2014 Kiwaya KTS-95 Flamed Koa Soprano Uke

This pretty little Japanese-made uke was shipped to me for a bit of setup work that included a new bone nut and saddle as well as some adjustment to the string ramps at the bridge. It's a beautiful instrument and, tonally, reminds me very much of a 40s or 50s Kamaka. It's a really pretty, shimmery sort of sound that evokes "island" way more than the Martinesque Kiwayas I've otherwise heard on the net. I half-wonder what it'd sound like with clear (rather than black) strings.

The model number "KTS-95" suggests the purpose of the build: this is Kiwaya's 95th anniversary uke. The Uke Site still has some info up (click here) on this model, though the listing for a 12-fret joint is incorrect: this has a 14-fret joint and I find that interesting in itself. The extra room is nice, though I find my hand playing over the end of the neck rather than over the upper bout because of that. The build quality is right up there with the nice Collings ukes that I've played.

All the wood is solid, highly-figured Hawaiian koa. It's simply gorgeous. Add in the fact that Kiwaya didn't use a pore-filler in its gloss finish and you have a very "40s/50s Kamaka" comparison in finishing-style right there as well.

Gotoh UPTs at the headstock are a nice addition.

The original nut and saddle were ebony but I swapped to bone per the customer's request. The bone I used has some natural slight color to it (it was recycled bone from some old snapped 1930s Gibson saddles) which fits in with the figured wood look.

The uke is strung lefty, also per the customer's request, and the saddle is lightly compensated for the C and E strings. The string ramps behind the saddle were cut a little deeper to make up for the lower saddle and now there's a nice 45-degree back-angle on the saddle to keep the tone sparkling and snappy.

It plays spot-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret.

Does the figure make you go "guh, guh, guh," too?


Anonymous said…
Looks great in the sun, Jake! Thanks for the quick turnaround.......be happy to have the beauty home and in fine fiddle!

Unknown said…
That is just beautiful! I would just love to have one! Perhaps in the future! :D