1920s Paul Summers "Moana" Koa Soprano Ukulele

Summers Brothers (Paul & Harold) ukes were sold in Hawaii out of a pair of hotels -- the Royal Hawaiian and Moana -- and Lardy's Site has more to say about that. While ex-Kamaka man Sam Chang built for the Summers brands quite a bit in the '30s and '40s, it was apparently the "Hawaiian Mahogany Company" that made for them earlier-on and, presumably, in greater numbers.

This one looks like an "HMCo" model to me. It's not built in the Kamaka-like or Martin-like shapes I associate with Chang ukes and, rather, has the 1910s/early-1920s "peanut uke" format I think of when I think of the average workshop-grade Hawaiian uke of the time. It's got a Spanish heel, the frets are wonky brass bar stock, and it's built in a bit of a crude but craftsmanly fashion. It sounds lovely, though, thanks to a thin top and light bracing. The body, of course, is entirely made from koa wood.

I received this instrument in trade a long time ago and looked at it once in a while as it collected dust in a box of damaged ukes. Yes, I have boxes of damaged ukes laying-about. I know! I wasn't too excited to work on it because the neck has a twist in it and I knew the bridge would need to be very low to get it to play correctly. That... and it also had some icky cracks and seam separations.

We have a number of nice old ukes around the house but I wanted one I could feel fine about sticking a pickup in but also liked, so I chose this one to do-up for myself. I'm happy I put the effort in, too, because it turned-out nice in the end and I've been sussing-out some chord progressions a few times a day on it ever since.

Repairs included: crack re-repairs, seam repairs, bridge modification, lots of fret re-seating and a level/dress to "remove" warp/twist from playability concerns, geared pegs install, cleaning, and setup.

Made by: Hawaiian Mahogany Company (?)

Made in: Hawaii (USA)

Top wood: solid koa

Back & sides wood: solid koa

Bracing type: ladder

Bridge: koa

Fretboard: integral (koa)

Neck wood: koa

Tone: clean, sweet, mellow, a little sparkly, good volume, choppy

Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall (bang-on)
String gauges: D'Addario EJ99T fluorocarbon

Neck shape: slim D

Board radius: flat

Fret style: small/squarish

Scale length: 13"

Condition notes: it has repaired cracks on the back and top (some longer), the tuners are new, and the bridge has been modified. The neck has actual twist and backbow to it that was dialed-out of setup concerns via fancy fret seating and level/dress work, though it's still there. As usual for many old Hawaiian ukes, not much is on-center or perfectly-accurate about the build, either, though it does not affect playability. The strings are close to the top of the instrument at the neck joint -- as these fretboard-less instruments were meant to basically be strummers and the vast majority of old-style players strummed over the neck or just below it. Oh, and I also modified the stringing to string-through-top rather than "ball-up and load into slots."