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Junie Moon
05-15-2018, 04:58 AM
Does anyone know if Kamaka has had any "golden age(s)" of production? Or bad periods of production, for that matter.

For a 102-yr-old company, it seems likely that quality has ebbed and flowed over time.

Is it possible that they've always been considered great?

I enjoy browsing listings for used Kamakas, which is what brought this question to my mind.

I haven't found anything on the web that addresses this question.

Thanks,
June

Uke Don
05-15-2018, 07:45 AM
Personally, I'd say that (with the possible exception of Martin) the Golden Age of ukulele makers is right now. For Kamaka, my HF3 is new and fantastic. I suspect any made in the last 10 years would be too, but I can't speak to a vintage model. Better construction methods, more profit for makers because of an extended period of increased sales, more folks taking the uke seriously, have all contributed to builders making a better product.

Junie Moon
05-15-2018, 08:31 AM
Personally, I'd say that (with the possible exception of Martin) the Golden Age of ukulele makers is right now. For Kamaka, my HF3 is new and fantastic. I suspect any made in the last 10 years would be too, but I can't speak to a vintage model. Better construction methods, more profit for makers because of an extended period of increased sales, more folks taking the uke seriously, have all contributed to builders making a better product.

Great point, Uke Don. I'm thinking a K-brand might be in my future, and have wondered if I should pursue a vintage uke or a new one. Thanks for writing.

merlin666
05-15-2018, 11:26 AM
I suspect any made in the last 10 years would be too, but I can't speak to a vintage model. Better construction methods, ... have all contributed to builders making a better product.

I am not sure if increasing efficiencies, automation, and replacing dwindling natural materials with more abundant alternatives always can be considered an improvement. Kamakas have changed a lot in more than 100 years. I had the good fortune to play a few very old ones that still had fretboard flush with body, and were hand made with single piece tops and bottoms. While they were not as nice in terms of action and intonation as similar vintage Martins, they certainly sounded sweeter than their more modern incarnations to my untrained ears. This is a very interesting question that was posed, and I also wonder if there was some historical sweet spot when top materials were available, a lot of individual care went into each instrument, and a design was used that ensured longevity.

Joyful Uke
05-15-2018, 11:36 AM
I've wondered this too, so thanks for posting the question.

I think that Kamaka is making some great instruments right now, but that doesn't mean that this is the golden age for them. Hopefully, people will have some insights to share. Or at least informed opinions. :-)

70sSanO
05-15-2018, 06:40 PM
I would think that the golden age from a manufacturing quality and consistency would be what Kamaka has been making recently, from 5/10 years to their current offerings. With acoustic instruments the quality of the wood used obviously plays a significant role. I don't know where the harvesting of old growth Koa and replenishment influences the quality of the wood used today. Vintage Martin ukuleles were cited earlier as an exception to what eras are better ukuleles, but I don't know if that is that due to the lack of choice woods or actual manufacturing.

As for a ukulele golden era in general, I think we are in that era. There has definitely been a transition from a strumming accompaniment instrument to a complex instrumental instrument. Not that there is anything less when used to accompany. But the use of the entire fretboard has made more precision in manufacturing a requirement.

From a consumer perspective the "K" brands may no longer be a affordable basic instrument. I have no background as to how affordable Kamakas were in the 50's and 60's. Generally "golden eras" are nostalgic times when popularity and affordability of something converged. People fondly look back to an era. We are in one of those eras. How else can anyone explain UAS.

John

ukulelekarcsi
05-16-2018, 04:39 AM
First of all, Kamaka at one stage used gold-coloured labels. Which might be confusing, but I understand we mean something different here, the best years of construction.

Secondly, age and playing can improve the acoustic qualities of an acoustic instrument, and it certainly executes a certain natural selection: good ones get passed on, bad ones dissappear.

In response to a statement above: good instruments weren't always appreciated as such, and not certainly in monetary value. Sentiment, resale value, publicity, ignorance, rarety all are disturbing factors. In new instruments, the price usually reflects the quality, in antique instruments not necessarily so - hence Bill Monroe's chance of finding a Loar-era Gibson mandolin at a discount price.

And also, remember that that mandolin was sold by an Italian barber, who didn't prefer the higher-pitched, lightning-speed action a mandolin needs for bluegrass music, but probably wanted a deeper-sounding, echoey bowlback for playing Italian dance riffs. What is 'good' depends on genre, taste... or on your expectations, really. Are you looking for the loudest Kamakas, or the deepest sounding ones, or sturdiest ones? Some of the commenters above state that the current myriad of models on offer, clearly defines a 'golden age'. Which is very true, if a broad choice is what you need. In sheer production numbers, I think Kamaka themselves also have stated that their golden age is now: stock's flying of the shelves, they need new hands to keep up.

When I narrow it down to sound alone, I think the most pleasing to me are the 1950s-1960s Kamakas, especially the pineapple ones. Not extremely valuable, a bit of an acquired taste, probably not as refined as current models, no great variation in sizes, nothing special cosmetically, but 'best in show' nonetheless.