Saturday, April 13, 2013

Interview w/ Jerry Hoffman from Boat Paddle Ukuleles

Boat Paddle Kayak - yet another uke I must have!
For being such a fantastic custom ukulele builder, Jerry Hoffman sure is very humble guy.  Sometimes humility can be mistaken for a lack of confidence, but that's not the case with Jerry and his Missouri based company, Boat Paddle Ukuleles.  I simply think that he strives for excellence and perfection in all his builds.  He strikes me as the type that's never satisfied and always wants to do better both for the customer and for his own peace of mind.

I don't know about you, but that's exactly the kind of individual that I want building my custom ukulele - someone that will go above and beyond to make sure you're 100% happy with your purchase.  This is exactly why I'm planning on making that beautiful uke to the left (Boat Paddle Kayak) my first custom ukulele. 

I recently had the opportunity to correspond with Jerry in interview type fashion and ask him a few questions.  Hope you enjoy it!  And of course, don't forget to check out some of his AMAZING work here at the Boat Paddle website.

Q:  How long have you been building ukuleles and approximately how many have you built over the years?
 A:  "I've been building 7+ years and have built about 250 ukuleles."

Q:  What got you into instrument building and why ukuleles?  
A:  "I was publisher of a periodical called the Blacksmith's Journal for over 20 years and was looking for something different to do. I tried building furniture for a while, then read an article about instrument building in a trade magazine and I was hooked. Ukuleles were just becoming popular again and it seemed to be a better way to go for a new business."

Q:  I've heard a few folks in the uke community dub you a "master luthier". While this is a term I completely agree with, how do you feel about that kind of praise?  
A:  "I don't consider myself a master luthier because there's too much more to still learn. Even if an instrument appears "perfect" I know there's always more that can be done. In the traditional sense, a craftsman usually has to make what he does his life's work to be considered a master."

Q:  This might be a very difficult question to answer...but is there a particular ukulele that you've built that you consider your greatest work of art?
A:  "Haven't built that one yet, but I keep trying."

Q:  It seems that there are more and more custom uke builders popping up these days. What would you say sets your ukes apart from those offered by other custom builders? 
A:  "The common thread to what I do, whether it be graphic art, illustrating, blacksmithing or wood working, is design. BP ukuleles and many of the components are all original designs, and that's what sets them apart. "Sound design" is the most important, and it always comes first."

Q:  Since you've been doing this, what's the strangest custom request that you've received?  
A:  "There hasn't been many weird requests. Players like to select inlays that reflect there interests. One song writer chose pen nibs for markers and another wanted brook trout fish markers." 

Q:  One last question - a lot of people (like me) love to see the factories and workshops that our ukuleles are built at. Do you mind if people that are passing through stop in to check out your space?  
A:  "Not at all, it gets lonely here sometimes." 

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