Well folks, my experience of wanting, ordering, and receiving my very first custom instrument is now complete. If you’ve been following along, I have been writing about my Boat Paddle Ukulele journey since the end of March when Jerry Hoffmann began building my custom concert sized uke. I won’t re-write that entire story as you can go back and read it yourself, but as a re-cap, I ordered the instrument in December and took delivery of it at the beginning of June. A problem with the finish caused me to send it back and it was returned to me in July. I’ve had it for a month now, and am ready to share my thoughts…
Here’s the shopping list (prices current when I placed my order):
Concert size ukulele with cutaway $500
Redwood top, Maple Sides and back AAA grade wood or better $48
Maple bridge $0
Maple binding $75
Maple binding around sound hole $0
Maple fretboard $40
Fretboard wave makers $145
Burl Redwood peghead $15
Grover open gear tuners $0
Gloss finish (8-10 coats hand leveled and polished lacquer) $150
And here’s the finished instrument:
From the beginning, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to bond with the non-traditional ukulele shape of a Boat Paddle ukulele. But since I’m really not a traditional kind of girl, it was love at first sight. I had originally requested a Mahogany top, but Jerry suggested Redwood. I’m so glad I took him up on the change. Not many people can say that they have a ukulele with a Redwood top.
And just look at that gorgeous curly Maple back and sides.
Lovely isn’t it?
The top is bound in Maple, to give the impression that the sides are wrapped around it, instead of it sitting on top.
The sound hole is bound in Maple as well. It looks like the top is super thick, but that’s just binding.
The burled Redwood peg head was another suggestion from Jerry.
Yay for Grover tuners. I’m not a fan of friction tuners at all. Gears make me happy.
The action is perfect, no buzzing or problems with playability. The frets are dressed, with no snaggy edges.
Instead of slots in the nut, I have removable metal pins. The advantage is that there is no possibility of the string buzzing because a groove is worn or the wrong size, they also let the strings slide over the nut more freely when tuning and allow for any gauge string (grooved nuts are made for only one given set of strings).
I had asked Jerry if he could come up with some ideas for fretboard markers as I didn’t want to use standard dots as that seemed a little too generic for me. He came up with the idea you see above and I really like it a lot.
Jerry’s skill as a luthier is outstanding. Check out the cool cutaway.
Another shot of the cutaway. You can also see the neck. Jerry’s necks are Strat-like due to the way they join the body.
A compensated saddle is used to make sure that the intonation is dead on.
Everything about this instrument is outstanding. The materials and workmanship are excellent. Working with Jerry was a pleasure. He answered all my questions in a very timely manner and gave me wonderful suggestions and ideas to help make this custom instrument everything that I hoped it would be.
I really liked the sound of this ukulele from my first strum, but after one month, it’s already starting to sound even better. The Redwood top gives it a warm full tone that has wonderful resonance. It’s the best sounding ukulele in my small collection, so I can’t imagine what it’s going to sound like in the years to come.
Here’s a link to a short sound bite to give you an idea of what this instrument sounds like:
My only complaint has been the fact that a custom hard shell case isn’t included with the instrument. Just a zippered soft gig bag. So I’m thinking I might try a Tenor sized case to see if it might fit the unique Boat Paddle shape.
My first experience ordering a custom made instrument has been very enjoyable due to Jerry Hoffmann’s skill and artistry. If you are looking for your own one of a kind ukulele, I can highly recommend a Boat Paddle. I’m actually thinking about ordering another one!