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View Full Version : How to choose from so may well regarded builders?



GASguy
10-13-2013, 08:11 AM
Looking at the thread about choosing between a John S. Kinnard uke and another popular well known brand brought this thought to mind, how do you choose when it is all but impossible to try them, let alone compare them?

I have been impressed with the reviews of the road trip uke and the fact that many of those who played the road trip uke subsequently purchased one, as well as the photos on John S Kinnards site.

But, just to mention a few brands that seem interesting, what about
Boat Paddle, Pohaku, Kepasa, Beau Hannam, Lichty, Anakoneke,
LFdM, etc, etc, etc.

I have UAS / GAS, but even I realize you can't have them all; any thoughts on how to choose without direct experience?

hawaii 50
10-13-2013, 08:24 AM
Find out for yourself...talk to the builders

almost all the good builders can make a uke sound good...
lately I only want to work with builders that I can trust....sometime the builders can not keep up with what they promise and all kinds of "other" stuff happens....

I have a Ko'olau on order with Noa right now...and I can walk to his shop and visit him...this is an extreme example...but you have to have trust in the person you are working with..

the only way is to communicate with them yourself...on the phone would be the best...if they do not have time for you...maybe that is a good reason to try someone else...

my 2 cents

janeray1940
10-13-2013, 08:36 AM
Find out for yourself...talk to the builders


Exactly. When I was deciding on a builder for my custom, I actually *talked* to the luthiers I had narrowed it down to - not email, good-old-fashioned phone conversations. Even better would have been to visit in person but it just wasn't in the budget. In my case, since what I cared about was sound quality and intonation (and didn't give a hoot about inlays or status-symbol stuff or what other people thought) I was able to choose a builder who understood where I was coming from and was willing to take the project on with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

And yes, I was (and remain) 100% satisfied :) :) :)

dkcrown
10-13-2013, 08:37 AM
I have commissioned both a custom Kinnard and a custom Boat Paddle and I can say that without a doubt, taking into account the entire experience along with the finished ukulele, I would go with John S. Kinnard.

Tigeralum2001
10-13-2013, 10:55 AM
You can do what several of us have done... buy them all. ;)

Seriously, play as many as you can get your hands on then make a decision. It is wonderful to have so many builders out there doing such great work. I definitely have my favorites, but that does not mean I think others are inferior.

Dan Uke
10-13-2013, 11:25 AM
In case you dont like it, dont make them too custom and lots of bling as they are harder to sell and like top of the line cars, you dont get the same return value.



You can do what several of us have done... buy them all. ;)

Seriously, play as many as you can get your hands on then make a decision. It is wonderful to have so many builders out there doing such great work. I definitely have my favorites, but that does not mean I think others are inferior.

Jim Hanks
10-13-2013, 11:53 AM
I think you have to figure out what your goals are and what your desires are in terms of features so you can play to the luthier's strengths. I spoke with a number of luthiers (via email) before deciding on my commission. Of the 3 on the short list, turns out that 2 of them were not comfortable with the feature set I had worked up. Both those builders do outstanding work but they weren't right for my project. The third was right in his comfort zone and is making good progress on it. I don't want to give any more details yet as I have another month or so to go but I have every expectation of a good end result.

Hippie Dribble
10-13-2013, 02:29 PM
Tough question. I have always felt the same and ended up going on a gut feeling and taking a chance. I have tried ukes from many custom builders now and have developed some clear faves. My issue, living in Tasmania, is that it really is impossible to visit workshops and speak with builders personally. Each of the folks you mentioned have awesome qualities and are quite unique in terms of aesthetics and playability, also in terms of design and build process. If it so happens you find that the custom you order doesn't suit you, you shouldn't have too many probs with resale and using some of the money you recoup to fund another one. That's kinda what I've been doing over nearly 8 years now and finally got a good idea from experience, which builders instruments work best for me. Yes, it's been expensive and I have certainly lost a lot of money, but I guess I've been willing to accept that as part of the learning process and gaining experience. I've also made some lovely friends along the way.

NewKid
10-13-2013, 03:06 PM
Here's how I choose:

1. I make up a preliminary list based on UU member recommendations (some favorites: Nongdam, Rich M, Doc_J, Coolkayaker1, dkcrown, mary mac, and blue_knight_usa, have great collections)
2. Cut the list down based on what I can afford
3. Check the wait time - I usually have a hard time waiting longer than a year for an instrument but I'm getting better
4. Email or call the luthier to see if he or she is someone I would enjoy working with and vice versa
5. Try to stay out of their way while they build the instrument

So far I've had wonderful experiences with:
Mya-Moe - Gordon & Char Mayer and Aaron Keim
Mike Pereira
Luis Feu de Mesquita
Kerry Char
Kamaka semi-custom shop

Hippie Dribble
10-13-2013, 03:28 PM
Here's how I choose:

1. I make up a preliminary list based on UU member recommendations (some favorites: Nongdam, Rich M, Doc_J, Coolkayaker1, dkcrown, mary mac, and blue_knight_usa, have great collections)
2. Cut the list down based on what I can afford
3. Check the wait time - I usually have a hard time waiting longer than a year for an instrument but I'm getting better
4. Email or call the luthier to see if he or she is someone I would enjoy working with and vice versa
5. Try to stay out of their way while they build the instrument

So far I've had wonderful experiences with:
Mya-Moe - Gordon & Char Mayer and Aaron Keim
Mike Pereira
Luis Feu de Mesquita
Kerry Char
Kamaka semi-custom shop
Excellent advice Don!

Dan Uke
10-13-2013, 06:51 PM
Here's how I choose:

1. I make up a preliminary list based on UU member recommendations (some favorites: Nongdam, Rich M, Doc_J, Coolkayaker1, dkcrown, mary mac, and blue_knight_usa, have great collections)
2. Cut the list down based on what I can afford
3. Check the wait time - I usually have a hard time waiting longer than a year for an instrument but I'm getting better
4. Email or call the luthier to see if he or she is someone I would enjoy working with and vice versa
5. Try to stay out of their way while they build the instrument

So far I've had wonderful experiences with:
Mya-Moe - Gordon & Char Mayer and Aaron Keim
Mike Pereira
Luis Feu de Mesquita
Kerry Char
Kamaka semi-custom shop

Hey Don

You definitely have more experience with custom luthiers than I do. One thing I would add to your list is ask people on UU who have similar tastes as you. For instance, I wouldn't ask someone who has a bunch of vintage Martins because that's not the sound that I'm not looking for.