View Full Version : Is it Koa?

07-14-2009, 12:55 PM
Hey all. You're going to love this.

This is my upcoming birthday present. My mom let the cat out of the bag early and I can't contain my excitement. It's sat untouched in my grandpa's basement for 40+ years. Yes, it's a Kamaka and it was purchased back in the 1930's by a relative who was there as a missionary. He gave it to my mom when she was a kid and she is handing it down to me.:smileybounce: She knows I have a thing for Ukes and she remembered it sitting on her shelf as a child. She went to my grandparents basement, and there it was, all shiny and bright, with no cracks but a light coating of dust. (I'm shocked, really. I do not deserve such a thing of beauty.) All it needs is a a wooden peg and some Aquilas.

But I do have a few questions. Has anyone seen a Kamaka pineapple with that kind of painting on the front? I suppose it could have been done by Kamaka but I doubt it. I'm guessing it was done later by my relative or a friend of his.

Second, is it Koa? I've never seen Koa in the flesh before so I'm not sure how to tell.

Third, do I dare play this thing. It's worth more than any of my other ukes and I'm terrified it will melt in my hands. But, what's the purpose of a Uke you can't play? I'm conflicted.

Many glorious pictures below.


http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/1410/dsc2834.th.jpg (http://img263.imageshack.us/i/dsc2834.jpg/)

http://img140.imageshack.us/img140/5817/dsc2835.th.jpg (http://img140.imageshack.us/i/dsc2835.jpg/)

http://img32.imageshack.us/img32/6575/dsc2838j.th.jpg (http://img32.imageshack.us/i/dsc2838j.jpg/)

07-14-2009, 12:56 PM
a few more pictures...

http://img32.imageshack.us/img32/7474/dsc3147.th.jpg (http://img32.imageshack.us/i/dsc3147.jpg/)

http://img529.imageshack.us/img529/945/dsc3150.th.jpg (http://img529.imageshack.us/i/dsc3150.jpg/)

http://img529.imageshack.us/img529/9196/dsc2837.th.jpg (http://img529.imageshack.us/i/dsc2837.jpg/)

07-14-2009, 01:01 PM
Sweet! Cherish it :)

07-14-2009, 01:02 PM
Wow! What a find! That is a treasure. It sure looks like Koa to me. Congrats!

07-14-2009, 01:04 PM
I would say the answer to all three questions is YES.

Maybe the island and Aloha were added later, but I bet the Pinapple painting at least is original, if not the whole painting.

It looks like Koa from the pictures.

Play it, but treat with care. I would save the original tuners, even it you have to replace them temporarily to play it.

Awesome uke!

Compare the pineapple on their website.... http://www.kamakahawaii.com/ukegallery.html

07-14-2009, 01:09 PM
Excerpted from the Kamaka site

In 1921, Kamaka Ukulele established a shop at 1814 South King Street. In the mid-20s, Sam Kamaka laid out a pattern for a new oval-shaped ukulele body. His friends remarked that it looked like a pineapple, so one of Sam's artist friends painted the front to duplicate the tropical fruit. A few years later in 1928, Sam Kamaka patented the design. Thus began the original Pineapple Ukulele, which produced a resonant, mellow sound distinct from the traditional figure-eight. The Pineapple Ukulele became an instant success worldwide, and continues to be Kamaka's signature ukulele to this day.
And yea, looks like Koa. Here's Kamaka's gallery section (http://www.kamakahawaii.com/ukegallery.html) with some ukulele pics from 1916-1953.

07-14-2009, 01:10 PM
Holy smokes! You are one lucky person, nice uke!

07-14-2009, 01:11 PM
Just a thought... You may want to contact Kamaka regarding a string recommendation. I would be a bit worried of high tension strings on a vintage instrument like this. I'm posting this in the hope that someone with better knowledge about this era instrument could advise you on this.

07-14-2009, 01:13 PM
Beautiful old instruments were built to be played. I'll bet it just sings.

07-14-2009, 01:33 PM
Just a thought... You may want to contact Kamaka regarding a string recommendation. I would be a bit worried of high tension strings on a vintage instrument like this. I'm posting this in the hope that someone with better knowledge about this era instrument could advise you on this.

Are Aquilas high-tension?

07-14-2009, 01:39 PM
Wow! What a birthday present. That is one sweet Kamaka. Enjoy and Happy Birthday!

07-14-2009, 02:13 PM
I agree with the others who said contact the Kamaka factory, they may be able to supply you parts or even refurbish it back to factory specs for you, for a small fee. This is too nice a ukulele not to consider doing it right the first time, and I know they will have the right strings for it, too!

07-14-2009, 02:13 PM
A very sweet birthday present! Congratulations. I'd send some pictures to Kamaka and ask for help with the age, wood, etc. In their gallery of vintage Kamaka's they mention the use of koa, mahogany, and monkey pod in the pineapples. I'm no expert, but my first impression was monkey pod. They also don't show that particular model with your paint detail. They may not have listed all of the vintage Kamaka pineapples. So, again I would contact them directly. You have a very special 'ukulele to be cherished. Have fun with it. :music:

Ahnko Honu
07-14-2009, 06:51 PM
I don't believe the painting is original, but if a family ancestor painted it even more priceless as a family heirloom. I believe the vast majority of Kamaka label 'ukuleles in this time period were Koa, the Keiki Kamaka, and Kalae brand 'ukuleles being made from Mahogany and Monkey Pod. In the condition it's in which is very nice I personally would not chance sending this back to Kamaka and risk damage in transit. You can buy replacement wood violin pegs made of Ebony or Rosewood for real cheap on eBay. If you want to hear what this 'ukulele sounded like way back when buy yourself a set of natural Aquila catgut (gut) strings. Wipe the 'ukulele down with a rag and lemon or orange oil, string her up, and play her the way she was meant to be played. Enjoy your new 'ukulele, you deserve it.
I may have a partial set of extra wood pegs I can send you, let me look around.

07-14-2009, 06:56 PM
Monkeypod it looks to me

07-14-2009, 11:33 PM
Are Aquilas high-tension?

I've used Aquilas on my 1920/30s La Foley for the past year with no problems. I tried the natural gut as well, to see what it would have sounded like originally, but found they tended to stick to my fingers and to get flakey, like they had dandruff. All in all, the gut strings made me feel uncomfortable, too much like skin, so I went back to nylgut.

Anyway, you've got a great mum!

07-15-2009, 12:35 AM
Congratulations! That is a most beautiful uke, and that family history must make it very special to you. It is a wise suggestion, to contact the makers for advice about strings, but I don't expect there to be any problems with fitting Aquilas. I would resist the temptation to fit modern friction tuners. The original tapered pegs may seem a little awkward at first, but if you persevere with them, you will find they are not difficult to use, and they hold tune very well indeed. OK, modern pegs are slightly easier to use, but it is worth sticking with the originals, just to preserve the uke's original character, and other ukers will be in awe of you for coping with the tapered pegs! I won't tell them it's not difficult, if you don't.

John Colter.

07-21-2009, 09:19 PM
My guess was monkey pod then I saw MGM said that, so what he said. I'd put a light gauge flourocarbon string set on it, it won't need Aquilas, which I think are crap myself. :cool:

Lucky dawg..! :cheers:

Treat her right and she'll sing sweetly for you the rest of your life. :love:

07-21-2009, 09:25 PM
Man!! You're realy lucky that is one beatiful Uke!
Take good care of it