will all have our own criteria i guess and taste has a big part in this!

Thanks kekani as I will be checking out the stuff of Casey Kamaka to see what that looks like maybe I ll put it on my hall of fame also!

Personally so far I ve found this website and really enjoy the looks of what this maker does... from selection of wood and finish and lovely designs it certainly appeals to me maybe he/she is on here somewhere I have no idea! http://www.fidraukulele.co.uk/gallery/4589725256

BlackBearUkes
04-02-2016, 02:55 PM
Most of the luthiers that I know are not so impressed by what another luthiers instrument looks like, ie, lots of bling, fancy woods, mirror finishes, that is mostly what folks with lots of money want. What impresses most luthiers is the sound and consistent build quality. Sound is first and foremost, not looks, and from all the years I have been in this business, NO ONE has the first place prize on sound. All good uke luthiers build good sounding ukes. However, it is eye candy that usually sells, sad to say.

Pete Howlett
04-02-2016, 02:59 PM
As someone with a design background I think you can see when something is right and when it is not. It is also fairly easy to pick out those builders who have no design training... there is a great American expression from the travelling show days: "Close, but no cigar!". So much of what I see by new players on the field falls into this category. The ukulele making scene is now a very big band wagon with starving guitar makers who can't make a living building guitars turning to ukulele and retirees making fabulous instruments but charging no money for them. This totally confuses people who think that because something is 'cheap', it is necessarily 'good' or because it is built by a guitar maker, inferring one who has greater skills than a ukulele maker, that it is somehow superior to that built by said ukulele maker - BTW: I've been a guitar maker and I know which trade is harder...

I personally think that the proportions of an instrument, the outline and overall look has pretty much been discovered. Fiddling about with wood combinations a distraction - it's nearly always the case that clients want to most extreme curl or figure, the highest grain count, the blackest ebony when these are practically irrelevant to the principle purpose of a ukulele which is producing a great sound. It has always been my understanding that the great country players take their D18s into the studio and their D45s on stage... I could go on - this question is so open as to be almost irrelevant since it is a matter of personal taste - your link is a case in point...

sequoia
04-02-2016, 07:04 PM
My aim in this thread was to discuss design really both good and maybe bad.

I was more interested in a kinda hall of fame design wise of what the makers enjoyed seeing......... call it a pin up uke !.... In my daytime field I see god dam buckets of everyday stuff but every now and again something special comes along that is jaw dropping good is is simply a pleasure to see and often the maker is unknown to me but i still try to imagine who and why they were so particular in what and how they made...... it was made with pure dedication that lives on the piece.

As you can see, you have opened a big can of worms here. A couple of things: You seem to be approaching this project as a design project like art or jewelry when it fact it is more like an engineering project. Jewelry doesn't have to do anything other than look good. An uke however has to do something which is to produce beautiful music.... Then to confuse things you say you want to build 10 ukes a year which is why you got replies about the business of selling ukes. This is a tender subject as you can see...

OK. As far as the "pin-up" design, I would submit that the 20's Martin soprano uke would be a good place to start. But keep in mind, it might be a killer design, but you still have to build the damn thing to specs to get it come out right. Not easy for a beginner. Looks just won't cut it here and that thing is not easy to pull off. Just ask.... well you know. Actually, they are not that attractive to look at which isn't really the point. They are kinda... brown, but boy oh boy do they rock. Good luck!

robinashby
04-03-2016, 01:07 AM
can of worms or not I thank you guys for the response.

sequoia jewellery is also engineering but on a mini scale and can be used to display materials deemed as precious to its best capabilities and secure the value and be practical in most cases to wear but perhaps its the function and meaning like for instance a wedding ring thats important rather that what its made of that lies at the core. I ve just done a half a million pound ring that looked ridiculous but I can tell you I put more effort into the much lower value stuff as I think it means more to the wearer as they've saved for that and it means a lot to them.

Design for me includes the build and the construction and the sound not just surface decor. In reading from the responses it seems that experienced makers here seem to have very strong views regarding design...... I love petes fiddling about with wood combinations as a distraction and speaks volumes I think, blackbears response regarding sound also seems of similar opinion and sequoia you also seem to
go the same way. I will check the 20's martin soprano out and see if I can also hear one on u tube or something so big thank you sequoia.

This i guess is what I was after to hear the goals of the experienced makers and what strives at the heart of it........ which I hope I am correct in saying is function.... though reluctantly the fancy stuff makes the sale?

And Beau your comment of I just try to be myself is great as I as far as I am aware the best definition of art is self expression.

So I will ponder then your comments for a while strive to place more importance and knowledge upon the sound/build aspects of the design, i will certainly be myself and will aim to eventually to attain a cigar Pete! And yes luck will certain factor also!

thanks you all.

chuck in ny
04-03-2016, 04:40 AM
robin

'rest bite' right back at you.
ukulele making is probably different in nature from jewelry making. woodwork tends to be restrained and tasteful and done by eye and proportion. i am in a similar situation as you with other shop work that carries the load. ukulele making should be done for its own sake, to make you a better craftsman and impart the skill to produce better sound. i plan on making a small amount of instruments per year. a good result, and in its own time, would be for the financial tap to open up just a little to a slow but steady trickle, and to produce well enough to make the customer very happy. the desire is to make the customer happy out of his/her wits if that can be achieved. that should provide some context for whatever production comes next. taking this from the other perspective and becoming make-a-living successful at instrument making, that is almost guaranteed to take the joy out of making and turn out to be the next huge pain in your butt. if it were so great mya moe wouldn't have reorganized while they could take many orders.

robinashby
05-10-2016, 01:11 AM
91007

i ve tried to pay even more attention to the inside quality give comments of build quality that counts.... so thanks for that guys.

91008

think its getting there be it slowly!