View Full Version : Replacement mandolele on its way.

05-31-2014, 04:01 PM
A few months ago when I was all caught up in UAS, I saw a pretty mandolele being auctioned on eBay from Bruce Wei Arts in Vietnam, a UTT model. I won it for $51 US (plus $70 shipping). Solid spruce top, solid maple body, cream binding.

When it arrived, I found that it was not built all that well, ragged seams between the binding and body, poor fret installation, thick top, high action, but the color, satin finish and shape are nice. I had the action lowered, changed the saddle and strings, but didn't do the frets. It still does not have much projection or sustain, and a couple of frets buzz a little, but I figured it was worth the $51.

Pretty but low end, B grade uke:
http://www.fairfax67.com/images/mandolele B grade.jpg

A couple of months later, after improving and learning the difference in the quality of better ukes, I contacted Bruce Wei about making me a custom uke, as he advertises. In the course of the emails, I complained a bit about the mandolele. He replied that he does not make the low price ukes auctioned on his eBay site, he allows other makers use his site, but he stands behind what sells there.

He wrote that the UTT models are B grade, but the UG, UA, UC a higher grades. I asked how I could get a better grade mandolele, and he replied that he could make me a mahogany mandolele for $220 (plus $70 shipping), and take 30 days to build it. He would make sure it's built well, with better bracing, clean finished binding edges and properly installed frets, he would even route the bridge so I could fit a pickup under the saddle. I thought about it for a couple days, then decided to go for it. (I gave my UTT to my cousin's son.)

When it arrives in about three weeks I'm going to change the strings to Worth CT clears, add a tailpiece (shown in the photo), add a preamp/pickup system and strap buttons. If his work comes out well, I'm going to order a full custom from him.

Better built A grade uke on its way:
http://www.fairfax67.com/images/Mandolele mahogany.jpg

05-31-2014, 04:11 PM
I hope this one works out better for you. I ordered a sopranino from him a couple months ago that cost more to ship than the uke did…same as you. When it arrived I was quite excited until I tuned it up and strummed a little. It's quite anemic sounding. It's beautiful, and certainly passes for art, but as for a playable uke; I'm going to have to say no. I've thought about putting it on the Marketplace with full disclosure, but haven't been ready for the realized loss yet if someone decides to buy it. It's cute, pretty, but not much for playing. I figured if someone wanted it for a wall hanger or a project to see if they can find a way to get better tone from it, it might be worth a few bucks with free shipping. A real shame they can't get them to sound as good as they look.

05-31-2014, 04:18 PM
As I mentioned, he does not make the ones that are sold cheap on eBay, that's why I ordered one that he will make so that it is better, as he assures me. Also, I've been given very positive feedback from people who have had ukes made by him.