Mystery pear-shaped ukulele from Japan - please help identify!

kissing

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Hello folks!
I was visiting a music store to buy some spare saddles and as I walked past the ukulele section, this instrument caught my eye.

And when I picked it up to inspect and play it, I could immediately tell it was a very high quality instrument from the attention to detail in its build and sheer sound quality. Easily the best sounding uke in the whole shop.

There are a few cracks on the top following the grain, but they seemed somewhat stable and the music store owner assured me that it should be structurally sound.
Nonetheless, it was priced quite reasonably and if the cracks got worse I really wouldn't mind taking it to a luthier for repairs.

The instrument itself was beautifully setup and sounded amazing. Very clear notes and impressive projection.

However, there are absolutely no maker's labelling anywhere to be seen... not on the headstock or inside the body.
The music store owner told me that all he knows about it is that the country of origin is Japan, and that it's probably 20-40 years old.
After a bit of a negotiation, he tempted me with a discount and I was sold :ROFLMAO:.
I paid for about what you would pay for an entry level laminate Kala in an Australian brick n mortar store.
It seemed worth it because it definitely sounded much better than all the Kalas he had in stock, some which are double the price of this uke.

Anyway, here are the photos. If anyone could help me with some leads regarding identifying the instrument, that would be great!
I'm guessing it might be the work of some individual luthier/artisan that is probably worth a lot more than I paid for.
Even if it isn't, it's an amazing instrument that I've no regrets about, and is certainly very unique!
 

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anthonyg

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I can't say for certain because I don't recognise this specific instrument, and this probably isn't what you really wanted to hear, but some of the details look like a Bruceweiart instrument.
The headstock is one of the headstocks used by Brucewei.
The sound-hole details are very much in the style of bruceweiart although I don't ever remember him making a teardrop, yet that doesn't rule it out either.
The quality of instruments that he sold definitely varied greatly.

My best guess is that its a custom ordered Bruceweiart rather than a run of the mill Bruceweiart that was sold on eBay. It's an instrument that Brucewei would have charged a reasonable price for rather than one of his cheap instruments. I doubt that its more than 10 years old but not brand new either.
 
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bbkobabe

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Not so sure about the Bruce Wei theory, since the headstock on mine is similar to but not quite the same... but close...

But there are lots of reasons to credit that theory as well. Mine also has no identifying features, and appears to be an orphaned special order - a or prototype? - that I bought cheap on eBay. It has some unusual inlays and a few odd details, like that curious strip of laminated wood at the bottom. They seem to dwell on these laborious details.

And they make lots of odd shapes and unusual sizes. Look at the little pocket sized sopranito on eBay right now for an example of how they do things... an ultra high quality uke that is only 19" in total length? Why not... they seem to like experimenting!

One more thing: It's hard to see in your pictures, but your uke appears to have a one piece neck... so does mine. This is a pretty unusual thing to see from my experience.

And this may just seal the deal: Mine also developed some cracks on the face as well. They seem to have stabilized over time for me. But getting these things out and into the world from steamy Vietnam reliably is something they still haven't mastered, it seems.

In addition, the headstock is really close to what mine has... maybe it morphed a bit over the years?

I'm going with Anthonyg on this one. Awesome that you picked this one up at such a good price. I love mine! Sounds better than anything else in it's price range to my ears.

BTW: If you want to compare yourself, I posted about it in the REVIEW section last summer with a picture. Compare the headstocks and see what you think...
 

kissing

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Thanks for the insights! At the back of my mind, I did think of Bruce Wei instruments. Though I was not super familiar with them, I was aware that the styling choices had a resemblance. I was under the impression Bruce Wei ukes did have their branding inside the sound hole though.

This is an excellent lead with regards to the source of this mystery uke. Maybe the origin was Japan because a uke collector/player purchased it from Japan and then re-sold it 🤣
 

VegasGeorge

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I just checked. All five of my Bruce Wei Ukes have his label on the inside. Only one has a similar headstock. None have anything like the sound hole trim or inlays on the OP's Uke. So, I'm doubting that it is a Bruce Wei. Of course, he makes Ukes to order, and has produced some pretty different looking stuff. But why wouldn't his label be in there?
 

anthonyg

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Most of Brucewei's earlier stuff is unlabelled. Only some of the more recent instruments are labelled. Also, Brucewei used a variety of headstock designs. The instrument we are discussing looks like one of the designs he uses.
The transition on the back of the neck, the end block trim, the timber. It all looks like a Brucewei to me except that I don't remember a tear drop from him, but then again I do remember him advertising that he makes customs to order as well.
 

Graham Greenbag

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I wondered about the age. If the tuners are original fit then how long have sealed gear Tuners been in common use for? It looks like a nice instrument to me, it sounds good to your ears and it didn’t cost much. You’re young and have many playing years ahead of you so perhaps it’d just be best to play it for say another six decades (get your money’s worth out of it ;-) ), assume a minimal resale value, and worry no further.

I believe that Bruce Wei stopped trading in 2017 . https://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/index.php?threads/bruce-wei.128005/ . Your instrument might be one of Bruce’s but without label, or might have been built by someone associated with him or even copying his work.

I’ve no idea whether Bruce would answer an email or not, but perhaps Mike or some else here has details that you could try to use and ask him about your instrument.
 
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Cadia

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Well it's beautiful, and if I saw it and it sounded that good I'd buy it too, regardless of the cracks. It sounds like you'll get a lot of enjoyment from this uke.
 

kissing

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Thank you everyone so far!
So it seems like it *could* be a Bruce Wei, but perhaps the evidence isn't clear cut.

Would it help if I also mentioned that the neck is narrower than standard?
I just measured it, and it is 31mm at the nut - feels a bit like a mandolin neck than an ukulele neck. Has Bruce Wei been known to make narrow necks?
 

KohanMike

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It doesn't look like any Bruce Wei Arts I've ever seen and I look at his stuff on eBay very often. Never seen that style tail inlay or sound hole surround. He has made me customs to my specific details, which this could be. He replies to my emails all the time, ask him directly, bruceweiguitar@yahoo.com.tw.

Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
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