1910s Kumalae-made Bergstrom/Ditson Hawaiian Koa Ukulele

I was gifted this sweet little flamed-koa, Hawaiian-made uke and I'm very thankful for it. I've been playing it through the house the last week when I have a spare minute or two here and there. Strum-buddies are good to have hanging-around in every room, I say.

It has a Bergstrom label on the back of the headstock and a Ditson one on the inside of the soundhole. I expect the TABU (Hawaiian-make) stamp is under that Ditson paper label, too. That said, it's almost certainly a Kumalae-made instrument (they build for Bergstrom) and has all of the usual features of the ukes made by Kumalae that I've seen. These include a Spanish heel, nowhere-near-symmetric build, flat and super-thin neck shape, and a bridge shape that (originally, but now doesn't) matched Kumalae builds.

While it came here crack-free and looking gorgeous, it needed some heavy-handed adjustments to get it to play well. The neck had (has) a twist in it and through clever finagling of the bar frets (pulling them up, "seating" them level to one another but not the board with glue-and-filler, and then level/dressing them) I was able to get the neck side of things correct. At the bridge, I had to cut the front edge back and slot it lower to get it to play in tune and be at the right height at the 12th fret. The resulting look is similar to how some Knutsen and Weissenborn uke bridges work.

My "splurge" was a set of Gotoh UPT pegs at the headstock. I can't stand friction pegs. I will probably swap-in black buttons at some point, but I'm happy to have these on it. Post-work it plays perfectly, though the strings are close to the top of the body (in "true Hawaiian fashion," ha-ha). It has a chipper, bright, clear-water, sweet sound that you only get from old koa peanut ukes. I love it.

Repairs included: fretwork, bridge modification, side dots install, Gotoh tuners install, setup.


Top wood: solid flamed koa

Back & sides wood: solid flamed koa

Bracing type: ladder

Bridge: koa

Fretboard: koa (integral to neck)

Neck wood: koa


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

Neck shape: slim (front to back) flat-D

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: twisted but ameliorated through fretwork

Fret style: medium-low, squarish bar frets


Scale length: 13 1/4"

Nut width: 1 3/8"

Body width: 6"

Body depth: 2 1/4"


Condition notes: modded bridge, replaced tuners, minor wear and tear throughout, otherwise  very pretty and original. No cracks! There's a "ghost" old glue spot where the bridge was moved from in the past, too.












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