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OldePhart
03-23-2013, 05:32 AM
FIRST – STRAIGHT OFF THE MARK – I don't want this thread to degenerate into a thread that is bashing (or even praising) any particular builders or even builders in general. Please do NOT:
1) Mention any builder by name - not even to praise them. It's not fair to builders to have their name end up in a Google search associated with a thread about flaws, even if their name was only there because someone was praising their work.
2) Link to any other threads, especially marketplace threads, or to any builder's websites, etc.
3) Post any pictures (many of us can identify a builder's work by even a small part of an instrument).

Again, this thread is about PLAYERS and why we spend our money the way we do!

Okay, with that out of the way, is it just me or does anybody else wonder why so many “luthier-built” ukuleles sell for often princely sums in the marketplace in spite of obvious careless flaws that show up clearly in the pictures? Now, mind, we're not talking about ukes being sold as seconds; I'm the first guy who will snap up a cosmetic blem if it is mentioned and the price is adjusted appropriately! I'm talking about ukuleles with obvious flaws that are not mentioned by the builder.

I've been watching the marketplace for a couple of years and I've seen quite a few of these instruments sell in spite of having unacknowledged problems of the sort that make me wonder what other less obvious problems might be lurking “under the wood.” Most of the issues are probably cosmetic, but when the builder doesn't acknowledge them I have to wonder how careful the builder is in less visible, but more important, areas. Also, we're not just talking about a tiny bubble in a finish or something like that, these are things that are actually “structural” though hopefully not fatally so.

So, what are the kinds of things I'm talking about? Most of them wouldn't affect play and are things like one tuner misaligned from the others; a splintered, uneven, wide, or non-straight heel join that has just been filled with glue and sawdust; binding joins in odd and highly visible places; and, perhaps my favorite only because it seems so ridiculous on otherwise gorgeous ukes, string holes in bridges that just kind of wander across the bridge like the footprints of a drunken sailor. If a builder doesn't care enough to build a bridge-drilling jig, or at least measure accurately, for something so obvious as this I have to wonder how tight the bracing and kerfing that I cant see are, etc.

Also, again, if the blem was acknowledged up front by the builder and the price adjusted, most of these issues wouldn't stop me from buying the uke (assuming the price adjustment was adequate). It's when the builder apparently hasn't even noticed these flaws that I really have to wonder what else might be wrong.

I've also seen a handful of ukes go through the marketplace with issues that pretty much had to affect playability. In one case a neck was obviously set at a slight (rotational) angle, on others there has been one string significantly higher or lower than the others, and several cases of strings spaced quite unevenly.

We're not talking about a single builder, either, though there are a couple that pop to mind that I will never purchase from because I've seen so many examples of unacknowledged and simply careless flaws from their shops. Yet people jump on ukes from those very builders like cats on June bugs!

So, we get back to my question... Why do so many of us act as if such builders are doing us a favor letting us spend several hundred dollars, sometimes over a grand, on instruments built so carelessly? Is paying so much for flawed work cheapening the work of those who are really careful? Or, is paying so much for flawed work inflating the high-end ukulele market? I don't have answers, but the questions are driving me nuts. :biglaugh:

Dan Uke
03-23-2013, 05:45 AM
That's a tough question to answer but here's my first short response. Market is hot, lots of hype, so they are taking advantage and charging a high amount while riding on shirt tails of the premier luthiers. To explain, since the premier luthiers are charging $$$$, I can charge a few hundred cheaper and people are getting a bargain.

There's been lots of talk of custom vs. production K brand and many want a custom since it's personalized. People on UU don't give very negative opinions on ukes in IMO since they don't want to devalue the brand in case they sell it and there are others that like that brand so your opinion might be an aberration. Statistics and standard deviation...try to find a uke that has a very small range with a few way out there blips, that you just ignore.

Finally, John, you are an engineer and you find flaws that don't bother others. LOL!! Im an econ major so I really believe market dictates price. If someone buys it, then that is what it is worth...Eventually the demand curve will go down and luthiers combat it by having limited supply.

Doc_J
03-23-2013, 06:09 AM
From my point of view, luthier-built instruments are works of multi-dimensional art. What is art worth? Hard to say.

I agree with Daniel that prices are influenced by demand (I did take Econ 101 many decades ago :) ).
From a manufacturing side the average uke takes 40-60 hours (from a skilled craftsman) to build and has $?00 in components, then $1000 for a price is a bargain.
What does a plumber or electrician get paid per hour? Should a luthier be paid less?

Regarding flaws, small things will happen to wooden objects as they are made, especially by human hands. Carelessness, should not happen, but a small scratch, ding, drop of glue, etc. is almost unavoidable.

hawaii 50
03-23-2013, 06:42 AM
From my point of view, luthier-built instruments are works of multi-dimensional art. What is art worth? Hard to say.

I agree with Daniel that prices are influenced by demand (I did take Econ 101 many decades ago :) ).
From a manufacturing side the average uke takes 40-60 hours (from a skilled craftsman) to build and has $?00 in components, then $1000 for a price is a bargain.
What does a plumber or electrician get paid per hour? Should a luthier be paid less?

Regarding flaws, small things will happen to wooden objects as they are made, especially by human hands. Carelessness, should not happen, but a small scratch, ding, drop of glue, etc. is almost unavoidable.



Wow nice thread John well thought out..not just put out there on a whim either..

I can go on and on,on this subject..but will probably get in trouble..so my one thing is..I wonder how some builders that have a great reputation will send out an instrument with many many flaws on them(say 3 or 4) that any one can see..yes John I wonder if some builders think we are Blind..funny I have said this many times..

I don't get it and hope this thread answers my question

for me if I was getting all kinds of praise on my instruments I would slow down and make them even better..not speed up to get them out..

my 2 cents

Paul December
03-23-2013, 06:55 AM
My wife recently purchase a wooden, carved, decorative rabbit for Easter.
It was made in China and the hangtag read...
Artisan created, subtle imperfections only add to the beauty and individuality of each handmade piece.
One of the beautiful eyes was considerably higher than the other.

ChaosToo
03-23-2013, 07:12 AM
It's an interesting thread to be sure - and, although being an absolute newbie to ukes, I do have what I consider to be something of an eye for detail and I've also noticed a few things on ukes of all values that really make me wonder if I'm being 'picky' in the 'faults' I can see, or whether such 'faults' are an accepted part of the Uke world.

The one that really always drives me crazy is the one you mentioned about mis-aligned tuners! I mean, how difficult is it, even on the cheapest of ukes to put a handful of screws in to make four pieces of metal line up with a edge and with each other? If it was 'just' the very cheapest end of the market, then I guess there's a bit of an excuse, but this still seems to be prevalent in instruments that cost (to me) a lot of money - ie £100 plus. Drives me nuts that does! :D

nighthunte29
03-23-2013, 07:53 AM
To me, the definition of perfection is imperfection!
Small faults do add character definitely, and give it a more personalised feel, like a bit of history!

didgeridoo2
03-23-2013, 08:41 AM
a splintered, uneven, wide, or non-straight heel join that has just been filled with glue and sawdust

It's funny you mention this. This bugs me. I showed my wife a photo of what appeared to be a sloppy join the other day and she didn't care, but I couldn't believe the price being asked for this type of mistake. I do think that if I am to look at these things as musical instruments, then sound and playability should be the first things I consider. I've been placated by the mere beauty of the tone and playability of an instrument when there were aesthetic flaws found.

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 08:49 AM
...To explain, since the premier luthiers are charging $$$$, I can charge a few hundred cheaper and people are getting a bargain.

Yeah... I think you may have just nailed much of the attitude - the reason for the sloppy work. My question falls back to why we as buyers let them get away with it. Price wise most of these ukes that are "bargains" are at least within spitting distance of K-brands that are very consistent, well-made, good players with excellent tone...and that retain their resale value very well.

If I buy a "bargain luthier" piece my "investment" is very dependent on that luthier's continued reputation and if his or her work is consistently a little sloppy then the resale value of the entire line is eventually going to reflect that. And, if I've actually purchased one of the ones with visible flaws, even if the luthier's reputation grows and the line remains respected, everyone is going to assume that I bought a second if I ever try to move it. Again, I love seconds, but only if they've been priced right.



Finally, John, you are an engineer and you find flaws that don't bother others. LOL!! ...

Yeah...probably something to be said for that. And often the flaws wouldn't even bother me if they were acknowledged and priced accordingly - I love seconds. :) I guess it's the thought that, "gee...if this person is that sloppy and pays so little attention to detail that they didn't even notice flaws that are readily visible, how can I have any confidence in the part of the piece that I can't see?"

John

seeso
03-23-2013, 09:02 AM
What's not to understand? People have ukes to sell, they price them, and people either buy them or don't. What's it gotta do with you? I'm not trying to be antagonistic. Just let people live their lives. What's the big deal? Maybe I'm in a bad mood. How are ya, John? See you at UWC? I gotta tell ya, I had a great time hanging out with you last year.

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 09:03 AM
Regarding flaws, small things will happen to wooden objects as they are made, especially by human hands. Carelessness, should not happen, but a small scratch, ding, drop of glue, etc. is almost unavoidable.

I'm part way with you on this...though I can't go as far as "almost unavoidable" because I know a couple of meticulous craftsman that simply don't make those kinds of mistakes - or who carry such pride in their work that when they do they will do whatever it takes to correct the piece or even discard it.

However, for the most part I agree with you. If there is a tiny bit of glue squeeze out or a small scratch, dimple, or tiny finish bubble I probably won't even notice it (especially the last few years with my near vision going south). Furthermore, I buy my instruments to play so even if I notice a problem like that, before or after the sale, it's not going to bother me - sooner or later the instrument is going to have my own collection of dents and dings.

But, the kind of things I'm talking about are really just evidence of haste or general carelessness. When a tuner is misaligned, bridge holes drilled unevenly, a neck at an angle, etc. it is clear evidence that the builder didn't bother to make a jig and was careless about measuring. When heel joins are rough cut and splintered it means the builder got in a hurry and used a dull (or improper) saw and then didn't care enough to go back and fix the problem with a bit of contrasting inlay or something like that.

And...it's not even the visible flaw that concerns me so much - I'm NOT a bling kinda guy. But, if a builder is careless with visible details, why would I believe that he or she is any more careful with invisible ones? It all goes back to that idea of attention to detail and paying a premium price for a product that probably doesn't deserve that price; at least not when there are K-brands available at roughly the same price where the attention to detail in things that matter is much more evident.

John

bnolsen
03-23-2013, 09:06 AM
yes I'm an engineer of sorts (sorry not licensed) and being tech its easy to underestimate market dynamics and people's behaviour. forums are a very good places for selling wares to people. its a concentrated market that tends to be buyer heavy. just don't try to make a living this way, though.

hawaii 50
03-23-2013, 09:09 AM
it is very hard to buy a custom ukulele without ever seeing one or playing it..i made the mistake of buying into the hype with 1 or 2 of my ukes

I went and trusted my fellow UU members and learned the hard way..but that was my fault..sometimes the truth hurts and nobody wants to admit they were wrong..

so I guess you have to do your homework plus even more if you are spending a lot of money on a custom ukulele..but John I do not see anything changing..people are still to go with the hype and learn like I did..but you throwing questions out like this should help some..thxs brah!

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 09:11 AM
for me if I was getting all kinds of praise on my instruments I would slow down and make them even better..not speed up to get them out..

Very good point! And, it's obvious that some of the top builders made that very decision at some point in their past and their work shows it. My questions, though, would be are we as players "enablers" of those who haven't that sort of ethic? I think I asked in the original post something to the effect of, "are we cheapening the work of the really careful conscientious builders when we patronize builders who are less meticulous?"

Daniel pointed out that the builders we're talking about are seen by many buyers as "bargain customs" or something like that. It's true that a builder who is just starting out should be given a little slack (and their prices should and largely do reflect their beginner status) because everybody has to start some place. But, in some cases we see builders go on for years, their prices go up, yet with no real improvement in their work - at that point one has to believe that they're just content with cranking out somewhat sloppy work - do we really want to reward that, and do we insult more conscientious builders when we do?

John

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 09:12 AM
My wife recently purchase a wooden, carved, decorative rabbit for Easter.
It was made in China and the hangtag read...
Artisan created, subtle imperfections only add to the beauty and individuality of each handmade piece.
One of the beautiful eyes was considerably higher than the other.

BWAAA-HAAAA. (I hope she didn't pay upwards of a grand for it, though :) )

ukemunga
03-23-2013, 09:18 AM
"are we cheapening the work of the really careful conscientious builders when we patronize builders who are less meticulous?"

We are not cheapening the work of the cream of the crop, we are merely setting "acceptable" price standards for everyone else. Any uke, custom or otherwise, is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

And perhaps, if the market is that insatiable, and the backlogs for the preferred luthiers is so huge, then they SHOULD raise their prices. Simple supply and demand.

hawaii 50
03-23-2013, 09:20 AM
John I don't think we can do anything to help the builder who just wants to send out their work with flaws in them BUT when your luthier or the ukulele company/factory that you get your uke comes from does a good job for you..call/email them and tell them thanks for the hard work they put in for you..thats all you can do..

I have many ukes with No flaws in them..they love their work and it shows..

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 09:22 AM
To me, the definition of perfection is imperfection!
Small faults do add character definitely, and give it a more personalised feel, like a bit of history!

That's an interesting perspective and, to a certain extent, I can agree with it. If I'm buying a statue or a woodcarving then yes, it is very difficult to say what is a flaw and what is the artist's vision? But, something that is simply evidence of a lack attention to detail falls into an entirely different category for me.

If all of the tuners on a uke are obviously intentionally at very different angles then I can say - "the builder is artistically experimenting with the visual impact of the tuners." Whether I buy the uke or not is going to depend on whether his artistic statement strikes a chord with me. If three are aligned perfectly and one is off by several degrees then I don't have much choice but to say, "the builder got in a hurry." At that point I'm going to ask myself what else the builder might have gotten in a hurry on. Is a brace going to pop loose in a year or two? Is the top going to push up if humidity rises even just a little because the builder used a soft brace and didn't trim it short enough?

John

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 09:25 AM
It's funny you mention this. This bugs me. I showed my wife a photo of what appeared to be a sloppy join the other day and she didn't care, but I couldn't believe the price being asked for this type of mistake. I do think that if I am to look at these things as musical instruments, then sound and playability should be the first things I consider. I've been placated by the mere beauty of the tone and playability of an instrument when there were aesthetic flaws found.

I definitely agree that sound and playability are the trump cards. No doubt there. I just have to wonder if the sound and playability of these ukes are so good that they justify the prices being brought. And then, as an engineer I have to wonder how the sound and playability can be consistent in the face of so little attention to detail...

John

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 09:38 AM
What's not to understand? People have ukes to sell, they price them, and people either buy them or don't. What's it gotta do with you? I'm not trying to be antagonistic. Just let people live their lives. What's the big deal? Maybe I'm in a bad mood. How are ya, John? See you at UWC? I gotta tell ya, I had a great time hanging out with you last year.

Hey Seeso, counting the days, man!

I guess what got me thinking about this was the shed I built this past week (weird way to back into a thread on custom ukuleles, eh?) Anyway, my neighbor helped me and we built a 10 X 12 lofted barn with 7' sidewalls - also known hereabouts as a "big ole sucka." :) My neighbor is the handyman sort that has spent over fifty years in building trades of one sort or another - he's semi-retired and I knew he could use the cash (and I could use the help) so I asked him to help me out. This wasn't my first shed, not even the largest I've built, but working with this guy was an eye opener.

It was my shed and there were things that were purely cosmetic that I wouldn't have agonized over that he insisted on putting right. He spent time grinding small rough edges off that were going to be covered by hardi-plank siding anyway, and so on. (I've built a lot of small structures, sheds, carports, etc., and I don't even own a grinder :) )

Anyway, to me it was just a shed, even if it was my shed - but the way he went about it was as if he were building a palace for royalty. Now, the rub in all of this - the shed ended up costing me a bit over three grand even after paying him more than he asked for in labor and buying the best materials. To buy the same size shed with inferior plywood exterior siding instead of hardi-plank would have cost me right in the neighborhood of $4k to $4500 and I've seen those sheds and they are built nowhere near as well as this one.

I guess that just started me thinking about craftsmanship, etc. :)

John

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 09:55 AM
John I don't think we can do anything to help the builder who just wants to send out their work with flaws in them BUT when your luthier or the ukulele company/factory that you get your uke comes from does a good job for you..call/email them and tell them thanks for the hard work they put in for you..thats all you can do..

I have many ukes with No flaws in them..they love their work and it shows..

Very good idea. I have to confess to being like most folks, more likely to take the time to write with a complaint than a thank you. I do try to follow the practice of "praise in public, chastise in private," though.

We really are lucky in many ways in that there are some vendors who consistently go the extra mile to deliver great value and service even with modestly priced instruments.

For example, I still don't understand how HMS can afford to get a small order of strings to me all the way from Hawaii in about the same time it takes to get them from somebody on the mainland, and without charging me an arm and a leg.

John

uburoibob
03-23-2013, 09:58 AM
I agree with those who would say that some imperfections contribute to the character of the instrument. John D'Angelico along with Jimmy D'Aquisto made great guitars that set the standard for archtop tone and yet I don't think anyone would describe as 'flawless' in terms of passing a 10-point QC check. However, they built instruments that set the standard for tone that most other luthiers could never duplicate. Every guitar had its own flaws. I've always believed that if you want a flawless instrument, buy one that a machine made. You may get lucky and find one that sounds amazing. If you want something that someone put the time into voicing, setting up and exhibits the art of instrument building, then get a luthier-made instrument. The likelihood of finding an extraordinary instrument (sound and playability-wise) is much greater. I am not saying dogs don't happen in both worlds nor that incredible instruments don't happen in both worlds. Just that in my experience, the luthiers who have good reputations have earned them and deserve whatever price they set. Generally, they aren't getting rich doing this...

Bob

hawaii 50
03-23-2013, 10:03 AM
John

that is a perfect example The Ukulele Site(aka HMS) I have seen it in person..
everyone in the shop loves the ukulele and they love their Work..that could be the key when you love doing whatever I think it shows..

Doc_J
03-23-2013, 10:25 AM
..... My questions, though, would be are we as players "enablers" of those who haven't that sort of ethic? I think I asked in the original post something to the effect of, "are we cheapening the work of the really careful conscientious builders when we patronize builders who are less meticulous?"
......

Interesting point! Back to supply and demand, inferior will products will sell when demand exceeds the supply of superior products. If demand ever cools off, the supply of superior products will take market away from inferior products. So, I don't think buying from less meticulous builders effects the business of higher quality builders. Depending on the price differences, it might also be different markets/customers.

A problem may arise if potential customers do no know what the true quality is of a builder. But, since most uke builders I know of have a return policy, unsatisfied customers can be costly to the less meticulous builder, but could improve quality.

UKEonomics
03-23-2013, 10:31 AM
I'm enjoying reading through this thread...but I gotta tell ya, it's kind of scaring me out of ever buying a custom.

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 10:49 AM
I'm enjoying reading through this thread...but I gotta tell ya, it's kind of scaring me out of ever buying a custom.

Nah...it shouldn't do that, and that certainly wasn't my intent!

The really top builders are always a safe bet, of course they have waiting lists sometimes exceeding a year. They are very meticulous to a fault and back it up with excellent return / satisfaction policies.

What we're talking about is the kind of thing that you don't have to be an expert to detect. Just look really closely at marketplace pictures, really closely. Don't be wowed by fancy figured wood and whatnot, look at the things that really matter. Is everything proportional and symmetrical (if not obviously intended to be non-symmetrical), and so on.

If you see anything that raises red flags for you, then you just have to ask yourself if the amount of money asked is something you're willing to risk. After all, you might get a great uke that just has a visible peculiarity and perhaps a lower resale value. My only point is that if a builder seems to have a lot of those peculiarities then it seems likely that consistency of sound and playability are also suspect.

If it's any comfort, one individual PM'd me with a quite accurate guess about who one of the vendors I was thinking of, is. He said he's had to return a couple of that builder's ukes for work before but overall he likes the instruments anyway.

John

UKEonomics
03-23-2013, 11:04 AM
Well, I have a wife and a kid, so the odds are that I'll never have enough money to buy a nice custom. :)

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 11:07 AM
But, since most uke builders I know of have a return policy, unsatisfied customers can be costly to the less meticulous builder, but could improve quality.

You know...this raises a whole 'nuther couple of issues to think about.

I think a lot of folks buying the "bargain customs" or whatever we're going to call them might be pretty shy about returning them for a refund or repair. There are a couple of dynamics at work. Most buying them probably don't really know what to expect from a really high quality instrument so they might not even recognize it if they got something that isn't any better-playing or nicer-sounding than a nice factory uke like a Pono or KoAlana that they could have had for much less money. Also, I think that maybe we as a community have built so much hype around "custom" instruments that it's probably pretty hard for most folks to admit, even to themselves, that maybe a uke they got really should go back to the builder - whether permanently or for adjustments. Maybe if more people were a little more "picky" and held builders' feet to the fire it might drive improvement in the "bargain custom" lines.

I do know that I've had to work on my poker face (if I had to make my living at poker I'd lose a lot of weight). Anyway, I hadn't really thought of it in the context of this thread until now but I've had a couple of situations where people at meet ups have handed me a luthier uke that they are obviously pleased as punch over and I strum it a few times and have to summon some enthusiasm even though it's just a pretty average instrument. (Fortunately I've yet to be handed one that was really bad - I'm pretty sure my acting skills aren't up to dealing with that.)

John

mm stan
03-23-2013, 12:20 PM
Aloha John,
Nothing is perfect in life...and we all try to do the best we can to go through the process...I'm sure the top craftman of any field had to work themselves up unto their status.
While getting there, most offer bargins along the way.....nothing wrong with that....you will always have some lemons in cheapies, mid level premimum to customs....You
know there is a percentage for a great sounding and looking ukes that a dealer receives....he probally gets a few more ukes to compensate for the bad ones that come back
As for Hypers it all good and a learning experience...You cannot blame some when the say this is the best sounding or looking uke they played...because they are probally right
and probally so..with their experience....but then there is the ones who deceive to inflate themselves or the builders...probally to get good with the builder..who knows what
their intentions are...all in all , do your homework and be buyer aware....we all seen these hypes and they go from one to another, some brands just lose steam after a while...

DewGuitars
03-23-2013, 12:42 PM
Olde, please don't take offense at this....none is intended.

If you can get a flawless instrument of any kind for that kind of price, consider yourself very fortunate. A hand made instrument of any kind of high quality should cost thousands rather than hundreds, especially with the grade of materials being used typically in ukuleles and the labor involved. Being one of those people, I can speak from loads of experience. A builder's labor costs for that kind of money doesn't even come close to minimum wage, and in most cases, doesn't even cover the materials unless the labor is from a young kid in an oppressive society without child labor laws. I'm not sure why some people expect instruments to be so cheap when they themselves charge a ton for their own work, or are paid great salaries. Why does a professional athlete who does nothing but entertain us for a couple hours a week make millions of dollars, and the guy or gal who plays music or makes instruments for our constant pleasure and enjoyment - is expected to starve? Yes, I'm well aware of the economics of supply and demand etc., but really, isn't that just a bit of an expectation that is a little unrealistic? I'm not saying that we should just accept sloppy work or bad craftsmanship, but perfection at that cost? Really?
I could do better working where I would ask "Would you like fries with that?".

5150ukulele
03-23-2013, 12:50 PM
Well, I've got news for ukers in general . And not new news . It's old ignored news. People get popularized in a swarm of being noticed . Who's to know what exactly starts fads, but once they start, it's like the plague . And the very plague that has striken ukers is spelled out in this original post is a fad among ukers like has hardly been seen in any other instrument .

It's almost as if ukers are self insulting themselves with the bafoonery centered around fads and faction rather than reality . SOME luthiers are raising prices at break neck paces and people can't seem to run towards it fast enough . It's all about paying REAL attention to who you allow to lead you . And of course who you find yourself following . Truth be told, there are a very few true custom luthiers out their . I about spew when I see these guys talking about the sweetness of this uke and or that uke and how a particualr piece of real estate that it was built one seemingly has sent the uke to the uker covered in blessing . HOGWASH at best .

In all due respect to my beloved and fellow uker community, their is a bafoonery going on around the uke that is leading the uke back into it's state that had layed dormant for so long . IDIOCY such as Tiny T** and the likes . Yep. Hundreds of thousands of ukes are imported to the US now days . But then again, countless more Pet Rocks have been dug out of the ground and dolls just as well . Have you seen what a Pet Rock authenticated to be from the 70's is going for ? Are Beenie Babies really worth hundreds of dollars ? Just because someone buys a uke for just under $2,000 , has zero bearing on whether it is worth that . Cool headstock or not . In many cases, fads become representitive of a particular mindset and often times, ( sad to say ) political opinion . Truth be told again, their are a couple of luthiers that have been popularized simply through politcal stand point . So be it . And more power to their earning revenue . But not for the knowing such as myself in regard to reality of value . Bang for the buck is me. Bang to be seen is not . Many many many gutiars have been sold via endorsers of said instrument along with ukes being alike . If your favorite musicians political stance is driving you to own a uke like theirs, then you kind of deserve the over priced thing .


As for me. I have to admit that in large part, the purchasing of the ukes I do own, ( which is many ) is hugely driven by whether or not I want to support the luthier and or company in the way they do many things . But of course I refuse to support foolishness to the point of paying absurd prices . As we all would have to admit . But to allow onself to be morally disposed of financially just to be seen with a certain headstock is a pain that is not needed and self inflicted . And if we think for one munite these builders aren't sitting back laughing, we are wrong .

There a slight few QUALITY builders out there holding fair prices and are hard sought . One just must needs be to remember . Us..... the uke community truly have the last shake and are in control if we so choose to be . It's no different than complaining about gas prices only to be found trying to win parking lot cruiser of the year . Stop buying those things and the price will pummel .

The whole thing is a mass pshycology effort . Find a niche, create and hype and sit back and get rich on peoples egos and laugh all the way to the bank . At some point the uke stops being a uke and becomes art in alot of cases . If one wants to purchase art, it is ones right to do so . But art DOES NOT always sound good . Sight unseen orders are in general a real bad idea . Iv'e heard countless ukes that people paid a luthier literally thousands for and swearing it is the sweetest sounding uke under the sun, only for me to pull a nice production model off my wall and walk that high end ukes dog with sound, intonation, durability, playability and affordablility .

No need to get all torn up and be fed up . Do as I do and laugh at both the luthier that is hosing people and at those who allow themselves to be hosed . It's kind of tough to scream rape when you voluntraily pulled your g-string down .

Good luck to all as all shops wisely . It's a jungle out there and anyone telling people the uke community is nothing but all peace and mahola is flat out spewing mistruths . Most who proclaim it are packing dirty knives .

FreddyMac
03-23-2013, 12:58 PM
supply and demand. we as consumers of such unique products that need to be built right and cant be mass produced by just anybody have set the standard and price point. if people refuse to pay over a grand for a uke then they have to drop prices but as long as we want handmade ukes and willing to pay the price then why should builders not charge that? it is hyped up right now and some of these prices are rediculous imho for what you get. as far as flaws. theyre handmade and should have flaws. each one is unique in its own way, never exactly the same so your gonna have flaws but again, imo we as a group set the standards. if were willing to pay, builders will be willing to sell as long as we except the instrument with flaws. i guess builders just expect us to know its not gonna be perfect. because they are handmade and never gonna be perfect and for some makers, they cant make them fast enough for the market which leads to quality control issues.

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 01:11 PM
Olde, please don't take offense at this....none is intended.

If you can get a flawless instrument of any kind for that kind of price, consider yourself very fortunate. A hand made instrument of any kind of high quality should cost thousands rather than hundreds, especially with the grade of materials being used typically in ukuleles and the labor involved. Being one of those people, I can speak from loads of experience. A builder's labor costs for that kind of money doesn't even come close to minimum wage, and in most cases, doesn't even cover the materials unless the labor is from a young kid in an oppressive society without child labor laws. I'm not sure why some people expect instruments to be so cheap when they themselves charge a ton for their own work, or are paid great salaries. Why does a professional athlete who does nothing but entertain us for a couple hours a week make millions of dollars, and the guy or gal who plays music or makes instruments for our constant pleasure and enjoyment - is expected to starve? Yes, I'm well aware of the economics of supply and demand etc., but really, isn't that just a bit of an expectation that is a little unrealistic? I'm not saying that we should just accept sloppy work or bad craftsmanship, but perfection at that cost? Really?
I could do better working where I would ask "Would you like fries with that?".

I appreciate where your coming from Don and, honestly, I'm inclined to give relative beginners a lot of "wiggle room" so to speak and especially when it comes to very minor things like a finish flaw or what have you - I'm the sort that tends to not even notice those, honestly. I've had people sell me ukes as blems that they had to point out the flaw to me and even cases where I never could figure out what the flaw was supposed to be. So, I'm not really talking about the person who is kind of "finding their stride" and hasn't really figured out how to get a flawless finish yet - especially if their asking prices reflect that.

I'm talking about people who have been at the game for a while and who are commanding prices in the same neighborhood as the K-brands, but producing products that have some pretty obvious evidence of a simple lack of attention to detail that would never be tolerated if offered by the K-brands. I know a couple of guys who make their living building custom guitars and custom furniture and they would never let some of the flaws I commonly see go without remarking on them and offering a suitable price reduction (actually I know one guy who simply will not sell anything that is not perfect, I have seen him scrap an almost perfect piece that he could have sold for thousands because of a very minor, but not reasonably fixable, flaw. Of course, his work wins awards and commands extremely high prices).

But, I'm not expecting that level of performance at the prices we're talking about, so, back to the guys we are talking about. When I see something that demonstrates an obvious lack of attention to detail - and then I see it happen again and again and again - I have to wonder why people keep buying that person's work. They would raise a stink to rival that of a fishery if they received a uke with those same flaws from a k-brand that they'd paid the same price for - in fact, I've seen people raise a stink over similar flaws in relatively inexpensive factory ukes. But, we keep lining up to buy the wannabe customs in spite of the obvious flaws. That's what's puzzling me...again, this isn't intended to bash the builders - I guess they really don't have any incentive to improve if people are lining up around the block to buy what they're producing. It's really all on us and my point is, why aren't we as players demanding quality similar to k-brands when paying prices similar to k-brands?

John

Cornfield
03-23-2013, 01:12 PM
Bling don't sing. Don't spend any more on an instrument than you can afford to lose. These are not investments.

BlackBearUkes
03-23-2013, 01:12 PM
Well, reading all this has been interesting. You simply can't imply that you aren't talking about specific luthiers, no names please, and then pretend you aren't pointing the finger at all luthiers. If some one has a problem with something that I have made, they can return it, have it fixed, or live with it. I try to be conscience about everything I send out. But there is no just thing as perfection. I offer things at a fair price and I don't believe I have ever sold a uke for more than $3500 myself. I wouldn't have the balls to try and sell a uke, any uke, for more than $10,000. Some of the upper end luthiers charge a lot of money and from my limited experience in working with the public on taking commissions, they deserve every penny. Perhaps we should start another thread about the buying public and then we can talked about all the bounced checks, bad credit, overdue payments, etc, etc., that all luthiers have to deal with from time to time ( you know who you are but we won't name any names). We take it in stride and we learn to work around all that and we don't air it out in public on an open forum. What is to be gained?

Nicko
03-23-2013, 01:18 PM
BAH! This is all just about the problems of rich people.

What the world really really wants to know is why so many people wear hats when they play their ukuleles?!

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 01:21 PM
Bling don't sing. Don't spend any more on an instrument than you can afford to lose. These are not investments.

Hah, hah. "Bling don't sing" - I'm going to have to remember that.

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 01:23 PM
BAH! This is all just about the problems of rich people.

What the world really really wants to know is why so many people wear hats when they play their ukuleles?!

LOL - can't speak for others but I'm hiding the thinning gray hair, the rapidly receding hairline, and, if I pull the brim low enough, the twitch in my left eye!

John

Dan Uke
03-23-2013, 01:31 PM
I'm not sure why some people expect instruments to be so cheap when they themselves charge a ton for their own work, or are paid great salaries. Why does a professional athlete who does nothing but entertain us for a couple hours a week make millions of dollars, and the guy or gal who plays music or makes instruments for our constant pleasure and enjoyment - is expected to starve? Yes, I'm well aware of the economics of supply and demand etc., but really, isn't that just a bit of an expectation that is a little unrealistic?

Don, it's not just supply and demand but how easy are these people replaceable. Many of us play sports so we know it's impossible to do what athletes do. When athletes go on strike and they have replacement players, we know that they are not as good as the normal players.

In instruments, many of us pick it up as a hobby so it's hard to discern by sound a $500 uke from a $1,000 uke and $2000 uke. If we cannot hear a difference, then why would someone pay more unless the finish is much better. I am not saying that is right but how do you judge what is a better instrument if you don't have a good ear? We all say we would pick an instrument by sound first but our training is different so its hard to say this luthier is much better than that luthier. Consequently, there are many aspiring luthiers who are coming up and saying I can build a instrument at a better price. Again, the buyers cannot discern a difference in sound so believe that luthiers are replaceable so that is the main reason why it's hard to charge what you are worth unless you are tops in your craft. Even if you are one of the best, you have to get word out there so that is why you are going to do a uke tour and posting all these polls for exposure.

Here's a tangent but very important factor, you need to ask your luthier how many instruments they have made. ALOT of luthiers do not number sequentially so ask!!

On the flip side of John's argument about making a very nice looking uke, there are furniture & cabinet makers, wood workers, etc. who can probably make a uke look really good but I'm sure it takes many builds before they sound good.

chrimess
03-23-2013, 01:38 PM
As Henry Ford put it: Quality is focussing on the parts you do not see.

ukemunga
03-23-2013, 01:47 PM
So why do the tuners have to line up? Is it more important to have strings that sit well on the neck or a pretty headstock?
Heel joint does not look pretty enough, big deal? What does the instrument sound and play like, that is much more important.
Great instruments sound good first, then they sound good, then looks might be of interest. When you pay a lot for a custom instrument you just take it back and get it fixed if you are not happy.
In general, selling on the Internet has to be visual, and a lot sellers take a lot of time on presentation to a target market segment. If you are not responding positively to the marketing, you are probably not in the target market segment and you may never understand the material or buy the product and will wax lyrical endlessly about the "issues". Sometimes it ie easier to accept that you are not the target customer, and move on.
That said there does seem to be a spate of rapid turnover custom instruments appearing in the market place, which to me is an indicator of either bad or unexpected sound/tone. If you are going to spend a lot of money, take the time to listen to some audio of some well made instruments made by great platters, even if they are not in your favourite genre. Especially listen to the low notes on the c string and note how they sound compared to a g string on a guitar for example.
I don't know how many custom instruments olde owns but, from his comments I suspect he does not understand the custom market,which is fine. His comments will resonate with many others and may have some validity if you are a visual details person. But you do need to realise there is a whole world of people who are audio details people, who rarely notice or care about minor cosmetic details.
Sorry if there are any spelling mistakes etc, I am not in the target market for an ipad mini, but it fits a need, even though it has some disappointing features.

Agreed. But quality craftsmanship in regard to the build-quality physical details in luthier-built "high end" instruments should be equal to the sound qualities. IMHO

dkcrown
03-23-2013, 01:55 PM
Well, I've got news for ukers in general . And not new news . It's old ignored news. People get popularized in a swarm of being noticed . Who's to know what exactly starts fads, but once they start, it's like the plague . And the very plague that has striken ukers is spelled out in this original post is a fad among ukers like has hardly been seen in any other instrument .

It's almost as if ukers are self insulting themselves with the bafoonery centered around fads and faction rather than reality . SOME luthiers are raising prices at break neck paces and people can't seem to run towards it fast enough . It's all about paying REAL attention to who you allow to lead you . And of course who you find yourself following . Truth be told, there are a very few true custom luthiers out their . I about spew when I see these guys talking about the sweetness of this uke and or that uke and how a particualr piece of real estate that it was built one seemingly has sent the uke to the uker covered in blessing . HOGWASH at best .

In all due respect to my beloved and fellow uker community, their is a bafoonery going on around the uke that is leading the uke back into it's state that had layed dormant for so long . IDIOCY such as Tiny T** and the likes . Yep. Hundreds of thousands of ukes are imported to the US now days . But then again, countless more Pet Rocks have been dug out of the ground and dolls just as well . Have you seen what a Pet Rock authenticated to be from the 70's is going for ? Are Beenie Babies really worth hundreds of dollars ? Just because someone buys a uke for just under $2,000 , has zero bearing on whether it is worth that . Cool headstock or not . In many cases, fads become representitive of a particular mindset and often times, ( sad to say ) political opinion . Truth be told again, their are a couple of luthiers that have been popularized simply through politcal stand point . So be it . And more power to their earning revenue . But not for the knowing such as myself in regard to reality of value . Bang for the buck is me. Bang to be seen is not . Many many many gutiars have been sold via endorsers of said instrument along with ukes being alike . If your favorite musicians political stance is driving you to own a uke like theirs, then you kind of deserve the over priced thing .


As for me. I have to admit that in large part, the purchasing of the ukes I do own, ( which is many ) is hugely driven by whether or not I want to support the luthier and or company in the way they do many things . But of course I refuse to support foolishness to the point of paying absurd prices . As we all would have to admit . But to allow onself to be morally disposed of financially just to be seen with a certain headstock is a pain that is not needed and self inflicted . And if we think for one munite these builders aren't sitting back laughing, we are wrong .

There a slight few QUALITY builders out there holding fair prices and are hard sought . One just must needs be to remember . Us..... the uke community truly have the last shake and are in control if we so choose to be . It's no different than complaining about gas prices only to be found trying to win parking lot cruiser of the year . Stop buying those things and the price will pummel .

The whole thing is a mass pshycology effort . Find a niche, create and hype and sit back and get rich on peoples egos and laugh all the way to the bank . At some point the uke stops being a uke and becomes art in alot of cases . If one wants to purchase art, it is ones right to do so . But art DOES NOT always sound good . Sight unseen orders are in general a real bad idea . Iv'e heard countless ukes that people paid a luthier literally thousands for and swearing it is the sweetest sounding uke under the sun, only for me to pull a nice production model off my wall and walk that high end ukes dog with sound, intonation, durability, playability and affordablility .

No need to get all torn up and be fed up . Do as I do and laugh at both the luthier that is hosing people and at those who allow themselves to be hosed . It's kind of tough to scream rape when you voluntraily pulled your g-string down .

Good luck to all as all shops wisely . It's a jungle out there and anyone telling people the uke community is nothing but all peace and mahola is flat out spewing mistruths . Most who proclaim it are packing dirty knives .

Thank you for enlightening us, Ol' wise one. Clearly you know more about this than the rest of us.

didgeridoo2
03-23-2013, 01:58 PM
Thank you for enlightening us, Ol' wise one. Clearly you know more about this than the rest of us.
Don't get your g-string all bunched up, dk. ;)

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 02:00 PM
So why do the tuners have to line up? Is it more important to have strings that sit well on the neck or a pretty headstock?
Heel joint does not look pretty enough, big deal? What does the instrument sound and play like, that is much more important.

I agree whole heartedly with this sentiment...except, making tuners line up is such a simple thing. If the builder did not care enough about this detail, how did he feel about things I can't see? As for the "pretty headstock" - I for one could care less - very much not a bling guy. Problem is, if there are things that are pretty clear evidence of lack of attention to detail wouldn't I be a bit of a fool not to wonder if maybe that lack of attention was present in more important, though less evident, ways?

I had a brief fling with mandolin (too much tension for these old hands). Anyway, there was this young builder out of Canada that had absolutely wowed the traditional bluegrass mandolin community with his productions a few years ago. Everyone was utterly impressed with how closely he'd duplicated the sound and feel of the "holy grail" vintage Gibsons. He was taking orders with deposits for thousands...and then the tops started collapsing... Now, that's obviously a more serious situation than we're talking about here but the same principal applies. Players were ignoring a lot of danger signs and lining up to buy this guy's work at very inflated prices. My question is, again, why do we keep doing stupid things like that? :)



Great instruments sound good first, then they sound good, then looks might be of interest.

Agreed, with the caveat that, at the prices we are talking about, it better still sound and play good ten or twenty years from now. That's the mistake the mandolin builder I mentioned above made - his mandos sounded superb, right up until the tops collapsed under the tension. Now, tension isn't generally a problem with ukes - but how great is that uke going to sound if the bracing pulls loose and is the builder still going to be around to fix it? Who says the bracing is going to pull loose? Nobody, it may or it may not, but if the builder didn't care enough to get the visible stuff right why would I believe that he got the invisible stuff right?


That said there does seem to be a spate of rapid turnover custom instruments appearing in the market place, which to me is an indicator of either bad or unexpected sound/tone.

Exactly, I've noticed that too and that's part of what prompted me to start this thread. Instead of just passing the instruments on to be someone else's problem let's get people thinking about quality and attention to detail before they buy. :) Again, I'm not out to bash any seller - in fact, I just had a PM from someone asking if I'd been burned and the answer is an emphatic "NO" I've not been burned, this thread wasn't prompted by anger, etc. It's just something that I think is very healthy to talk about.

(BTW, I've already received several PMs from people who do feel as if they've been burned. Thankfully, they're keeping names out of the thread and I'd like to keep it that way.)


I don't know how many custom instruments olde owns
Honestly, no custom ukes, yet. Several custom flutes and a custom guitar, though.


but, from his comments I suspect he does not understand the custom market,which is fine. His comments will resonate with many others and may have some validity if you are a visual details person. But you do need to realise there is a whole world of people who are audio details people, who rarely notice or care about minor cosmetic details.
Again, I don't think you quite understand where I'm coming from. I don't tend to notice strictly visual details. Finish flaws, knots in wood, glue squeeze out - those sorts of things pretty much have to be pointed out to me and even then they don't bother me. It's the "semi-structural" things - things that aren't just an "oops" with a knife or a brush but reflect a carelessness about how something is assembled - that raise warning flags with me and not because the visual aspect bothers me but because I have to question what it forebodes for the rest of the piece.


Sorry if there are any spelling mistakes etc, I am not in the target market for an ipad mini, but it fits a need, even though it has some disappointing features.

I sympathize fully, I tried surfing the forum on my iPad - once :)

John

DewGuitars
03-23-2013, 02:18 PM
Nongdam,

Yes, spot on for the most part. Pretty doesn't mean it plays and sounds great. I can make a pretty uke, but can I make it sound like a great uke? That remains to be seen. My polls are less for exposure than for trying to get a sense of what the community is looking for, what the type of sound is, and what their eye looks for as well. Exposure? Well, how good or bad the uke for this project comes out will certainly do that I guess, and if it's horrible, the exposure won't go so well for me will it?!! LOL.

In truth, I'm very new to the real world of uking, and even though I've gained a huge appreciation and passion for the instrument over the last couple of years, I'm not knowledgeable enough about the sound that people are looking for to sell instruments at a high price. I'm frankly not looking to at this point. One has to learn and pay their dues. It's like that for guitars as well. I had a gorgeous SJ of Tasmanian Blackwood and Sitka Spruce that had a small blow-out in the side when I was routing for the bindings, and other than that it was great workmanship. I sold it only to a friend who really wanted it for barely more than the cost of the materials and case. You have to be fair to people, otherwise you get the wrong kind of reputation. By the way, I repaired that side so good that the guy couldn't find it until I pointed it out, and then he looked at me like I was nuts for declaring it a huge issue. We all have standards. I try to keep mine pretty high.

I agree that if builders aren't consistently putting out their best effort, and are still charging an amount as if it was, or charging as much as someone who is putting out better work, they could be doing a disservice to their customers. It's a tough call though, as some folks have a higher materials cost than others, which can significantly alter the final price. If I owned a bunch of land in Hawaii and had a lot of Koa trees on the property that I could use for instruments, I'm at a distinct advantage as far as the cost and availability of that wood. So all things being equal, I can charge less than another guy who has to pay out the wazoo for the wood I get for next to nothing. At these lower price levels, there are times where the competition is intense. Some folks have to rely on finding ways to set themselves apart from the others. In the guitar world, it's often done with marketing hype and gimmicks, sad to say. A lot of guys set themselves up to be different by making claims that their method is better than others, or the materials they use are the best out there, etc. etc. Often, there's little truth to it, but sometimes there can be. So how do we know for sure? I don't know. Perhaps it's the talk that goes on behind the scenes that establishes the real reputation of a builder in the eyes of the consumer. So I would say, keep the dialogue going off-line where honesty and integrity can be kept and nobody looks like a slanderer and nobody is slandered.
Builders will learn from dwindling sales and unhappy customers if they are putting substandard work out there.

Personally, at this stage of my uke building career (not much of a career path, FWIW ;)), I have to have an attitude of "IF I take a commission for something, the instrument should have my best effort and I need to shoot for perfection with all my ability, and still be willing to take it back and hand back a person's money if they are unhappy.". I also would have to guard against letting something out of the shop that didn't pass close scrutiny by a peer. For me, it's not really much about the money returned at this point, it's about learning, improving, and maybe some day perfecting the craft. Not that I think perfection is truly attainable, but it should always be the destination we strive for. My personal code is to always try my best if it has my name on it. I'm sure a lot of folks here are the same way. There are some great builders represented here from what I've seen.

-Emma-
03-23-2013, 03:55 PM
OldePhart,
Just a suggestion, but maybe you could start a different thread, where you list certain things that a newbie/beginner should look out for when choosing a ukulele, from the construction of it to the sound.

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 04:48 PM
OldePhart,
Just a suggestion, but maybe you could start a different thread, where you list certain things that a newbie/beginner should look out for when choosing a ukulele, from the construction of it to the sound.

Well...that's the difficult part. You see...there isn't necessarily a direct correspondence between a visual flaw and an aural one (as a couple of respondents have pointed out). None of the flaws (well, with the exception of the rotated neck and uneven strings that I mentioned in maybe the first post) necessarily mean that a uke sounds or plays badly, nor does it mean that there is for sure any other unseen flaw.

You could purchase one of these and have an extraordinarily good uke for relatively little money - but there is an element of risk. At least one other person has noticed the rather rapid turnover of ukes in the marketplace - ukes being sold three and four times - and questioned if maybe something is awry. It's just a caution, is all.

My point is that it seems we often blindly ignore that risk even in the presence of some visible warning signs, and often beginners, especially, might not even realize when they've come up on the short end of that risk.

I just have to wonder how many people have purchased "premium" ukes and then not even realized that what they got was less than what they could have had from a K-brand. My concern isn't so much the experienced hands - they probably have played a few K-brands and maybe some premiums from really top builders and they're going to raise caine if they get a bum uke. Again, it's just wondering. Maybe the world is perfect and these relative newbies have actually gotten wonderful ukes in which case I'm very happy!

All I can say is that before buying something ignore the hype - look really closely at every picture of the instrument, and if there are parts of the instrument that aren't shown well - that itself could be a red flag. Ask for more pictures before plunking down your hard earned cash. If anything in the pictures looks like maybe the builder got a little hasty or careless, just ask yourself if he or she would do that with something obvious but relatively unimportant, might they have done so with something less obvious but perhaps crucial?

When the uke arrives, how do you know if it's good if you've not the experience to make that evaluation? Harder, for sure. For one thing, if you have the luxury of being a member of a group pick out the most experienced members and ask them to give you a really honest opinion on the uke. Don't approach them all bubbly with excitement because then they'll be most concerned with avoiding hurting your feelings. Make sure that you let them know you are evaluating the instrument and you want an honest opinion. Most people I encounter do just the opposite - it's "here, look at this really cool uke I just got from hubbledewoo, isn't it the greatest!" What do I do? Smile and find something nice to say because obviously that's what the person really wants.

Finally, some things you can check. Is the intonation good? It should be pretty much "flawless" at the first fret. I.e. when you fret the C string at the first fret it should be "dead on" C# ("dead on" being in tune to the best of the ability of your tuner). This is not impossible and if a builder tells you otherwise return the uke. Seriously, if the builder can't set up his own instruments as well as many of us can set up an inexpensive factory uke, you don't want that builder's work.

Is it impossible to be mathematically perfect? Yes, probably so, but I have a very accurate, precise, stroboclip tuner and after I set my ukes up it shows no movement at the first fret - even on inexpensive ukes after they are set up. If your "custom" uke can't match this performance then what have you paid for? The intonation should be decent all the way up the neck - it's permissible for it to get a little further out as you get well up the neck because you're up against physics. If there is a sudden change in intonation it's either a defective string or bad fretting (the latter is, fortunately, pretty rare even on handmade ukes).

The next step is how does it sound in general and especially up the neck? Open notes should ring clearly with a smooth decay, and the decay should be similar fretted all up and down the neck on all strings. Yes, the notes are going to decay more quickly as you fret up the neck toward the body, and generally fretted strings don't ring as long as unfretted ones, but the transition should not be abrupt. Nor should the sound become excessively "tinkly" high up. Yes, there will be some of that, but a good uke will still have some sustain and still sound like a ukulele and not like flicking the spoke on a bicycle wheel.

Compare the "thud" vs. the "ring" of the strings as you work up the neck picking each one. Anything you are spending several hundred dollars for should have nice "ring ratio" - that is the chime like ring and sustain being more noticeable than the "thud" of the initial attack - all the way to at least the 12th fret on a soprano and beyond on longer scales. My $200 Mainland sopranos have great ring to thud ratio all the way up the neck - if a "custom" builder can't match that then you don't need his work and he or she doesn't deserve your dollars. (For the record, my Mainland sopranos actually outperform my KoAloha in this test, though they may be "cherry picked," and my larger Mainland ukes don't.)

So, if the uke has good timbre (tone) and decent sustain, intonates superbly in the "first position" and reasonably well the rest of the way up the neck - did you get a good one? Probably. Still not absolutely certain because there could be a brace just waiting to pop loose or something but you're probably okay.

Notice that so far I haven't mentioned volume. Volume is important, but only in that a well-built ukulele will almost always have decent volume. It's not important for its own sake - the ukulele is a small instrument and that's what we have microphones for. But, chances are if the volume isn't better than your present inexpensive factory uke the sustain and other factors that really are important aren't where they should be, either.

All of this is really an oversimplification, by far, but it should give the complete beginner who has never handled a "good" instrument something to work with.

John

cletus
03-23-2013, 04:56 PM
...

No need to get all torn up and be fed up . Do as I do and laugh at both the luthier that is hosing people and at those who allow themselves to be hosed . It's kind of tough to scream rape when you voluntraily pulled your g-string down .

Good luck to all as all shops wisely . It's a jungle out there and anyone telling people the uke community is nothing but all peace and mahola is flat out spewing mistruths . Most who proclaim it are packing dirty knives .

Good advice.:cheers:

Markr1
03-23-2013, 05:04 PM
I might add another thing to Johns last post. For all you newbies out there Don't go to the marketplace with a I am looking for or I want to buy this certain uke or you may end up in the position I'm in now with a couple of high dollar ukes that I'm going to take quite a hit on now due to issues with them that was not as described and I didn't know any better when I was a rookie. I've learned my lesson and will never do that again.

Am I bitter about it? Heck yes I am that was my hard earned money. Not happy at all.

TG&Y
03-23-2013, 05:06 PM
Very interesting thread. Even for someone who will likely never be within 30 miles of a custom ukulele.

Hippie Dribble
03-23-2013, 05:11 PM
It's a jungle out there and anyone telling people the uke community is nothing but all peace and mahola is flat out spewing mistruths . Most who proclaim it are packing dirty knives .

50791

Mwahhahahahahahahaaaaaaah!!!!

OldePhart
03-23-2013, 05:16 PM
Very interesting thread. Even for someone who will likely never be within 30 miles of a custom ukulele.

Heh, heh. Come to UWC and circulate and be friendly, I can pretty much guarantee you'll get to lay hands on a few, including stuff way beyond my present ability to afford. :)

John

haolejohn
03-23-2013, 05:29 PM
I might add another thing to Johns last post. For all you newbies out there Don't go to the marketplace with a I am looking for or I want to buy this certain uke or you may end up in the position I'm in now with a couple of high dollar ukes that I'm going to take quite a hit on now due to issues with them that was not as described and I didn't know any better when I was a rookie. I've learned my lesson and will never do that again.

Am I bitter about it? Heck yes I am that was my hard earned money. Not happy at all.

You have every right to be upset. I was thinking of you when I started reading this thread.

Freeda
03-23-2013, 05:31 PM
A year and a dozen purchases in, I am finally smart enough to really grasp what you are all saying. ;) The learning curve is long and can be expensive. It's worthwhile, though. And you really are the only one who can decide what is important to you. I'm clutzy and forgetful, and will hand my uke to anyone (toddlers included) who seems interested, so super fancy just isn't for me. And that's okay. It's all about the right fit for you.

haolejohn
03-23-2013, 05:34 PM
I look for blemished ukes. It is the only way i can afford some really nice ukes. Every blemished uke I have bought or used uke I have bought had issues that were cosmetic. But the ukes sounded fine.

I just bought a used concert on ebay. The ad said everything was fine and uke was like new ever though it was 15 years old. THe uke is great except the buzzing sound that I get on the C and E strings. I have changed the uke and have been trying to humidify it but the sound is still there. I think the buzz is coming from the saddle b/c if I barre a fret I still get the sound. I'm bummed. If I had known about it, I may not have purchased the uke.

I also think there is point that we can become to picky. I can not tell you how many times I want to tell ukers that their $200 instrument is a $200 instrument. It shouldn't be perfect. I know that many dealers probably take ukes back that they shouldn't have to. But if I am ordering a custom or buying a custom, I think I should be told if it isn't perfect.

AndrewKuker
03-23-2013, 06:05 PM
I think you understand the balance John. These are musical instruments. Tools for enjoyment and entertainment. Still, mistakes are not artistic. It's just sloppy craftsmanship by today's standards and its not an abstract concept. But no one is getting rich. It can take even longer when you lack experience and keep trying to make up for your mistakes. People in this profession have tough choices to make. Hopefully you can afford to live up to the ideals you advertise. Anyone with a shop and a DIY attitude can get into this. But proper training and skill to be considered a master luthier take a long time. Repair, everyone should start with it.
We will do our part and continue to refine, even when not conducive with demand. It's been a sad position for me at times. But if you order a custom and it doesn't live up, return it. Don't stick it on your signature and wonder why it's so popular.

ogah
03-23-2013, 06:32 PM
I am not really sure if I know enough about this instrument to chip in.. but here's my 2 cents worth. There are builders who just don't have the meticulosity of the other. I can't name one but I've read so many things about this one luthier in Hawaii his instruments are so heinous yet sounding so good. Seen some pictures of these ukes.. fretwires on those instuments were so carelessly hammered onto the fret board.. you see so much gap under the fretwire end to the fretboard pit they sat on..and the bridge attachment to the body looks so choppy from the pictures I've seen. Yet these instruments do carry sizeable price tag and people who own them love them.

So you can't really judge some instuments just from pictures IMHO.

I have couple full custom instruments that are as much as 4~5 times the price of any regular K brand instruments (by regular I mean the base models.) Does it sound 4~5 times better? heck no! I still love my kamaka HF-2 concert..
Each instruments have distinctive characteristics and that's what I love. I live on a remote island.. so bought all my instruments sight unseen / sound unheard. have 6.. love them all.. Guess I've been a lucky one?

Tigeralum2001
03-23-2013, 06:55 PM
I am not really sure if I know enough about this instrument to chip in.. but here's my 2 cents worth. There are builders who just don't have the meticulosity of the other. I can't name one but I've read so many things about this one luthier in Hawaii his instruments are so heinous yet sounding so good. Seen some pictures of these ukes.. fretwires on those instuments were so carelessly hammered onto the fret board.. you see so much gap under the fretwire end to the fretboard pit they sat on..and the bridge attachment to the body looks so choppy from the pictures I've seen. Yet these instruments do carry sizeable price tag and people who own them love them.

So you can't really judge some instuments just from pictures IMHO.

Hmmm... this is not ringing any bells. I'm also not sure how an instrument could sound good with bad frets.

ogah
03-23-2013, 07:34 PM
Hmmm... this is not ringing any bells. I'm also not sure how an instrument could sound good with bad frets.

:) I meant the way fretwires got put into the fretboard.. not how it's aligned or distanced or leveled..

soupking
03-23-2013, 07:52 PM
:) I meant the way fretwires got put into the fretboard.. not how it's aligned or distanced or leveled..

:iwant: OMG I absolutely need one of these busted fretwire masterpiece ukes ;)

Kem
03-24-2013, 01:49 AM
I look for blemished ukes. It is the only way i can afford some really nice ukes. Every blemished uke I have bought or used uke I have bought had issues that were cosmetic. But the ukes sounded fine.

I just bought a used concert on ebay. The ad said everything was fine and uke was like new ever though it was 15 years old. THe uke is great except the buzzing sound that I get on the C and E strings. I have changed the uke and have been trying to humidify it but the sound is still there. I think the buzz is coming from the saddle b/c if I barre a fret I still get the sound. I'm bummed. If I had known about it, I may not have purchased the uke.

I also think there is point that we can become to picky. I can not tell you how many times I want to tell ukers that their $200 instrument is a $200 instrument. It shouldn't be perfect. I know that many dealers probably take ukes back that they shouldn't have to. But if I am ordering a custom or buying a custom, I think I should be told if it isn't perfect.

I had this exact problem with a used uke I bought online. And yes, I did very carefully check with the seller, listening to a sound sample and asking specifically about buzzes and intonation issues. The buyer said everything was fine; there were no issues at all. When the uke arrived, it had such a horrible buzz on every string that it was unplayable. I changed the strings, but it didn't help, so I took it to a luthier, who told me the neck was back-bowed. He did manage to fix it (for now, at least), and the seller, to his credit, refunded me for the luthier's services. He was just as appalled as I was that the instrument was in such bad shape. But the uke in question was only six months old. Even the luthier at the shop, when I told him where the uke had come from, said, "Yeah, you shouldn't have to pay for this yourself."

guitharsis
03-24-2013, 02:21 AM
Wow. This is one of the most interesting threads ever on UU. Coming in with some experience buying stringed instruments, I didn't make too many costly mistakes but did try out many ukes. The ones I have now are all keepers. I do love the K brands.

iDavid
03-24-2013, 02:53 AM
I have a few great ukes and plan to get a few more. I have bought a few customs and have had serious problems with two of them. One, the owner took it back and gave a full refund. The other had a bowed top and it took months of emails for them to believe there was a problem. It worked out in the end, but I am sure they were not pleased. I didn't go online and bash away, since it seemed like an like an isolated event.

I don't mind small mistake and excepted them, but if a builder claims to be top quality then they have to back that up and be willing to listen to a customers concerns.

I see ukes popularity go in waves and it can be hard to resist. The funny thing is the ukes that are hot today will also see a wave of resells in the market place from time to time. There are a few builder who you just don't see being resold. It could be because they make so few, or because they are just too good to pass on.

I think most people have a comfort level of what they think a uke is worth and once they get over that level, they expect a really well made instrument. I don't really want a glass-like finish and such. I bought my daughter a uke made in china and it is flawless and made a zebra wood. It doesn't have the sound of my K-brand ukes, but it looks like a million bucks.

guitarsnrotts
03-24-2013, 04:01 AM
IMO, many times it's about the name and demand. Some rely on their past reputation and with a higher demand may allow the flawed instruments sell at the premium prices. I fell victim to a similar situation many years ago when it came to a high profile and in demand builder of 12-string guitars. The demand was so high that he decided to outsource some of his production and there were many quality issues that were allowed to pass QC and hit the market. The complaints were such that he realized it was hurting his 'brand' and ended the outsourcing. Many of the big name factories for guitars have decided to not even sell seconds as they feel it diminished their brand and their otherwise high-end instruments and pricing.

Nicko
03-24-2013, 04:02 AM
And you really are the only one who can decide what is important to you. ... It's all about the right fit for you.

I don't believe I would ever be in the market for a custom instrument. Don't want to focus on the instrument that much or spend that kind of cash when a few hundred will more than cover my needs. I'd rather have three or four different varieties of uke that will provide markedly different sounds (koa, hog, banjo uke, etc) for the price of one super-instrument that is so blingy that it looks like some kind of monster uke from another galaxy. Nothing less attractive to me than a super-curly instrument with acres of technicolor inlay and high-gloss to rival the sun -- but that's just me and my preferences.

I'll take -- in a flash! -- a vintage factory instrument without a single notable decorative element but possessing mountains (and decades) of class and culture. Now THAT is elegance...to me.

I regard fancy custom made-to-order blingy instruments as ... well ... nevermind. (Not that all custom instruments are blingy, of course. They aren't. But the ones that are -- at the specific request of the client -- make me wonder about taste. Though of course there can be no accounting for or argument about taste, as is often correctly said by very wise people.)

Raygf
03-24-2013, 04:33 AM
These are musical instruments. . . . mistakes are not artistic. It's just sloppy craftsmanship . . . . proper training and skill to be considered a master luthier take a long time.

Thank you Andrew. Your point about proper training hits the nail on the head. Proper training through apprenticeship is essential in the art of instrument making. You can't just read a book and watch some videos. Not that these things aren't helpful, but they will never take the place of learning from a master. It's happening everywhere today, not just instrument making.

HBolte
03-24-2013, 05:31 AM
Another angle on this thread - Buyer Beware.

If you are buying in person, don't buy it if it is not to your expectations. If you are buying online, don't buy without a window in which to send it back for a refund. The good luthiers, retailers and sellers offer that. Won't the market then take care of itself?

Dan Uke
03-24-2013, 05:47 AM
Awhile ago, I made the mistake of commenting about a new luthier in this forum because I couldn't understand why people were buying his ukes. People were criticising me for making comments without playing the uke in person and I was thinking the same thing and why would people spend so much money for a uke they never played....at least I still have my money

I personally think there are a couple rain makers on UU.

wayfarer75
03-24-2013, 06:10 AM
I don't believe I would ever be in the market for a custom instrument. Don't want to focus on the instrument that much or spend that kind of cash when a few hundred will more than cover my needs. I'd rather have three or four different varieties of uke that will provide markedly different sounds (koa, hog, banjo uke, etc) for the price of one super-instrument that is so blingy that it looks like some kind of monster uke from another galaxy. Nothing less attractive to me than a super-curly instrument with acres of technicolor inlay and high-gloss to rival the sun -- but that's just me and my preferences.

I'll take -- in a flash! -- a vintage factory instrument without a single notable decorative element but possessing mountains (and decades) of class and culture. Now THAT is elegance...to me.

I regard fancy custom made-to-order blingy instruments as ... well ... nevermind. (Not that all custom instruments are blingy, of course. They aren't. But the ones that are -- at the specific request of the client -- make me wonder about taste. Though of course there can be no accounting for or argument about taste, as is often correctly said by very wise people.)

I'm with you, for the most part. I might get a custom uke made with some very specific wood combination--sans bling. (Ideally, I'd be buying a used one.) But otherwise, it's not for me. I'd rather play a uke before buying it. I haven't had great experiences buying online, though I haven't done much of it. I just wish I had nice ukulele stores near me. I can go buy a lot of other instruments in person at local music stores and get something really good. But not a uke.

Tailgate
03-24-2013, 06:23 AM
I can go buy a lot of other instruments in person at local music stores and get something really good. But not a uke.

Same here.. local music store has one Ibanez and one Fender on display. Even 90 miles away in the big city, the best stringed instrument store only carries a few Ponos and little more. The have tons of high quality guitars... Playing a better uke before buying is not an option, so the company return policy is important... even so, it's tough to play a new uke for only a couple of days and make a decision that it 'stays or goes back'. In a couple of cases it's taken a couple of months to judge the future of the relationship with even great ukes.

I'm just glad I'm done with salt water aquariums... talk about an expensive hobby. Plus there's no re-sale value in a dead trigger fish :(

DewGuitars
03-24-2013, 07:53 AM
I once bought a Guild D40c acoustic guitar by ordering it at a store. Big mistake. I like the guitar okay, but the sound was not what I anticipated. Since then, if I have purchased an instrument, it was from picking it out in person. I wouldn't even recommend buying something I make without trying it out first if possible. I prefer building on spec and leaving it in a good shop on consignment, rather than taking a custom order.
There are few ukuleles available in my area. There are a number of good ones available in Boston, an hour away, and probably in NYC a few hours away. There's one shop I know of locally who has a few inexpensive ukuleles, but nothing of decent quality that I saw. I'm dying to open a shop locally, but in this economic climate, it's financial suicide.

OldePhart
03-24-2013, 08:29 AM
Thank you Andrew. Your point about proper training hits the nail on the head. Proper training through apprenticeship is essential in the art of instrument making. You can't just read a book and watch some videos. Not that these things aren't helpful, but they will never take the place of learning from a master. It's happening everywhere today, not just instrument making.

You (and Andrew) have good points. Sometimes I wish we'd go back to the old days when craft guilds pretty much had a lock on things (I know, it's not practical and they were as much political as anything and economically we'd simply not have instruments available, etc.). Still...you didn't have someone hanging out a shingle claiming to be a master of much of anything unless he'd had his masterpiece accepted by a jury of masters...

"Knowledge" is so readily available these days folks think they can pick up a book or browse through a web site and master a trade. Just t'aint so with almost all of the trades. Working with my neighbor last week on my shed illustrated that really well. I knew exactly how to assemble the shed - had ordered professional plans online - have experience building sheds and other buildings in the past - but he brought skills to the table that I didn't even know enough to think about. That shed is quite literally better made than any house I've lived in, and having been in the military for twelve years I've lived in a lot of houses all over the country.

The kid in Canada I was talking about is another example. He measured every bit of a holy grail vintage mando and duplicated it to the last detail - but didn't have enough knowledge of wood and joinery to understand that the top he carved to perfection was of wood that wasn't as good as that in the vintage uke. As a consequence, after a few months the tops would give up and collapse. If he'd come up under a master builder he would hopefully have had a better understanding of wood and more ability to predict the strength of a piece instead of just carving it to the dimensions of something built 60 years ago.

But...it kind of falls back on us as consumers - a lot of people threw a ton of money at that kid because they didn't have the common sense to realize that if it were that easy one of the current master builders with a long history of good instruments would have been doing it.

John

haolejohn
03-24-2013, 08:35 AM
I had this exact problem with a used uke I bought online. And yes, I did very carefully check with the seller, listening to a sound sample and asking specifically about buzzes and intonation issues. The buyer said everything was fine; there were no issues at all. When the uke arrived, it had such a horrible buzz on every string that it was unplayable. I changed the strings, but it didn't help, so I took it to a luthier, who told me the neck was back-bowed. He did manage to fix it (for now, at least), and the seller, to his credit, refunded me for the luthier's services. He was just as appalled as I was that the instrument was in such bad shape. But the uke in question was only six months old. Even the luthier at the shop, when I told him where the uke had come from, said, "Yeah, you shouldn't have to pay for this yourself."

I haven't contacted the seller. I think the uke just needs to be humidified. Intonation is fine. The uke came from AZ and now it is in AK. So two very dry climates. And the strings were original strings. If I can't fix the buzz, I will take it into a shop when I head out of the bush.

UncleMoon
03-24-2013, 09:17 AM
BAH! This is all just about the problems of rich people.

What the world really really wants to know is why so many people wear hats when they play their ukuleles?!

Keeps my head warm. :rolleyes:

Nicko
03-24-2013, 10:08 AM
Plus there's no re-sale value in a dead trigger fish :(

Nope. A nice fish sandwich only brings a couple bucks.

BlackBearUkes
03-24-2013, 11:40 AM
Thank you Andrew. Your point about proper training hits the nail on the head. Proper training through apprenticeship is essential in the art of instrument making. You can't just read a book and watch some videos. Not that these things aren't helpful, but they will never take the place of learning from a master. It's happening everywhere today, not just instrument making.

I don't know where you got this idea of apprenticeships are essential in the art of instrument making, but it ain't so and this isn't the 17th century. Few luthiers can afford the necessary insurance and liability this would take to run a business and have someone (or more) on the premises while they are trying to make a living. There are schools and programs that that people can sign up for, but building one instrument and gaining some knowledge does not a luthier make. I have known several guys who have worked for small guitar makers and didn't learn anything except for the job they were trained to do, like sanding and binding the sides for 4 years straight. He finally quit because of his frustration level. Another took a comprehensive repair course, but when it came to actually trying to build something on his own, he failed. Both had came away with some knowledge, but certainly not enough to hang a shingle. The old days of 20 year apprenticeships under a master are gone. Lots of knowledge came be gained from printed material, but mostly you just have to get in there a do it over and over until you understand how things work.

Most all the luthiers that I know never had this long apprenticeship you speak of, and these are the guys who are on the top of their game and are making the best ukes you are buying today. Apprenticeships and learning from a master is just bull shit.

Stevelele
03-24-2013, 12:50 PM
Hmmm, I'm just wondering if this is really a pervasive problem or whether it's an issue that has come up for a builder or two. I do think it's a totally valid point, but for the most part, I do not think that it's an issue. I've purchased and played many many custom ukes, and have almost always been happy with what I got, especially when factoring into it the cost and amount of time/effort the luthier put into the instrument. Ultimately, I think that the market corrects any mistakes in pricing (at least I hope it does), but that of course doesn't prevent a few people from becoming sorely dissatisfied by overpriced ukes or even super excited by great values in the interim.

Dan Uke
03-24-2013, 01:18 PM
Hmmm, I'm just wondering if this is really a pervasive problem or whether it's an issue that has come up for a builder or two. I do think it's a totally valid point, but for the most part, I do not think that it's an issue. I've purchased and played many many custom ukes, and have almost always been happy with what I got, especially when factoring into it the cost and amount of time/effort the luthier put into the instrument. Ultimately, I think that the market corrects any mistakes in pricing (at least I hope it does), but that of course doesn't prevent a few people from becoming sorely dissatisfied by overpriced ukes or even super excited by great values in the interim.

I agree with you Steve in that most luthiers are great. I wish there was a yelp for luthiers. The funny thing is that if John is thinking about someone or a few luthiers, there are people that feel the same way. We are in essence rewarding these people since there isn't a review website.

OldePhart
03-24-2013, 03:04 PM
...but mostly you just have to get in there a do it over and over until you understand how things work.


Some of what you say is true; this certainly ain't the 17th century and I think we all realize that the old guild system would never work today. But the statement above implies that everyone hanging out a shingle is going to eventually come to an understanding of how things work and I think that's a pretty false premise. Some people seem to do things over and over making the same mistakes over and over. When those mistakes are in highly visible areas one simply can't have much confidence that they aren't having the same difficulty understanding how things work in less visible areas.

My real point though, is not about the builder or blaming builders for making a living. My real point is that if we as consumers keep buying things that exhibit visible evidence that maybe the builder hasn't really learned much from doing the same thing over and over then the result - inflated prices for perhaps inferior products - is really at our doorstep as consumers.

John

Stevelele
03-24-2013, 03:44 PM
Yes, I've heard you talk about this before Daniel, and I tend to agree. It's very tough to make any real criticisms on this website, because there is such an emotional attachment that people have to certain brands of ukuleles, which is only strengthened by the fact that so many luthiers actual visit this site and participate it. I think that both things are great--the emotionality of ukers and the luthier participation, but unfortunately, it makes constructive criticisms of ukuleles rare on this website.


I agree with you Steve in that most luthiers are great. I wish there was a yelp for luthiers. The funny thing is that if John is thinking about someone or a few luthiers, there are people that feel the same way. We are in essence rewarding these people since there isn't a review website.

BlackBearUkes
03-24-2013, 04:13 PM
Some of what you say is true; this certainly ain't the 17th century and I think we all realize that the old guild system would never work today. But the statement above implies that everyone hanging out a shingle is going to eventually come to an understanding of how things work and I think that's a pretty false premise. Some people seem to do things over and over making the same mistakes over and over. When those mistakes are in highly visible areas one simply can't have much confidence that they aren't having the same difficulty understanding how things work in less visible areas.

My real point though, is not about the builder or blaming builders for making a living. My real point is that if we as consumers keep buying things that exhibit visible evidence that maybe the builder hasn't really learned much from doing the same thing over and over then the result - inflated prices for perhaps inferior products - is really at our doorstep as consumers.

John

If you as consumers keep buying things that exhibit what you consider mistakes or sloppy workmanship, the problem lies not in the uke with flaws, that a given, you can see there is something wrong. The problem is why are you buying them? If the luthier keeps making crap, they will learn soon enough they won't last long. The word gets out. If people keep buying the crap, there is no reason to change. Rather than bitch about it on an open forum, take it up with the luthier or company on a one to one basis.

Nicko
03-24-2013, 04:21 PM
If you as consumers keep buying things that exhibit what you consider mistakes or sloppy workmanship, the problem lies not in the uke with flaws, that a given, you can see there is something wrong. The problem is why are you buying them? .

It seems a century (of reading) ago by now, but I think this is precisely the point that John was making when he started this thread. And it sounds like John has addressed that "something wrong" in his own instrument buying. I believe he was just asking why others seem not to have made an adjustment and encouraging them to do so.

I don't see any problem with raising the topic in a public forum. He didn't name any luthiers and asked that other participants also keep particular names out of the conversation. Seemed legit to me.

estreya
03-24-2013, 04:59 PM
I, too, think this is a useful thread in that in encourages a more critical eye (since a critical ear and feel isn't possible in an on-line situation). That said, perhaps i'm not the only comparative neophyte who finds these posts unsettling because i'm still insecure about my understanding of the instrument from a build perspective. Though i think i can gleen quite a lot from what's been stated here, i do find myself thinking, "Oh no! Could they be talking about so-and-so with whom i've got an order pending?"

I agree that further specificity would compromise the spirit of the thread. But the lack of specificity also makes me a little uneasy. :)

Stevelele
03-24-2013, 05:12 PM
Don't feel uneasy. Just do your research--look at past threads, talk to people one on one to get their experiences. Unless you're talking about a completely new builder, you should be ok


I, too, think this is a useful thread in that in encourages a more critical eye (since a critical ear and feel isn't possible in an on-line situation). That said, perhaps i'm not the only comparative neophyte who finds these posts unsettling because i'm still insecure about my understanding of the instrument from a build perspective. Though i think i can gleen quite a lot from what's been stated here, i do find myself thinking, "Oh no! Could they be talking about so-and-so with whom i've got an order pending?"

I agree that further specificity would compromise the spirit of the thread. But the lack of specificity also makes me a little uneasy. :)

pakhan
03-24-2013, 05:14 PM
I think it really depends on the flaw.

Many of the cosmetic flaws we talk about somewhat comes with the territory of hand crafting instruments from wood. Slight routing/ rosette tear outs as the grain changes orientation, slight purfling mis-alignment is going to happen if you build enough. These flaws show up in high end manufactured instruments too- Martin guitars etc.

But the structural flaws can be hard to acknowledge too- put it this way, some builders build light, and sometimes this gives the bridge the chance to move a little, which causes a belly. It's not a problem, and some may feel it's a positive sign. But neck rotation, neck angles which are off are basically non negotiable.

Doc_J
03-24-2013, 05:25 PM
If you as consumers keep buying things that exhibit what you consider mistakes or sloppy workmanship, the problem lies not in the uke with flaws, that a given, you can see there is something wrong. The problem is why are you buying them? If the luthier keeps making crap, they will learn soon enough they won't last long. The word gets out. If people keep buying the crap, there is no reason to change. Rather than bitch about it on an open forum, take it up with the luthier or company on a one to one basis.


Maybe what needs to be done is to better educate buyers (both by this community and those selling/making ukes) in how to buy a hand-made uke, and what folks should expect and accept for a 1st quality instrument. Of course this could be a whole different thread.

OldePhart
03-24-2013, 06:09 PM
If you as consumers keep buying things that exhibit what you consider mistakes or sloppy workmanship, the problem lies not in the uke with flaws, that a given, you can see there is something wrong. The problem is why are you buying them?

Uh...yeah...that's pretty much exactly what I said from the start... ;)


If the luthier keeps making crap, they will learn soon enough they won't last long. The word gets out. If people keep buying the crap, there is no reason to change. Rather than bitch about it on an open forum, take it up with the luthier or company on a one to one basis.
Ummm...not even really sure how to respond to this...kind of an eye opener, though...

John

rasputinsghost
03-24-2013, 06:41 PM
No need to get all torn up and be fed up . Do as I do and laugh at both the luthier that is hosing people and at those who allow themselves to be hosed . It's kind of tough to scream rape when you voluntraily pulled your g-string down .


When I joined UU all those years ago I never expected a ham-handed, poorly worded rape analogy to appear in a thread about luthiers. Yet, here it is.

estreya
03-24-2013, 06:55 PM
Rasp, that wasn't lost on me either. Unlike you, i deleted my reply before i even finished typing it. I'm glad i wasn't alone though.

estreya
03-24-2013, 07:00 PM
Syfc, thank you for that! I'm fairly confident i've made a solid choice. As is the case with so many of life's uncertainties, time will tell. :)

consitter
03-24-2013, 07:22 PM
When I joined UU all those years ago I never expected a ham-handed, poorly worded rape analogy to appear in a thread about luthiers. Yet, here it is.

Wow. I don't see you commenting a whole lot anymore...takes something like that to bring you out! Whatever it takes. Glad to see you!

OldePhart
03-25-2013, 03:23 AM
Hmmm, I'm just wondering if this is really a pervasive problem or whether it's an issue that has come up for a builder or two. I do think it's a totally valid point, but for the most part, I do not think that it's an issue. I've purchased and played many many custom ukes, and have almost always been happy with what I got, especially when factoring into it the cost and amount of time/effort the luthier put into the instrument. Ultimately, I think that the market corrects any mistakes in pricing (at least I hope it does), but that of course doesn't prevent a few people from becoming sorely dissatisfied by overpriced ukes or even super excited by great values in the interim.

Actually, I've been surprised by the response to the thread and, judging by the PMs I've received from people afraid to speak out publicly it actually seems to be quite a bit more pervasive than I thought.

I really do think most of the problem is consumer originated, though - that's why I'm trying so hard to keep this from becoming about bashing luthiers, either specific ones or as a group. Honestly, I don't think any of the builders are necessarily venal or out to screw anyone, and I think that almost all of them will probably work with customers to make a situation right but they can't do so if people don't let them know there are issues. In fact, that's what I see from the PMs I'm getting - with one or two exceptions all have been from people who say things like, "I had such and such an issue but the builder fixed it after I contacted him."

The real problem is that I think a lot of people are spending a lot of money for things that they just really don't have the experience to evaluate the value of. They get a uke and it's better than their laminated Kala so they think it's a great uke. They rave about it and pretty soon twenty people who have no more experience than they do line up to buy the same thing. When somebody with the experience to recognize that it's not such a great bargain gets one they either quietly return it to the builder or they pass it on to be someone else's problem (I'd like to think most take the first route, but I'm not so sure that's really happening much).

Honestly, my recommendation to anyone contemplating a "luthier" uke would be don't even consider it unless you've got a few hours under your belt playing a K-brand. I hope that doesn't sound snobbish, because that's not how I intend it. My reasoning is this, K-brands are very consistent, you very rarely get a lemon, and while they aren't quite up there with the really stunning builds by masters, they are pretty much always very, very good and, honestly, far better than some of the ukes I've seen coming from small shops. So, by playing a couple you can get a feel for what a good uke feels and sounds like. Then, you're ready to decide whether that uke from Joe Builder really measures up, and to do so during the grace period when Joe Builder will take it back. And...you'll be much less likely to get that deer in the headlights look from an experienced player at the club meet up when you proudly hand them your latest acquisition. :biglaugh:

John

John

Freeda
03-25-2013, 03:32 AM
The real problem is that I think a lot of people are spending a lot of money for things that they just really don't have the experience to evaluate the value of. They get a uke and it's better than their laminated Kala so they think it's a great uke. They rave about it and pretty soon twenty people who have no more experience than they do line up to buy the same thing. When somebody with the experience to recognize that it's not such a great bargain gets one they either quietly return it to the builder or they pass it on to be someone else's problem (I'd like to think most take the first route, but I'm not so sure that's really happening much).

That about sums it up for me!!

Sporin
03-25-2013, 03:44 AM
I just wish I had nice ukulele stores near me. I can go buy a lot of other instruments in person at local music stores and get something really good. But not a uke.

Same here. I can basically see and play a small range of Lanakai's and a few Kala's locally. That's it. Want to play a range of K-brands and nicer ukes between $500-$900 to see if it's worth the money to you? I honestly don't know how or where I could do it without getting on a plane.

Cornfield
03-25-2013, 05:02 AM
To sum up. This is a world of acquired knowledge and taste.
The average newcomer to ukes starts with a Mahalo, Kala , Oscar Schmidt or one of dozens of other inexpensive manufacturers. The newcomer might want to progress to one of the Hawaiian K brands.
Armed with some experience and equipped with too much cash, he/she then can move into the world of the Illukanati and have an instrument custom made.

Honestly, sometimes it feels like I spend more time worrying about the instrument than I do on the practicing. I got an all plastic K. Wave Rock Uke from EBay last week for $150 that is the bees knees. It looks like a telecaster guitar and sounds cool. These are UKULELES. Thy are not Grand Pianos.

Nicko
03-25-2013, 05:10 AM
These are UKULELES. Thy are not Grand Pianos.

Going to add this to my sig.

BlueLatitude
03-25-2013, 05:33 AM
These are UKULELES. Thy are not Grand Pianos.

Custom grand pianos cost a lot more ;):
http://www.sevenhalos.com/01/2011/crystalized-pianos/642

Appalachian picker
03-25-2013, 06:11 AM
Honestly, sometimes it feels like I spend more time worrying about the instrument than I do on the practicing. I got an all plastic K. Wave Rock Uke from EBay last week for $150 that is the bees knees. It looks like a telecaster guitar and sounds cool. These are UKULELES. Thy are not Grand Pianos.

To (mis)quote a recently disgraced athlete..."It's not about the ukulele (bicycle)."

I have no ambitions of buying a custom or even a "high dollar" (whatever that means) instrument. Sitting on my back porch, fingerpicking simple songs and struggling with bar chords and progressions is all I want to do and I don't think I need or even want a custom for that type of fun.

But if anything, this thread has prompted me to look at instruments I see here and online with a much more discerning eye (and scratch my head when I see expensive instruments go up for sale after a relatively short time of ownership).

OldePhart
03-25-2013, 07:01 AM
Custom grand pianos cost a lot more ;):
http://www.sevenhalos.com/01/2011/crystalized-pianos/642

And grand pianos are really hard to carry on an airplane! :)

John

Tailgate
03-25-2013, 07:06 AM
It took me awhile to get the gist of John's thinking in reading this thread. I think he brings up some good points. There are other discussions running through this thread, including the 'realtively short time of ownership' coming up several times...

There may be some who attempt to unload an expensive uke because it has known construction issues or is poorly made, but I would certainly hope that's not the case.

Doesn't it make sense that someone (including me) might choose to purchase, then sell a nice uke for other reasons? How about:

1. someone's current cash flow postion (positive or negative). If you've got the money can't you use it?
2. noobie who's infected with UAS? I think the beginning stages of the infection are probably the worst.. you know, 'bright shiney things'. the disease most likely subsides after time.. maybe, maybe not, but I hope so (I'm still a noobie with the fever).
3. wanting quality goods- I don't see James Hill or Aldrine or Jake playing a dolphin.. they might make it really sing, but they're playing quality instruments.
4. finding the best match? Took awhile to find my wife.. I did, however, date lots of girls looking for the right one. Some were more 'expensive than others'.. (no, not in that way).
5. individual attitudes towards money (should have been #2)... some people look at managing their money differently than others.
6. love of music- I didn't play an instrument for 40 years. Now that I've found one that I enjoy and have a slight chance of being fairly good with, I want to play 'em all.

I'm just sayin' that time of ownership might have more to do with some of the reasons above.

With that said, buyer beware, do your research, talk, read, listen, play.. all of that stuff is pretty much common sense.

Just sayin'

OldePhart
03-25-2013, 07:22 AM
@Tailgate -

All very valid points and to kind of amplify on that - if you hang out around the marketplace a while you'll notice some folks who do seem to turn over ukes a lot faster or more frequently than others. I would say look at it two ways - if it is one person turning over a lot of different ukes then probably the ukes are not the issue. On the other hand, if you notice a lot of different folks rapidly turning over stuff from a specific builder (or, as in one case I remember, one ukulele, even) it might well be that there are problems with the ukes.

I have noticed one interesting thing to be on the watch for, though it only applies to builders who actually market their creations directly in the marketplace here. I've seen a couple of cases where the same uke was sold by the builder, two or three times over a period of a few months. That pretty much implies that people bought it, returned it to the builder, and the builder just flipped it back out on the market. Not necessarily an evil thing - might be a case of the first or second buyer just not getting the sound they were expecting - but the smart consumer should at least be aware that there might be a problem with the instrument.

BTW, I've received some PMs from a couple of people who indicated that they jumped into the "luthier" market early and didn't realize that the ukes they were initially so pleased with were, in fact, pretty average...until they got a chance to hang out around other ukers and play a variety of good instruments. So...yeah...we don't all have the luxury of a uke club around the corner or a store full of K-brands to try out...but if you don't then it might be wiser to stick to the "knowns" until you've handled enough instruments to really know if your money is well-spent.

John

byjimini
03-25-2013, 07:24 AM
I think that as long as people enjoy what they've got, regardless of how much they paid or the condition of the uke, then that's all that matters. It's when those sort of people start to preach as if they're the most knowledgeable people on the planet about all things musical, that I come over all Jack Reacher about them.

A woman down the road from me paid £380 for some Brunswick tenor, which for my eyes was about £300 too much. But she's retired and lives alone, and absolutely loves strumming and picking away to songs she heard from her childhood. So I'm not going to be the one who belittles her for what she paid, far from it.

RichM
03-25-2013, 07:48 AM
I've been following this thread for some time, and I have the following observations, in response to nobody in particular:

1. If you buy an instrument without benefit of playing it first, make sure there is a review period that allows for a return. Expect to pay the shipping fees. It's a small price to pay to audition an instrument you would never have the chance to play otherwise.

2. Corollary to the above: I don't get people who say "Never buy an instrument you haven't played first." I wholeheartedly disagree. For ukuleles (and the mandolins I played before them), it is extremely difficult to locate many makes and models locally. Why would you want to cut yourself out of those options? Do your research, make sure there is a return option, and explore the possibilities. My "lifetime" mandolin is by Peter Coombe of Australia. I have never seen nor held another Coombe mandolin besides the one I own. I would be very sad if I had never acquired it simply because I couldn't play it first.

3. Instruments that develop problems to the original owner should be handled by the builder under warranty.

4. Instruments that develop problems to a later owner should still be addressed to the builder. After 30 years of collecting instruments, I find that most builders will make an effort to put a problem right, even if you're not the original owner. In most cases, they are under no obligation to, but many continue to stand behind their work regardless of how many owners they've had.

5. People who don't understand why someone would sell a great uke must assume that everyone thinks the way they do. They don't. Some of us are searching for an instrument that fits them perfectly and that they will play for a lifetime. Others of us enjoy variety and like tasting a lot of instruments. Those of us who are tasters ultimately need to clean house every now and then. That doesn't make us bad people. We just live our lives differently.

6. Corollary to the above: A couple of years ago, I sold a uke made by a very well-revered builder. People were agahast that I was selling it. and people lined up in my PM box to buy it. One guy who was kicking tires cursed me out because I sold it while he was dithering. The buyer was an experienced musician who adored the uke and continues to adore it to this day. I was really tired of the thing and felt like it was the least interesting uke in my collection. Different strokes.

7. Second corollary to the above: There is one very revered brand in which I have never played one that I liked. Most people here rave about the brand. I don't get it. But that doesn't mean they're wrong. They see someting I don't see. Nobody has to agree with me, but that doesn't mean that this brand isn't good. It's just not for me.

8. I think some inexpensive ukes sound awesome. I have been raving on two other threads about how great my Mainland mango concert sounds. It's a great uke. It didn't have to be expensive. It also has a knot in the top (I knew it was there, purchased as a blem). The knot does not affect the sound at all. Many posters in the other threads announced that mango doesn't sound good in smaller ukes like sopranos and concerts; apparently it sounds "twangy." To me, this is crazy talk, but apparently I don't hear what they hear. Different strokes.

9. Always be cautious about investing a lot of money in something you don't understand. I have been playing fretted instruments for 37 years now, and I finally felt like I understood my needs well enough to order a custom.

10. Never let someone else tell you what you're supposed to like.

DewGuitars
03-25-2013, 07:49 AM
Honestly, my recommendation to anyone contemplating a "luthier" uke would be don't even consider it unless you've got a few hours under your belt playing a K-brand. I hope that doesn't sound snobbish, because that's not how I intend it. My reasoning is this, K-brands are very consistent, you very rarely get a lemon, and while they aren't quite up there with the really stunning builds by masters, they are pretty much always very, very good and, honestly, far better than some of the ukes I've seen coming from small shops.

John

That cinches it for me..... I just registered the domains of k-brand.com and k-brandukuleles.com
:D

OldePhart
03-25-2013, 07:54 AM
That cinches it for me..... I just registered the domains of k-brand.com and k-brandukuleles.com
:D

:facepalm: LOL

John

Dan Uke
03-25-2013, 07:55 AM
@Tailgate -

All very valid points and to kind of amplify on that - if you hang out around the marketplace a while you'll notice some folks who do seem to turn over ukes a lot faster or more frequently than others. I would say look at it two ways - if it is one person turning over a lot of different ukes then probably the ukes are not the issue.

That's definitely me, if I don't get the wow factor in the first day, the uke typically will not stay. Yes, I am too haste in my decision but that's just my personality. I sold a uke to someone and I heard the uke a couple months later and thought that uke sounded really nice. Oh well

didgeridoo2
03-25-2013, 08:12 AM
5. People who don't understand why someone would sell a great uke must assume that everyone thinks the way they do. They don't. Some of us are searching for an instrument that fits them perfectly and that they will play for a lifetime. Others of us enjoy variety and like tasting a lot of instruments. Those of us who are tasters ultimately need to clean house every now and then. That doesn't make us bad people. We just live our lives differently.


I think that as long as people enjoy what they've got, regardless of how much they paid or the condition of the uke, then that's all that matters. It's when those sort of people start to preach as if they're the most knowledgeable people on the planet about all things musical, that I come over all Jack Reacher about them.

Good points, both of them

tomthebaptist
03-25-2013, 08:30 AM
I think the real problem lies, not necessarily with the luthier, but with religion. The problem, as I see it, is that many baptize their opinions, then canonize them and make them the inspired word of God. It's hard to argue with religion! Especially if we know best and everyone else is wrong - This always makes for good argument... or worse, war! But in reality it is a kind of "justification mechanism" to justify an instrument that may or may not live up to the advertised hype or UAS or GAS.... or a way to convince my wife (who is just mad as "h***" for my spending a grand or so for another toy) why I had to have such and such ukulele when I already have a perfectly good one!

So, lets all pick up our ukuleles and sing "Give Me That Ole Time Religion!" John, would you do the honor of leading us?

Tailgate
03-25-2013, 08:41 AM
@Tailgate -

All very valid points and to kind of amplify on that - if you hang out around the marketplace a while you'll notice some folks who do seem to turn over ukes a lot faster or more frequently than others. I would say look at it two ways - if it is one person turning over a lot of different ukes then probably the ukes are not the issue. On the other hand, if you notice a lot of different folks rapidly turning over stuff from a specific builder (or, as in one case I remember, one ukulele, even) it might well be that there are problems with the ukes.

John

John, this one paragraph explains the heart of your initial post to me better than the back and forth that's been going round and round. Maybe I missed something earlier..don't know, but your wording is the most specific I yet to see without naming names, etc.
I haven't hung out in the marketplace enough to see the patterns you mention.
Bob

Stevelele
03-25-2013, 08:45 AM
I'll fess up to that, too. If you see me buying a uke that you're interested in, you should follow me for a bit and expect it to go on the market soon thereafter. What can I say? I like to try a lot of instruments, and I try not to get too attached to my stuff. Recently, I sold a William King longscale concert and a Santa Cruz concert--both were fantastic. I am actually quite happy that others will get to enjoy these amazing instruments. I know a lot of people don't like this way of doing things, but I rather enjoy it.

Woah, just saw this is my 400th post--whooo!


That's definitely me, if I don't get the wow factor in the first day, the uke typically will not stay. Yes, I am too haste in my decision but that's just my personality. I sold a uke to someone and I heard the uke a couple months later and thought that uke sounded really nice. Oh well

RichM
03-25-2013, 08:51 AM
I'll fess up to that, too. If you see me buying a uke that you're interested in, you should follow me for a bit and expect it to go on the market soon thereafter. What can I say? I like to try a lot of instruments, and I try not to get too attached to my stuff. Recently, I sold a William King longscale concert and a Santa Cruz concert--both were fantastic. I am actually quite happy that others will get to enjoy these amazing instruments. I know a lot of people don't like this way of doing things, but I rather enjoy it.

:) You, me, Daniel, a few others here... we are ukulele dilletantes... touching, tasting, experimenting, but rarely committing...


.... is it warm in here...?

Nicko
03-25-2013, 09:00 AM
10. Never let someone else tell you what you're supposed to like.

Another great quote for my sig!

Dave-0
03-25-2013, 09:03 AM
To each their own....whatever makes you happy and doesn't cause harm to anyone else is my motto.

I'm on the other end of the spectrum however. Not a collector of anything really and more of a saver than a spender. Depression era grandparents and (military instilled discipline) gave me their attitude towards saving for a rainy day - or in my case early retirement with no financial need to ever work again at 52 years old.

I DO drool over all the shiny blingy things on here though!

Doc_J
03-25-2013, 09:23 AM
Another great quote for my sig!

Nicko, here's my new favorite quote :

"If you understood everything I say, you'd be me! " Miles Davis

Cornfield
03-25-2013, 09:31 AM
Nicko, here's my new favorite quote :

"If you understood everything I say, you'd be me! " Miles Davis

Supposedly Django Rheinhardt's last words were to his son right before he checked out...."you'll never be the great guitarist I am, so you might as well give up"

And Buddy Rich:
Toward the end in the hospital, he was rolling back and forth in the bed and moaning loudly, a nurse came in and asked "Mr. Rich, is there something that is making you uncomfortable?" He said, yes, Country Music, then rolled over and died.

RichM
03-25-2013, 09:41 AM
Supposedly Django Rheinhardt's last words were to his son right before he checked out...."you'll never be the great guitarist I am, so you might as well give up"


Django apparently had a *very* robust ego. Fortunately, he had the goods to back it up.

strumsilly
03-25-2013, 09:52 AM
:) You, me, Daniel, a few others here... we are ukulele dilletantes... touching, tasting, experimenting, but rarely committing...


.... is it warm in here...?
"Those of us who are tasters ultimately need to clean house every now and then. That doesn't make us bad people. We just live our lives differently."
all right I confess, this sounds like me, and it's probably time for some spring cleaning.

Stevelele
03-25-2013, 09:58 AM
Should we start a support group? We can just buy stuff and sell it to each other until it eventually comes back to the original buyer.


"Those of us who are tasters ultimately need to clean house every now and then. That doesn't make us bad people. We just live our lives differently."
all right I confess, this sounds like me, and it's probably time for some spring cleaning.

Doc_J
03-25-2013, 10:21 AM
Should we start a support group? We can just buy stuff and sell it to each other until it eventually comes back to the original buyer.

Maybe we ought to rent them.:)

didgeridoo2
03-25-2013, 10:24 AM
There was a thread last week about a pineapple Sunday offered on Craigslist last week. Rich mentioned that the seller was unwilling to ship, so I thought about picking it up locally and then offering to ship it to Rich or anyone else interested. I figured it would give me a chance to check out a PS and help out a fellow UU member. Unfortunately, the seller didn't respond to my attempts to contact them and the listing is gone now. Anyone here grab it?


Should we start a support group? We can just buy stuff and sell it to each other until it eventually comes back to the original buyer.

RichM
03-25-2013, 10:40 AM
There was a thread last week about a pineapple Sunday offered on Craigslist last week. Rich mentioned that the seller was unwilling to ship, so I thought about picking it up locally and then offering to ship it to Rich or anyone else interested.

That would have been AWESOME! I really love the Pineapple Sunday, but have resisted a little bit, because in the end, it's a cool-looking version of the Super Concert, and I already have a Super Concert. But that price was verrrrry attractive :)

OldePhart
03-25-2013, 11:33 AM
I think the real problem lies, not necessarily with the luthier, but with religion. The problem, as I see it, is that many baptize their opinions, then canonize them and make them the inspired word of God. It's hard to argue with religion! Especially if we know best and everyone else is wrong - This always makes for good argument... or worse, war! But in reality it is a kind of "justification mechanism" to justify an instrument that may or may not live up to the advertised hype or UAS or GAS.... or a way to convince my wife (who is just mad as "h***" for my spending a grand or so for another toy) why I had to have such and such ukulele when I already have a perfectly good one!

So, lets all pick up our ukuleles and sing "Give Me That Ole Time Religion!" John, would you do the honor of leading us?

ROFL - I'd be happy to, but my latest acquisition is still dripping wet from the baptism! :biglaugh:

John

Nicko
03-25-2013, 11:35 AM
Should we start a support group? We can just buy stuff and sell it to each other until it eventually comes back to the original buyer.

Isn't that what's already happening? Be patient. ;)

There just aren't that many people buying custom ukuleles.

Stevelele
03-25-2013, 11:36 AM
I remember another luthier did something similar before. His instrument went to an ukulele website--I think it was ukeeku, and he had some nice things to say about it, and some critical things to say. I wonder whether that had any effect on raising awareness of that instrument?


I'll be receiving the "Road Trip" uke two stops down the road, Rich. I'm really looking forward to it. Especially after seeing Ukejon's review and video of it.

Dan Uke
03-25-2013, 12:01 PM
Should we start a support group? We can just buy stuff and sell it to each other until it eventually comes back to the original buyer.

Anyways, I think I'm temporarily cured. At lunch, I was talking to my wife about our 10th year anniversary next year and she asked me what I wanted. She knows it takes some time to make a custom uke so asking me early. Since, we are not naming luthiers, I thought that was a divine idea but then thought I am so happy with the ukes I have that I can't find one more better.

It's probably temporary and as soon as Len and Steve get some new ones, I might change my mind. :rolleyes:

buddhuu
03-25-2013, 12:35 PM
The original specs for the thread said no names, regardless of positive or negative context. By sticking to that the thread has been able to continue without trouble.

Please respect John's original direction for participation in this discussion, and do not refer to builders by name. No excuses, just please don't do it.

RichM
03-25-2013, 12:47 PM
The original specs for the thread said no names, regardless of positive or negative context. By sticking to that the thread has been able to continue without trouble.

Please respect John's original direction for participation in this discussion, and do not refer to builders by name. No excuses, just please don't do it.

No excuses made. I have deleted the offending post and ask those who have quoted it to delete as well. And with that, I will excuse myself from this thread. Carry on!

OldePhart
03-25-2013, 12:52 PM
Anyways, I think I'm temporarily cured.

Heh, heh. Glad to see you recognize it's only temporary remission. :)

John

hawaii 50
03-25-2013, 02:42 PM
[QUOTE=nongdam;1223777]Anyways, I think I'm temporarily cured.


you funny..sorry I forgot which tread I was on..had some names I cleared um

5150ukulele
03-25-2013, 05:01 PM
Hah, hah. "Bling don't sing" - I'm going to have to remember that.

Ppppfffttt ! I've been singing those exact words for 30+ years now . " Bling never did sing " . It's so so true
!

5150ukulele
04-01-2013, 12:37 PM
(quote) " I can't take it anymore - are we all blind? " (unquote)

As much as I appreciate the OP's original post here, I moreso appreciate just simply the title. " Blind " being the operitive word here . But please allow me the place to say, when the question is asked, " are we all blind " , we could equally use the same question when it comes to strings .

On the topic of strings, I have zero apologies . It's a ripoff from top to bottom . Yes, I am aware resellers need to make a profit and that goes without question. And yes, I am aware that obviously a uke pretty much is the big dollar purchase and uke accessories are where uke suppliers keep the revenues generated . Personally, I've not a clue what kind of markup goes on in regard to strings at the reseller . But what I do have a clues is the pure fact that strings are near dirt cheap to manufacture . Identical fishing line at the best quality can be bought from between 40-80 for a thousand foot rolls.

And here we are paying 10+ dollars a set for about 8 feet at a pop on tenor ukes . Which equates roughly us paying to about $1,250 for the same footage of a spool of fishing line made of the exacting materials . Talk about, " are we blind "?

Folks can talk about this string or that string all they want in regard to how long they last . The real truth is that a set of strings, once they have fully distended and hold tune, really only hold up against rigorous playing for about 4 hours of playing time . I know most will argue the point . But let me put you with full time working studio musicians and or hard charging tour musicians, and I think will you most likely find those that are in the know, restringing between each and every show, and or between each and every studio session.

Me ? I've a nice pile of ukes. I probably put in a minimum of 20 hours a week playing time on my ukes. Yep ! I restring alot . And I mean really alot . I've strung about every string there is on the market at this time that can be bought within the lower 48 states, and I'm telling you this is a ripoff at the very best . Yep ! I insist on absolute quality sound . I've been given a many of sets of strings to try and asked to give feedback . Yes ! Some are just not for me and some are . I personally loathe wasting my time on low tension stringing . Give me a heavy tension string and away we go. I string standard tuning . About half of my ukes are low g .

As for low g, I gotta say that I am quite happy with some of the new efforts to accomodate the prodominte low g player such as myself . There has been some good stuff for those who wear our g-string low in last little while . But be it also known that low g strings fall out of proper tension and tuning ( wear out ) much faster than others . Especially if it is a metal low g . For now, I'll leave out all the details centered around how bad for our ukes frets and fret boards any metal string is .

But back on topic here . My post here is not just about string prices alone . But let me couple the string topic with the OP's comments on prices in general and possible lack of quality we might be getting . First, I'll stay within the request of the OP made in regard to not metioning luthiers ,etc. etc.etc. and will not mention string manufacturers directly .

But what really busts my gut atop the cost of strings in general, is also a part of the Op's post . We wonder in the high end shops looking for high end to low end ukes , find one we think we love for all the reasons we thinkk we love it. All while spending hard to come by cash on a uke with pretty much a basic 'fake gut', so called sound whether the uke is a $100 uke or a $3,000 uke . Now that is even more mind boggling than the OP's point here .

It just puzzles me why so many luthiers, ( and we accept it ) put crapola strings on multi-thousand dollrs ukes that the big box stores have the barely better than firewood basic uke have on them .

So........... I ask again ( but add to it ) " Are we blind ? Or are we stupid ? "

Honestly speaking , you'd be shocked out of your mind if you knew how many restrings I've done on my own ukes just in the last year . As politely as I know how to put it , " it just pisses me off " .

I know ,I know . Someone is sure to mention that for sure I ought to be buying floracarbon filament in bulk and string from that .Trust me. I am researching that very thing very closely as I have time right now . It's coming along but slowly . But with the info I have on hand to date, I would strongly consider putting together a line of strings and selling them at a fair market price online . I could put them out there for about 4-5 dollars a set and make decent money .

The problem with establishing a new line of strings and selling at a sane price is this .........

Through watching people do exactly what the OP here is ranting about, I'm sure I'd starve to death . " Starve to death " you say ? Yep ! I'd starve to death . I am whole heartedly convinced that if I started a line of professional quality strings at a fair price, I'd be lucky to sell the first set because noone would believe they were worth a hill of beans unless they forked out an absurd price .

Tell me I am wrong and make me laff please.


All in fun, 5150


{EDIT}

I just did a restring on one of my tenor resoukes with an un-named string with low g strings . These strings are packaged as low g and claim to be " Two Sets ". Truth be told ? There really is only about 1 2/3 sets in the package for tenor . You'd be ok if you were stringing a saprano and might get by on a concert if you had the ability to hold on to about two inches of string to restring . But who pray tell strings any concert other than a reso with low g and likes it ? Can't be many .

OldePhart
04-01-2013, 01:02 PM
@5150 - wow. :)

Actually, I'm one of those persons who has done a lot of experimenting with fluorocarbon fishing leader so your "fishin' in my pond" so to speak. I've got seven or eight spools - upwards of $400 worth, of high-end fluorocarbon leaders.

The first problem is that you need the leader, not the cheap fishing line - there is a huge difference. The second problem is that some of the gages needed are well into the "big game" saltwater fishing range and, since they are sold as leaders, they are typically sold in 10-meter or 25-meter spools and are quite expensive. Unless you can order directly from the factory and afford to order 1000M at a time, you aren't going to see them costing you much less than about 4 dollars a set, maybe $3 for some of the wimpier gages.

Now, how to take those spools (even if you can afford to buy 1000M at a time) and convert them to string sets? Well, I guess if your time is worth absolutely nothing you can do it by hand. I've actually "produced" a few sets for friends and it's not much fun, more time consuming than you can imagine, and if I was going to pay myself $5 an hour it would add probably $1 a set. If you are going into the business for real and actually want to make money, you are going to have to buy some automated equipment and the amortization on that is probably going to add $2 a set over the life of the equipment. Notice that we still haven't talked about packaging. Probably another $1 a set for do it yourself on a laser printer and $1.50 a set amortizing equipment to do it with automation.

Frankly, I'm tickled pink that I can get a set of decent strings for six to ten bucks, including shipping, that mean I really don't have to go through all of the above. So, why do I go through the above? Because some of the things I want to do simply aren't available on the market, at any price. (Well, I guess they would be but I'd have to buy three sets of strings and mix individuals out of them.)

Now, is there some "shenanigans" with folks selling "magic" strings that we all know are really just repackaged fishing line and or classical guitar strings? Yeah, pretty much goes without saying. But, research and taking the risk to stick your neck out and buy line by the 1000M spools is worthy of compensation and, honestly, strings is pretty cheap, when you get right down to it. :)

I would never have bought all the fishing leader I have to save a buck here or two over buying "name brand strings" - my time is more valuable than that. I bought the spools of leader so I could mix and match and find better options for some of my ukuleles. In that respect it has paid off. If I was looking to save money...well...I have used as much as $30 to $40 worth of leader to find the right combination to be perfect on a particular uke. STILL cheap, I suppose. :)

John

RichM
04-01-2013, 01:06 PM
I'm enjoying my too-expensive ukes using my too-expensive strings and making music the way I want. I hope I stay blind and stupid forever. But y'all enjoy your complaining, y'hear?

PeteyHoudini
04-01-2013, 01:09 PM
, I've received some PMs from a couple of people who indicated that they jumped into the "luthier" market early and didn't realize that the ukes they were initially so pleased with were, in fact, pretty average...until they got a chance to hang out around other ukers and play a variety of good instruments. So...yeah...we don't all have the luxury of a uke club around the corner or a store full of K-brands to try out...but if you don't then it might be wiser to stick to the "knowns" until you've handled enough instruments to really know if your money is well-spent.

I agree with your uke philosophy, but the internet makes it so easy to buy, buy, buy pronto! Inevitably, one will waste a major chunk of change looking for "the suitable uke." I use the expression "suitable uke" because one might find a nice uke that is fine for the next 6 months, but then one hears or sees another uke that is better. So, the uke shopping channel continues! It's a constant upgrading process for the beginner. I know I went through it big-time since 2007. Finally, that's over. If there was one big shop where you could try out all ukes... that would save a lot of time and troubles and cash... but that ain't reality.

Petey

mds725
04-01-2013, 01:30 PM
I galdly pay for strings so as not to have to be the person who figures out which gauge of which brand and type of fishing line to use for which string on which ukulele. Some people like to do all sorts of stuff for themselves, but I prefer to let people who know more than I do about something do for me the thing they know more about than I do and I'm happy to pay them for it. If I'm going to rail about people in this world making money off of other people's blindness, stupidity or circumstances, I'd rather tilt at the windmills of financial institutions ("You want to use your on money? There's a fee for that!") and ticketsellers (c'mon, a $10 "convenience fee" when I don't have the option of making the transaction less "convenient"?) than go after the people who sell me strings.

Eyeguy
04-01-2013, 03:32 PM
Nothing hand made is perfect, including ukuleles, although some results of human skill, passion and attention to detail are better than others. Pick up a gently used 30's Martin ukulele to witness craftsmanship personified. Sound is much more subjective, but where there is mastery in build, ethereal tone is usually not far behind.

bborzell
04-01-2013, 09:16 PM
Very timely topic for me. Three weeks ago, owning a ukelele was the last thing on my mind. Today, I play a Pono ATDC and while I have spent a week or so looking at custom tenors as a next purchase, I think I have come to the conclusion that another Pono (Pro Classic), is the way I will go.

I own one custom mandolin and a custom octave mandolin. I also own a custom 8 string lap resonator guitar (dobro type wood build) and a production Weissenborn acoustic, a 6 string spider cone resonator dobro type as well as a custom aluminum body 6 string lap steel guitar.

In addition, I have two production jazz box guitars, a semi hollow, a solid body, one classical, a round neck biscuit cone resonator and two "travel" guitars. And then there are two production solid body mandolins and two production acoustics. Oh, there is also the Ric 4001 that I bought new in 1968 and an acoustic resonator bass.

To the point of the OP, I have had no quality issues with any of the production instruments I own (most were bought in shops, but some were online orders), but one of the custom mandolins and one custom resonator has had issues that I believe would have been avoided with better attention to detail and a bit less of "trying new things".

In my experience, the fact that custom luthiers often speak proudly of their ability or willingness to experiment opens the door to ending up with potential problems. To be sure, there are builders who have a high degree of consistency and I am not trying to paint all luthiers with the same brush stroke, but two out of three problem custom instruments stacked up against however many I have listed above of production instruments with no finish or construction issues is hard for me to ignore.

I am a woodworker and while I have not yet decided to focus on building a stringed instrument, I can recognize what is well built and finished and my Pono is a wonder to play and to just stare at every so often.

So, while I can afford to spend 2-3 times what I would have to pay for a Pono Pro Classic, I think I will rely on the confidence I have in buying a production instrument of high build quality and great tone rather than investing many more dollars, days, weeks or months of waiting and, what has proven to me to be a higher liklihood of encountering problems.

Just my experience, YMMV.

TG&Y
04-02-2013, 05:46 AM
If the fruits and details of fishing leader r&d is ever shared here, I'd give it a shot! Happily.

Newportlocal
04-02-2013, 03:38 PM
If the fruits and details of fishing leader r&d is ever shared here, I'd give it a shot! Happily.

Here is one of a few old threads.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?18975-fishing-line-ukulele-string-recipe

TG&Y
04-03-2013, 03:17 AM
Here is one of a few old threads.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?18975-fishing-line-ukulele-string-recipe

Hey thanks for the links Bill1 and Newportlocal. I like to tinker. My mission statement is the old Heinlein quote:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

I think home brew ukulele strings fit right in there!