View Full Version : Kamala repair. Requesting input

09-17-2016, 12:49 PM
I want to get this gold label Kamaka Soprano back together so my daughter can learn to play it. She is in 4th grade and they are gonna learn at school.

My thoughts are that I should remove the neck and then remove the soundboard. After that assemble the uke. The pics tell the story. This is my first uke build and repair but I'm handy with wood and familiar with Koa. Also, should I sand it all down and apply a new finish? Current finish isn't awful.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.


edit for spelling

09-17-2016, 02:44 PM
I got started. Removed the fingerboard with an iron and found the soundboard to be pretty warped. Can I get it flat again? It use this other Koa soundboard of similar thickness?


09-17-2016, 03:24 PM
The headstock appears to have a Kamaka logo on it. If it's genuine I'd suggest leaving it as original as possible.
The soundboard doesn't look to be damaged other than it curls up at the edges. My first instinct would be to try and straighten it out by gently clamping it back to the sides (without glue). If it straightens out satisfactorily, clean the old glue out, apply new glue and clamp.

09-17-2016, 03:59 PM
Thanks Miguel. Yes...Kamaka. Stupid auto correct.

09-17-2016, 04:08 PM
You could follow Jake Shimabukuro on Facebook... He's currently on No16 of his challenge to repair 100 such Kamaka ukes to give to schools :D
I'm not sure how much technical help he can provide, but it's fun to watch him :cool:



09-17-2016, 07:17 PM
It's a Japanese made Kamaka from the 60's, you can tell because the neck is held in place by a dowel, instead of a spanish heel. Also, the sides are one long piece, which is pretty cool.
I've done a few of these. The wood is so thin, and there is no binding, so it is hard to get the sides to align with the top and back.
I would moisten the top from the inside, clamp it flat, and hit it with a blowdryer to flatten it. You could also carefully use a heat gun, but you risk some serious scorching, so use it as a last resort.
Don't remove the neck. It's really a pain.
When you glue the back on, you can "slip the joint" a bit if the neck doesn't align with the bridge well, but that is probably not necessary. There is a brace missing on the back, you can carve a new one from some lightweight wood, or even use a popsicle stick.
These were made with hide glue, which would work best for your regluing, but yellow glue would also be fine.
Also, the fingerboard extension is actually a separate piece, with a fret covering up the joint. Not really relevant, but good to know in case you need to take it apart some more.
Whatever you do, DON'T remove the back and top at the same time. The sides will spring far out of shape, and you will have a terrible time getting it back together cleanly.
Refinishing is a huge pain and takes a very long time. just put it together and see how it sounds and plays. If it is good, and your daughter actually WANTS it refinished, then go for it.
I've attached pictures of one of the same model which was missing a top when I got it. New top, new bridge, birthday gift for my wife. The top was finished with Tru-Oil, which is really easy stuff to work with.


09-18-2016, 08:26 AM
Thanks for the long reply. Great info.

I wet the inside of the top and bottom boards and had them clamped down over night while the glue dried on the bracing. Pulled them from the clamps and the soundboard is flat again. So, we attached that and then the fingerboard.

Last is the back.

Also, starting to consider redoing the body. Some of the finish is blistering and looks dumb.


09-18-2016, 11:14 AM
Looks like I was wrong about the fingerboard being two pieces. Interesting, the Kamakas with dowels that I've dealt with had two pieces.
Looking good!

09-20-2016, 12:01 PM
Your Uke is beautiful. Nice work. I think you are correct about the fingerboard being two pieces. For some reason it didn't co.e apart there but looked like it could have.

I have everything put back together and sanded down. Popped an old repair ehile sanding so back in clamps it goes.

Next will be an oil finish.


09-24-2016, 12:43 PM
All finished and she loves it.

09-27-2016, 06:04 PM
That really turned out a treat, and I bet it sounds great too. Great work! Now go find another one. :D

09-27-2016, 07:46 PM
How about some detail pics. Inquiring minds...

09-30-2016, 07:35 PM
I think it's a wonderful story! Your daughter will always remember how her special Dad remade this Ululele just for her.
Congratulations on relating such an upbeat story in this time of such craziness in our country.