Building class or shop hang around


Aug 9, 2009
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I’m retiring from the day job soon. I am hoping to find a ukulele or acoustic guitar build class. Or even be a shop hang around for a couple days as a retirement gift for myself. Anyone have ideas? I know Robbie O’Brien has a class in Colorado. I think Hana Lima May still do an accelerated class during the summer but not sure.
Once again I am offering a ukulele building course at my home on Kauai. I did this last year and it was a lot of fun. Basically you spend 8-12 days at my home/shop building the ukulele of your choice. We spend 4-6 hours a day on building/instruction and the rest of the time is yours to enjoy Kauai. We have a small mother in law unit next to the shop and garage at my home. If you wish to bring a significant other, that’s fine as long as you are comfortable sharing the bed. The cost is $1200 for a soprano, $1300 for a concert, $1400 for a tenor and $1500 for a baritone. For less than most people spend for just the accommodations, you get the instruction, the ukulele and a place to stay. For more info or any questions, send me an email message.
According to its website, Brier Road Guitars offers guitar/ukulele building workshops in the town of Adams in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.

Sam Rosen has a workshop in the basement of his Holualoa Ukulele Gallery where he offers build classes. Holualoa is a village in the hills just east of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.
This thread just about describes my situation. I also am just about retired and looking for some instruction. I live in Abbotsford BC about an hour from Vancouver. I plan to contact Coloma Guitars to see about a build workshop. I hear Robbie O'Brien offers excellent workshops, The travel and accommodation make this less likely for me.

I am building two Baritones currently and would like to explore a steel string version of the same scale.
I've taken and given many classes over the years. U-tube or other online instruction do not sub well for the personal experience of spending time with an experienced builder. You'll form friendships and learn nuances that will last a lifetime. The online life has become the norm, but it just ain't the same!
Not sure what it is worth but my humble two cents worth follows:

I suggest reading books, watching all those videos on youtube and elsewhere (that you can stand) to start getting some of the ideas, concepts and a basic understanding of the different ways things can be done. In the meantime find a luthier you can create a relationship with and ask questions of, take a class from or whatever. As I do in the end agree with Bob:
You'll form friendships and learn nuances that will last a lifetime. The online life has become the norm, but it just ain't the same!

However, using the access to the online content is a way that you can familiarize yourself enough that when you get to their shop you at least have some grasp on what they are talking about and trying to show you. The trick is to not get stuck in a this is "THE WAY" mindset and therefore this guy must be wrong when he/she says to do it differently. Trust the luthier in the room with you as it is the respect they deserve for taking the time to help you.

There are many ways to build instruments and there are a whole host of things that really matter in the details. However, there are always ways to grow and innovate. The trick (in my humble opinion) is to learn from someone, every little detail you can....Ask questions when you have them.....Build in that "tradition" and pay attention to the sum of each part coming is then after producing quality in that "tradition" that you can start making your own path. The thing is you have to pay attention to what these changes in production are changing in the outcome. This is why it is good to follow the way you learned for a bit first. As you will get to know what these details are and why they matter.

In the end though....the fact is that this is not rocket science and there are plenty of examples of beautifully built instruments that break the rules of any and even all the traditions. Maybe the builder got lucky and maybe they just had a moment of clarity that brought the parts together properly from the get. Either way it can happen. And yes you can learn everything you need from the online world. There is nothing wrong with that if that is what works for you.

To me the only real metrics that matter in the end are:

How does it feel to play the instrument?
How does it sound?
Is it structurally going to last?
Was it an enjoyable process making it?

Of course I personally also care how it looks but this is not nearly as important as all the others above. I have seen plenty of drop dead gorgeous instruments that do not meet the metric of evaluation for one or more of the above metrics and it is therefore destined to just be a wall hanger or one of those endless projects of finding ways to compromise to try and get close enough.

No matter what you choose.....Remember to enjoy yourself and the process. Building instruments of any sort is a practice in patience and acquiring many little skills. These all add up to a magical amalgamation of that which creates the beauty we know as Music!

All the best!
Thank you all for the information. Bob Gleason, I totally agree. I am working on my 14th ukulele build now. I have a few more sets ready to go. I learned much from the Hana Lima book. I have visited a few builders such as Chuck Moore and Dominator. Beau Hannam has been very helpful with questions I have had. We will be visiting the Big Island of Hawaii in April. My goal is to be able to hang around and learn some of the small details, jig making, inlay techniques, etc. I have also started an acoustic guitar build. Lots of questions on that one...LOL
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