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garyg
08-11-2012, 02:44 AM
I love vintage ukes but don't really know much about the Hawaiian ukes from the early part of the 20th century (here's a list An Tao Kam ; Anahu ; Hanalei ; Hawaiian Mahogany Co. ; Hawaiian Ukulele MFG. ; J. F. Rosa ; Jonah Kumalae ; Kaneala Makini ); Ka-Lae (2); Ka-Lai; Kaholas ; Leonardo Nunes ; Manual Nunes & Sons ; Mossman ; Mouna Loa Paul Summers ; Royal Hawaiian Sam Chang Singers Ukulele Mfg. Ukulele Mfg. Unis ; Y'Ke'Ke. I've found some web sources using google but am more curious about playability and sound quality and what to watch out for. I'm a player not a collector so I wonder which brands are the best players and most reasonably priced. Missed out on a good looking Royal Hawaiian about two weeks ago. Also I'd like ukes that sound different than my 20's vintage Martins, and 70's Kamaka. TIA, g2

ChrisRCovington
08-11-2012, 06:29 AM
I've done some repair work to a Kumalae style 2 and really like it when it stays in tune (I have to work on the tuners a little, my fault not the ukulele's or tuners'). It is the smallest and lightest ukulele I own and it is also by far the loudest! The thing was made super thin and super light so it just booms like a cannon while still having a sweet koa sound. The problem with these is most have damage because of the super thin build. If you can find one in great shape you'll pay a lot more for it but I'm sure I would be great. Very different from Martin but still awesome.

ProfChris
08-11-2012, 10:20 AM
A good Kumalae is a thing of joy - mine's a keeper. As Chris said, many have cracked and split (not mine!) but are often repairable. I'm told they can vary in intonation quality, though mine is reasonable on all except the C string - I think the 13 inch scale makes good intonation harder.

Royal Hawaiian are ukes made for sale at the Royal Hawaiian hotel. Many were made by Kumalae but not all - thus rather a lottery.

Manuel Nunes made his ukes in Hawaii, but I think his son Leonardo moved to mainland US and made ukes there.

FWIW I'd avoid Royal Hawaiian unless you can actually play it. I tried one (which I now realise was not a Kumalae) and it was pretty poor, but I hear some of them are very good indeed.

A Kumalae with no cracks, or no major cracks, is likely to be a good player's uke. The plainest (Style A) are often in better condition than those with fancy Koa. And there are plenty to choose from because the factory made many thousands between about 1900 and 1940.

The others in your list are rarer, though I've heard most are good players.

Bear in mind that any uke from that period is likely to need some work - mine only needed dressing of the fret ends because the neck had shrunk a little in 80 years, and the wooden pegs and their holes could do with some work when I feel strong. Chris's had major cracks which he has fixed (see thread in Luther section) and brought it back to life.

hmgberg
08-11-2012, 11:19 AM
I have several, a Y'Ke'Ke soprano, a Hawaiian Mfg. Co. soprano, and a Nunes taropatch. They all came needing work. The HMC has the smallest body and, ironically, is the loudest. So loud in fact that my wife doesn't like me to play it when she is in the house. I repaired a number of cracks on the top. I love the almost primitive way it looks and especially the gorgeous koa Neck and body), but it is crudely constructed in comparison to Martins and the contemporary Hawaiian makers. It plays okay, but because the frets are laid in the neck, i.e., no raised fingerboard, it can get challenging up the neck. At 13", the scale length is a bit less comfortable as well. The neck is very thin and narrow at the nut. The tone is somewhat brash and boxy. They didn't use bridge patches on these, which is another reason, in addition to the thin wood, why the tops tend to crack.

The Y'Ke'Ke is roughly the same size but deeper bodied. It is not quite as loud, but a little mellower. It appears to be of the same dimensions as the Kumalaes. It came to me with a badly cracked up back over which a previous owner had collaged. While the 20s-30s characters were cool, they were also starting to flake off, and there were patches of glue exposed. I just redid the back completely. The neck is kind of funny, comfortable near the nut, but it gets comparatively bulky up the neck.

The Nunes is still in the hospital. It needed just about everything. It was literally falling apart when I got it. I have it back together, and I did put a bridge patch in, both in anticipation that it won't sound so brash and boxy and because it would have required so many cleats in that area anyway that the patch accomplishes instead. The wood is almost paper thin, which made it hard to realign the top and back with the sides while putting it back together. The sides at the upper bouts are kinked, i.e., not evenly rounded. The back of the neck as it goes into the headstock is anything but symmetrical.

Personally, I think these are more interesting as objects than they are great players. Although, in terms of the sheer volume of sound they produce, they are astonishing. The style 5s, with the rope binding going around the bodies and up the sides and centers of the necks and rosettes, and extraordinarily curly koa are amazing things to behold. I don't think I would pay thousands for one though. You can find the plainer ones more in the $200 - $250 range, making them worth a try, Gary.

ChrisRCovington
08-11-2012, 02:08 PM
hmgberg and ProfChris are right these aren't as finely crafted as a Martin ukulele or even a lot of old Kamaka ukuleles. The frets tend to be set in the neck, they tend to have minimal bracing, lining, and often have no bridge plate making them so loud (but also easy to break). I really like the one I fixed and will be keeping it for some time to come but in many ways it is as much art object as it is instrument. I feel that it is too delicate for daily play. The things just feel like you could crush them like paper sometimes.

RyanMFT
08-11-2012, 03:26 PM
Gary, I have a Royal Hawaiian ukulele which is in almost mint condition. All the above comments about the sound and playability are accurate to my ukulele. It is LOUD, and the intonation is perfect. The ukulele is light as can be. I don't keep it tuned to pitch because I just don't want the pressure on the bridge. It is great though, and I love it.

In my research about Royal Hawaiian ukuleles, I have found no connection to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and I think many of these ukulele's predate the hotel as the hotel did not open until 1927. The Royal Hawaiian ukuleles I have seen were also sold under the "Echo" brand name, and appear to have been made by the Hawaiian Mahogany Company. That company is in itself a mystery as there is very little information about them or who was the actual luthier. They tend to differ in several ways from Kumalae.

I had the chance to talk with Bill Tapia about ukuleles and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel a couple years before he passed. He told me that the ukuleles sold in Paul Summers shop were all made by Kinney and Mossman, so....as far as the Royal Hawaiian ukulele's, it is still unclear exactly who made them.

Of course, Kamaka was on the scene pretty early and many early Kamaka ukuleles sport a pretty primitive build. My late 20's pineapple is a great ukulele, but was clearly produced quickly, without much attention being paid to details.

As mentioned above, the mainland builders who came on the scene early (late teens and 20's) really made very finely crafted instruments. I have a Marca Aquila which Tom Favilla tells me is from around 1912 which is as fine a build as most higher end modern ukuleles.....

garyg
08-11-2012, 03:57 PM
Thanks everyone for the detailed responses, extremely helpful. Here's the link the the Royal Hawaiian that I was the underbidder on
http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&_trksid=p4340.l2557&hash=item19d356118b&item=110919815563&nma=true&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&rt=nc&si=DxGHF4HnpB9Mw3%252FycadLL808VeU%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc opinions? TIA, g

RyanMFT
08-11-2012, 04:20 PM
Hey Gary, actually, the ukulele you were bidding on is an "Aloha Royal". Those were made in Japan in the 50's or so. Much more like a mainland made ukulele as opposed to an early Hawaiian built ukulele. My friend has an Aloha Royal and the quality and sound are excellent.

Here is my Royal Hawaiian. I date it to the late teens, perhaps into the 20's

http://i827.photobucket.com/albums/zz199/RyanMFT_photos/IMG_7235.jpg

mm stan
08-11-2012, 04:23 PM
Here is some info on hawaiian ukes and old hawaii..http://www.nalu-music.com/royal-hawaiian-ukuleles/

tigersister
08-11-2012, 05:09 PM
I have an Aloha soprano from 1918 I picked up at a local music store for not too much. It's a sweet uke and the build is very similar to Kumulaes. The intonation on it is not perfect, but I wonder how much of that is from needing a new nut. The nut is koa and the notched grooves have definitely been worn down.

Originally I was told that the Aloha and Hawaiian seal were put on souvenir ukes marketed to tourists by the various Hawaiian uke makers. From some research I have done this certainly was true, but then I found some info on Aloha Ukulele Manufacturing Co.

http://www.nalu-music.com/royal-hawaiian-ukuleles/
http://www.nalu-music.com/nalu/sample.pdf
http://www.ukulele.org/?Vintage_Ukulele_Q_%26amp%3B_A

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-yzVvr1xZyLk/UCcPl17-UtI/AAAAAAAACUw/1cXeYDfeHgw/s431/IMG_0210.JPG

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-W4_5BkUUp_4/UCcTlDN9RvI/AAAAAAAACVI/9ucEN0gf37A/s577/iphone1+151.JPG

hmgberg
08-11-2012, 05:21 PM
I have an Aloha soprano from 1918 I picked up at a local music store for not too much. It's a sweet uke and the build is very similar to Kumulaes. The intonation on it is not perfect, but I wonder how much of that is from needing a new nut. The nut is koa and the notched grooves have definitely been worn down.

Originally I was told that the Aloha and Hawaiian seal were put on souvenir ukes marketed to tourists by the various Hawaiian uke makers. From some research I have done this certainly was true, but then I found some info on Aloha Ukulele Manufacturing Co.

http://www.nalu-music.com/royal-hawaiian-ukuleles/
http://www.nalu-music.com/nalu/sample.pdf
http://www.ukulele.org/?Vintage_Ukulele_Q_%26amp%3B_A

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-yzVvr1xZyLk/UCcPl17-UtI/AAAAAAAACUw/1cXeYDfeHgw/s431/IMG_0210.JPG

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-W4_5BkUUp_4/UCcTlDN9RvI/AAAAAAAACVI/9ucEN0gf37A/s577/iphone1+151.JPG

The unusual headstock shape of your ukulele is an indication that it was built by Tai Chong Goo, aka Akai for the Aloha company (there have been several manufacturers using the "Aloha" name). Mainland and and Japanese builders also put the Hawaiian decal on headstocks, which prompted true Hawaiian builders to use the Tabu hot stamp as well. I suppose that may be what you are sharing with us by showing the picture of the stamp. I have heard some Akais that sound quite nice and yours is certainly a looker.

MGM
08-12-2012, 12:32 PM
The unusual headstock shape of your ukulele is an indication that it was built by Tai Chong Goo, aka Akai for the Aloha company (there have been several manufacturers using the "Aloha" name). Mainland and and Japanese builders also put the Hawaiian decal on headstocks, which prompted true Hawaiian builders to use the Tabu hot stamp as well. I suppose that may be what you are sharing with us by showing the picture of the stamp. I have heard some Akais that sound quite nice and yours is certainly a looker.

Yes this wasx made by Goo aka Akai as this was one of his most coveted headstock designs which we like to call a "Gumby Head" headstock.

hmgberg
08-12-2012, 03:34 PM
Okay, this one is absolutely spectacular:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Koa-Wood-Ukulele-from-Hawaii-from-late-1800s-or-early-1900s-/120967752816?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c2a3d6c70#ht_500wt_1413

The seller states that the paper label is worn so the maker is a mystery. MGM, do you have any ideas. Wowee!! Look at that headstock! Don't you have something similar made by Dave Means?

garyg
08-12-2012, 03:50 PM
Wow, what a great thread, thanks for all the info. and pics. cheers, g2

BlackBearUkes
08-12-2012, 03:57 PM
Okay, this one is absolutely spectacular:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Koa-Wood-Ukulele-from-Hawaii-from-late-1800s-or-early-1900s-/120967752816?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c2a3d6c70#ht_500wt_1413

The seller states that the paper label is worn so the maker is a mystery. MGM, do you have any ideas. Wowee!! Look at that headstock! Don't you have something similar made by Dave Means?

From the shape of the headstock and body, plus the unique mustache shape on the end of the fingerboard, I think it would be a Santo or Diaz, both very collectable.

hmgberg
08-12-2012, 04:54 PM
From the shape of the headstock and body, plus the unique mustache shape on the end of the fingerboard, I think it would be a Santo or Diaz, both very collectable.

That's pretty darn exciting!

hmgberg
08-12-2012, 05:15 PM
From the pics available on the net, it seems to be a Dias, Duane. The mustache shape, the mosaic inlays on the neck/fingerboard ... a beautiful thing for sure.

BlackBearUkes
08-13-2012, 10:20 AM
From the pics available on the net, it seems to be a Dias, Duane. The mustache shape, the mosaic inlays on the neck/fingerboard ... a beautiful thing for sure.

Actually, according to the book FINDING PARADISE, Island art in private collection, copyright 2002, on page 257, this uke is dead ringer for a Jose Do Espirito Santo shown. It made in or around the year 1890.

ChrisRCovington
08-16-2012, 03:25 AM
A brand mentioned in the OP was Kaholas. Kaholas is often mentioned as a possible Hawaii made ukulele by some and as a mainland Gretsch ukulele by others. I just found a photo of one in the original box clearly stating Gretsch. The label inside the sound hole also matches the label on the box only it states Gretsch on the box too.

41774 41775 41776 41777

The images are from the ebay auction where I saw this.

Best regards,
Chris

garyg
08-17-2012, 01:45 AM
Once again, thanks for all the great information, think that I will pass on these early ukes unless I can play one. aloha, g2

BlackBearUkes
08-17-2012, 03:51 PM
Actually, according to the book FINDING PARADISE, Island art in private collection, copyright 2002, on page 257, this uke is dead ringer for a Jose Do Espirito Santo shown. It made in or around the year 1890.

The ebay auction for the Santo uke ended a short time ago, the closing bid was $7127.00. Nice!

hmgberg
08-17-2012, 03:59 PM
Actually, according to the book FINDING PARADISE, Island art in private collection, copyright 2002, on page 257, this uke is dead ringer for a Jose Do Espirito Santo shown. It made in or around the year 1890.

I'll have to dig out m copy, Duane :-)! Just kidding, I see it's available from Amazon. I can afford the book. I couldn't afford the ukulele, however; it sold for $7,200.00. Probably a bargain for a Do Espirito Santo, even with cracks. The last time I saw one for sale was, hmmm, never! I hope one of our UU friends got it, maybe MGM?

Gary: Alas, this would have been a great starter for your collection.

garyg
08-18-2012, 02:08 AM
[QUOTE=Gary: Alas, this would have been a great starter for your collection.[/QUOTE]

HaHa, you know that I'm a player not a collector. The question is, why do I have so many ukes? That one is a work of art though but I couldn't really see playing it, afraid that modern strings would pop the bridge off. It would be interesting to hear how a properly cared for 19th century koa uke sounds though. cheers, g2

Jim T.
08-18-2012, 03:44 AM
Actually, according to the book FINDING PARADISE, Island art in private collection, copyright 2002, on page 257, this uke is dead ringer for a Jose Do Espirito Santo shown. It made in or around the year 1890.

A Santo, without a doubt. The distinctive banjo-style peghead, the inlaid pin bridge, and the overall shape and workmanship make it clear this is one of Ze's.