PDA

View Full Version : Ko'olau/Pono Factory Tour



tw62862
05-16-2015, 11:40 AM
On a recent trip to Oahu, I was able to tour the Ko'olau/Pono Ukulele factory. Here are some pictures I took for anyone interested.

Hope you enjoy!

Ko’olau company makes both Ko’olau and Pono ukuleles.
* Ko’olau brand ukes are all custom made-to-order in Hawaii
* Pono brand ukes are the Ko’olau production line. They are handmade in Java and then final setup is done in Hawaii
79657

This is Danny (our tour guide). Danny does the inspection and final setup of all Pono ukuleles.

If you have a Pono uke, then odds are that it passed through his hands.
He is a super cool guy!
79658

These are the plans for a custom, bow back and front ukulele. The designer has planned out the overall shape and bracing locations.
The sound holes on this uke are designed like those on a mandolin
79659

This is a bending gig for creating the “figure 8” sides of a ukulele.

The wood (in this case Koa) is cut and sanded to the desired thickness. Then they wet it and place it on the gig.
Pressure is applied and the wood takes on the shape of the template.
The wood stays in the gig for about 24 hours.
79660

These are bracing gigs. The bent sides are placed in the gigs to be glued together, and for installation of the bindings and side braces.
The gig on the left is a for a “Pineapple” style ukulele.
The one on the right is a traditional “figure 8” style.
79661

tbeltrans
05-16-2015, 11:46 AM
That would be a fun visit. Here is a closeup of my Ko'olau tenor tuned high G from the factory:

http://i1288.photobucket.com/albums/b499/tbeltrans/DSCN00221_zpsf82643f6.jpg (http://s1288.photobucket.com/user/tbeltrans/media/DSCN00221_zpsf82643f6.jpg.html)

http://i1288.photobucket.com/albums/b499/tbeltrans/DSCN00241_zps1c671351.jpg (http://s1288.photobucket.com/user/tbeltrans/media/DSCN00241_zps1c671351.jpg.html)

There are two signatures on the inside labe.l One is Noa Bonk, and I can't read the other one. Did you get to meet Noa?

Tony

Icelander53
05-16-2015, 11:49 AM
On a recent trip to Oahu, I was able to tour the Ko'olau/Pono Ukulele factory. Here are some pictures I took for anyone interested.

Hope you enjoy!

What just happened to the pics?

tw62862
05-16-2015, 11:53 AM
Another view showing the internal braces installed.
79662

Backs and tops with braces (the light colored sticks). They are glued in place and then shaped.
When ready, the top and back are glued to the sides using the bracing gigs.
79663

This is a Koa top with an abalone inlay around the sound hole.
The inlay is done by routing out a channel and then placing small abalone pieces in it. The abalone pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
79664

tw62862
05-16-2015, 11:55 AM
This is Noa, installing binding.
Binding is decorative and also adds strength to the joint between the top/side and back/side.
79665

This is a supply of necks and heads that have been shaped on a lathe.
79666

A close up of a head/neck assembly prior to fret board install
79667

Fret board being installed
79668

tw62862
05-16-2015, 11:57 AM
Fret board work and tools.
79669

Finishing is done by applying coats of sealer and varnish, and then sanding. The process is repeated over-and-over until the desired look is accomplished.
79670

Here is an example of how the beautiful grain of the Koa wood comes out after several layers of gloss.
The black stripes on the edges is an example of the binding.
79671

tw62862
05-16-2015, 12:01 PM
This is a beautiful custom ukulele made for a customer in Taiwan. The inlay on the fret board is amazing.
Even though this ukulele will likely be hung up as an art piece…it was built so that it can be played and sounds beautiful.
79672

Close up of the amazing inlay on this custom uke.
79673

Upstairs are the main offices, and the demo room. If you’ve ever seen a video of a Ko’olau or Pono being demonstrated by a famous ukulele player, this room is most likely where they filmed it.
It is also where they keep the Pono “blems”. These are ukes that have minor cosmetic flaws. They are offered for a substantial discount (well over 50% off) over retail
We looked at over a dozen of them. In each case, the cosmetic flaw was so minor that Danny had to point it out to us.
79674

The tour is free...kind of :cool:
All purchases are optional...but who can resist, right?
79675

Here I am...the proud owner of a new Pono Tenor Mango Pineapple
79676

tbeltrans
05-16-2015, 12:02 PM
Very nice! You must have changed your original post and added commentary. Since you have a picture of Noa, I assume youo did get to meet him then. That would be interesting! That last picture of the Koa grain is really, really nice.

That is definitely the way to go, if you can: buy it right at the factory. Congrats on the new Pono tenor.

Tony

tw62862
05-16-2015, 12:03 PM
Me and my new baby. I love the pineapple shape.
I feel like the extra surface area on the sound board gives it very mellow sound.
I have the same uke (Pono mango tenor) in the traditional "figure 8" shape.
Even with the same strings, the two sound very different.

The pineapple has a deep rich tone. I really like it with a low-G
79677

That's it...hope you all enjoyed it.

tw62862
05-16-2015, 12:05 PM
What just happened to the pics?

Sorry...I realized I could attach them inline with comments. My edit must have happened while you were reading :drool:

tbeltrans
05-16-2015, 12:05 PM
Most definitely, and thanks for posting these.

Tony

PeteyHoudini
05-16-2015, 12:08 PM
Thanks for the pix!

Petey

tw62862
05-16-2015, 12:09 PM
That would be a fun visit. Here is a closeup of my Ko'olau tenor tuned high G from the factory:

http://i1288.photobucket.com/albums/b499/tbeltrans/DSCN00221_zpsf82643f6.jpg (http://s1288.photobucket.com/user/tbeltrans/media/DSCN00221_zpsf82643f6.jpg.html)

http://i1288.photobucket.com/albums/b499/tbeltrans/DSCN00241_zps1c671351.jpg (http://s1288.photobucket.com/user/tbeltrans/media/DSCN00241_zps1c671351.jpg.html)

There are two signatures on the inside labe.l One is Noa Bonk, and I can't read the other one. Did you get to meet Noa?

Tony

Beautiful. Having seen the amount of work that goes into making one of these...It's even more impressive. I bet it sounds great.

Icelander53
05-16-2015, 12:21 PM
Sorry...I realized I could attach them inline with comments. My edit must have happened while you were reading :drool:

thanks, I wanted to see those. "I have a dream" to see that place in person one day.

caukulele
05-16-2015, 12:26 PM
Thanks for the pictures and post...if I ever get to Hawaii it will be high on my list of places to visit, as well as HMS!

fretie
05-16-2015, 12:55 PM
Loved the factory tour! Great pix and commentary...felt I was right there with you...'cept...where's MY new pono uke?!

dkcrown
05-16-2015, 12:59 PM
Thanks for the post and pics. Always love the pics. I have never seen them from a Ko'olau tour though.

tw62862
05-16-2015, 12:59 PM
Loved the factory tour! Great pix and commentary...felt I was right there with you...'cept...where's MY new pono uke?!

Believe me...I know THAT feeling
:drool:

tbeltrans
05-16-2015, 01:12 PM
Beautiful. Having seen the amount of work that goes into making one of these...It's even more impressive. I bet it sounds great.

It does, and thanks.

Tony

dalamaricus
05-16-2015, 01:52 PM
There are two signatures on the inside labe.l One is Noa Bonk, and I can't read the other one.

Beautiful uke! The wood is gorgeous and I like the rope on the top. The other signature is probably John Kitakis.

dalamaricus
05-16-2015, 01:56 PM
Thanks for the tour photos and commentary. Looks like you had a good time and got a great new uke. :)

DownUpDave
05-16-2015, 02:31 PM
Thank you very much for all the time and effort to put this post together. As another person said it really felt as if I was right there with you, great job. A big congratulations on your new Pono pineapple, they are fabulous insruments and I love my Pono ET-PC.

Camsuke
05-16-2015, 02:58 PM
Thanks for sharing the tour with us, these photos are terrific.

coolkayaker1
05-16-2015, 03:40 PM
Thanks for sharing the tour with us, these photos are terrific.

Camsuke
05-16-2015, 03:44 PM
Echoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoec hoechoecho

Camsuke
05-16-2015, 03:57 PM
Thanks for sharing the tour with us, these photos are terrific.


Thanks for sharing the tour with us, these photos are terrific.


Echoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoechoec hoechoecho

You are such a wag Coolkay!

tbeltrans
05-16-2015, 10:57 PM
Beautiful uke! The wood is gorgeous and I like the rope on the top. The other signature is probably John Kitakis.

To see this ukulele in "real life", it could be said that it has very understated "bling". It doesn't look flashy, but is quality all the way through. From the pictures I have seen of many other Ko'olau instruments, that seems to be their way.

Tony

Rakelele
05-17-2015, 02:00 AM
Thanks for taking us on tour with you, would love to be there myself one day. Perhaps you got to see my new Ko'olau being made, it's a CS with Sinker Redwood top and Milo back and sides that is about to be shipped.

Congrats on the Mango Pineapple, I have the same model and love its sweet sound.

tw62862
05-17-2015, 04:30 AM
Thanks for taking us on tour with you, would love to be there myself one day. Perhaps you got to see my new Ko'olau being made, it's a CS with Sinker Redwood top and Milo back and sides that is about to be shipped.

Congrats on the Mango Pineapple, I have the same model and love its sweet sound.
Very possible we saw your Ko'olau...we saw many in various states of development. I have no doubt that you will be very pleased with what you get.
I was very surprised at how much of the construction of these instruments is completely done by hand. It really is a very artistic process.

Best wishes.

Dan

wayward
05-17-2015, 09:09 AM
One word: jealous. I'd love to do that tour... and to see Rakelele's sinker redwood cs :drool: Thanks for sharing your tour with us.

tbeltrans
05-17-2015, 12:39 PM
Thanks for taking us on tour with you, would love to be there myself one day. Perhaps you got to see my new Ko'olau being made, it's a CS with Sinker Redwood top and Milo back and sides that is about to be shipped.

Congrats on the Mango Pineapple, I have the same model and love its sweet sound.

Congrats on the new Ko'olau, Rakelele! You will cherish it for a long time to come.

Tony

mm stan
05-18-2015, 04:51 AM
The other signature is John kitakis, Andrews dad :)

That would be a fun visit. Here is a closeup of my Ko'olau tenor tuned high G from the factory:

http://i1288.photobucket.com/albums/b499/tbeltrans/DSCN00221_zpsf82643f6.jpg (http://s1288.photobucket.com/user/tbeltrans/media/DSCN00221_zpsf82643f6.jpg.html)

http://i1288.photobucket.com/albums/b499/tbeltrans/DSCN00241_zps1c671351.jpg (http://s1288.photobucket.com/user/tbeltrans/media/DSCN00241_zps1c671351.jpg.html)

There are two signatures on the inside labe.l One is Noa Bonk, and I can't read the other one. Did you get to meet Noa?

Tony

tbeltrans
05-18-2015, 06:00 AM
The other signature is John kitakis, Andrews dad :)

Thanks mm Stan! It is good to finally know who that other signature belonged to.

Tony

Trinimon
05-20-2015, 08:10 AM
I feel like I just took the tour after reading this thread. Mahalo for posting it. :)