View Full Version : How to get your foot in the door?

12-20-2008, 01:41 PM
Hi UU! Here's my thoughts/ questions. When I graduate I would like to take a trip to hawaii to go to Hana Lima 'Ia ukulele school, and then come back to canada (Probably), and build ukes. But I was wondering how to get started in it. Like get your name known, so people actually buy your ukes. Like do most luthier's start by working for other luthiers? Or how do you get yourself known? So you can make money and have and awesome job!


Pete Howlett
12-20-2008, 02:46 PM
You don't 'make money' building ukulele and like any profession it takes hard work and persistense just paying the bills. You also need to build good ukes and maybe after about 12 years, people begin to recognise what you are doing. You might have just about saved enough at this point for a holiday... and then regret getting 2 months behind for two weeks of rest.

E-Lo Roberts
12-21-2008, 12:08 PM
Shortcut, listen to Pete. Enjoy the process of the build without the concern to make a decent profit. The common phase "starving artist" is not a joke. The best luthiers are true artists in every sense, and are not driven by a price point margin. The time invested to create a decent uke vs. the profit made is always risky. Let's face it, Pete and other fine luthiers aren't cranking out link sausage here for the masses, but rather one-of-a-kind, time-consuming, hand built little gems with little concern of profit... e.lo..

12-21-2008, 03:26 PM
I am still trying to get my name out there:P
But seriously, Hana Lima is a good place to start.
Learn what u r doing, and if u do it well, the customers will come.
I have been at it only a year and a half, and I just recently sold my first 1.
Good luck

Pete Howlett
12-22-2008, 12:51 AM
I do like the 'banking' aspect of building - getting that final payment (like this morning). And yes, it is hard graft, especially keeping the website updated, doing your accounts, ordering supplies and basically keeping all lof the paperwork in order.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-22-2008, 06:43 AM
Well as Bob mentioned, Hana Lima may be a good place to start. Keep in mind that I'm a huge fan of Hana Lima's and I like to promote them any chance I get. But even the Chocks will tell you that they are by no means offering a comprehensive lutherie course. For that you need to be on the Mainland and there are even some good lutherie schools in Canada. If you have the time and money a good guitar building class will be your best investment.
There are at least a few things you need to think about before entertaining the thoughts you have.
First is, do you enjoy the process? If you don't love what you're doing you'll never be any good at it. For many of us it's as if we have no other choice in life but to build ukuleles. Love what you do however and you'l never spend another day at "work" again.
Secondly, do you have the necessary skills and will you be any good at it? Building ukuleles is the most demanding (and rewarding) hand craft I've ever done, frequently challenging me on a daily basis.
Third, how important is money to you? I don't know anyone who has gotten rich building ukes and even myself, after 21 years of building, I've been known in the past to have to seek other temporary work when things got slow in order to pay for my need to build ukuleles. Listen to what Pete said in the second post of this thread.
Building ukuleles can be a wonderful way to express your creativity and in my case I feel I am doing what I can to help promote the music I so dearly love (but can not play!) Look into your heart and make sure the reasons you want to do this are not financially motivated. And no, there are no shortcuts!
Mele Kalikimaka
Chuck Moore
Moore Bettah Ukuleles

Pete Howlett
12-22-2008, 07:00 AM
I have to say I am very fortunate here in the UK where there are fewer builders than in Hawaii so it is easy to get noticed, not so easy making the money! However, as Chuck said, your motives have to be fairly pure - and I cannot stress enough: it's a tough life but it's surely worth it :rock:

12-22-2008, 11:14 AM
I do like the 'banking' aspect of building - getting that final payment (like this morning). And yes, it is hard graft, especially keeping the website updated, doing your accounts, ordering supplies and basically keeping all lof the paperwork in order.

Not to mention emailing back and forth with potential and existing customers... present company included! :p

:music: john

Pete Howlett
12-22-2008, 11:17 AM
Emailing takes out 2 hours of the day...

12-22-2008, 06:36 PM
Chuck and Pete. I believe that just about sums it up. Great food for thought for anyone thinking they want to "earn a living" building ukuleles.

12-23-2008, 12:42 PM
I have to say, whenever I read posts about making one's own uke, I start daydreaming about building my own one day. I don't think I'll ever make any money from it (or even plan to make it a business) but to be able to say "oh, this uke? I BUILT it!" would be very rewarding indeed! I'll have to search out some of those good lutherie schools in Canada. Any recommendations anyone?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
12-23-2008, 06:31 PM
From what I remember Canada is a pretty big place, bigger even than Hawaii, but see if one of these schools is near you:
In the time being, have a look around on the Internet, there's a ton of how to stuff, some of it even pretty good. David Hurd (Kawika) has a very credible ukulele site and don't forget to check out some of Petes videos. He's got a couple of thousand of them I think.
Merry Christmas,
Chuck Moore
Moore Bettah Ukuleles

12-31-2008, 01:17 PM
i heard giving free ukuleles out works well........ i'd know your name for sure!

Pete Howlett
12-31-2008, 03:02 PM
How do you figure that? Never brought me any business and I don't expect it to... Gave away 4 last year and expect to do the same this year. Before you ask - they know where and to whom they are going. That info I don't publish.:D

01-02-2009, 04:15 PM
it was just a ploy to get a free uke, i don't really think it would work very well haha.

01-03-2009, 04:22 PM
Hello Mitch, this is my first post and would like to give this a shot. I have some experience in this situation and would like to comment a little. I will first say I have yet to build a ukulele but for over twenty years I have had a business of building custom longbows and recurves for hunting. My bows have been sold all over the world, many to famous people and hunters you read about in the magazines! At one point I had a waiting list of almost three years. With recomendations and support of leading publications people who bought my bows always thought I was made of money because of this. Its all a big illusion! It's a job and nothing more.

But here is the real trick, I loved it so nothing else mattered. With the kids in bed and the wife sitting down for the evening I would make a cup of coffee and go out in the shop, turn on some jazz, and start carving away enjoying every second of it. People would always ask me how my bows turned out so perfect compared to many competitors. It took me along time to figure this out but here is the answer. My bows were infact flawless but thats because I built each one like it was my last, and because of this I had too many dam hours to really make any money, so to speak. The competition however built bows with visible glue joints and faint sanding marks in them and guess what they made more money. Many times I thought about going out and buying some CNC equipment and fire up the old assembly line but in the end I just couldn't do it. I have no regrets however because I loved every minute of it.

I have since sold the equipment and now have an interest in building a ukulele myself. I have spent some time looking at the ukuleles that the pros and the 1st timers have built here and all I see are beautiful works of art, all of which deserve a hats off. To think that all these fine instruments will most likely out live all of us is a cool thought, it's there imortality. This is a long post and I apologize, it's just that I can relate to all the folks who pour there harts out into a craft that in the end just makes a living. Working with your hands to make a living can be a very rewarding life but it's like everything else, once you get your feet wet things are always a little different. Myself, I am going to start with building just one, and I am going to build it like it's my last. Humbly, Mike J

E-Lo Roberts
01-04-2009, 04:13 AM
Mike, welcome to the forum. It sounds like you have the patience and the right approach to building a great first uke. Look to Pete , Dominator, and Chuck for further inspiration. Their builds are incredible!...e.lo...