I remember late last year when I began my ukulele adventure, I read about this weird condition called UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome). I thought it was crazy; who needs more than one ukulele? Certainly not I… Um… Yeah… It’s only been five months and I already have five ukes with two customs in the works. I was really excited to find out that one of these customs just got underway today. Since this is my first experience with having a custom instrument built, I thought it might be interesting to document the process of ordering and working with a luthier. This will be an on-going series of articles about my custom Boat Paddle ukulele.
In early December I stumbled upon the Boat Paddle website when I clicked on one of the Top 50 Ukulele Sites buttons that you see on various ukulele related sites (including this one!) on the web. I noticed the Boat Paddle banner at the top and clicked on it. I then ended up spending awhile looking at the various instrument styles and listening to sound samples. It was only a few days later when I contacted Jerry Hoffmann to ask if he ever built concert sized ukuleles and if he had one that I might be able to review for the site. He responded back that he didn’t have any extras but that I might consider having one built. He explained that his base price (with no frills or extras) for a concert instrument was $425 and that he was backed up till April or May. Paying a small deposit ($100) would get me on his build list. After having heard that some other luthiers can have as long as a 2-3 year wait for an instrument, I thought 4-5 months was just a blink of the eye. So the process began…
The first thing Jerry did was send me his feature price list (the list attached is current as of last December. If interested, please contact Jerry directly for his latest list). What I wasn’t sure about was the type of wood to select for the top, back and sides. Being a complete newbie to ukuleles, I asked Jerry a lot of questions about different types of wood. I told him that I wasn’t interested in a Koa instrument since I already had the Pono and KoAloha. I wanted something different that was both pleasing to the eye and ear.
I eventually I decided to go with the cutaway concert body with grade AAA Mahogany top and back, with Maple sides and neck / fretboard. The image above is an example of Jerry’s cutaway body style.
For binding, Jerry suggested Maple binding cut from the side stock to make it look like the Mahogany top is inset into the Maple sides (example shown above). I thought that was a really cool idea and added it to my want list.
For fret markers, Jerry sent me the image above as an idea. At first I liked this style, but then I changed my mind and decided that I wanted a more traditional marker in the middle of the fretboard. I didn’t want regular dots, and when the idea of waves came to mind, Jerry asked if I wanted him to draw up some ideas. I said sure! A few days later, he sent me the following ideas…
I loved the circular design and went with that.
Another interesting feature that I added to my shopping list was a pinned nut like the one shown below.
And last but not least, I decided to skip a sound hole rosette and go with a lined sound hole like the one shown below.
All that is left now is the wait… Next up, stay tuned for Jerry’s first progress report as he started building my instrument this week., Part7