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View Full Version : Custom built ukulele with a defect in the rosette



Brian W
03-08-2014, 08:48 AM
Hi all!

I am working with a custom builder who is currently in the process of making me a soprano. He sent me pictures of his progress, and I noticed a problem in the herringbone rosette. I have two pictures attached to show everyone what I mean. He didn't originally mention it to me, but after I had him send me some more close up shots, he did admit that after installing the rosette, the seam where it starts and ends has a small gap. He said this was this was a common issue and usually the fretboard would cover it up. However I wanted a 12 fret soprano, and not a 16 (which would be the total frets needed to extend the fretboard and cover the flaw). The reason I didn't want a 16 fret soprano is, for one, I never play that high on the fretboard, and two, I was going to have him design a decorative point at the end of the fretboard that was going to match the point on the headstock and the design on the bridge. I did not want the point, however, to cover the rosette, or extend to the soundhole. He said he attempted to fix it, but now it looks worse. What would you all do in my situation? Do I have him extend the fretboard to cover his mistake, do I have him start over and make him design what I originally wanted, or do I walk away and look for another builder? If I walk, then I loose my $100 deposit, but I don't have to pay the total instrument price of $725 on something that I didn't completely want. The funny thing is that I didn't want a rosette to begin with, but he talked me into it. Am I being too unreasonable? By the way, the 1st picture is his attempt at fixing the mistake by filling with epoxy. The second picture better illustrates the gap in the rosette.

Thank you in advance for your feedback!
6464164642
Brian

Brian W
03-08-2014, 09:11 AM
If you're spending money to have something built to your exact specifications then you should get exactly what you paid for. I would make him start over.

Do you see the flaw, and would this be acceptable to you?

billten
03-08-2014, 09:13 AM
I think i would ask him if he would rout it out and start over with a new rosette or perhaps sell this body to someone else who does want a 16 fret soprano and make you a new one the way you like it. It's your custom uke, you shouldn't have to 'settle' IMO...

And absolutely that flaw would drive me crazy over the years and if you ever come to sell it it definitely will have a lowered price because it's a 'second' with a flaw in the rosette.
Bill

Jim Hanks
03-08-2014, 09:27 AM
sell this body to someone else who does want a 16 fret soprano and make you a new one the way you like it. It's your custom uke, you shouldn't have to 'settle' IMO...
Bill
:agree: this.

It's a hand made instrument so it's unlikely to be "perfect" but you have to decide what compromises you're willing to accept. If you don't want the extended fretboard, I'd ask for a new body. The uke wouldn't be a 'second' for someone that wanted a 16-fret model so would be win-win(win) I'd say.

Brian W
03-08-2014, 09:29 AM
I think i would ask him if he would rout it out and start over with a new rosette or perhaps sell this body to someone else who does want a 16 fret soprano and make you a new one the way you like it. It's your custom uke, you shouldn't have to 'settle' IMO...

And absolutely that flaw would drive me crazy over the years and if you ever come to sell it it definitely will have a lowered price because it's a 'second' with a flaw in the rosette.
Bill

Thanks Bill for your input! I agree 100% with you; it would drive me crazy looking at it, especially for how much I paid for it. I am glad that I am not alone in my thinking.

OldePhart
03-08-2014, 09:58 AM
I'm guessing this "luthier" is a relative unknown (don't tell me his name, we don't want this to become one of "those" threads). Anyway, it certainly looks like he's making a lot of rookie mistakes...

1) Instead of building what you wanted he talked you into a rosette you didn't even want - and apparently he hasn't the experience to know that it can be quite tricky to match the seam of a patterned rosette if you're not going to have a long fret board to completely cover some part of the rosette.

2) He then tried to pass it off in hopes you wouldn't notice.

3) In trying to repair it he made it worse.

4) He didn't think on his own to do as others have suggested and set that unit aside as a build for someone who wants a long fret board and simply start fresh on yours.

5) Items 1-4 all indicate a rookie, IMHO. What assurance do you have that when you finally get your uke there aren't going to be other rookie mistakes, quite possibly ones not so obvious (overbraced/underbraced, too-thick soundboard, too-thin soundboard, etc, etc, etc).

If I had a buck for every "custom" uke someone has thrust proudly into my hands, leaving me with a deer in the headlights look as I try to find something nice to say about it when it's not really as good as some Asian factory ukes...well...I couldn't retire because it hasn't happened that many times but it's happened far more often than it should.

Edit to add: Also, IMHO no relatively inexperienced builder, as this guy almost has to be, should be expecting to get $750 for a soprano. For about the same money you can get an excellent Hawaiian soprano or one from an established builder...so why should you pay a premium for this guy's "apprenticeship" so to speak?

If this guy is relatively unknown, and if his work doesn't improve markedly from what you've seen so far, the instrument you end up will have very little resale value even if it does turn out to be a nice player...


John

stevepetergal
03-08-2014, 10:05 AM
Just one dumb guy's opinion. I wish you didn't need to publicize an issue like this. With or without the input of the community, this is between you and the builder. Thank you for not including the builder's name, but....

Hippie Dribble
03-08-2014, 10:06 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&list=RDB4VLoY1t6tM&v=B4VLoY1t6tM

OldePhart
03-08-2014, 10:16 AM
Just one dumb guy's opinion. I wish you didn't need to publicize an issue like this. With or without the input of the community, this is between you and the builder. Thank you for not including the builder's name, but....

I strongly disagree (I do agree that the builder's name should not be mentioned).

With the surge in popularity of the uke there are a lot of inexperienced builders and inexperienced buyers. I can't image where else someone would go to ask when they aren't sure if they're getting their money's worth?

I'm all for the Aloha Spirit but not when it takes the form of denying information to someone who seeks it...

John

Brian W
03-08-2014, 10:22 AM
Just one dumb guy's opinion. I wish you didn't need to publicize an issue like this. With or without the input of the community, this is between you and the builder. Thank you for not including the builder's name, but....

But what!? So why am I now the bad guy for asking people's input? I though this was a discussion forum. I didn't mention the builder's name, and will not. I wanted some thoughts of how other people would handle the situation. I was also curious if I was being too picky; obviously from the responses, I am not. Not everything is perfect and rosy in life, and you should be able to have a civil discussion about problems with designs and custom builds without worrying about offending someone.

Hippie Dribble
03-08-2014, 10:27 AM
But what!? So why am I now the bad guy for asking people's input? I though this was a discussion forum. I didn't mention the builder's name, and will not. I wanted some thoughts of how other people would handle the situation. I was also curious if I was being too picky; obviously from the responses, I am not. Not everything is perfect and rosy in life, and you should be able to have a civil discussion about problems with designs and custom builds without worrying about offending someone.
Yes I agree. The forum, at it's best, is a place where we can go to ask important questions and for opinions and assistance when we are uncertain. No identities have been revealed here and the question posed, at least to me, is a fair and serious one.

Brian, I should add that we can close the thread once you have decided upon how to proceed based upon members' input and your own reflections. Thanks all.

Brian W
03-08-2014, 10:28 AM
I strongly disagree (I do agree that the builder's name should not be mentioned).

With the surge in popularity of the uke there are a lot of inexperienced builders and inexperienced buyers. I can't image where else someone would go to ask when they aren't sure if they're getting their money's worth?

I'm all for the Aloha Spirit but not when it takes the form of denying information to someone who seeks it...

John

Thanks John, I really appreciate your thoughts on this subject. You echo my exact sentiments. What bothered me most was that he didn't mention the mistake, until I called him out on it. He also never offered to start over as a way of fixing the issue. The design is not a total loss, as an extended fretboard would easliy hide the flaw in the rosette. I am sure there would be someone interested in a long-neck version with a 16 or 17 fret design.

Dan Uke
03-08-2014, 10:56 AM
Yeah, these forums seem very sensitive to negative remarks. There is the Outdoor Uke thread and there are negative remarks but negative remarks for Hawaiian and custom ukes seem to be frowned upon.

If I get a new uke, please comment all you want, positive and negative.

Doc_J
03-08-2014, 11:18 AM
Brian, don't accept a defect that will bother you. A while back I had a similar experience, with a poorly done rosette on a custom uke. The builder at that time offered to fully refund my payment or build a new one. I think those are good options. BTW I chose a refund, as I had no reason to expect the next build to be better.

What is the quality/satisfaction guaranteed by your builder?

IMHO, you should be offered a full refund of your deposit, have this redone, or have a new one built. But that all depends on your agreement with the builder.

... And the forum is a good place to post questions/problems and get advice.

BlackBearUkes
03-08-2014, 11:32 AM
If you can't live with this flaw, and you shouldn't have to, you might suggest to the builder that he/she inlay a nice little piece of pearl, abalone or some such design to cover the spot. That way it won't look like a flaw, but an enhancement. Just a thought.

hmgberg
03-08-2014, 11:58 AM
If you can't live with this flaw, and you shouldn't have to, you might suggest to the builder that he/she inlay a nice little piece of pearl, abalone or some such design to cover the spot. That way it won't look like a flaw, but an enhancement. Just a thought.

This is a good idea. See if there is an alternative to accepting a visible flaw or accepting a particular alteration that you are not fond of. In fairness, getting the ends of a rosette to match up can be tricky on a soprano. I've seen slight gaps and visible seams on higher-end ukes both factory and custom. I'm not suggesting that you accept it as is, only that I'm not necessarily of the mind that this is someone so new to building that he or she can't get it right. I don't know what kind of adhesive was used, but I think the builder should try to remove the rosette, clean up the slot and try again. That's what I would ask for anyway. If he/she refuses to correct or adapt the rosette, then you should have your money refunded in full. My opinion anyway.

fretie
03-08-2014, 12:26 PM
Doesn't really bode well for a custom uke. If it was me I'd be thinking refund and looking elsewhere.

PhilUSAFRet
03-08-2014, 12:48 PM
I think it's somewhat responsible of you to seek your fellow uker's opinions about the matter before confronting the maker with this "issue." We know many builders get very frustrated with buyer's "demands" in a uke build that's been started. You seem to have gotten some pretty good feedback..I would think your decision should be easier now. Be appropriately assertive, it's your money.

Brian W
03-08-2014, 02:13 PM
Thank you to everyone for responding to this thread. I really appreciate the thoughts and opinions on this matter. I contacted the builder and he offered to build me another uke to my specifications. I haven't decided to either stay with him, or have my deposit refunded yet; as the old adage goes "once bitten. twice shy". I will post what I decide to do, and then close the thread. thanks again everyone.

hmgberg
03-08-2014, 02:26 PM
Have you seen and/or played any other ukuleles he has made? If it were me, that would influence my decision?

Brian W
03-08-2014, 03:08 PM
Have you seen and/or played any other ukuleles he has made? If it were me, that would influence my decision?

No I haven't actually played a ukulele built by him, though I have heard sound clips on YouTube. I contacted 10 different builders before deciding to go with him; I was impressed by his knowledge of the instrument and the building process in general, plus he always returned my e-mails withing 1 to 2 hours. He is a real nice guy to talk shop with and he is generally concerned about your overall satisfaction. He has only been building instruments for a few years now, and it is apparent to me that his skills as a luthier are not as good others.

Brian W
03-08-2014, 03:40 PM
I'm guessing this "luthier" is a relative unknown (don't tell me his name, we don't want this to become one of "those" threads). Anyway, it certainly looks like he's making a lot of rookie mistakes...

1) Instead of building what you wanted he talked you into a rosette you didn't even want - and apparently he hasn't the experience to know that it can be quite tricky to match the seam of a patterned rosette if you're not going to have a long fret board to completely cover some part of the rosette.

2) He then tried to pass it off in hopes you wouldn't notice.

3) In trying to repair it he made it worse.

4) He didn't think on his own to do as others have suggested and set that unit aside as a build for someone who wants a long fret board and simply start fresh on yours.

5) Items 1-4 all indicate a rookie, IMHO. What assurance do you have that when you finally get your uke there aren't going to be other rookie mistakes, quite possibly ones not so obvious (overbraced/underbraced, too-thick soundboard, too-thin soundboard, etc, etc, etc).

If I had a buck for every "custom" uke someone has thrust proudly into my hands, leaving me with a deer in the headlights look as I try to find something nice to say about it when it's not really as good as some Asian factory ukes...well...I couldn't retire because it hasn't happened that many times but it's happened far more often than it should.

Edit to add: Also, IMHO no relatively inexperienced builder, as this guy almost has to be, should be expecting to get $750 for a soprano. For about the same money you can get an excellent Hawaiian soprano or one from an established builder...so why should you pay a premium for this guy's "apprenticeship" so to speak?

If this guy is relatively unknown, and if his work doesn't improve markedly from what you've seen so far, the instrument you end up will have very little resale value even if it does turn out to be a nice player...


John


John,

You are very astute in your observations; he has been building ukuleles for only a few years now. He has admitted to making some mistakes in the past, especially with his finishing work, but assured me that he has made some recent improvements to the process to resolve these issues. After seeing what he has done to this rosette, I am not sure he has completely learned from his past mistakes. I am a newbie to the ukulele, however I am not to the guitar, as I have been playing for 32 years now. I have owned and played higher end guitars and know what to look for in a quality build. I am also familiar with some of the K brand Hawaiian instruments, but I was hoping to add some of my own design touches to a hand-built instrument. I contacted other builders, before deciding to go with him, and I will admit, price did play a part in my final decision (though I was also impressed with his knowledge of the building and setup process as well). I guess it's true that you do get what you pay in life.

- Brian

coolkayaker1
03-08-2014, 03:53 PM
Thank you to everyone for responding to this thread. I really appreciate the thoughts and opinions on this matter. I contacted the builder and he offered to build me another uke to my specifications. I haven't decided to either stay with him, or have my deposit refunded yet; as the old adage goes "once bitten. twice shy". I will post what I decide to do, and then close the thread. thanks again everyone.

Brian...you weren't so hot on having a rosette to begin with, he"s not so hot at doing them, and they really aren"t so hot on a 12-fret instrument. maybe tell him to punt on any rosette in the next one. :eek:

Brian W
03-08-2014, 04:04 PM
Brian...you weren't so hot on having a rosette to begin with, he"s not so hot at doing them, and they really aren"t so hot on a 12-fret instrument. maybe tell him to punt on any rosette in the next one. :eek:

LOL!!! That was great, thanks!! If I do decide to stay with him as my builder, I will definitely nix the rosette.

Dan Uke
03-08-2014, 04:39 PM
John,

You are very astute in your observations; he has been building ukuleles for only a few years now. He has admitted to making some mistakes in the past, especially with his finishing work, but assured me that he has made some recent improvements to the process to resolve these issues. After seeing what he has done to this rosette, I am not sure he has completely learned from his past mistakes. I am a newbie to the ukulele, however I am not to the guitar, as I have been playing for 32 years now. I have owned and played higher end guitars and know what to look for in a quality build. I am also familiar with some of the K brand Hawaiian instruments, but I was hoping to add some of my own design touches to a hand-built instrument. I contacted other builders, before deciding to go with him, and I will admit, price did play a part in my final decision (though I was also impressed with his knowledge of the building and setup process as well). I guess it's true that you do get what you pay in life.

- Brian

yup...price definitely plays a factor but I find your thought process interesting as you have many years of experience of guitar playing but I'm sure you won't say you know how to make them. You say the builder is so knowledgeable about the instrument and general building but only been building for a short time. $700+ for an instrument by a less than experienced builder is not cheap in my opinion.

Just like you are moving from guitar to ukulele, there are many builders who've built guitars and now make ukulele as well. However, they've build instruments so they are experienced. So it's hard for me to imagine how qualified anyone is unless they build. Go to Luthier's Lounge and all the builders say they are constantly learning. I really hope your luthier builds an awesome uke for you...It's always nice when you get a uke from the next great builder when prices are reasonable.

Brian W
03-08-2014, 05:37 PM
yup...price definitely plays a factor but I find your thought process interesting as you have many years of experience of guitar playing but I'm sure you won't say you know how to make them. You say the builder is so knowledgeable about the instrument and general building but only been building for a short time. $700+ for an instrument by a less than experienced builder is not cheap in my opinion.

Just like you are moving from guitar to ukulele, there are many builders who've built guitars and now make ukulele as well. However, they've build instruments so they are experienced. So it's hard for me to imagine how qualified anyone is unless they build. Go to Luthier's Lounge and all the builders say they are constantly learning. I really hope your luthier builds an awesome uke for you...It's always nice when you get a uke from the next great builder when prices are reasonable.


You are correct that I do not know how to build a guitar or uke for that matter. But I have enough experience with fixing and setting up instruments over the years, and have played enough higher end guitars, to know what makes a well built instrument sound and play as it does. He answered all of my technical questions about the top thickness, bracing pattern, wood choices and setup, better than some of the other luthiers that I contacted. Basically he said all the right things to me. And you are correct, $700 is not cheap, however compared to the $1000 to $2000 price range of other custom builders, it is a bargain; I now see why they charge so much more. My mistake, or more like wishful thinking, was expecting that a relative newbie to custom building, charging less than $1000 for a soprano, would look just as good as the more experienced guys. Lesson learned.

Dan Uke
03-08-2014, 05:54 PM
You are correct that I do not know how to build a guitar or uke for that matter. But I have enough experience with fixing and setting up instruments over the years, and have played enough higher end guitars, to know what makes a well built instrument sound and play as it does. He answered all of my technical questions about the top thickness, bracing pattern, wood choices and setup, better than some of the other luthiers that I contacted. Basically he said all the right things to me. And you are correct, $700 is not cheap, however compared to the $1000 to $2000 price range of other custom builders, it is a bargain; I now see why they charge so much more. My mistake, or more like wishful thinking, was expecting that a relative newbie to custom building, charging less than $1000 for a soprano, would look just as good as the more experienced guys. Lesson learned.

If you decide to continue, there is still a chance the uke could sound good. Don't get too down on the rosette as he can always make another one for you. You said you've heard several sound samples so you must have liked how it sounded, which is the most important factor.

I personally believe costs go up substantially when the finish is nicer and takes longer. Using a hand rub finish typically costs cheaper (except French Polish) than a sprayed lacquer finish.

Brian W
03-08-2014, 06:12 PM
If you decide to continue, there is still a chance the uke could sound good. Don't get too down on the rosette as he can always make another one for you. You said you've heard several sound samples so you must have liked how it sounded, which is the most important factor.

I personally believe costs go up substantially when the finish is nicer and takes longer. Using a hand rub finish typically costs cheaper (except French Polish) than a sprayed lacquer finish.

You have some good points that I need to think about. Not sure what my next move will be, but I'll keep you posted.

bborzell
03-08-2014, 07:02 PM
What I am left with after reading this thread is the fact that $700 will buy an exceptional production uke with pretty much no risk of fit or finish flaws.

NewKid
03-09-2014, 03:33 AM
$700 also buys a handmade Timms Style O soprano that I think is one of the best values in ukedom.

justinlcecil
03-09-2014, 07:12 AM
This guy knows what he's talking about!
$700 also buys a handmade Timms Style O soprano that I think is one of the best values in ukedom.

FrankB
03-09-2014, 07:32 AM
Run. It's getting off to a bad start, and who knows how it will end.

Back when we had the AG magazine forums, a new guitar maker was cranking out classicals by the dozens, and selling them cheap. They nearly all had a quirk, crack, or blemish of some sort, but they were much less expensive than other "luthier" built guitars. Heck, the guy would even take them back a year later, and repair them. Most of these guitars found their way back onto the market, mostly because their owners decided the mistake was too much to live with, or they moved on to well-built guitars. Finishing was not one of his strengths, and many didn't see these guitars as much of a bargain.

If you contracted for a specific ukelele, that's what you're entitled to. He is not entitled to change the design, or to keep your deposit. $100 isn't something I'd throw out the window while driving down the road, but it's not the end of the world either. There are plenty of ukeleles in this price range that are likely much better than the new guy's efforts. I would actually prefer to buy an already built instrument, for a few reasons: it's ready now; you know how it sounds and plays; any construction/design flaws are looking right at you. I know some people have more specific needs, so a custom build might be your only choice.

Ukejenny
03-09-2014, 08:19 AM
Just one dumb guy's opinion. I wish you didn't need to publicize an issue like this. With or without the input of the community, this is between you and the builder. Thank you for not including the builder's name, but....

I also disagree with this opinion. This is a ukulele board, and the members should feel comfortable in coming on here and discussing anything. Anything.

Now, as to the original post, I think it is a lot of money and it needs to be just like you want it. That is the whole purpose of a custom build. The luthier builds it to your specifications. I think the gap and the "fix" are both valid reasons for a re-do in the build.

Brian W
03-11-2014, 09:36 AM
Hi all,

The builder has offered to refund my initial $100 deposit and I have accepted. So I will be looking elsewhere to have my custom design built. Thank you to everyone who responded to my post; I really appreciate everyone's opinion on this matter. I am grateful to have this forum available!

clayton56
03-11-2014, 10:23 PM
For me I don't think it looks too bad; if it's a good player I wouldn't sweat it. These things are handmade and somewhat organic, it's part of the charm. You will be the only one who ever sees it. The idea of using a longer fingerboard is a good one, but if you don't like that idea, maybe he could inlay something else in that spot, like your initials or a fleur de lis or something you like. Tell him you're not happy with this fix, and give him a chance.

ukeeku
03-12-2014, 01:33 AM
Ummmmm.... on a lot of ukes the fretboard will cover that "flaw". that might be why they don't care that it is not perfect.
If when you get it and it is still messed up, then start freaking out. they are still working on it.


Hi all!

I am working with a custom builder who is currently in the process of making me a soprano. He sent me pictures of his progress, and I noticed a problem in the herringbone rosette. I have two pictures attached to show everyone what I mean. He didn't originally mention it to me, but after I had him send me some more close up shots, he did admit that after installing the rosette, the seam where it starts and ends has a small gap. He said this was this was a common issue and usually the fretboard would cover it up. However I wanted a 12 fret soprano, and not a 16 (which would be the total frets needed to extend the fretboard and cover the flaw). The reason I didn't want a 16 fret soprano is, for one, I never play that high on the fretboard, and two, I was going to have him design a decorative point at the end of the fretboard that was going to match the point on the headstock and the design on the bridge. I did not want the point, however, to cover the rosette, or extend to the soundhole. He said he attempted to fix it, but now it looks worse. What would you all do in my situation? Do I have him extend the fretboard to cover his mistake, do I have him start over and make him design what I originally wanted, or do I walk away and look for another builder? If I walk, then I loose my $100 deposit, but I don't have to pay the total instrument price of $725 on something that I didn't completely want. The funny thing is that I didn't want a rosette to begin with, but he talked me into it. Am I being too unreasonable? By the way, the 1st picture is his attempt at fixing the mistake by filling with epoxy. The second picture better illustrates the gap in the rosette.

Thank you in advance for your feedback!
6464164642
Brian