View Full Version : Got a question...

10-07-2010, 08:16 AM
I am considering having a custom Uke made, and wondering if any of you have any idea what a fair price that might be expected to build one? I know it is a very subjective question, and may vary widely, but... . This is for anyone that has looked into, or had one built. This is what I am wanting built as a reference. The Uke I am looking to have built is not anything "fancy" I like sublte, and traditional personally.

Soprano size
Traditional shape and styling
Rosewood binding, rosette, fretboard, and bridge
Bone nut and saddle
Back/sides/front/neck from Mohogany

I am looking to provide the Mohogany of my choice, but the builder will supply the rosewood, and hardware.

I have a couple quotes from a couple builders, both not really "reknown" but seem to be competent builders starting out and wanting to gain reputations as quality builders.

What I would like to ask advice on, what do ya'll think would be a fair price to build a custom uke like this from a decent, but unknown builder? taking in consideration I am to supply the main panels of wood.

10-07-2010, 08:30 AM
For a custom soprano made to your specifications, the lowest I'd expect to pay would be about $700 minus the cost of the wood you're sending the luthier. You can get an MP soprano with the above specs for $675, which seems to be at the extreme low end as far as price is concerned for a custom built ukulele, at least among luthiers who enjoy good reputations.

10-07-2010, 09:22 AM
Dave Talsma is local (Flint, Michigan). All I know is that his Tenor's start at $950. I'd have no intelligent response about a custom soprano, but considering you want to supply some of the would, I'd say it be substantially less.

10-07-2010, 09:40 AM
I'm thnking that the wood is not actually a substantial part of the total cost of a custom Ukulele.

that would be like saying the biggest tpart of the price of a Monet is the cost of the paint.

10-07-2010, 09:41 AM
I think the MP would be a good choice. I had a chance to try a couple of his ukuleles a few years ago and they are nice.

Since your custom decription is very similar to what Mike normally offers for around $625-675 it may be your best bet to contact him.

As for any luthier, I don't know if providing the tone wood is possible. Afterall his name is going on the instrument and he will want to make sure that the wood you provide will meet his quality level. If you can provide the wood, it will obviously lower the cost.

Although I don't know if he will make a custom or if it is something you are looking, some of the youtubes of Ken Timms sopranos sound quite nice and may be a little less... he goes by Timbuck on UU.


10-07-2010, 10:36 AM
I agree about the wood not being the big part of an instrument's cost. I make high end pennywhistles from exotic hardwoods (see my signature) and from time to time I make an instrument using a customer's own wood. I charge the same as if I supply the wood. My labor is by far the biggest part of the cost of one of my whistles-- a customer is sort of buying my "free time" which I might otherwise be spending with family or doing other things that I also enjoy. It's hard to put a price on that time, but I value it pretty highly and I'd imagine other instrument makers feel the same way. Note that this is not my day job (which is as an OR nurse)-- if I did this as a living I might figure things differently.
Another point is that a customer's own wood is not always totally suitable. In the case of whistles, a piece might have cracks, knots, odd grain etc that make it unsuitable. I generally start 2 or 3 whistles if the customer can supply enough wood in hopes that I get one good one out of it.
On the plus side, it's a real joy to be able to make an instrument for someone from a piece of wood which has personal significance-- maybe from a tree that their grandfather planted, from their childhood home, found on a memorable vacation, etc. I've made myself a couple along those lines.