How many of you actually have custom luthier built ukes?

how many luthier-made ukuleles do you have?


  • Total voters
    80
Consider creating a poll in this thread. We’ve done a few polls in the past (for example about different uke sizes members play, how many ukes members have, which is the best Shrek movie) and the results are always very interesting.
I just added a poll to the thread.
 
“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.)
I guess I'm specifically asking about custom ukuleles, made to your specifications.

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 would say yes, that would count.

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It won't let me edit the name of the poll. Maybe a mod or admin can. I'd like to specify: "How many of you own custom luthier ukuleles that were made to your specifications."
 
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I have three instruments, made by Pops Okami. They are custom in the sense that they were built to order. In addition, they were designed and built by a single person, to his personal standard. To say I collaborated is over stated. I was actively involved in the build process, but I specified very little about what I wanted customized. I also consider my Kamaka, KoAloha, Pono, and Oli ukuleles to be hand made, it's just that not every part was crafted and assembled by a single person. However, they are not custom, they are part of a single product line and produced in much larger quantity. On the other hand, these instruments are built to a standard of fit and finish that is in every way as good as my Pops instruments.

To be frank, I bought my first instrument (the soprano) from Pops as an experiment because it was less expensive than either an entry level Kamaka or KoAloha soprano. I had read quite a bit about Pops and his post-retirement experiments with different woods, I had read glowing reviews, so I was very curious. During that build I got to know Pops and realized that his priorties and standards in building an instrument, were very much in line with what I was looking for. He is first and foremost a musician, and the sound of the instrument and how it plays are the drivers of his design and his builds. I was and am so blown away by the soprano, that for the other two instruments, all I wanted was the larger scale. When Pops says one of his instruments is "ready" I know I will love it.
 
Although I have a gorgeous Pepe Romero custom tenor, it was acquired from TUS and not built to my specifications. I do have a couple of Bonanzas built by Peter Mai. They are lovely but not in the same class as the Pepe. I did, however, specify body materials (and the pear’s shape) at time of order. Therefore I voted “two.”

When my Beansprout Kingdom Era soprano arrives (November build slot), I will have 3 😊
 
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.)
Does this apply to cars too? Because lots of people drive like they shouldn't own anything better than a 1978 Toyota Corolla.
 
I have a fancy custom-built uke coming from Japan as a 50th birthday present and I will enjoy the hell out of it even though I will never, ever be good enough to "deserve" such an instrument. I don't deserve the wife who gave it to me either but she's stuck with me for nearly 20 years so who knows maybe I'm wrong.

These kinds of instruments are functional works of art, and I like being able to support the luthier community, especially an up-and-coming luthiery like Kida Ukuleleworks. I hope that I can do it again, and again, and then pass the instruments down either to my eldest or to someone else who will love them for decades to come.
 
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?
He told me what woods he had access to. I chose redwood top and koa back/sides.
 
I'm surprised how many people have multiple. I guess even something made by a well respected luthier will never be "perfect". To be fair there is a lot of variety in how to set up ukuleles, and I definitely understand wanting multiple types of strings, sizes, or tunings.
 
Mine was a monumental ukulele, a tribute to my mother at her passing. I've had it for 8 years and am only beginning to appreciate how great it sounds. But it never leaves the house. It's too pressure. For off-premesis I have a nice Kanile'a, also a great ukulele. I will never practice or live long enough to play like I deserve either of them.

The custom, by Beau Hannam, was meant to be one uke to rule them all. But UAS always seems to have other ideas. 😎
 
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In various senses, four of the five ‘ukulele in my stable are custom, luthier-built instruments:
  • three ukes built and finished by prominent 2-person teams likely with occasional assistance from within their immediate circles. All three are variations on catalog models elevated by special features;
  • one uke designed by a reputable luthier and executed by a small subset of expert luthiers within a somewhat larger production facility.
The fifth instrument, not being built by a luthier, only half-counts, but:
  • one kit-built cigar box uke assembled and reinforced by a fluthier and painted by a graphic designer and artist.
 
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Since 2013, I've had Bruce Wei custom make me tenor and bass ukes to my specs, about 10 so far, with one in the works right now. Not only does he do very good work, he also has very good prices. Before covid, tenor and bass ukes would be between $400 to $750 including express shipping, after covid they're $800 to $1200, and only take about 2 months.

I've also had custom bass ukes made by Fanner in South Africa, Blue Star in Michigan, and David Martinez in Mexico (never again).

Bruce Wei Plus Customs.jpg
 
I clicked the “0” box because the one luthier-made ukulele that I own was not a custom build. A local luthier friend (who also made both of my current harps) also happens to make guitars, mandolins, and, occasionally, ukuleles. I was playing harp duets with his wife one day when I noticed three new concert ukuleles on their shop wall. Long story short, one of them ended up on my ukulele wall. It’s made of solid yew, so I call it my “yew-kulele.” :)
 
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I'm surprised how many people have multiple. I guess even something made by a well respected luthier will never be "perfect". To be fair there is a lot of variety in how to set up ukuleles, and I definitely understand wanting multiple types of strings, sizes, or tunings.
Instead, I would say there’s no “one size fits all”. I love the sound of the WOW and it fits songs love songs surprisingly well, but when I try to play moody video game music I find myself reaching for a deeper-sounding ukulele. I think of it like music genres, I personally don’t like pop singers in musicals, for example.

It is “perfect” because I’m satisfied with the sound and have no plans of selling it, but I need more ukuleles to fill the gaps in my collection! And thus… UAS
 
I'm surprised how many people have multiple. I guess even something made by a well respected luthier will never be "perfect". To be fair there is a lot of variety in how to set up ukuleles, and I definitely understand wanting multiple types of strings, sizes, or tunings.
they probably are perfect... and that's why they have multiples. perfection comes in many flavors.
 
Have 12 koa customs, -plus a small stack of 4/4 for future ukes but my luthier close to me closed shop , wood dust got to him, I bought the koa lumber from a guy on Big Island that harvested old down trees and had a big sawmill, got to pick out the figure of my wood, right there but had to take whole board not just part I liked, wrapped up and took on plane home as luggage
 
Over the course of 7 years, I have only owned one ukulele that was custom built by a luthier to my specs. That was a Loprinzi. I have however owned 4 that were built by smaller shop luthiers......Imua, Gary Gill, and Cocobolo.
 
These kinds of instruments are functional works of art, and I like being able to support the luthier community, especially an up-and-coming luthiery like Kida Ukuleleworks. I hope that I can do it again, and again, and then pass the instruments down either to my eldest or to someone else who will love them for decades to come.
I agree with all you’ve said. I don’t come close to doing justice to the custom ukes I’ve ordered. But I cherish them and take great care of them and play them with joy. They will still be around, treasured and played by future generations of players, long after I’m gone, because they’re built to last and to improve with age. Like fine old violins.

So I figure that by ordering these little masterpieces from gifted luthiers, I helped bring them into the world. They exist because I commissioned them. If I lost the use of my limbs tomorrow, and could never play again, I wouldn’t regret it.
 
I'm surprised how many people have multiple. I guess even something made by a well respected luthier will never be "perfect". To be fair there is a lot of variety in how to set up ukuleles, and I definitely understand wanting multiple types of strings, sizes, or tunings.
If money was no object, many more people would at least have some custom requests.
 
If money was no object, many more people would at least have some custom requests.
Not necessarily. Getting a custom ukulele is subject to a few limitations. There is a finite number of luthiers. Time is an issue as well. My custom took about 2 years from order to delivery. What seems like a good idea at the time may fade by the time it arrives. Lastly, you will never know how it sounds until it comes out of the case. Try before you buy can give you confidence.
 
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