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Thread: Thinking about a bespoke ukulele

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    Kent "The Garden of England"
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    286

    Default Thinking about a bespoke ukulele

    I have currently got a KoAloha KTM-00 but have got itchy fingers for a bespoke one.

    So far the specification I am thinking about is...

    Macassar ebony back and sides
    Cedar top, (but open to spruce)
    Slotted headstock, (but open to paddle with planetary geared tuners)
    Ebony fretboard and bridge, (open to either tie or pin)
    Fretboard bound with maple
    Ebony faceplate on the headstock
    Maple binding
    Pickup, (totally open here, suggestions would be most welcome)

    (And I know this is almost a copy of the Pono ETSH5, but they are few and far between, especially in the UK).

    So, any comments would be most welcome as this is going to be a once in a lifetime thing.

    Steve
    Pono ETSHC-PC

    KoAloha KTM-00

    Pono MCD



    Headcorn Ukulele Group http://www.headcornukulelegroup.org/

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    I can hear Disneyland fireworks...
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    Default

    I think it's a great idea. If had a custom ukulele made, it would be a Koaloha. Honestly, I have never played a Koaloha that I would rate less than 10. Even the new batch of Opios are wonderful with the spruce top being a standout, imo.

    I have a Sceptre, which due to it's shape, should sound like a $50 "flying V" or the Alien Head uke I bought. But it projects further and sounds every bit or more beautiful than any other K brand I've played. Which is really amazing.

    If you're looking to order a special ukulele, I think the guys at Koaloha can definitely build what you're hoping for.

    (PS, I don't have any ties to this company)
    If life seems jolly rotten,
    There's something you've forgotten,
    And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing! - Eric Idle

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Pickering, ON, Canada
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    5,916

    Default

    Getting a custom built ukulele made to your specifications is a wonderful endeavour that everyone sholud do if they can. I have 4 ukueles in my herd that I have "bespoke", lovely term, and each one means a lot to me. I own other customs I bought used and they ar excellent but the bespokes hold a special place in my heart

    First and most important is to pick your builder, do your home work and research the ones you have heard about, you may discover news ones. A few tips to help you along the way. Have a clear idea of what you want and why. The WHY should always be sound retaled first, playability second and looks third. As you say the one you are detailing is an exact copy of a Pono model (I have owned that same model and it sounds wonderful). Are you basing your choice on the Pono sound samples from HMS? Builders have a signature sound, play an all koa tenor Kamaka, Kanilea and Koaloha, each sounds different.

    If you have a sound in mind, warm, loud with much sustain and resonance then communicate that to the builder and ask his opinion about what woods to use. He is the expert and knows what is can get out of each type of wood. My best advice is to ask questions to the builder and really listen to his answers, give him room to work his magic. My first custom was a LfdM tenor and I said to Luis I want something guitar like in sound, full open and resonant, something good for country, rock and pop music. He said sitka spruce over rosewood, I said ok. It is my best sounding tenor among a number of high end customs.

    Good luck and have fun
    Last edited by DownUpDave; 05-19-2018 at 06:43 AM.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Enya Nova *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Stone Harbor, NJ
    Posts
    1,007

    Default

    Thinking about a bespoke ukulele?

    Thank You for increasing my vocabulary. I had to immediately Google the word bespoke. Great term.
    DEPENDENTS:

    In order of age:


    Martin C-1K Concert, C Re-entrant Tuning 4/2014
    Pono MTD-CR Tenor C Linear Tuning 6/21/2016
    Ko'olau Model 100 Tenor C Linear Tuning 7/27/2018
    Kamaka HF-2 Koa Concert C Linear 6/26/2019

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Kent "The Garden of England"
    Posts
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Xtradust View Post
    I think it's a great idea. If had a custom ukulele made, it would be a Koaloha. Honestly, I have never played a Koaloha that I would rate less than 10. Even the new batch of Opios are wonderful with the spruce top being a standout, imo.

    I have a Sceptre, which due to it's shape, should sound like a $50 "flying V" or the Alien Head uke I bought. But it projects further and sounds every bit or more beautiful than any other K brand I've played. Which is really amazing.

    If you're looking to order a special ukulele, I think the guys at Koaloha can definitely build what you're hoping for.

    (PS, I don't have any ties to this company)
    I'd like to ask KoAloha, but I'm in the UK and shipping and customs adds a lot of cost.
    Pono ETSHC-PC

    KoAloha KTM-00

    Pono MCD



    Headcorn Ukulele Group http://www.headcornukulelegroup.org/

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Kent "The Garden of England"
    Posts
    286

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Getting a custom built ukulele made to your specifications is a wonderful endeavour that everyone sholud do if they can. I have 4 ukueles in my herd that I have "bespoke", lovely term, and each one means a lot to me. I own other customs I bought used and they ar excellent but the bespokes hold a special place in my heart

    First and most important is to pick your builder, do your home work and research the ones you have heard about, you may discover news ones. A few tips to help you along the way. Have a clear idea of what you want and why. The WHY should always be sound retaled first, playability second and looks third. As you say the one you are detailing is an exact copy of a Pono model (I have owned that same model and it sounds wonderful). Are you basing your choice on the Pono sound samples from HMS? Builders have a signature sound, play an all koa tenor Kamaka, Kanilea and Koaloha, each sounds different.

    If you have a sound in mind, warm, loud with much sustain and resonance then communicate that to the builder and ask his opinion about what woods to use. He is the expert and knows what is can get out of each type of wood. My best advice is to ask questions to the builder and really listen to his answers, give him room to work his magic. My first custom was a LfdM tenor and I said to Luis I want something guitar like in sound, full open and resonant, something good for country, rock and pop music. He said sitka spruce over rosewood, I said ok. It is my best sounding tenor among a number of high end customs.

    Good luck and have fun
    Thank you for your reply, I have already researched a luthier, and am talking to him about woods etc. But your suggestion about telling him what sound I want is great.

    Steve
    Last edited by Steve in Kent; 05-19-2018 at 07:39 AM.
    Pono ETSHC-PC

    KoAloha KTM-00

    Pono MCD



    Headcorn Ukulele Group http://www.headcornukulelegroup.org/

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Kent "The Garden of England"
    Posts
    286

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JJFN View Post
    Thinking about a bespoke ukulele?

    Thank You for increasing my vocabulary. I had to immediately Google the word bespoke. Great term.
    You're welcome
    Pono ETSHC-PC

    KoAloha KTM-00

    Pono MCD



    Headcorn Ukulele Group http://www.headcornukulelegroup.org/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    JoCo, NC (near Raleigh)
    Posts
    4,698

    Default

    The first question to answer is what goals are most important to you - tone, playability, aesthetics, etc. I know you say this is a "once in a lifetime" thing so your temptation is to say, "well, this has to be perfect in every way". But the truth is that every instrument is a conglomeration of compromises and no one instrument can be "all things to all people" - or even all things to one person. So that's my commment - start with the goals, communicate those to your luthier (or even as you are "interviewing" among luthiers, i.e. how might they fulfill your particular goals), and then try not to sweat the small stuff.
    Ukulele:
    Iriguchi Tenor "Weeble" - A, WoU Clarity
    Blue Star 19" baritone Konablaster - DGBE
    Cocobolo 16" SC#1-gCEA, SC SLMU
    Ono #42 19" baritone, Ab, LW
    Imua iET-Bb, M600
    Covered Bridge CLN pineapple - Eb cuatro, SC XLL
    Rogue bari
    Bonanza super tenor, cFAD SC LHU
    Kala KSLNG, Eb SC XLU
    Flea soprano, C LW
    Hanson 5-string tenor, dGCEA
    Bonanza SLN GCEA
    Bonanzalele concert
    Guitars:
    Jupiter #47, G, TI CF127
    Pelem, A, EJ45LP

    !Flukutronic!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    1,574

    Default

    Being involved in the creation of a musical instrument, even in a small way, is a wonderful experience. May you have as good an experience as I have had with the Luthiers that I have worked with.
    "All worthwhile things in life should be easy to learn but hard to master"

    Hoffmann Lutherie - Baritone - Master Grade Ebony and AAA Red Spruce
    Beau Hannam Custom Tenor - Vintage Hand Rubbed Sun Burst all Tassie Blackwood
    Barron River Tenor - Satin Box Maple and Alaskan Yellow Cedar
    Hoffmann Lutherie - Concert - Angry Owl Ebony and Cedar

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    856

    Default

    Just to offer a different viewpoint, I'll tell you what I did. My priorities were completely at variance with the advice you received above. My first and only priority was aesthetics. Luthiers are anal-retentive freaks due to their chosen calling. Nothing is leaving their shoppe that isn't properly intoned. They have that end of the project under control. So you need to take care of your end of the project by knowing how you want it to look. In this regard, I drew up a list of everything I wanted in a ukulele and approached my luthier. Then a period of negotiation ensued wherein we hammered out the details. The luthier will tell you what options are cost prohibitive, what options are not feasible in terms of woodcrafting, and what options are acceptable.

    I found it useful to have not only specifics in mind, but also broader ideas. If you approach a luthier with broader, vaguer ideas, they can offer input. For example, I told the luthier that my ukulele was intended as a linear-tuned instrument. With that info, the luthier could offer ideas on tone woods.

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