1920s Kumalae-style Koa Soprano Uke

This is a Hawaiian-made uke and looks an awful lot like a period Kumalae. It's unmarked, however, so I simply can't judge. It's the usual "peanut" shape with a Spanish neck joint, solid koa all over, lacks a fretboard (per period styling), and needed the usual stuff -- crack repairs, fret nudging and level/dress work, a replacement (very low) bridge, and a new set of pegs (the original wood ones were mismatched and not well-fit).

After work it has that lilting, sweet, chimey/chunky Hawaiian sound that's so addicting for chordal-strumming. Like most Hawaiians, the string height is low over the body, so it's not ideal for a fingerpicking-player. When these were made, even with full-height bridges, the strings were always low over the top as most players were not doing single-note or fingerpicked-fancy-pants playing when these were made.

I had one guy return a Hawaiian uke to me years ago because he'd specified all the quirks that make them folksy, oddball instruments as playability issues -- necks not cut symmetrically, string-paths not on-center with the soundhole, low string height over the top due to no fretboard, and shallow frets. Let's face it -- these are just not modern. They are, however, delicious in their own way. I find the charm and forced-vintage-playing-styles make up for the weirdness.

The koa top needed some brace reglue work and a hairline crack repair to the upper bout. It's pretty stuff, though, isn't it?

I managed to re-use the original koa nut. The tuners are ebony-buttoned, modern friction pegs.

The thin, tiny bar frets were -- as usual -- helter-skelter. I massaged them back into a flat plane with the assistance of wicked superglue and then leveled/dressed them as-normal. I then added side dots.

The original bridge was missing so I made this low-profile, fret-saddle rosewood replacement. I wanted to use something stiffer than koa or mahogany for the bridge to reinforce the thin top. I cut this one to fit the old roughed-up glue patch that was on the uke when it came in.

The stringing style is what I call "string-through." You pass the string into the drilled hole, pull it out the soundhole, and ball/knot it up on the end. Then you pull it back and snug against the underside of the top and up to the tuner. Easy-peasy and very stable.

Action is perfect at 1/16" at the 12th fret. I've strung it with Martin fluorocarbon strings.

This side of the uke had some bad, jagged-edge cracks on the lower bout. I patched them up but they're not the prettiest repairs. The breaks had been left a long time and the wood was so thin that a certain amount of fudging was necessary to keep them pat. Fortunately they blend-in with the darker grain of the wood.