Friday, October 12, 2007

Custom Ukes: Which builder to go with?

I have not owned or played any custom ukes in the brief time since I started playing the ukulele. That hasn't stopped me from drooling over them from various custom builders. In fact, I already have 2 on order with two builders who has sterling reputations among uke fans.

The first one I ordered, about 3 months into uke playing, was a Glyph mezzo-soprano uke built by Dave Means. Dave does some outstanding work as you can see from his uke gallery and has one of the best reputations among custom builders. The result of that is a waiting list close to 3 years long. When I placed my order in May of '07, my uke was scheduled to be completed around March of 2010! I just figured I'd better place an order sooner rather than later or I may never be able to get a Glyph. Choosing the mezzo-soprano size was partly influenced by economics and partly influenced by the desire for something different. I knew I wanted something bigger than a soprano but not quite a tenor at the time, so it was either a concert or the mezzo-soprano. Since the mezzo-soprano is a custom size Dave had dreamed up, I thought it would make for a great custom ukulele.

The second custom uke I ordered was from Kepasa Ukuleles, built by Kevin Crossett. Kevin is a relatively new builder who has been repairing instruments for many many years. Some of his customers had posted on various forums about how wonderful his ukes are so I checked out his website. One uke in particular caught my eyes. It was his Little Mac model. Previously I had seen an Po-Mahina Island Jazz uke from the cover of Mel Bay's Fingerstyle Solos and thought it was really nifty. I liked the looks of the Selmer/Maccaferri guitar design and these ukes looked very interesting to me. So I contacted Kevin about the Little Mac and learned that his prices were very affordable for custom built instruments. In addition, he would be able to accommodate my request to add a D-shaped soundhole and a cutaway body style. That made it a no-brainer. This uke is scheduled to start building in January of '08 and should be done by March. It'll be a nice birthday present for myself next April. :)

Even though I have not even received my first custom ukulele yet, I've been thinking about getting a custom built long scale (18 inch scale) tenor. I know I want one made with a spruce top and possibly koa sides and backs. I also want it to have a slotted headstock. The builder I'm most intrigued with is William King of Chantus Music. People who has played his ukes rave at the sound and playability. He also doesn't appear to have quite the long wait list as Dave Means, which is a big plus since I'm already going to wait over 2 years for a uke. The afore mentioned Po Mahina is another possibility to have a good custom tenor built. Other highly reputable custom builders include Mike DaSilva, and Dave Talsma. I guess by the time I am ready to pull the trigger on an order, I'll have decided which one to go with. If I had to choose right now, it'd probably be William King.

Anyway, as you can see, I have some rampant UAS going on here. I do plan to sell off ukes for each new one I acquire, but it only becomes harder and harder as each remaining uke becomes more and more indispensable. Or something.


Howlin' Hobbit said...

Yeah, it's a long wait. But when your Glyph arrives you are going to be so happy!

In the meantime you'll have your Kepasa. I've never had a chance to strum one of those but I believe the reports from Nipper and others... wish I could afford one myself.

Keep on strummin'!


GX9901 said...

Thanks for commenting, Hobbit! I didn't know anyone read this blog other than a friend who mocks my ukulele habit.
I sort of got in on the Kepasa from the ground floor. Not quite as low as you did on your Glyph, but Kevin's prices has already gone up since I ordered mine. The anticipation should be fun, if not a little painful.


Pete Daniels said...

I think you are doing a great job with this colorful and intelligent blog. Keep up the good work. The videos are great, your links are good, (one of them is dead) and the colorful look of the blog is just plain fun. I think you have more readers than you think.


Neal Paisley said...

Good Blog. You got the Kepasa? I would love one of Kevin's ukes, the Madeira model is intriguing...

GX9901 said...

Thanks for the comment Neal. I have not heard about my Kepasa for months now (ordered last summer), so at this point I'm not sure if it's going to ever be delivered. It's not a big deal as I already have too many ukes anyway. If it appears one day, it does.

Which uke should I bring on my next trip to Oahu???

What's the maximum you'd spend on a ukulele case for your best uke?

If you could steal one of my ukes, which one would it be???

How curly do you like your koa? (preferably on a uke)

What's the maximum number of ukes a perfectly sane person should have???

Poll: How often do you play the ukulele???

Poll: Which guitar company's approach to ukes do you prefer???

Poll: What's your favorite type of headstock???

Poll: The new basic Collings concert uke (UC-1) sells for about $1k, your reaction is: