Behind the Scenes at a Luthier’s Shop

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My 18-year-old son, the ‘ukulele player, recently decided to upgrade the pickup in his Kamaka ‘ukulele (for the uninitiated, the pickup is the part of the instrument that allows it to be plugged in to an amp). He contacted Chuck Moore, a Hawai’i Island luthier who likes Brad well enough to have agreed to do the install (Chuck doesn’t usually do this kind of work) and let our whole family converge on his shop.

Before work began on Brad’s instrument, Chuck gave us a tour of his workshop, where he produces his Moore Bettah ‘Ukuleles. Situated in the middle of a rain forest, Chuck’s shop is entirely off-grid. Using primarily solar power, Chuck crafts custom-made ‘ukuleles that are amazing – and available by special order only. A former scrimshaw artist, he uses his artistic skills (and I’d suspect plenty of patience) to embellish his ‘ukuleles with inlaid scenes reminiscent of a tropical paradise. Just look:

If you’re a fan of ‘ukuleles or beautiful artwork, go check out Chuck’s gallery. He’s got gorgeous photos of his work, and you’ll have a chance to see Rick Vito (formerly of Fleetwood Mac) jam on his Moore Bettah ‘Ukuleles uke.

We were able to see various stages of building, from rough planks of koa, a sought-after tropical hardwood, to “kits” that Chuck has assembled and ready to form. And of course there were some ‘ukuleles in progress as well as several that were strung and ready to make music.

We loved getting a behind the scenes look at Chuck’s shop, but the real reason for our visit was to have that new pickup installed. You must understand that Brad’s ‘ukulele is like his baby. He earned the money to buy it, spent countless hours visiting music stores until he found just the right one, and has had it for about five years. Chuck couldn’t be any more competent, but there were definitely some wide-eyed moments from all of us as he worked. Like, say, when he started drilling holes in the ‘ukulele.

drill, Chuck Moore, ukulele, Moore Bettah Ukuleles, Hawaii, pickup, music

Other than a few tense moments, though, it was so interesting to see how pieces and parts are attached and installed. Because I don’t know about you, but I’d wondered how in the world some of those pieces and parts were installed inside the ‘ukulele. I mean, that’s a small hole! Brad enjoyed the chance to see Chuck at work and has deemed the upgrade a complete success – the new pickup sounds great. For more images and play-by-play, check out Brad’s slide show over at Live ‘Ukulele.

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