PDA

View Full Version : The oldest surviving maker of ukuleles



actadh
06-04-2017, 05:10 PM
The new Martin journal has the article on page 26.

https://www.martinguitar.com/about/martin-journal/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=winter%20journal&utm_term=in%20volume%207&utm_content=cover

Graham Greenbag
06-04-2017, 09:48 PM
Isn't Kamaka the oldest surviving Ukulele manufacturer, particularly if you think in terms of continuous manufacture ?

http://www.kamakahawaii.com/history.html

kypfer
06-05-2017, 03:14 AM
Isn't Kamaka the oldest surviving Ukulele manufacturer, particularly if you think in terms of continuous manufacture ?

http://www.kamakahawaii.com/history.html

Let's not allow the facts to ruin a good story ;)

bearbike137
06-05-2017, 05:23 AM
Hmm, although Martin began production of ukes in 1915, one year before Samuel Kamaka opened his first shop in 1916 - they ceased production for a good length of time (starting in 1995) - so their claim is a little iffy. They may be the oldest "surviving" maker of ukes, but they aren't the oldest continuous maker of ukes.

coolkayaker1
06-05-2017, 05:33 AM
Isn't Kamaka the oldest surviving Ukulele manufacturer, particularly if you think in terms of continuous manufacture ?

http://www.kamakahawaii.com/history.html

I always through this, too. Kamaka is the oldest continuous manufacturer of ukuleles. Martin totally abandoned the ukulele for, what, thirty or forty years. LOL.

Also, Martin was making guitars long prior to ukuleles, so including those non-uke years, I suppose they can claim to be the "oldest". But, for pure ukulele makers, unsullied by other stringed instruments, Kamaka is king.

It should be noted that, while Martin re-introduced the ukulele in the past decade from Nazareth, PA, , now they are reducing their Nazareth-made ukes to customs and one-off small series, and have shipped out the vast majority of manufacturing to foreign made. Kamaka, conversely has always been made in the USA-- hell, even before Hawaii was USA! LOL.

I give Kamaka great respect for making only ukuleles, through thick and thin economic times, during both booms and busts for the instrument, always in their Hawaii shop. That's some real ukulele provenance.

stevepetergal
06-05-2017, 07:54 AM
Hmm, although Martin began production of ukes in 1915, one year before Samuel Kamaka opened his first shop in 1916 - they ceased production for a good length of time (starting in 1995) - so their claim is a little iffy. They may be the oldest "surviving" maker of ukes, but they aren't the oldest continuous maker of ukes.

Also, Sam Sr. was making ukuleles with Manuel Nunes well before 1915. When did he begin making them on his own? Could it have been before the 1916 opening of his "shop"?
This also makes me wonder where Martin got the idea for ukuleles. And when?

Graham Greenbag
06-05-2017, 08:19 AM
Kamaka, conversely has always been made in the USA-- hell, even before Hawaii was USA! LOL.



As an outsider from the UK I've found a lot of interest in what has gone on in the US and your way of life - even visited a couple of times - hence I decided to do a check on Hawaii.

Hawaii became a State of the USA in 1959 but has been USA territory since 1898. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territory_of_Hawaii

I kind of see where Martin might be coming from but Kamaka has my vote.

komedy
06-06-2017, 03:23 AM
awesome read but I never thought martin as oldest maker, only kamaka came to mind, but overall both companys make great ukuleles

bearbike137
06-06-2017, 08:59 AM
It just occurred to me that as much as I love vintage Martin ukes, I have never even tried the new ones. Do they compare well with the vintage stuff?

coolkayaker1
06-06-2017, 10:07 PM
It just occurred to me that as much as I love vintage Martin ukes, I have never even tried the new ones. Do they compare well with the vintage stuff?

No, they don't.

ukuleleden
06-07-2017, 02:26 AM
Martin totally abandoned the ukulele for, what, thirty or forty years. LOL.

Well not totally. Martin ukuleles were still built under special orders submitted through their dealers. So it seems they kept their jigs and such in place for all those years, just not for use as regular production ukuleles, only special orders. The years Martin confirms that no production was available at all was between 1995 and 2002, when after they started up production of the S-0 again in '02.

I do know someone locally to me who has two of those "special order" ukes from Martin built during the years where regular production was not in place. One is a Style 3M Soprano and the other is Style 3K Concert. When I first saw them I thought they were mint condition ukes from the '20's or '30's until he showed me his order slips from the local Martin dealer from the 80's. I fell in love with the Style 3 Koa Concert, it was just spectacular! I asked him for first right of refusal on both, but assured me he wouldn't be selling either one...

ukuleleden
06-07-2017, 03:37 AM
It just occurred to me that as much as I love vintage Martin ukes, I have never even tried the new ones. Do they compare well with the vintage stuff?

It depends on who you ask and what they are comparing... For instance, it's hard to replicate a very old wood (for discussion, let's say 50 years and older) aging on contemporary instruments. Though some manufacturers, Martin included, use a process called torrefaction to age their wood on their guitars (not sure if they ever did a uke with it yet, or if they ever will). But that aside, what I can attest to is that my over half century-old Martin Style-0 soprano has a very sweet tone combined with that bark when you dig into the strings that is unique unto itself compared to many newer Mahogany sopranos I own/owned or have otherwise played, save maybe for one Laughlin uke I had a chance to play that had nearly every sound, feel and vibe of a Vintage Martin.

Before playing the ukulele, I played guitar for over 35 years and for acoustics I owned only Martins, (the exception being one early '70's Yamaha Martin-copy which too was a great guitar). So when I started playing ukulele it seemed natural to seek out a Martin uke, but have enjoyed playing and owning other brands too. I can say that I very much enjoy the newer Martin ukes and feel they are well built and sound great (both Nazareth and Navojoa built). Even my HPL 0X Bamboo uke which is a recent acquisition I have a very hard time putting it down once I start playing it. As a matter of fact, I spent a few hours playing it last night while learning a new song and it's just wonderful in every manner.

I would say if you're interested in owning a Martin uke, try playing both vintage and contemporary models. You might find out as I did that they are both great to own and play... I even enjoyed owning or playing ukes that are also built as Martin replicas/tributes/"in the theme of" such as Kiwaya, Timms, Laughlin, Ohana, etc...

janeray1940
06-07-2017, 04:33 AM
It just occurred to me that as much as I love vintage Martin ukes, I have never even tried the new ones. Do they compare well with the vintage stuff?

They're different. I'm not going to say whether that's better or worse - the new Martin C1K concert ukes tend to be a good koa option for a mid-range price, but to my ear the sound is closer to a modern Hawaiian koa uke than a vintage Martin one. And the few Nazareth-made modern Martins I've encountered have been great, but definitely a sound and play factor all their own. The closest comparison in a modern build to a vintage Martin I've encountered is probably Kiwaya - with my eyes closed, I'm not sure I could tell the difference between my Kiwaya soprano and an old Martin style 0.

bearbike137
06-07-2017, 08:50 AM
No, they don't.

Well, there you go! :)

UkuleleSprinter
06-07-2017, 09:59 AM
It just occurred to me that as much as I love vintage Martin ukes, I have never even tried the new ones. Do they compare well with the vintage stuff?

I own both; a vintage style 1 tenor and a modern style 2 tenor. Even though both sound great, they are very different. My vintage Martin gives off more of a mellow tone, a tone and vibration which is common to many vintage Martin tenor ukuleles. It's difficult to describe, I do prefer the tone of my vintage Martin over the contemporary one... but of course that is all personal preference.

Uk3player78
06-08-2017, 07:09 AM
I have a Martin S1 and have previously had an OXK and C1K. I'll say this.

I just took delivery of a Ken Timms 'Style O' soprano. I took off the Aquila's and strung up with Martin M600's. Not a fan of Aquilas. Anyhoo, once it settled enough to have a play... I did... for quite some time. I then picked up the Martin and it immediately sounded muted in comparison. I got the Martin for a good price new however the Timms was cheaper.

So tell me how a company making ukuleles for a hundred years can't make a ukulele that beats a guy in a garage/shed? For less! I hazard a guess it would beat the 2K as it's very very light and responsive. I have also seen videos of it compared to the fabled vintage Martins.

Short story long I'm a happy uke player. :D

Bill Potter
06-08-2017, 07:55 AM
It should be noted that, while Martin re-introduced the ukulele in the past decade from Nazareth, PA, , now they are reducing their Nazareth-made ukes to customs and one-off small series, and have shipped out the vast majority of manufacturing to foreign made. Kamaka, conversely has always been made in the USA-- hell, even before Hawaii was USA! LOL.


To be fair, Martin hasn't exactly outsourced production to a third world country. They've operated their own factory in Mexico, (in an area with a long standing tradition of luthery), for over 25 years. Heck, even Mercedes, BMW and Toyota build cars in the US now. ;-)

Mivo
06-08-2017, 09:11 AM
To be fair, Martin hasn't exactly outsourced production to a third world country. They've operated their own factory in Mexico, (in an area with a long standing tradition of luthery), for over 25 years.

They still outsourced the production to a country with substantially lower wages. Whether or not that affected quality and quality control is probably a controversial question whose answer can't be generalized. I don't own Martin ukes, so I can't really comment on this particular case, but I used to buy other products (unrelated to musical instruments) where the quality significantly dropped after the production was moved to low cost countries (none of them being actual development countries), so the claim doesn't strike me as hard to believe.

PereBourik
06-08-2017, 03:47 PM
They still outsourced the production to a country with substantially lower wages. Whether or not that affected quality and quality control is probably a controversial question whose answer can't be generalized. I don't own Martin ukes, so I can't really comment on this particular case, but I used to buy other products (unrelated to musical instruments) where the quality significantly dropped after the production was moved to low cost countries (none of them being actual development countries), so the claim doesn't strike me as hard to believe.

I have a T1K (Mexico) and a T2K (Nazareth, PA). The T1K compares favorably to the T2K on sound. The T2K has perhaps a bit more nuance, but the T1K is louder. The finish of the 2 is obviously better. I'm hard pressed to say it is $1,000 better.

ukuleleden
06-09-2017, 01:05 AM
They still outsourced the production to a country with substantially lower wages. Whether or not that affected quality and quality control is probably a controversial question whose answer can't be generalized. I don't own Martin ukes, so I can't really comment on this particular case, but I used to buy other products (unrelated to musical instruments) where the quality significantly dropped after the production was moved to low cost countries (none of them being actual development countries), so the claim doesn't strike me as hard to believe.

Every Navojoa-built Martin that I have owned (Guitar and Ukulele) has met or exceeded any expectation in build-quality that I would have for their instruments coming out of Nazareth. As pointed out, Martin hasn't just sent specs to a place that assemblers put instruments together with a sheet of plans, they basically have established another factory that replicates their Nazareth manner of building with a factory that has been noted for their quality instrument manufacturing. I think it's relatively been proven that it matters less where an instrument is built (geographically), when the build itself is done following a defined regiment that produces a quality build. Not just Martin, but I would also example how the Thailand-built KoAloha Opio compares very well to any other non-Thailand (Hawaiian) built KoAloha because of how the Thailand factory was established and run by KoAloha.

Mivo
06-09-2017, 07:29 AM
... but I would also example how the Thailand-built KoAloha Opio compares very well to any other non-Thailand (Hawaiian) built KoAloha because of how the Thailand factory was established and run by KoAloha.

This has not been my experience. I have had both an Opio and a Hawaiian-built KoAloha, and they were in different leagues. While I didn't have the issues with the Opio that others reported here (sloppy finish, dents, off-set seams, dead notes, etc) in various threads, the overall instrument clearly felt like the budget model that it was. I don't see much wrong with that as it cost half the price, but the level of quality was not comparable at all.

For me, this would be an example that outsourced production lowers the quality and quality control of the product. This is contrasted by the Indonesia-made Pono baritone I had, which was a very fine, flawlessly finished and built instrument. I don't have a Ko'olau to compare it to, but nothing about it said that it was a foreign-built lower-cost version of the "real thing".

ctoler71
06-12-2017, 05:42 AM
Martin hasn't outsourced anything. They own and operate their facility in Mexico. They do not "outsource" to a third party, contract manufacturer. Totally different than all the big brands that use contract manufacturers in Asia. I'm not dogging contract manufacturing, that's just totally different than what Martin is doing.

Pukulele Pete
06-12-2017, 06:07 AM
Martin hasn't outsourced anything. They own and operate their facility in Mexico. They do not "outsource" to a third party, contract manufacturer. Totally different than all the big brands that use contract manufacturers in Asia. I'm not dogging contract manufacturing, that's just totally different than what Martin is doing.

Thank You for this . I can't understand all these negative Martin posts .:confused:

UkuleleSprinter
06-12-2017, 08:01 PM
Thank You for this . I can't understand all these negative Martin posts .:confused:
Not really sure if any of the comments were meant to be neagative. The bottom line is Martin builds instruments at their Mexico factory simply because it's cheaper. No one can dispute this...

With that said I own 2 USA Martin ukuleles and would purchase a T1K in a heartbeat (I truly believe the T1K is one of the best ukulele deals out there!).

bearbike137
06-13-2017, 04:38 AM
Let's be realistic here. While "made in Mexico" is not a negative, per se - it is a stretch to say that they are on par with their USA built equivalents. Fender enthusiasts will readily admit that the USA built guitars are preferable to the Mexico built guitars. And that is why people are willing to pay more for them.

jfalconc
06-14-2017, 02:00 PM
They still outsourced the production to a country with substantially lower wages. Whether or not that affected quality and quality control is probably a controversial question whose answer can't be generalized. I don't own Martin ukes, so I can't really comment on this particular case, but I used to buy other products (unrelated to musical instruments) where the quality significantly dropped after the production was moved to low cost countries (none of them being actual development countries), so the claim doesn't strike me as hard to believe.

I'm myself an owner of a Martin S1, C1K and a Martin Style 1 Centennial Edition...all three manufactured in Mexico...not a single defect, scratch, or any problem in summary flawless

jfalconc
06-14-2017, 02:04 PM
All Martin ukuleles are made in North America. Martin has two North American factories, one in the country of the USA and the other in the country of Mexico, they seem to be about 2,700 miles apart and connected by road. Both countries are on the continent of North America as is Canada. They should make a sticker "Fabricados in North America" or "Made in Norteamerica" or similar and put it on all of their ukuleles.

Agree 100% Bill1!!!

coolkayaker1
06-14-2017, 08:35 PM
Let's be realistic here. While "made in Mexico" is not a negative, per se - it is a stretch to say that they are on par with their USA built equivalents. Fender enthusiasts will readily admit that the USA built guitars are preferable to the Mexico built guitars. And that is why people are willing to pay more for them.

Agree 100% bearbike137!!!

UkuleleSprinter
06-15-2017, 06:38 AM
Let's be realistic here. While "made in Mexico" is not a negative, per se - it is a stretch to say that they are on par with their USA built equivalents. Fender enthusiasts will readily admit that the USA built guitars are preferable to the Mexico built guitars. And that is why people are willing to pay more for them.

I agree with this 100%. There is something to be had owning a high quality instrument made in the USA. Martin & Fender alike built their reputation around their USA instruments, not those made in other countries.

Pippin
06-23-2017, 07:30 PM
Kamaka has been producing 'ukulele since 1916 and Martin makes no reference to their original prototypes. My guess is that Dick Boak at Martin could answer the question of when they first produced a ukulele. In 1917, the uke was added to their catalog.

coolkayaker1
06-24-2017, 05:28 AM
Kamaka has been producing 'ukulele since 1916 and Martin makes no reference to their original prototypes. My guess is that Dick Boak at Martin could answer the question of when they first produced a ukulele. In 1917, the uke was added to their catalog.

Agree. Catch him before he hangs up his spurs, as is Diane Ponzio, later this year.

Xtradust
06-26-2017, 11:28 AM
Where'd the guys from Madeira get the Machetes they brought to Hawaii?

If that shop is still open, they'd win. :)