View Full Version : Kamaka Experts opinion needed

08-17-2009, 03:09 PM
Is this a Louis Gaspar uke?

Made by Sam Kamaka Sr.'s brother in law's uke company?

I'm guessing everyone who looked at it thought "beat up piece of crap" but I used to deal in antiques and am not afraid of glue in the right places because my Favilla is glued and cracked. I've wanted a pineapple but I'm pretty broke to get anything nice, and a koa pineapple that should be vintage Hawaiian-made for cheap seemed worth the gamble.

Besides the Aloha decal it has a ribbon like label remnant inside that has a U on the left and "spar" on the right with "cturer" underneath. To me if I fill in the blanks I get Louis Gaspar Ukulele Manufacturer, and supposedly Sam Senior taught Gaspar, who became a manufacturer. But how is Gaspar tied to Aloha? I can't find much info. It has a 1949 Leonard "Red" Hawk chord chart (Hawaiian) and original chipboard case that came with it.

Koa with what looks like a monkey pod neck and headstock and the brass frets are set directly into the neck. I bought it off eBay as a koa junker to glue up and gamble hat it would be a playable beater. The back is sloppily, partly glued but solid with no splits. Has two under the bridge cracks that look to have been glued and the top is loose along the top half, but cleanly separated. The sound hole looks like it was set up for inlay but there's nothing there. The neck is very shaped and narrows and thins at the top near the nut, which looks like dark monkey pod. Fret markers are like Kamaka markers material and same positions. Old tuners work well, it tuned up fine with whatever strings are on it (feel and act like flourocarbon), and the intonation up the neck surprisingly is better than most of my other ukes except my Kamaka. That's old masking tape on the back top corner, maybe the mark = a second? Or was a price tag.

So I figure it's likely better off in the hands of a luthier than me messing with it as planned as it sounds too nice. I have the name of a guy in the SF Valley in SoCal. It looks like the back could come off without too much trouble, which would then let the top be checked over, and then put back on. It needs the frets dressed as the ends are out and sharp. Our humidity is currently 83% so I'm letting it sit out.

Any thoughts? I've seen one Japanese website that has this uke on it under Aloha, but this one is not as nice; it's cut a little lopsided and the top comes up the neck a tad to the 12th fret instead of the fret being even with the body. Like maybe Louis Jr. made it at age 12.

I want to get it fixed and keep it as a player either way. it's got a sweet Hawaiian ukey sound, very nice. When all the loose bits are held down and the strings plucked it is lovely. :)

Oh, pics!

http://home.earthlink.net/~dharmacowboy/Aloha Pineapple small.jpg

08-17-2009, 04:25 PM
Really, any ideas?


08-17-2009, 07:05 PM
I'm not a lot of help, I'm sure - but the wood looks a lot like mahogany to me...

08-18-2009, 08:38 AM

It does however have the characteristic red to gold shift in the light that all my other koa pieces have, and the grain between the two is similar, both mahogany and koa are very open. It does have a little ribbon look to it, but the age, color and the Hawaiian style construction and one piece top and back makes it a lot more likely to be koa, especially when combined with monkey pod. I believe Kamaka used monkey pod for cheaper pineapples but I've (personally) not yet seen a combination of the two. That's why the neck heel looks so funky where it blends from the heel to the neck. It's a three piece neck of monkey pod. The top and back have been extended over the neck heel and fingerboard. :confused:

EDIT: Jon, I'm thinking now that you're right, I took my glasses OFF, lol! and it looks more like mahogany grain top and back in the pattern of- I don't know how it's correctly described- long regular grain marks. Also in how straight the pattern is compared to my koa stuff. However the number and size of open pores and wavy grain on sides and neck looks much more like koa, so I'm still confused. I'd have no idea why mahogany top and back and koa sides and neck, except that it was scrap wood. I have four mahogany pieces, 3 koa pieces, and one koa and cedar. All of the koa has a really tiny speckle in the pattern too. The shellac on this piece (could be lacquer but I don't want to test it) is a pale gold, because it's chipped off over the frets but I can see the color by what's left. So that's giving it that color, and while it does shift to red, it's not as pronounced as the koa. The bottom side under bright light looks very flamey.

Thanks for making me take another long look!

joe green
07-31-2010, 01:02 PM
the gaspar uke was intentionaly lopsided one side of the fret board is square to the body
so the saddle would have to be off center to line up correctly
im assuming this was a manufacturing style that only gaspar did
ive not seen it on other designs
more info at http://shinoteabowl.wordpress.com/category/louis-a-gaspar-ukulele/
this guy is diccecting a gaspar uke and building a replica and made a lot of discoveries

mm stan
07-31-2010, 08:47 PM
Aloha Teek,
I'm sure that's not a Kamaka but there's several similar charactics in construction for an early gold label Kamaka that I've noticed.
For one, there is no fretboard..the frets is directly on the neck and the other is on the backboard as it extends on to the bottom of
heel for strength. also the tuning knobs with the double beads are to about the same time...1954 . does yours have like a brass type
of frets? the sound hole seems alot larger too, if it was a Kamaka for which I doubt. For my opinion, it could be from someone who
worked for Kamaka, because of the similar charactics or a copy of one, because there's alot of other things that are different too.
As for Aloha decal, I'm not sure on this one...but someone mentioned that it signafied that the ukulele was made in Hawaii...
an earlier post suggested it could be Mahogany because of the bands on the backboard and soundboard. from inside the soundhole
the untreated wood looks like mahogany too, but certain things tell me it could be Koa straight grain since there in the same family
and related. And defietly not ohai..aka monkeypod...for sure....I hope this helps....if you have questions jus ask....MM Stan..
I've just noticed the back of the neck on yours is same as a gold Kamaka, almost thin and flat and the heel looks pretty close but can't
tell, due to the wrong angle of the picture...maybe close to a Sam Sr. design..does yours a hollow sound when strummed??

07-31-2010, 10:08 PM
Hi Joe and Stan,

Wow this was an old thread, I thought I was seeing things. ;)

The question wasn't was it Kamaka made but Gaspar made, Louis Gaspar being Sam Kamaka's brother in law.

I never got much help but it is a Gaspar, and Joe I did see the other one being copied in the blog way back then but should go look again. It is a funky hybrid, the top and back are one piece mahogany, the sides are koa or possibly monkey pod, the back of the neck looks like monkey pod, the vintage is likely late 50s. The neck is flat and thin like Kamakas but without the finesse (it's too flat and thin but handles ok, not slick or fast though, but it's a sopranos so it's fine, though it narrows too much right at the nut), the headstock decal was to the period and a lot of makers had access. The headstock is way too small and if you note the tuners are right to the edge. Sound hole rings are simply routed and it seems inlay was never considered, that the routing was enough. Frets and fret markers are Kamaka style.

Typical Hawaiian construction as you noted Stan with the frets set directly and the back continuing up over the heel. One neat thing about this uke is that it has a rounded back. The heel block and neck block on the back side slope UP at a slight angle to set the height. This uke was badly glued with Gorilla glue all around the inside bottom, and was coming apart top and back at the neck area to the point that it actually was floppy loose halfway down around the uke's sides. I originally intended to just glue it up, no one gave me any strong value on it, so I decided heck with it, it's already messed up, and took it apart and spent quite some time removing old dried glue and the Gorilla crap. The pieces are ready to go back together, there are double cracks from the bridge to the bottom on the top but they are solid and I wouldn't mess with them so they will stay. I just need a luthier to re-steam the top and back to fit them in place, as they don't align exactly, and might as well do it right.

It had a very sweet sound when tuned up and strummed with one hand while I held the top area together with the other. It cost me $79 with shipping IIRC. So I don't mind paying for it to be glued up correctly so that it will be sound. It has quite a bit of charm actually.

Thanks for weighing in, fresh eyes and insights are always appreciated. :)