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View Full Version : Wait Period for a Custom... 2-3 years?WHAT?



specialmike
10-14-2009, 03:27 PM
So after today's Aldrine live lesson, I learned that a custom ukulele can take up to three years with certain companies. My question would be why? What's the typical time period for a typical ukulele to reach completion?

Furthermore... why in the world would it take 2-3 years to produce a CUSTOM!?!?!?!?! Don't they have priorities..... pbbsshh? High paying cust. vs a wholesale dealer? I suppose it could be bargaining power... but why even offer a custom if it's going to take forever do complete. How do you know that within that 3 year time frame... I won't lose my hands?:D

The company in question is Kamaka. Kanile'a supposed takes from 4-8 months... so why the huuuuge range? I mean... 24 months is quite a difference!

Anyone else know what the custom wait period is for the other... companies or luthiers who offer customization?

mokai
10-14-2009, 03:30 PM
Furthermore... why in the world would it take 2-3 years to produce a CUSTOM!?!?!?!?! Don't they have priorities..... pbbsshh??

I could imagine 2-3 years only if they count drying time for the wood.

dnewton2
10-14-2009, 03:43 PM
It is not so much the production time, just the demand. If they have 100 custom orders they can only fill so many at a time. Lets say they can produce 5 in a month, but 10 new orders come in. There is still a wait list. So they have to put the orders in order.

There are luthiers out there with similar wait lists (I know of 3 years and 1.5 years) and the lists are not getting shorter. There is a reason there is a wait list, incredible instruments made to the customers spec.

DeG
10-14-2009, 03:46 PM
I think it is due to the high demand, and the small number made. It's like waiting at the bakery for a marble rye, it could take a while.

thejumpingflea
10-14-2009, 03:57 PM
I think it is due to the high demand, and the small number made. It's like waiting at the bakery for a marble rye, it could take a while.

Exactly.

The reason some places take longer than others has nothing to do with the time it takes to build it.

You are essentially waiting in line for them to build you a uke.

the.ronin
10-14-2009, 04:17 PM
I believe Kamaka is also in the process of looking for a larger space to expand production. I think during this time, they have enough on their hands.

Ronnie Aloha
10-14-2009, 04:39 PM
Well, Kamaka says their repair time is 1 year. These are small shops, even Kamaka, so a custom takes one luthier away from making multiple ukes for the same time period. I know that Chris Kamaka also does repairs, shipping, quality control, etc. as well as some custom work.

The same is true for Paul at KoAloha.

Kanaka916
10-14-2009, 05:06 PM
Anyone else know what the custom wait period is for the other... companies or luthiers who offer customization?
This is from the Glyph Ukulele (http://www.glyphukulele.com/Glyph_Instruments.html) (Lthier Dave Means) site;

As of this writing, new order start dates are now running January 2012.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-14-2009, 05:41 PM
People will usually wait for quality work. Have you ever moved to a new town and tried to find a good dentist? It's not uncommon for individual custom guitar builders to have waitlists of 5 years or more. Personally, I usually limit my list to about ten or 12 ukuleles at a time. This means the wait is seldom over 6 months and it's not much of a burden for either myself or the customer. Naturally this means I'm saying "no" to people a lot, but it keeps the time frame reasonable. That last thing I want as a self employed builder is to have to pass a wait list down to my grand kids! Who needs that kind of stress? It also allows me to be more flexible with my time structure and gives me some time to get creative with my own ideas.
IMO, 4 to 8 months for a custom from Kanile'a is pretty speedy. Joe Souza has done a lot in the last couple of years to streamline his operation.

MGM
10-14-2009, 05:55 PM
Heres a one of a kind ...well i don't know what to call it concert body koaloha with soprano neck. Made for those who want a richer deeper sound but soprano neck....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-ZuVt2X9h0

Ukulele Jim
10-14-2009, 05:56 PM
What a timely conversation this is.

I just received my custom Glyph ukulele today. I paid my deposit for it in December of 2006. So that's darn near a 3-year wait.

Was it worth the wait? Hell YES.

The wait is so long because Dave Means has a tremendously long waiting list, and he takes special care in making his instruments. Each one is built to custom specifications.

The only sad part is I had to send it back because the cone assembly came dislodged during shipping. Now I need to wait another week. But I waited a few years, I think I can last another week. All good things come to those who wait, eh?

Oh, and this was the finished product:

http://www.jamesclark.com/2009/10/14/moons-and-stars-dobro-replica-part-6/

koalohapaul
10-14-2009, 06:50 PM
My list is about 3 years, currently closed for new orders. Most of us are in the same position. There's a limited amount of time in the day and only so much quality work can be done, without rushing.

My time in the shop is mostly dedicated to grading and milling from our rough stock. I try to put in at least an hour a day for other projects. Unfortunately, other projects are not just customs. While my production manager and showroom manager have been doing an outstanding job running the shop and crew, I'm only now feeling the freedom that they bring me.

When I do get to work on a full custom build, I put my skills to the test. For me, a custom commission is something special. It's a one off unique instrument built for a specific person. From the unseen mojo to the small aesthetic details, everything about that instrument should be tailored for that person. This isn't something you can rush out. Especially when your time is very limited.

I actually could crank out more customs, but I would lose the spirit of the builds. That isn't something I'm willing to sacrifice. If people are willing to wait the three years, they understand what makes a custom more than just a nice looking ukulele. I consider it an honor that I have a waiting list and I'm doing my best so it doesn't get to 4 years, but it doesn't look good.

I've started to train my newer staff to help me with special orders. It's a good starting point for them to gain experience doing new things like installing bindings, choosing wood, etc. During a custom build, I only have two other people touch the instrument. They are my two managers, who happen to be the two journeymen in the shop. Other than Brian and Griz, no one touches the instruments. Well, with the exception of Pops, who I have check my instruments when they're done. My dad has an awesome ear and feel. If I'm not on track, he'll give it to me straight.

thejumpingflea
10-14-2009, 06:56 PM
My list is about 3 years, currently closed for new orders. Most of us are in the same position. There's a limited amount of time in the day and only so much quality work can be done, without rushing.

My time in the shop is mostly dedicated to grading and milling from our rough stock. I try to put in at least an hour a day for other projects. Unfortunately, other projects are not just customs. While my production manager and showroom manager have been doing an outstanding job running the shop and crew, I'm only now feeling the freedom that they bring me.

When I do get to work on a full custom build, I put my skills to the test. For me, a custom commission is something special. It's a one off unique instrument built for a specific person. From the unseen mojo to the small aesthetic details, everything about that instrument should be tailored for that person. This isn't something you can rush out. Especially when your time is very limited.

I actually could crank out more customs, but I would lose the spirit of the builds. That isn't something I'm willing to sacrifice. If people are willing to wait the three years, they understand what makes a custom more than just a nice looking ukulele. I consider it an honor that I have a waiting list and I'm doing my best so it doesn't get to 4 years, but it doesn't look good.

I've started to train my newer staff to help me with special orders. It's a good starting point for them to gain experience doing new things like installing bindings, choosing wood, etc. During a custom build, I only have two other people touch the instrument. They are my two managers, who happen to be the two journeymen in the shop. Other than Brian and Griz, no one touches the instruments. Well, with the exception of Pops, who I have check my instruments when they're done. My dad has an awesome ear and feel. If I'm not on track, he'll give it to me straight.

It's posts like this that make me realize some day I'll have to get a custom KoAloha. Someday...

:D

Ronnie Aloha
10-14-2009, 07:04 PM
It's posts like this that make me realize some day I'll have to get a custom KoAloha. Someday...

:D

Better put in your order now!;)

JTY
10-14-2009, 07:20 PM
What a timely conversation this is.

I just received my custom Glyph ukulele today. I paid my deposit for it in December of 2006. So that's darn near a 3-year wait.

Was it worth the wait? Hell YES.

The wait is so long because Dave Means has a tremendously long waiting list, and he takes special care in making his instruments. Each one is built to custom specifications.

The only sad part is I had to send it back because the cone assembly came dislodged during shipping. Now I need to wait another week. But I waited a few years, I think I can last another week. All good things come to those who wait, eh?

Oh, and this was the finished product:

http://www.jamesclark.com/2009/10/14/moons-and-stars-dobro-replica-part-6/
Congrats on your new Glyph. What a beautiful work of art you have! I myself waited almost 2.5 yrs for my Mezzo. Yes, it was worth the wait, and Dave Means has tremendous customer service after the sale.

I'm on his list for another uke still 1.5 yr till start. I just forget about it once I sent the deposit and the time flies by.. more time to think up what I want exactly. :)

uluapoundr
10-14-2009, 08:32 PM
Like the others said, the wait is the list, not the production time. There are customers who are willing to wait for what they want. Years back, David Hurd of Ukuleles By Kawika also had a three year wait list, that's when he put a cap on the list. For one man shops like Glyph, King, and Moore Bettah, who only make 40 or so instruments a year, that list could quickly fill up. An alternative would be to purchase a used custom, although it won't be your custom, you'll still get a unique instrument, problem is, most owners don't sell such a beloved instrument.

grappler
10-14-2009, 11:24 PM
I've enquired about a Glyph. Wait times are awfully long, but worth it.

Ahnko Honu
10-14-2009, 11:54 PM
I'm into month two of my custom, hopefully ready by new years. :D

Brewerpaul
10-15-2009, 12:22 AM
As a maker of custom instruments myself, I can tell you that there are a lot of factors involved in a waiting time.
Some makers are one man operations, and only doing it part time. After a full time job, family obligations and personal life, there are precious few hours left to work on instruments. Depending on how much power equipment the maker has or uses, how much detail work like inlay the instrument involves, how many orders the maker has in his/her queue, several years is entirely possible.
Some of the custom operations use CNC machining for at least part of the process, have hired help to do some of the operations etc, and these can speed up the process.

deach
10-15-2009, 02:04 AM
What a timely conversation this is.

I just received my custom Glyph ukulele today. I paid my deposit for it in December of 2006. So that's darn near a 3-year wait.
.....
Oh, and this was the finished product:

http://www.jamesclark.com/2009/10/14/moons-and-stars-dobro-replica-part-6/

Sweet uke!

specialmike
10-15-2009, 04:06 AM
... waiting lists.. hmm, that would have seemed obvious didn't it? :)

I didn't mean to sound rude or anything. I suppose its the time shock that took over at that point in time. Just like the sticker price shock when I look at... say a coat that I suspect would cost 100, but is actually $3000.

Anyways, don't take it wrong, when I get good enough for a custom, I'll get one. The question now is "do I anticipate getting super ultra good" in the wait period :) haha, I would hope that's a yes.

A custom Koaloha, a custom kamaka, a custom kanilea, a custom koa'loua, a custom everything. I'll be waiting for the rest of my life.... but it will be worth it.

wearymicrobe
10-15-2009, 10:02 AM
The company in question is Kamaka. Kanile'a supposed takes from 4-8 months... so why the huuuuge range? I mean... 24 months is quite a difference!



Kanile'a is much more then 4-8 months depending on the spec. The glyphs have to be past 2012 it was like that a year and a half ago when I was looking.

I took the expensive way out and bought my glyph private party, not cheap but worth it for me as it was darn near the spec I would have ordered and no wait time. Same with my Moore Betta, hard time keeping a eye on the site and seeing what was available as they came up.

Kamaka from the rumors can not keep up with there standard dealer orders let alone custom work. KoAloha the same.

Raygf
10-15-2009, 11:47 AM
What a timely conversation this is.

I just received my custom Glyph ukulele today. I paid my deposit for it in December of 2006. So that's darn near a 3-year wait.

Was it worth the wait? Hell YES.

The wait is so long because Dave Means has a tremendously long waiting list, and he takes special care in making his instruments. Each one is built to custom specifications.

The only sad part is I had to send it back because the cone assembly came dislodged during shipping. Now I need to wait another week. But I waited a few years, I think I can last another week. All good things come to those who wait, eh?

Oh, and this was the finished product:

http://www.jamesclark.com/2009/10/14/moons-and-stars-dobro-replica-part-6/

Congratulations! Beautiful instrument. Dave's work is amazing. I was at Dave's in June for a uke gathering and he brought out a few works in progress. Words fail. Outstanding craftsmanship!!! I met Dave in June of 2008 and ordered a tenor. He will start building in November of 2010. It's a 50th birthday to myself. Just over one more year. Good things come to those who wait. :shaka:
Regards,
Ray

Ukulele Jim
10-15-2009, 12:04 PM
Cool! This one was a 40th birthday present for myself. Great minds think alike.

mangorockfish
10-15-2009, 03:00 PM
I don't want to offend anyone, but this is something I have really thought about lately. A custom built uke. How much difference is there in a custom built uke compared to a shelf model from the same builder? Is the custom going to sound that much different/better than one you walk into a shop and buy. Granted the custom will probably be prettier , but will the sound, feel, and playability be worth two to three times the price and a one to three year wait? I had thought about a Koaloha custom tenor, but have decided that if I don't order a Mainland gloss mahogany tenor to go with my concert that I will get a shelf model Koaloha tenor out of a store. I guess to each his own.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-15-2009, 03:36 PM
One thing about getting an instrument built especially for customer is being able to build it to the players specifications. Sound is one thing but playability is another. A custom builder should be able to carve a neck, for instance, to fit a players hands better, be it narrower, wider, fatter or slimmer. They should also be willing to adjust the width at the nut to suit the customer. String action is another area which can be better addressed in a custom build. Then there are the choice of materials to use. I'm not talking about cosmetic differences but choices that can have an affect on the sound and feel of the ukulele. These might be differences in saddle and nut material as well as fret boards, sound boards, pick ups, etc. The possible combination of choices is endless.
I haven't even addressed the subject of cosmetic choices that make an instrument truly unique and personal.
For the majority of casual ukulele players, an "off the shelf" uke will serve them just fine, especially if you can try the out before buying.

mrplatypus70
10-15-2009, 04:00 PM
I think what happens is once a custom ukulele maker produces enough instruments to get a good reputation and thus a higher demand the orders they get soon surpass their ability to produce the instruments. Since these are custom made, hand built instruments going into mass production and using assembly line manufacturing clearly is not an option. So the more orders they get, the longer the wait. From what I have seen of posts of people playing these custom ukes it is well worth the wait, and if you consider the laws of supply and demand the longer wait time just indicates there are more people who want an instrument made by this builder and if you consider s few years time to an instument you will no doubt enjoy the rest of your life, unless you plan on dieing soon it is a no brainer. If you can afford this quality instrument suck it up and wait for it, I am sure it will be worth it!!

ukecantdothat
10-15-2009, 04:42 PM
People will usually wait for quality work. Have you ever moved to a new town and tried to find a good dentist? It's not uncommon for individual custom guitar builders to have waitlists of 5 years or more. Personally, I usually limit my list to about ten or 12 ukuleles at a time. This means the wait is seldom over 6 months and it's not much of a burden for either myself or the customer. Naturally this means I'm saying "no" to people a lot, but it keeps the time frame reasonable. That last thing I want as a self employed builder is to have to pass a wait list down to my grand kids! Who needs that kind of stress? It also allows me to be more flexible with my time structure and gives me some time to get creative with my own ideas.
IMO, 4 to 8 months for a custom from Kanile'a is pretty speedy. Joe Souza has done a lot in the last couple of years to streamline his operation.
Mr. Moore, I would would gladly wait ten years for a work of art from your shop!

olokun82
10-15-2009, 05:59 PM
I had a KoAloha Tenor ordered through a store....back in May, I can't wait to get it!

Rick Turner
10-15-2009, 06:17 PM
I'm in exactly the same position as KoAloha Paul (hi, Paul!). I do a lot of our basic wood selection and milling...that is one of the most critical jobs in any uke or guitar making shop. You'd think that the boss men shouldn't be humping billets of wood through the resaw, but that job can make or break dozens of instruments worth of wood in just a few minutes.

I, like Paul, get pulled in a hundred directions every day, so getting even the clear head-space to build custom instruments is really difficult. Many are the days when I envy the one luthier shop custom setups. Maybe someday...

Kekani
10-15-2009, 06:25 PM
I, like Paul, get pulled in a hundred directions every day, so getting even the clear head-space to build custom instruments is really difficult. Many are the days when I envy the one luthier shop custom setups. Maybe someday...

So right, especially about Paul. . .he forgot about the undercover brother that also touches his instruments. . .

Aaron

DeG
10-16-2009, 06:42 AM
One thing about getting an instrument built especially for customer is being able to build it to the players specifications. Sound is one thing but playability is another. A custom builder should be able to carve a neck, for instance, to fit a players hands better, be it narrower, wider, fatter or slimmer. They should also be willing to adjust the width at the nut to suit the customer...

Sorry if this is a little off topic, but this raises a question that I've had. How the heck do people come up with the specs they want without try countless different combinations? I mean, if I were going to give specs on the width of the fret board, the distance between the strings, and the thickness of the neck for a custom build, how could I know what specs to give? Is there some formula that people use based on measurements of their hand? Or do you just have to play a bunch of different instruments and make some guesses as to what you think the perfect neck would be?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-16-2009, 07:32 AM
Sorry if this is a little off topic, but this raises a question that I've had. How the heck do people come up with the specs they want without try countless different combinations? I mean, if I were going to give specs on the width of the fret board, the distance between the strings, and the thickness of the neck for a custom build, how could I know what specs to give? Is there some formula that people use based on measurements of their hand? Or do you just have to play a bunch of different instruments and make some guesses as to what you think the perfect neck would be?

If you are not familiar enough with ukuleles to know what specifications fit you best, you are probably not in the market for a custom uke anyway. You're right, this is where playing lots of different models pays off. You need a basis of comparison. Most off-the-shelf models fit most players needs. Then there are those people who have a handful of ukes already and no single one of them quite fills the player's every need. Those are the people I build for. I refuse to sell an uke to a first time player. Most people I see are very specific in their desires.

uluapoundr
10-16-2009, 10:11 AM
I don't want to offend anyone, but this is something I have really thought about lately. A custom built uke. How much difference is there in a custom built uke compared to a shelf model from the same builder? Is the custom going to sound that much different/better than one you walk into a shop and buy. Granted the custom will probably be prettier , but will the sound, feel, and playability be worth two to three times the price and a one to three year wait? I had thought about a Koaloha custom tenor, but have decided that if I don't order a Mainland gloss mahogany tenor to go with my concert that I will get a shelf model Koaloha tenor out of a store. I guess to each his own.

That's a fair questions to ask and trust me, it's been asked many times before and there has been strong opinions shared, some saying that a custom is all about just looks or "bling", others saying that a custom instrument is more than just looks and well worth the price increase.

Like Chuck said, a custom instrument can be built to the players specifications. If you don't know the exact measurements, then the builder could offer suggestions based on your playing style and the playability you desire. The builder could also choose materials to build an uke for the desired sound you are looking for. And then there is the fact that this uke will be unique, often reflecting what you and the builder worked on as a final product.

As for the difference between a shelf model and a custom from the same company. I think it's important to understand that for some of these companies, the customs are built by their luthier, and not any other line worker or apprentice. Usually there is much more attention to detail, unlike a shelf model. Take for example Kamaka, their shelf tenor is a great uke as far as sound quality goes, but if one was to compare it to one of their custom models, it's night and day. The craftsmanship is better, the finish is better, better materials used, of course nicer wood, inlays, etc. For many, the price increase from $1000 to $2500 is proportionately not worth it, for those who appreciate such an instrument, it's well worth it.

My advice to those who have never had a chance to play a custom instrument from one of the well known makers, try it out and see if it's the same as an off the shelf instrument. If you see no difference, then by all means, buy the shelf instrument. My bet is that the experience will open your eyes to the difference between a shelf and custom uke.

thejumpingflea
10-16-2009, 10:19 AM
Then there are those people who have a handful of ukes already and no single one of them quite fills the player's every need. Those are the people I build for.

It's funny, because my Moore Bettah uke cured that exact problem I had! Haha, he is true to his word there.

Ukulele Jim
10-16-2009, 10:46 AM
In my initial talks with Dave Means, I wasn't sure what custom specs I wanted until he started asking me questions.

"What kind of tuners do you want?" Well, I dunno, what are my options? After he explained the differences, I opted for Pegheds.

"What size do you want?"
"What design do you want?"
"Kind of wood?" -- he showed me lots of examples

etc etc.

It became clear that I could ask him to make whatever. I could look at all the different ukuleles I've ever wanted and ask for him to do it like that, or like this, or however I wanted it.

In the long run I rememberd a replica of a 1930s Dobro that I had *always* wanted but knew I would never have because there's only like 2 or 3 in existence any more. So I opted for a replica. Which, again, is pretty specific.

Ahnko Honu
10-16-2009, 11:14 AM
My custom was easy, I wanted a concert pineapple with tenor neck (super-concert) made from Milo wood with Pheasantwood bridge and headstock veneer, and Ebony fretboard (except for the Ebony I provided all the wood at great savings to me), open geared tuners, no additional bling, just wanted a great sounding 'ukulele that was relatively unique.