How many of you actually have custom luthier built ukes?

how many luthier-made ukuleles do you have?


  • Total voters
    54
“Luthier built” isn’t necessarily the same as “custom.” I’ve owned two luthier hand-built sopranos (Timms, LoPrinzi) that weren’t custom-built to my specifications. I bought them after they were built. Timms ukes, for example, can’t be described as customs; unless you’re a personal friend, I guess, you take what he builds. And in the case of my LoPrinzi, it was in her shop and I bought it.

I no longer play soprano and own only 2 ukes, both custom concerts I ordered (Barron River, Kinnard).

So I think the poll, if there is one, should probably specify luthier-built. Not all luthier-built ukes were ordered to be custom-made. Chuck Moore is another example of a luthier who builds what he wants and doesn’t take custom orders. I think the same is now true of Jay Lichty. (Thought I read this someplace but may be thinking of another luthier.)
true, and vice versa, not all customs are luthier-made... but many of those would fit into the category of customized. the grey area is wide.
 
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If I were to write the categories, I’d have

1) custom ukulele built to original owner personal specifications
2) #1, but purchased second hand
3) ukulele purchased from independent builder, selected from pre-built existing builder stock
4) built-to-order ukulele purchased from independent builder, standard design selected from builder model catalog
5) All others
 
Does it count if you build your own? I wouldn't say I'm a luthier, but if so, I have three and two on the bench.
 
I don't have any strict luthier build, but I have two custumized by independent builders: an electric one by Honni and an acoustic one by Bonanza. The good thing is that you have a non-mass-produced instrument that meets your needs.
 
I have one, and two more flying their way to me. I discovered very quickly that soprano is my scale, and there aren’t that many “mid range” sopranos out there. Looking for one led me to a thread here that led me to Rob Collins. I’m a bake my own bread, spin my own yarn kind of person. I love handmade things. So when I discovered I could get a luthier built uke for Rob’s exceedingly modest prices, I bought the only instrument he had for sale. Last week I bought two more from marketplace - Brad Donaldson’s sopranino prototype and a KM dreadnaught soprano.

None of them are custom for me - I don’t know enough yet to know what I want. I’m getting hand built instruments and it’s just pure delight to hold one. The one I have is an absolute gift of playability for a novice, and I consider these purchases similar to buying lessons or music books. They’re my teachers.

On the luthier scale of price, I’m on the very cheapest possible end of things. There are lots of factory builds that cost far more. But for me, the chance to own what someone of skill and patience made with their own hands is one of the most joyful surprises of ukulele.
 
I've owned three custom ukuleles. One was a TyDe rainbow tulipwood tenor that I traded here on UU for a moonbird and some cash. The second was a NFC cocobolo and cedar tenor that I eventually sold here on UU. The other I still own, it's a Curly Koa Heritage tenor, that I traded for here on UU. All three are great instruments.
Oh, that TyDe. My red-loving heart just melted.
I estimate that there are about eight of us forum members that don’t own a luthier made ukulele. ;) I can’t justify it to myself. I’m nowhere near talented enough to use a next-level uke to its full potential. Plus, I assume spending that much on a ukulele would lead to loud conversations with my wife.
I don’t justify it on skill. For me, it’s about beauty and quality of learning. It’s also privilege. And possibly lack of a spouse 🤣
 
I also have this personal quirk where I love individual created things and I don't care for generic consumer goods. But at the same time I despise choices and options and I inevitably chose restaurants and brands that have the shortest menu of choices. Just give me something that works well and reflects the choices and skill of the expert creator. This also means that for ukes that I have selected I want them to be the way they are and when strings need replacement I try to stay as close to as was initially intended for the uke.
 
For those who pick specific woods for their customizations, did the luthier tell you first what woods he had available and seasoned for the right time, or did you ask luthier to buy the woods just for your builds?
I picked from available stock.
 
Oh, that TyDe. My red-loving heart just melted.

I don’t justify it on skill. For me, it’s about beauty and quality of learning. It’s also privilege. And possibly lack of a spouse 🤣
Or, a very understanding spouse! 😎💕
 
I am fortunate to have been able to purchase three luthier-built ukes from the UU Marketplace (two were less than $450 and one was less than $850). I love them. I may have a uke custom built by a luthier some day, but not any time soon due to the cost, and because I think that I need to spend more time educating myself and getting more experience and skill before I can really understand what I would want out of a custom made ukulele.

Edit: I have a soprano prototype Pops Wow in spruce/pine, a soprano Kenny Hill koa, and a concert Pohaku deco in mahogany.
 
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I don't even play a factory uke well enough to justify or even entertain the thought of a custom made uke. I know it wouldn't make me play any better. 😄 I still kinda feel guilt at owning multiple factory ukes. (Though I still kinda want a vita.)
 
I don't even play a factory uke well enough to justify or even entertain the thought of a custom made uke. I know it wouldn't make me play any better. 😄 I still kinda feel guilt at owning multiple factory ukes.
Unfortunately my skill does not match my uke collection, but the luthier made ones are easier to play because of their design and attention to detail. I also enjoy admiring the beauty of them while I play them. If my uke collection matched my skill, I would probably have graduated past my son’s makala dolphin and into my first uke (a solid cedar top/laminate ebony body Ohana) by now, but that would be the extent of my collection.
 
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The trick about setting up a poll is determining the options so everyone understands them.

What determines that something is luthier build?
Does that mean only one person involved in the production of the ukulele?

Then next step is called what? A boutique ukulele, a shop ukulele, or what would you call it? Like a small workshop with just a few luthiers and assistants combining forces to make instruments.

And then factory made ukes. Where do you draw the line between workshop and factory? Is Brüko a factory or workshop?

And then besides the people involved in the production, there is the question of whether it is a stock ukulele, a "made to order" ukulele or a custom ukulele. Some would call MyaMoe custom, some call them "made to order", because you can only pick options from a catalogue. Unless you pick something out of catalogue. My MyaMoe was second hand, so for me it is just stock, but for the original owner not 😆
 
I've got:
Loprinzi Nova all maple tenor
Beansprout Alaskan yellow cedar and walnut baritone
Both are respectively the best instruments of their size I have ever played.
I got them custom built, but changes are minor from a standard build from the same luthier - really just a wider neck and custom wood choice.
 
And then besides the people involved in the production, there is the question of whether it is a stock ukulele, a "made to order" ukulele or a custom ukulele. Some would call MyaMoe custom, some call them "made to order", because you can only pick options from a catalogue. Unless you pick something out of catalogue. My MyaMoe was second hand, so for me it is just stock, but for the original owner not 😆
Most luthiers who do custom orders have a list of particulars on their websites from which a client can choose. (More options may emerge in conversations between luthier and client.) You might think of all this a catalog of options. What's the difference whether you call the end result made-to-order or custom?

In the case of a luthier who has stopped taking orders and just sells what he makes, like Chuck Moore, I'd call his instruments custom, but since he decides all the various details himself, it's not made-to-order. Nobody ordered it.

It seems to me that a custom ukulele remains a custom ukulele no matter how many owners it has had. If you now own it (lucky devil!), you have a custom ukulele.
 
I have one, Heritiage, and one being finished now, Ana’ole. Both Luther made and custom. I’m probably done for a while on those but one day will absolutely get a Ko’olau custom, probably years away from that, though
 
Unfortunately my skill does not match my uke collection, but the luthier made ones are easier to play because of their design and attention to detail. I also enjoy admiring the beauty of them while I play them. If my uke collection matched my skill, I would probably have graduated past my son’s makala dolphin and into my first uke (a solid cedar top/laminate ebony body Ohana) by now, but that would be the extent of my collection.
Same! Also the soundports are helpful for being engaged and hearing the nuances while increasing skill
 
What an interesting thread, and a fun future poll if it becomes one!

To continue to pull on the threads established by others above, perhaps a few definitions would be helpful. As has been mentioned, what it means to be “custom” is one.
But what about the term “luthier” itself?

The dictionaries define it as one who makes stringed instruments, from the word “lute.”

The Guild of American Luthiers defines itself as follows:

The Guild of American Luthiers is a nonprofit educational membership organization whose purpose is to facilitate learning about lutherie: the art, craft, and science of stringed musical instrument building and repair. Since 1972, we’ve been the foremost source of information for makers, repairers, and restorers of all kinds of string instruments.”

Thus Jake Wildwood, know for his excellent restoration and repair, is a luthier. The technician changing strings at my local shop is a luthier.

For our purposes, would this be a one-person enterprise? Matt Petros, son of Bruce, is now working beside his father so there are two there.

If I worked in the Kala custom shop making Elites, I would call myself a luthier. Or the Kamaka. Or any place at all that makes stringed instruments, because lutherie would be my profession. Do we mean a luthier that makes them by hand with no machines such as CNC?

Thanks for the food for thought!
 
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