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View Full Version : I can afford a custom uke, but...



SuperSecretBETA
10-07-2009, 08:15 PM
So I'm planning on having a dream custom ukulele built by a company whose name I will not yet specify. I told them all the general specs. They got back to me and said they could do everything but with two changes:

Slotted headstock veneer can only be koa saying, "Ebony is only available on mahogany ukes"
Rosette can only be thin. I wanted a thicker one.

I'm having trouble understanding why only mahogany ukes can get an ebony faceplate, which I guess I could live with, but I'm not so sure about a thin rosette. I really wanted a thick one. The price really seems unbeatable, but if I let those changes go through, will it really even be my dream ukulele anymore?

That being said, I wanted get a few opinion from UU members.
Go for it or abandon ship?

MoreUke
10-07-2009, 08:34 PM
Ask for the reason why!

MisoHappy
10-07-2009, 08:34 PM
My dream uke was a tenor kamaka, slothead, cutaway, curly koa; no ands, ifs, or buts. And when my friend took me to the store to surprise me with a new uke, I was devastated to see absolutely sero kamakas. But I'm glad I didn't refuse.

She's even better than that kamaka I wanted so bad.
Maybe your idea of perfect is different from what fate says.

I know I sound corny, but that's just my opinion.

experimentjon
10-07-2009, 08:39 PM
That no ebony on the headstock thing seems weird to me. But hmm, if the price is unbeatable, in the future you can always buy another custom uke if you still REALLY want the thick rosette and ebony headplate. :P

SuperSecretBETA
10-07-2009, 08:45 PM
I just shot an email out for a few more clarifications. I want to make sure every detail is fleshed out, so I won't be surprised about something when it comes in the mail if I go through with it. I'm gonna need to borrow a loaner uke from a friend. I'm tenor-less!!!

Kekani
10-07-2009, 09:33 PM
I see two different ways you can view this:

1) You pay for what you get, and if you're paying, you should be getting. Find another builder.

2) There's a reason you selected this builder in the first place. There are some things builders will do, and some they won't. If you trust this builder, then don't make him do a Spanish heel when he already does a bolt on. If you ordered one from me and we settled on everything wood, and started talking inlay, and told me you wanted a shell inlay on the soundboard, below the soundhole - I would tell you "no." If that inlay is a deal breaker between you and I, so be it. I'll refer you to someone else that I know could do that build, seriously.

You gotta figure out what your priority is - getting an `ukulele exactly as "you" specify, or getting an `ukulele that you collaborated with the builder on. Sometimes they'll be the same, and sometimes they won't.

-Aaron

SuperSecretBETA
10-07-2009, 10:19 PM
I see two different ways you can view this:

1) You pay for what you get, and if you're paying, you should be getting. Find another builder.

2) There's a reason you selected this builder in the first place. There are some things builders will do, and some they won't. If you trust this builder, then don't make him do a Spanish heel when he already does a bolt on. If you ordered one from me and we settled on everything wood, and started talking inlay, and told me you wanted a shell inlay on the soundboard, below the soundhole - I would tell you "no." If that inlay is a deal breaker between you and I, so be it. I'll refer you to someone else that I know could do that build, seriously.

You gotta figure out what your priority is - getting an `ukulele exactly as "you" specify, or getting an `ukulele that you collaborated with the builder on. Sometimes they'll be the same, and sometimes they won't.

-Aaron

Thanks Aaron! That really puts things into perspective.

uluapoundr
10-07-2009, 11:53 PM
That is a good perspective Aaron, I feel the exact same way.

ukantor
10-08-2009, 01:30 AM
If it is to be your dream uke, only you can say how much deviation from your specification will be acceptable. I have no doubt there are good reasons why the builder feels he cannot meet your spec. and those reasons are probably tied up with cost. So if you are constrained in your choice of features, is it REALLY a custom uke, or simply one which comes close?

In life we are often forced to accept a compromise, but is this one of those occasions? It may seem unhelpful to answer your question with more questions, but how YOU view these things is what matters. For myself, I would be prepared to accept small detail changes, provided the builder gave me a good reason. Major differences, like "I don't do ebony except on mahogany", or "sorry, but the rosette can only be thin", I would not accept.

That's just me.

Ukantor (John Colter).

haolejohn
10-08-2009, 02:05 AM
I have inquired about custom ukes before and I can understand the thin rosette because of time and price but the headstock is completely baffling to me. It is a headstock and neck that can be connected. Then again there might be another reason why. maybe the uke isn't fully made by luthier (hopefully I am wrong on this thinking). I'm excited for you. Who is making it for you?

upskydowncloud
10-08-2009, 02:18 AM
So I'm planning on having a dream custom ukulele built by a company whose name I will not yet specify. I told them all the general specs. They got back to me and said they could do everything but with two changes:

Slotted headstock veneer can only be koa saying, "Ebony is only available on mahogany ukes"
Rosette can only be thin. I wanted a thicker one.

I'm having trouble understanding why only mahogany ukes can get an ebony faceplate, which I guess I could live with, but I'm not so sure about a thin rosette. I really wanted a thick one. The price really seems unbeatable, but if I let those changes go through, will it really even be my dream ukulele anymore?

That being said, I wanted get a few opinion from UU members.
Go for it or abandon ship?

I'm going to agree with what most of the other people have said. This is your dream uke and you should get what you want. If they can't accommodate your reasonable needs then I'd look somewhere else.

If I was going custom I'd want it exactly how I imagined it to be or better.

Let us know what you decide.

thistle3585
10-08-2009, 02:43 AM
As I understand it from your original post, you are having a "company" custom build your uke as opposed to a "builder." I would suspect that the company offers several different models of instruments and the headstock overlay and rosette help define that model. So, if they did what you asked then it would would be inconsistent with their brand recognition.
As a a volume producer, they probably want to stay away from purely custom instruments but offer options to "customize or personalize" it that still fit within their production methods.

Old Bird
10-08-2009, 04:20 AM
100% with Kekani here.

You are hiring a builder, not building it yourself. If you trust the builder, accept that there are reasons that they don't want to do what you want. Either in their experience it doesn't make as good of an instrument, or it's something that particular builder doesn't do well.

If you can't come to an agreement with that designer, go to another one. Or build it yourself.

I'm a professional in an entirely different field, I am the expert. If a client comes to me and starts tweaking my work, they don't know what I've learned over 20 years and they usually get a weaker product for their messing with it. I won't work with someone who doesn't trust me.

It doesn't mean that you don't get input, you absolutely do. It's your instrument. What it means is that there is a reason they don't want to do it. If it's simply that they don't know how and it's something you really want, find someone that knows how to do it. If it's something that they think weakens the instrument, and you trust them, take their word for it.

Skrik
10-08-2009, 05:16 AM
On the one hand, the luthier has a reputation to maintain. If you want something that is going to affect the tone adversely, such as an inlay on the soundboard, then I understand the luthier refusing.

On the other hand, the customer is paying for a custom ukulele according to his or her own taste. If the luthier can't cope with that, then the customer should be referred to someone else.

GX9901
10-08-2009, 05:16 AM
So I'm planning on having a dream custom ukulele built by a company whose name I will not yet specify. I told them all the general specs. They got back to me and said they could do everything but with two changes:

Slotted headstock veneer can only be koa saying, "Ebony is only available on mahogany ukes"
Rosette can only be thin. I wanted a thicker one.

I'm having trouble understanding why only mahogany ukes can get an ebony faceplate, which I guess I could live with, but I'm not so sure about a thin rosette. I really wanted a thick one. The price really seems unbeatable, but if I let those changes go through, will it really even be my dream ukulele anymore?

That being said, I wanted get a few opinion from UU members.
Go for it or abandon ship?

If it's an individual builder, I don't see any reason why they can't accomodate those two requests. However, you did say it's a "company", so maybe they are not setup to do those two things for some reasons? The headstock veneer could be a matter of "company policy", while the rosette could be a matter of not having the proper setup & equipment to do a wider one. In that case, you'll have to decide if those two things are deal breakers. If it was me, the rosette would be OK, but the headstock veneer might be a deal breaker. On my two custom slot heads, I specified jet black ebony for the headstock, but did not specify any rosette details other than wanting a rosette.

psesinkclee
10-08-2009, 05:19 AM
I know that you can get some custom stuff done by a particular manufacturer that makes their ukes overseas, and if thats the case, it could be that they simply have precut veneers in Koa and none in Ebony for the slotted one.

My thought is that if you would still like the uke with these little changes, go for it. I know the company I'm thinking of is just about the best price you can get for a custom made uke, and I would go for it rather than drop double the amount on a similar custom by someone else.

SuperSecretBETA
10-08-2009, 05:30 AM
Thanks everyone! You've shed light on the concepts of "collaborating on an ukulele" versus "wanting 'such and such' in an ukulele." Things are still developing. I'll try and update on what's going on. I think I've had my fill of opinions by now. haha

russ_buss
10-08-2009, 05:31 AM
since you can "afford" it, you can afford to go to someone that will build it your way.:2cents:

Rick Turner
10-08-2009, 05:31 AM
What's with the "thick" rosette? And do you mean wide?

The rosette compromises the structural integrity of the top, simple as that. They are traditional, but we builders usually have to beef up the underside of the top to accommodate them. That's the #1 reason why I went with a rub-on decal for the rosette for my Compass Rose ukes...this allows me to keep the top very thin and integral around the sound hole area with no reinforcement that would add weight and reduce vibration.

A wide band rosette eats into the top, and there's precious little top area on a uke to lose.

I guess you have to decide whether the looks of the uke are more important to you or if it's about musical performance.

Ahnko Honu
10-08-2009, 05:34 AM
I'm a woodworker who makes a few custom things one of them being a "kage" (ka-geh) a type of spear used in subduing a fish at boatside very popular with local kayak and canoe fishermen. I have been doing this for a few years and I have a vision of what it should look like, and how it should function and I refuse to compromise that. I can work within my boundaries but won't step outside them. I don't mind at all losing sales and referring people away from me, I make them a certain way take it or leave it. That's just me, and I can relate to others in other fields that feel the same. :cool:

Pippin
10-08-2009, 07:08 AM
Maybe Rick can answer this one... is there are difference in the expansion and contraction rate of ebony and koa that would make mahogany a better choice for the headstock, rather than the koa/ebony combo?

Perhaps it is fear of delamination that compels them to say no on that.

SuperSecretBETA
10-08-2009, 11:04 AM
What's with the "thick" rosette? And do you mean wide?

I guess you have to decide whether the looks of the uke are more important to you or if it's about musical performance.

Yeah, I meant wide. I'm pretty sure he understood what I meant because I mentioned width.

I think it's a little bit of both looks and musical performance, but I'm not planning on recording any songs in the studio with it. I just want to add a couple clean elements of design without overdoing it. I doubt my ears are acute enough to dismiss the beautiful sound of a uke because of a slightly wider wood rosette. If it makes me happy, my playing will probably be better and compensate for what was lost.

As I said before, I sent out an email to get more details on how wide. Anyway, my dream uke ideas are always changing. I'm so overwhelmed by the diverse responses. If I could, I would lock my own thread until I got an email back.

wearymicrobe
10-08-2009, 12:07 PM
Slotted headstock veneer can only be koa saying, "Ebony is only available on mahogany ukes"
Rosette can only be thin. I wanted a thicker one.




1. More then likely ebony behaves badly in the open headstock jig, its a nasty wood to work with.

2. Ascetic of the builder or lack of tools to do the larger rosette.

Without a ball park number on the build cost that's my guess. More money and longer delivery times might solve this but that's builder depending.

Duddles
10-08-2009, 01:03 PM
I would go for it 100% unless you find another luthier who will do something BETTER (better, not exactly what you want, but better)...

Since working with Pete Howlett, I have come to understand that some luthiers simply won't do something because they don't want to, they don't feel it is necessary, or simply because the luthier knows best. And I can honestly say that I am overly glad that Pete didn't just bend to my every will because the way that the ukulele is turning out now is better than I had ever imagined.