1920s Kamaka Mahogany Pineapple Soprano Ukulele

Is anyone else lusty for this little uke? I've always loved these campy old Kamakas. Even if they don't have the pineapple decal on them, they're fantastic. All that rope binding, the weirdo shape, the featherweight build, the "off-centered-ness" of everything... it's like a nostalgia bomb. The mahogany mixed with the lightweight Kamaka build gives this a sweet, very-mellow sound to my ears. I'm used to hearing a breezy brightness with koa Kamaka pineapples but this is quite different and almost Martin-like.

A customer sent this in some time back and I dragged my heels on getting it done. It needed a fair bit of "wonky" work to get it perfect. The worst of it was regluing seams and replacing about 4" of missing rope binding and trying to blend it in enough to pass muster. Fortunately, the original binding job on these is never perfect, so one can get away with a lot.

Next-up was a bridge reglue and minor modification which went quickly -- plus a few more seam repairs. Lastly, though, I needed to address a twist in the neck which meant that it could not play well without some thinking. A lot of old Hawaiian ukes get weird neck twists because the koa dries-out "Mainland-side" and the necks are cut so thin and flat.

I solve this by pulling the frets up and almost out of their slots. Once I've done that, I use a perfectly-ground flat piece of steel to lightly "press" the frets all back in level with one another. This means that in various places on the board, the frets will stick up higher than in other places, but it also means that it doesn't need to have the board planed -- which in this case, would ruin the whole aesthetic and also be overkill. Once the frets are "in place," I use thin-viscosity superglue and some rosewood dust wicked along the fret edges and slots to keep the frets seated and tacked in place. Then I just have to level/dress and setup the instrument as-normal. This process has saved a lot of old ukes from being wallhangers.

Aside from my replacement binding, the only other non-original parts on the uke are the tuners which are newer Waverly units. I had to add ferrules to the back of them, though, so they wouldn't snug down to the point where they weren't able to tighten-up properly.


McComber said…
This gorgeous looking AND sounding gem brings back old memories of warm campfires after surfing in northern Maine, which is not legal at that spot anymore (beach fires). Nice work, Jake.