The rising cost of "hand"made ukes

PeterRabit

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It seems to me that the cost of good quality luthier made ukes is getting a bit astronomical. I saw today a post for a "hand"made uke which substantial help from machinery to take the strain, listed for £4000! And an accompanying diatribe as to why this was a "fair" price.

I understand that the cost of living, materials etc is rising but this seems a bit extreme. And you cannot comment or make any suggestion that this is the case without being barred from this particular sellers page.

What is a person to do if they want something locally made that won't break the bank. No wonder people source things from abroad!

Seems such a shame and not completely justified to squeeze people for every dime they're worth.
 

merlin666

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I disagree. Some luthiers may be in high demand and I think that if they have multiple years of waiting list for an instrument then they are well justified to command a premium price. But here in Canada with an average luthier who has a less than one year wait you can get a fantastic instrument at lower cost than the equivalent Hawaiian factory build.
 

DownUpDave

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I don’t know what luthier you are talking about and I don’t want to know. A custom made anything, chair, table, pottery, jewellery, instrument will always be many times more expensive then mass produced items.

I understand and applaud you in wanting to support local talent but if it doesn’t fit into your budget you need to look elsewhere. That is just a cold hard fact of life. I think truly talented luthiers deserve the price they ask. It takes decades to master a craft as exacting as instrument building and none of them get rich asking those prices.

If a luthier can make 5 ukes in a 3 month period that is 20 ukes a year x $4000.00 equals $80,000. This is after cost of material and all operating costs, including all machinery. Lucky to pay his or her bills with what they clear.

My Fred Shields uke is 100% handmade by Fred himself. Cost was $350.00 from USA. I live In Canada so as I said sometimes you have to look elsewhere
 
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John Colter

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I support a builder's right to ask whatever price he chooses. It is your right to buy elsewhere, if you think someone's prices are extortionate. Having said that, I agree with you that $4,000 is off the top end of the scale, but that is just my opinion, which counts for nothing. If makers are able to fill their order books at that price level, then good luck to them.

It might be that they don't take orders, but only offer instruments for sale as they are built. If they sell readily at that price, then that is what they are worth. If they are not worth it, then they will not sell. Any item is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it.

I also agree that the term "hand made" is of doubtful value in the world of musical instruments. All wooden ukuleles are made by hand. Increasingly, the component parts are not. I used the term "wooden" - that can mean many different things, too.

There are lots of really good ukuleles available at a range of prices. You are not short of choice.

Happy buying!

John Colter
 
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WestyShane

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I understand and applaud you in wanting to support local talent but if it doesn’t fit into your budget you need to look elsewhere. That is just a cold hard fact of life.

$4k for a locally handmade uke is too high? Try pricing a new bicycle made anywhere in America.
 

Graham Greenbag

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It seems to me that the cost of good quality luthier made ukes is getting a bit astronomical. I saw today a post for a "hand"made uke which substantial help from machinery to take the strain, listed for £4000! And an accompanying diatribe as to why this was a "fair" price.

I understand that the cost of living, materials etc is rising but this seems a bit extreme. And you cannot comment or make any suggestion that this is the case without being barred from this particular sellers page.

What is a person to do if they want something locally made that won't break the bank. No wonder people source things from abroad!

Seems such a shame and not completely justified to squeeze people for every dime they're worth.

A diatribe on a fair price is, IMHO, worth little more than the paper that’s printed on (ie. I think that it's near valueless to me). Of course that doesn’t mean that I’m unsympathetic to the builder or disinterested in what she or he has done but if the builder feels the need to justify the cost then they already know it’s excessive. Someone ‘trying it on’?

£4000 is an awful lot of money and only a very small percentage of players will actually be skilled enough to warrant such expense, and someone who’s that good a player could make a lesser instrument sing well enough. However, if a customer is prepared to pay high prices then many tradesmen will smile and take the money - some customers have more sense than money and others are the reverse. As to whether it’s good value or not who knows or cares? An ornate Baritone is going to cost more to build than a plain Soprano, but how work done and costs incurred relate to the price is another matter (sometimes there’s a clear link between the two and sometimes there isn’t).

Market prices vary dependant on supply, demand, season and unemployment rates. There’s high employment in the U.K. at the moment but come a big downturn (like 2008) and today’s £4000 instrument will either suddenly become a lot cheaper or not sold, that’s market forces for you. Interest in Ukuleles seems strong and availability of mass produced models is good but if you really want something rather special then supply is to some extent limited - some Luthier’s have very long waiting lists and their prices for their (brand new) instruments have risen accordingly.

Personally I try to buy locally made items when it’s practical for me to do so, but often it isn’t so I go with the flow and buy from elsewhere instead. Your money will stretch if you ask about, shop around, have a flexible specification of what you what and are prepared to buy second hand.
 
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Counter

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I do know the luthier in question and £4k is far too high. I bought one of them once, albeit a cheaper model and the tuners were rusty. I don't agree with the argument that they can only build so many and have a mortgage to pay. So get a job and build part time.
 

Kenn2018

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Moore Betta ukuleles. Bruce Wei Ukuleles. Both ends of the custom handmade ukulele spectrum. People believe both are worth their MSRP prices, because they sell.

I don't know who this thread refers to, but the market will cause two things to happen:
1. Word will get out and demand for his instruments will dry up. He will have to reduce his prices.
2. He will have to improve the quality of his product to justify the price he is asking. Or he will go out of business.
 

DPO

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It seems to me that the cost of good quality luthier made ukes is getting a bit astronomical. I saw today a post for a "hand"made uke which substantial help from machinery to take the strain, listed for £4000! And an accompanying diatribe as to why this was a "fair" price.

I understand that the cost of living, materials etc is rising but this seems a bit extreme. And you cannot comment or make any suggestion that this is the case without being barred from this particular sellers page.

What is a person to do if they want something locally made that won't break the bank. No wonder people source things from abroad!

Seems such a shame and not completely justified to squeeze people for every dime they're worth.

No need for you to be squeezed for anything. If you don't like the price of the instrument, then find one you do like. Bleating about it on this forum achieves nothing.
 

Col50

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I did see a luthier based in Wales who was selling ukes for way, way less than £4k sorry but I cannot remember who but a search may help you if you are interested.

Auden is a UK based acoustic guitar Company, whose products are excellent quality and they retail c£1200 to £1600. Whilst not exactly hand built they are pretty close to being so in the way top quality uke companies are.

A custom electric guitar luthier built £2200 or that was what I was quoted at a Guitar Show in the North West.

The price of hand built ukes is crazy, even the Hawaiian built ukes are way more in cost than they should be.
 
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AQUATOPAZ

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It seems to me that the cost of good quality luthier made ukes is getting a bit astronomical. I saw today a post for a "hand"made uke which substantial help from machinery to take the strain, listed for £4000! And an accompanying diatribe as to why this was a "fair" price.

I understand that the cost of living, materials etc is rising but this seems a bit extreme. And you cannot comment or make any suggestion that this is the case without being barred from this particular sellers page.

What is a person to do if they want something locally made that won't break the bank. No wonder people source things from abroad!

Seems such a shame and not completely justified to squeeze people for every dime they're worth.

I agree that some custom ukes have exorbitant prices, which may make it impossible for someone who wishes to buy local to do so. On the other hand, a person has every right to charge whatever they deem fit for their time. It is extremely rude to comment or suggest to them or on their page that they should have a lower price, (they are the ones using their time), so I can competely understand why they would ban someone who feels they must give their input on the price. If you dusagree with theprice, simply don't buy it.
 
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John Colter

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Nobody can say what a ukulele "should" cost. You can say what you would pay for it, but the market will determine what anything is worth, and that can change overnight - or sooner.

John Colter.
 

Counter

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I agree that some custom ukes have exorbitant prices, which may make it impossible for someone who wishes to buy local to do so. On the other hand, a person has every right to charge whatever they deem fit for their time. It is extremely rude to comment or suggest to them or on their page that they should have a lower price, (they are the ones using their time), so I can competely understand why they would ban someone who feels they must give their input on the price.

No, he only accepts posts from sycophants on his page and removes everything else, not just comments about the price. You are right, it is his page to do that with but it is a good example of social media being used to provide a very one sided and inaccurate picture.
 

jimavery

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I can think of at least two perfectly reputable luthiers in the UK selling fabulous ukuleles for a lot less than £1,000. I can think of at least one other who could easily charge a lot more depending on what you want, but that's because he is very skilled and has built his reputation over some years. I believe some of his instruments take many weeks to make. You pays your money and you makes your choice or something like that.
 

Jerryc41

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This has turned into a funny discussion. Is $4,000 too much to pay for a ukulele? Ask someone shopping in a supermarket, and they'll think you're joking. Uke fans love ukes, and if they have the money, why not spend it? An item's worth is always relative. A few years ago, I was shocked to discover that someone I knew had a $400 ukulele. Now, I would think of that as mid-priced. It's simply a matter of how much an item costs and how much money you can spend. At that point, the price is irrelevant.
 

Rllink

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Interesting thread because obviously the OP is quite distressed over the price of a hand made ukulele, when I myself find even the concept of buying a hand made ukulele to be so remote that I can't imagine buying one at any price. Oh well, life goes on.

After a bit of reflection on this thread I have to wonder who someone really is who arrives here and who seems to have plenty of UU insight but only two posts, both of which are diatribes about a diatribe. This is the second person that I have seen recently who make their debut here with a chip on their shoulder. I think that their identity and underlying motivation is suspect.
 
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Dansimpson

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I have a very simplistic way of looking at the value (that I put on an item) of anything....how long does it take me to earn the asking price? As this is a hobby of mine, then anything over a weeks wages needs very careful consideration, I have one that cost me a week and a half, and thought about it for a year (luthier built). Anything a day or less tends to be no quibble buy it....always assuming I have enough money to pay me bills first :)
The OP is entitled to his opinion that a certain uke is too expensive, but in perspective, its all relative to the individual, and may be the reason for him not to buy from a supplier/builder etc.
 

kerneltime

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I was able to piece together what is being referred to here..
1. Facebook posts by someone are not a public forum.. original poster is free to delete. Why do you even follow the page or the person?
2. If you don’t like it don’t buy it..?
3. Another luthier uses a lot of machinery for his ukes and sells them for a lot more.. the value of something is what one is willing to pay.. choice of tooling is not a deciding factor.
4. There are many other luthiers

I would prefer a luthier who has a wait list bump his prices and keeps the wait list shorter and other luthiers get some orders..
 

Kenn2018

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I did see a luthier based in Wales who was selling ukes for way, way less than £4k sorry but I cannot remember who but a search may help you if you are interested.

Kevin Mulcock? He is a Welsh luthier who makes excellent soprano ukuleles. Which, in my opinion, are seriously under-priced. He also recently bought Pete Howlett's plans and materials for his "Boat Paddle" ukes. Meticulous craftsmanship and lovely sounding instruments. Really great guy as well.
 

mnb128

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TLDR version: The best in the world at what they do are perfectly within their rights to charge whatever they please. People will either buy or they won't. The long-winded version is below.



My take is this. Get them now, while they're cheap because it won't be long until you're paying a much higher cost for top quality customs. Ukuleles are still unreasonably considered 'novelty' instruments by much of the uninformed world. My guess is top quality customs will sky rocket in price over the next decade as the rest of the world wakes up to the fact that ukulele's are serious instruments to be respected (something most of us here already know). The top uke luthiers in the world fetch a little over $10,000 for their absolute top of the line models. These are instruments with hours upon hours of intricate inlays woven into the instrument. These people are absolute geniuses and are the absolute best in the world at what they do. Workmanship of the same quality, with the same amount of time spent, and marginally greater materials costs would fetch tens of thousands of dollars if they were building guitars (Granted, the guitar market is probably harder to break into at the moment due to the greater number of established guitar luthiers).

Is the luthier that the OP is referencing one of the 'absolute best in the world?' I don't know, but the title of the post is about 'hand made' ukes in general, not a single luthier.

If you think custom ukes are priced high, google top of the line, custom mandolins. $25,000 easy. One quick google search of custom guitars brought up a Monteleone at $65,000. Ukes are cheap, even the most expensive ones. Not a single one of us can judge if someone charges too much for their hard work and expertise. Only the broader market can determine that. I don't mean to say that $4,000 isn't a lot of money. This is all relative, of course, and not everyone can afford, or is willing to pay, $4,000 and up on a musical instrument.

To put a different spin on it. Let's think about a brand that does both broad production and customs. Why would someone pay $5,500 on a 2019 KoAloha Black Label that sounds marginally better (granted that is just my opinion) than a KTM-00 that they could get for a little over $1,200 bucks, especially knowing that, at the rate KoAloha innovates, much of what you'll be getting in the Black Label may be introduced into future iterations of the KTM-00? Because for many, it does indeed sound better. Because it plays smoother. Because it's unique. Because it was built by the best of the best that KoAloha has to offer. Because, for some, it's beautiful beyond measure.

I'll step down from my soap box now.

@WestyShane - As a former cycling addict, Amen, brother.