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ShortCut
11-27-2008, 05:24 PM
How do you guys make your own custom ukes? It's amazing, they way your finished product is. Do any of you have a guide on the internet somewhere on how to make one? I'm interested in trying to,but not sure how to go about it.

Kekani
11-28-2008, 04:58 PM
Not getting much of a response?

For me, I took a class (years ago), the bought two "kits" similar to Hana Lima I`a, then bought unbent sets, then wood in lumber form; all the while accumulating tools so that after about 3 years of building, I've been self sufficient since then, milling, resawing, bending, sanding, routing, finishing. . .

Oh, and over the past 10 years, I've engaged in research in the craft of building stringed instruments (both book and online), builder's forums online, `Ukulele Guild of Hawai`i, NAMM, as well as having the opportunity to share and get feedback with local builders and factories (and mainland ones as well), the closest one being Paul Okami from KoAloha.

As for inlay, that's another thread.

Bottom line, I'm still learning. Hope this helps - Aaron

Pete Howlett
11-28-2008, 08:46 PM
My journey:

Tried building a Les Paul when I was 15 in my Dad's shed armed with a coping saw, a wooden spoke shave and a very hard piece of maple - it never got finished.
Went to college to become a teacher and learnt from master cabinet makers, engineers and silversmiths where I built guitars and other musical instruments, made tools and learnt how to operate metal forming machines, made jewellery and learnt how to work metal, pearl and ivory.
Started making complex furniture and boxes when I was 27, instruments when I was 38 (I'm 53 now).
Re-earnt all of my detail skills with a guitar build - The Catfish Keith (check him out) Ragtime Guitar model in 1993 and then in '94 started making 6 and 8 string tenor ukulele for Collier Thelen at Music Exchange in Hilo and Volcano later graduating to concert ukulele (my soprano weren't good enough!).
400 ukulele later I am still learning - only in the last 2 years have I become satisfied with my sopranos... you may see some in Hawaii yet!


It is a never ending journey. I have read all the books (there is usually one or two good ideas in each), visited other builders, read every one of Frank Ford's pages at frets.com; but like most makers, I am self taught.

I have learnt that there are really only two skills to being a builder - precise working and patience. It's like a well choreographed ballet that allows for improvisation and the more ukulele I make, the better I get. As I said before, I rarely innovate and I guess this is the 3rd secret. When you have reached what you think is the end of the road, keep going because there is always a better uke you can make along the way. But don't change your walking shoes...

Just go for it - start with a kit or hang out at your local luthiers.

Dominator
11-29-2008, 10:30 AM
And don't forget that Pete and Dave from Clintonville have a entire series of videos on Youtube that will guide you through the steps. Don't have time to get the links for you at this moment.

acabooe
11-29-2008, 02:11 PM
In my case, I made my first one out of scraps that I had lying around, and I used the hana lima manual to do it.

Once I moved to Hawaii with my family, I got a job at G String Ukulele for a while in the finish dept.
I learned alot there.
After that, I went to school at Hana Lima and I graduated with my own hand made uke. I learned a lot more there.
Recently, I just joined the Ukulele Guild of Hawaii, and I am still learning from great builders like Kekani, and other.

the only problem I have is that my tools aren't nearly as good as I would like them to be, so it takes me many times longer to do what someone like Pete, Dom, and Kekani could do quickly. That being said, I am starting to get happy with the products I'm turning out, and while there is always room for improvement, I just take it one build at a time.
As others have said, I too am always learning.

Aloha
Bob

ShortCut
11-29-2008, 02:33 PM
Do you think that building ukes could be something done for a career? I think it would be amazing to say you make ukulele's for a living..

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-01-2008, 08:50 AM
Hah! there's a big difference between doing something as a career and making a living from it! You simply can't do it for the money, trust me, there are better ways. Most of us build because we are called to do so and it's a vocation that I don't question anymore. I built my first "instrument" when I was seven and started building dulcimers in high school. I started building ukes 21 years ago on Molokai and currently build 45 to 50 ukes a year. I'm still waiting for the money! And that's "working" 60 to 70 hours a week. But there is nothing else I would choose to do. And except for the days on end when I have to sand and buff, every work day seems like a day off.
As far as building your first uke goes, a kit from someone like Hana Lima is a great way to start. You'll immediately know whether or not it's something you want to pursue. And as opposed to "the old days" (I learned from tearing apart Kamakas) there are a ton of resources on the Internet. Even YouTube has some worth while tutorials.
Keep it fun.
Chuck Moore
Moore Bettah Ukuleles
http://www.moorebetahukes.com

Pete Howlett
12-01-2008, 10:36 AM
Chuck's right - you won't be driving a Mrecedes if you build ukes for a living. It is a vocation more than anything else.

koalohapaul
12-04-2008, 08:06 PM
Like most other uke builders, I am also self taught. My father never sat me down and explained what to do, then again, we started at about the same time. I pretty much grew up in the shop, although it was acrylic fabrication at the time. Experience is the best teacher. Research is important too, but you need to test out what you may read about and see what works for you.

As far as where to start, just start. Even if it's just assembly of a prefab kit. You'll learn something and get better each time you do it. Eventually, all the little things that used to keep you thinking in the beginning will become second nature and your box will get bigger.

Making ukes for a living is great. While I may not make tons of money, I am comfortable and have gotten to meet a lot of people I would not have, if I had an 'ordinary' job. However, there is an equal amount of reality for those of us who do this as a trade. We still have regular bills to pay and regular customers to serve, so it's like any other business, in that sense.

dave g
12-05-2008, 02:20 AM
Sorry - I missed this thread somehow or another... Please have a look here: http://www.wsukes.com/plans.html

E-Lo Roberts
12-05-2008, 11:00 AM
Hah! there's a big difference between doing something as a career and making a living from it! You simply can't do it for the money, trust me, there are better ways. Most of us build because we are called to do so and it's a vocation that I don't question anymore. I built my first "instrument" when I was seven and started building dulcimers in high school. I started building ukes 21 years ago on Molokai and currently build 45 to 50 ukes a year. I'm still waiting for the money! And that's "working" 60 to 70 hours a week. But there is nothing else I would choose to do. And except for the days on end when I have to sand and buff, every work day seems like a day off.
As far as building your first uke goes, a kit from someone like Hana Lima is a great way to start. You'll immediately know whether or not it's something you want to pursue. And as opposed to "the old days" (I learned from tearing apart Kamakas) there are a ton of resources on the Internet. Even YouTube has some worth while tutorials.
Keep it fun.
Chuck Moore
Moore Bettah Ukuleles
http://www.moorebetahukes.com
I'm with Chuck on this one. (BTW, hey chuck, love your lastest ukes!) Do it as a vocation, not as a paycheck. I've tried to calculate the hours to $$ ratio. I believe at my speed it's coming out to about .085 cents an hour! A few luthiers (I'm assumming) actually do make a living building ukes, but I would say they are the exception. So for now, do it for the love and keep a second income on the front burner... e.lo...