PDA

View Full Version : The Aeko Koa tenor off ebay story



stophie11
11-24-2015, 01:14 AM
So I am basically a newbie to the ukulele(old guitar classical mostly player) and have purchased a bunch of ukes to see what I like. One of the ukes I bought was off ebay advertised as a handmade solid koa wood tenor with hard-case for like 250 bucks. I thought what a deal so I bid and won. When the instrument got here I was appalled the moment I picked it up I could tell the poor thing had been left somewhere to dry and had shrunk up so bad the frets could rip the skin off your fingers they stuck out so bad. I spent 2 plus hours on the uke mostly filing the frets down even with the fret board, I oiled the fretboard down gave it a proper cleaniing and put new Aquila reds low g on it sounded terrible and played sorta suckery. I thought to myself well I just learned a lesson, and put the uke out in my humidified room. Long story short after 2 days of being properly humidified the uke came back to life, and while not the best sounding or playing uke I have but I kinda like it. Built like a Mac truck doesn't ring out well and sounds kinds dead but would be great for jazz style playing, oh and that damm red low G did in fact brake like everyone said it would. The moral of the story if you keep your ukes out make sure the room has high humidity.

Jim Hanks
11-24-2015, 02:10 AM
I would say the moral of the story is to not buy "handmade solid koa" for $250 - cuz, yeah, right. :rolleyes: But that might be unkind. Glad you're making the most of it. Now go out and play some jazz. :nana:

kohanmike
11-24-2015, 06:54 AM
I have a similar story; about 3-4 months after I started playing uke in mid 2013, I saw a great looking mandolele on eBay made in Vietnam. I bid on it and won for $75 (plus $65 shipping). When it arrived, I found that the binding did not line up, it was bigger than tenor as it was listed, and it also was built like a tank, not a lot of projection or sustain. I complained to the company who's name was on the auction, Bruce Wei Arts, and Bruce quickly replied that at that time he allowed other builders in Vietnam to sell their stuff through his eBay store. He said I could return it, paying for shipping myself, so I decided to keep it. I also learned he made custom ukes, so I ordered another mandolele built to my specs for $420. I since gifted the first mandolele to my cousin's young son.

http://www.kohanmike.com/uploads/Mandolele received.jpg

Ukejenny
11-24-2015, 07:17 AM
Since I'm not able to do any alterations myself (lack of talent, education and desire to mess with all that), i haven't taken a chance on ukuleles like that. Many years ago, I wanted to make a clarinet lamp. I was in college at the time. My dad found an old, beat up clarinet and bought it for $40.00. I got it and immediately realized this wasn't a piece of junk, but wasn't sure. I took it back to college with me, let my clarinet professor have a look at it. He agreed, that it was something more than junk. It ended up being a very nice horn that had solid keys, lots of interesting adjustments, and (once overhauled) played quite nicely. I still have it.

jgarber
11-24-2015, 07:19 AM
I am also very active on the Mandolin Cafe and those Taiwanese/Vietnamese eBay sellers are notorious for what you describe. I will say that occasionally someone does get an instrument that is better than they paid for but often not so great. They look wonderful from the pictures. I also have a feeling that they depend on buyers over here who figure it is not worth paying for return shipping so they keep it. Caveat emptor. I hope your Bruce Wei instruments turned out better.

PhilUSAFRet
11-24-2015, 10:18 AM
I'd be surprised if anything made it sound better than regular Aquila nylgut strings. Fremont medium blacks?

Calypso
11-24-2015, 12:00 PM
I would say the moral of the story is to not buy "handmade solid koa" for $250 - cuz, yeah, right. :rolleyes: But that might be unkind. Glad you're making the most of it. Now go out and play some jazz. :nana:

Well, I just did that and it worked out great. My "handmade solid acacia-koa" (as it was advertised) is wonderful! Gorgeous sound, very well made, frets dressed to perfection and obviously kept in a decent atmosphere. I know that some ukes from the far east can be dodgy - but it was comments on this very forum which persuaded me to buy mine. From all I've read, if you want to buy one of these, buy from an ebay seller called tiasamlu - which I did. He seems to be very honest and delivers very good quality instruments.

Jim Hanks
11-24-2015, 01:00 PM
Well, I just did that and it worked out great. My "handmade solid acacia-koa" (as it was advertised) is wonderful!
Good for you! At least yours said "acacia-koa" which is probably a sign of someone trying to be honest. Glad it worked out. :shaka:

UkerDanno
11-24-2015, 01:08 PM
So I am basically a newbie to the ukulele(old guitar classical mostly player) and have purchased a bunch of ukes to see what I like. One of the ukes I bought was off ebay advertised as a handmade solid koa wood tenor with hard-case for like 250 bucks. I thought what a deal so I bid and won. When the instrument got here I was appalled the moment I picked it up I could tell the poor thing had been left somewhere to dry and had shrunk up so bad the frets could rip the skin off your fingers they stuck out so bad. I spent 2 plus hours on the uke mostly filing the frets down even with the fret board, I oiled the fretboard down gave it a proper cleaniing and put new Aquila reds low g on it sounded terrible and played sorta suckery. I thought to myself well I just learned a lesson, and put the uke out in my humidified room. Long story short after 2 days of being properly humidified the uke came back to life, and while not the best sounding or playing uke I have but I kinda like it. Built like a Mac truck doesn't ring out well and sounds kinds dead but would be great for jazz style playing, oh and that damm red low G did in fact brake like everyone said it would. The moral of the story if you keep your ukes out make sure the room has high humidity.

It ain't true unless there's pic's...

Aekoluthier
10-27-2016, 03:24 PM
If the Aeko Ukulele has a label that says "AEKO UKULELES HAWAII" "Hand Crafted in Honolulu, Hawaii" with the silhouette of a Golden Eagle it was made, by hand, in the Aeko workshop on Puuhale street. The first workshop was about 100 feet down the hall from the current shop. You can see the shop in the background of the videos posted on youtube. Search for "Aeko" "Wally" and "Koa". The first videos were in the first shop, the last few are our current location. You can see it is a very small shop. The very first videos were made with thick ukes like described above. Even though you cannot really tell the volume because of the microphone amplification, you can hear how sweet they sound.
The first few ukes we produced were patterned closely on the design the company owner learned at the Hana Lima Ia' ukulele making school. That is a heavy duty build. We have since altered the design to cut weight. Most of the pieces are about half as thick as the school style. We maintained the high level of craftsmanship, such as the Spanish Neck and the scarf joint in the head. We cut away excess material inside the base of the Spanish Neck and reduced the heel, which also makes it easier to reach the lower frets.
Had the instrument described above not been one of our early models, it probably would have cracked, so I would say it was a lucky break. Even though it is heavier than our current builds, he enjoys playing it. That is because each Aeko ukulele is built with the player in mind. The back is contoured for comfort, the finish is hand rubbed (literally, I apply it with my finger tips) so it feels like real wood, rather than some piece of plastic. An Aeko ukulele has a distinct balance point due to the Spanish neck build. It feels solid and will not bounce around in your hands like a toy. It has a wide base for a deep resonance and a clean pure sound. The larger solid wood soundboard is going to be heavier and therefor not as loud as smaller or laminate soundboard. we use a variety of techniques to increase volume, such as thinning the edges of the soundboard to increase flexibility and trimming away as much excess material in the bracing as possible. We use a through the soundboard string design because it allows a much smaller and lighter bridge. I also often make the neck 1/8 of an inch wider at the nut. That is because the "standard" 1-3/8" was great for people 100 years ago, when human hands were smaller than they are now. Those tiny little Portuguese guys with their tiny little fingers fit perfectly on the small fretboard. Modern fingers fit better on a slightly larger fretboard. The difference of 1/8" spread out over the distances between the strings is slight, but still noticeable.
The Aeko is a solidly built ukulele that sounds great and will last for generations if properly cared for( and maybe even if abused). Each is a unique build that was measured by hand. the only thing like a template used is the fret cutting jig, so the tuning is precise. There are small differences in each one we build. I start by selecting wood and carrying it back to my shop on my shoulder. I use machine tools to mill the wood, and hand tools to build the ukes.
We use lifetime guaranteed Grover tuning machines, Aquila Nylgut strings, all solid wood, our fretboard are mostly made from either Tulip or Kingwood. If I run out of Mother of Pearl I make the marker dots from either Kingwood, Snakewood or Maple. The last step before finishing is to level the frets, and re-crown them, so there are no dead spots or buzzing noises, even though the action is low and fast.
The reasons why they are so cheap are many. First off when we sold them on ebay at first we set no lower limit and ended up selling them for as low as $150, including shipping, tuner and case. That could not last so we gradually raised the starting bid, and long before we were making money no one bid except paypal scammers. If you are selling a Kamaka or Martin you can get a good price on ebay, but other brands do not sell so well.
We switched to selling only to local people and tourists on vacation on Craigslist. We also sell them at the swap meet and on Facebook. We still sell them for unbelievably low prices, because the market is insanely tough. There are so many cheap junk ukes being imported it has become almost impossible to sell anything for a reasonable price. Without name recognition, you have to give an incredible deal or it just will not sell. The biggest ukulele store in Hawaii shut down recently, and they are trying to sell their stock at the swap meet too.
Most people do not understand that the cheaper laminates will fall apart due to the poor quality glue used. If the manufacturers would think to use the through the through the soundboard string design they would not rip apart from the layers separating under stress. They also use plastic stickers that look pretty but yellow and peel off all too soon. Those pretty but poorly made in Asia ukes are so cheap and seem like such a good deal people are buying them instead of the better ukes that cost more. If they really play those cheapies they fall apart.
At the time I write this I have a beautiful Sapele Mahogany Tenor with Tulip Fretboard, Bridge and Rosette listed on craigslist for only $200. It has been listed for more than two weeks.
If you get a chance, you should grab an Aeko while you can. The prices cannot remain so low without us going out of business.

Nickie
10-28-2016, 03:37 PM
Thank you for explaining some of the build process to us. I never knew that about human hands. I must be pretty evolved, mine are huge.

Mivo
10-28-2016, 03:55 PM
Thank you for explaining some of the build process to us. I never knew that about human hands. I must be pretty evolved, mine are huge.

People are just generally taller now (some graphs here (https://ahundredyearsago.com/2012/02/06/average-height-for-males-and-females-in-1912-and-2012/)), probably because we live in better conditions (abundance of varied food and nutrients), but I'm not actually sure that this necessarily translates to the thickness of fingers where the wider nut comes into play. I think people with thicker or thinner fingers always existed, regardless of their (hand) size, but maybe nobody thought of making a wider fretboard.(Maybe someone did, I'm not really familiar with vintage ukes.)

Then again, the ukulele used to be more of a rhythm instrument and was chiefly used for strumming, not for melody playing. My 1920s Lyon&Healy has a narrow fretboard that is super nice and tight for fast strumming. On the other hand, my Black Bear soprano, which has a wider fretboard, is wonderful for fingerpicking.

(Also: Guitar fretboards have become more narrow. Electric guitars have significantly more narrow fretboards and string space than classical guitars.)

Futurethink
10-29-2016, 04:49 AM
If the Aeko Ukulele has a label that says "AEKO UKULELES HAWAII" "Hand Crafted in Honolulu, Hawaii" with the silhouette of a Golden Eagle it was made, by hand, in the Aeko workshop on Puuhale street. The first workshop was about 100 feet down the hall from the current shop. You can see the shop in the background of the videos posted on youtube. Search for "Aeko" "Wally" and "Koa". The first videos were in the first shop, the last few are our current location. You can see it is a very small shop. The very first videos were made with thick ukes like described above. Even though you cannot really tell the volume because of the microphone amplification, you can hear how sweet they sound.

The first few ukes we produced were patterned closely on the design the company owner learned at the Hana Lima Ia' ukulele making school. That is a heavy duty build. We have since altered the design to cut weight. Most of the pieces are about half as thick as the school style. We maintained the high level of craftsmanship, such as the Spanish Neck and the scarf joint in the head. We cut away excess material inside the base of the Spanish Neck and reduced the heel, which also makes it easier to reach the lower frets.

Had the instrument described above not been one of our early models, it probably would have cracked, so I would say it was a lucky break. Even though it is heavier than our current builds, he enjoys playing it. That is because each Aeko ukulele is built with the player in mind. The back is contoured for comfort, the finish is hand rubbed (literally, I apply it with my finger tips) so it feels like real wood, rather than some piece of plastic. An Aeko ukulele has a distinct balance point due to the Spanish neck build. It feels solid and will not bounce around in your hands like a toy. It has a wide base for a deep resonance and a clean pure sound. The larger solid wood soundboard is going to be heavier and therefor not as loud as smaller or laminate soundboard. we use a variety of techniques to increase volume, such as thinning the edges of the soundboard to increase flexibility and trimming away as much excess material in the bracing as possible. We use a through the soundboard string design because it allows a much smaller and lighter bridge. I also often make the neck 1/8 of an inch wider at the nut. That is because the "standard" 1-3/8" was great for people 100 years ago, when human hands were smaller than they are now. Those tiny little Portuguese guys with their tiny little fingers fit perfectly on the small fretboard. Modern fingers fit better on a slightly larger fretboard. The difference of 1/8" spread out over the distances between the strings is slight, but still noticeable.

The Aeko is a solidly built ukulele that sounds great and will last for generations if properly cared for( and maybe even if abused). Each is a unique build that was measured by hand. the only thing like a template used is the fret cutting jig, so the tuning is precise. There are small differences in each one we build. I start by selecting wood and carrying it back to my shop on my shoulder. I use machine tools to mill the wood, and hand tools to build the ukes.

We use lifetime guaranteed Grover tuning machines, Aquila Nylgut strings, all solid wood, our fretboard are mostly made from either Tulip or Kingwood. If I run out of Mother of Pearl I make the marker dots from either Kingwood, Snakewood or Maple. The last step before finishing is to level the frets, and re-crown them, so there are no dead spots or buzzing noises, even though the action is low and fast.

The reasons why they are so cheap are many. First off when we sold them on ebay at first we set no lower limit and ended up selling them for as low as $150, including shipping, tuner and case. That could not last so we gradually raised the starting bid, and long before we were making money no one bid except paypal scammers. If you are selling a Kamaka or Martin you can get a good price on ebay, but other brands do not sell so well.

We switched to selling only to local people and tourists on vacation on Craigslist. We also sell them at the swap meet and on Facebook. We still sell them for unbelievably low prices, because the market is insanely tough. There are so many cheap junk ukes being imported it has become almost impossible to sell anything for a reasonable price. Without name recognition, you have to give an incredible deal or it just will not sell. The biggest ukulele store in Hawaii shut down recently, and they are trying to sell their stock at the swap meet too.

Most people do not understand that the cheaper laminates will fall apart due to the poor quality glue used. If the manufacturers would think to use the through the through the soundboard string design they would not rip apart from the layers separating under stress. They also use plastic stickers that look pretty but yellow and peel off all too soon. Those pretty but poorly made in Asia ukes are so cheap and seem like such a good deal people are buying them instead of the better ukes that cost more. If they really play those cheapies they fall apart.

At the time I write this I have a beautiful Sapele Mahogany Tenor with Tulip Fretboard, Bridge and Rosette listed on craigslist for only $200. It has been listed for more than two weeks.

If you get a chance, you should grab an Aeko while you can. The prices cannot remain so low without us going out of business.

Great first post. Welcome to Ukulele Underground, Aekoluthier.

bonesigh
10-29-2016, 08:19 AM
I'm just happy the uke is loved again even with it's imperfections (: