View Full Version : Custom???Handmade???Factory???

11-26-2009, 12:44 AM
I am curious as to where people draw the line between these terms in the ukulele world. I always thought that custom meant that something was made specifically for one person, and handmade would be made without CNC machined parts, and factory would be just that, made from CNC miled parts glued together on an assembly line. What is the consensus on the meaning of these words.




Take care,

11-26-2009, 01:37 AM
Sounds right to me. A custom would have to be man made, or, at least man modified. You could take a factory production uke and modify it into a custom, I guess.


11-26-2009, 02:05 AM
Custom:- made or modified to the customer's individual requirements. Can be "handmade" or otherwise.

Handmade:- a term which is applied very loosely. Many top-flight builders now use parts bought in from specialist suppliers, and produce their own parts on a batch basis, using machine tools. This is not "traditional" luthery, as it was practised in the past, but makes perfect sense when trying to achieve consistency and accuracy. If you wanted a truly "hand made" instrument, you would have to pay a very high price, and it wouldn't necessarily be any better.

Factory:- Not easy to define exactly. Clearly the mainstream Chinese ukes fall into this category, but even they can be said to be "made by hand". KoAloha employ a number of people to produce their ukes, but we must distinguish between them and the larger producers. How about a one-man operation using production line techniques? How would you define, for example, Brueko, or Risa?

Factory is not really a useful term.

Just my opinion, of course.

John Colter.

11-26-2009, 04:30 AM
In the classic sense, Thomas, your definitions are perfect. To John's point, though, it is hard to determine whether or not the classification of "production" or "factory" uke applies equally to all modern makers. Technically, Kamaka, KoAloha, Ohana, Kala, Oscar Schmidt, Lanikai, etc... they are all factory-made ukes. How much "hand work" may distinguish one from another, along with raw materials. Labor makes a huge difference in what a selling price can be while allowing a manufacturer to remain profitable. I'd say that there is just as much labor being done at Ohana, Kala, Oscar Schmidt, etc... as there is at Kamaka. The primary differences might be the grade of wood, other materials, hardware, and QC.

11-26-2009, 04:48 AM
Thank goodness for CNC. Before it, inexpensive production instruments were generally a much different experience than quality hand built production and custom instruments.

There is a difference in the feel of the whole experience if you contact a builder directly discussing options and giving input as the instrument is built, different than calling up the Martin custom shop and specifying decoration and wood on an otherwise standard instrument.