About Earnest Instruments & Joel Eckhaus

Joel EckhausEARNEST INSTRUMENTS was founded by Joel Eckhaus in 1976. The name was originally inspired by an old Regal “Octophone”, brought in for repair, that the customer had nicknamed “Ernest.” Joel copied the dimensions and built a similar instrument, and EARNEST INSTRUMENTS was born. As the name implies, these are serious instruments, capable of expressing the artistry and technical proficiency of any musician.

JOEL ECKHAUS began building instruments in 1973. He studied woodworking at the Shelburne Craft School and at Rochester Institute of Technology with noted cabinetmaker, James Krenov. He apprenticed at the Tourin Musica, in Duxbury, VT, with harpsichord and viol maker, Peter Tourin, and built his first EARNEST mandolin at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop, in Elkins, WV, under the instruction of Paul Reisler. He opened a shop in 1976, and has been playing, teaching, designing, building, and repairing string instruments ever since. His woodworking experience also includes sailboat repair and construction, home renovation, nickelodeon construction, whirligig design and production, fine furniture and cabinetmaking, and production lutherie with Dana Bourgeois Guitars. Joel has a BS degree in vocational education and currently teaches woodworking and instrument making at Maine College of Art.

In addition to being a luthier, Joel also plays the mandolin, tenor guitar and banjo, ukulele, and musical saw. He studied uke and banjo with former vaudevillian, Roy Smeck, the “Wizard of the Strings”, and studied mandolin with former Texas Playboy, Tiny Moore. He was a founding member of the Arm and Hammer String Band, and has performed with the New York Banjo Ensemble, the Howitzer Mandolin Orchestra, the Neverly Brothers, the Blue Sky Serenaders, the New England New Vaudeville Review and the Pinetones. He currently plays with the ukabilly duo Dos Eckies; a ukulele/tap dance duo, Ham & Legs; and his own group, Ukulele Eck and the Fabulous Lacklusters.