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View Full Version : Banged up old Kamaka--Junk or jewel?



portlandjosh
07-09-2010, 01:11 PM
Hey folks, so I came across an old banged up Kamaka pineapple at a yard sale this morning. It has some issues, like no bridge, serious finish wear, dings and a crack at the sound hole.

But I wonder if it is worth taking to a luthier and fixing up. The full photo set is here (http://picasaweb.google.com/portlandjosh/Kamaka), but I am posting some pictures below too. Any thoughts? I only paid $15 for it, so nothing serious if it is a lost cause.

Cheers,
Josh

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemDBkGbgI/AAAAAAAAABc/NndNEVOCdsI/s576/2010-07-09%2009.07.37.jpg
http://lh6.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemKPgyxqI/AAAAAAAAABg/Ng3tzEevfJ4/s800/2010-07-09%2009.07.50.jpg
http://lh4.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemNwt9GkI/AAAAAAAAABo/6pqxC8ZztI0/s800/2010-07-09%2009.08.21.jpg
http://lh5.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemMBAF7kI/AAAAAAAAABk/lYqIRyLZH3o/s800/2010-07-09%2009.08.10.jpg

UncleElvis
07-09-2010, 01:16 PM
My thinking is that a) It's a ukulele, ergo it's a jewel. and b) it might be a fun project for you. Sand her down, refinish her... make her beautiful again.

The best part of it is that you CAN'T make it any worse!

Lori
07-09-2010, 01:47 PM
For only $15, you can't lose. Even for a wall hanger, it is not a bad price. If you can fix it up, you might have a really great sounding uke! Nice find. Maybe you could get a replacement bridge from Kamaka, and glue it up yourself.
–Lori

luke'nlele
07-09-2010, 01:54 PM
We 've had great fun learning to restore an old pawn shop find and it wasn't even a Kamaka. Sounds like a great project to us.

princesspoppi
07-09-2010, 02:15 PM
I think it is beautiful already! Fix er up and make it even more gorgeous! Definitely a jewel

itsme
07-09-2010, 02:48 PM
I agree it would be a great DIY project for you. Don't know if it'd be worth it to pay a luthier to restore it or not. Like Lori said, for what you paid, it's a good wall hanger even if it doesn't work out. But I'm confident you can do it. There are plenty of very competent luthiers here that I'm sure would be happy to advise you on any steps you're unsure of.

So I voted jewel. :)

RevWill
07-09-2010, 03:00 PM
Seriously? That's ten pounds of awesomesauce in a five pound sack. It's got mojo written all over it. It's full of epic win.

http://www.clauzel.fr/share/Image/jewel-kilcher-1.jpg

DeG
07-09-2010, 03:13 PM
I had my usually smart alecky reply all ready, then I saw that picture of my dream girl, Jewel, and got all flustered!

Oh yeah... that uke is a keeper!

Brewerpaul
07-09-2010, 03:28 PM
Nah, it's not worth it. I'll give you $20 for the favor of taking it off your hands....
NOT!
Dude-- it's a Kamaka! At the very least you should get a bridge on it (from Kamaka, maybe) string it up and play it a bit. If you know a good reputable luthier, I'd definitely run it past them. As long as the neck is reasonably straight, this could be a real jewel. Perhaps contact Kamaka and send them a link to your photos and get their opinion. Keep us posted.

mm stan
07-09-2010, 04:02 PM
Hey folks, so I came across an old banged up Kamaka pineapple at a yard sale this morning. It has some issues, like no bridge, serious finish wear, dings and a crack at the sound hole.

But I wonder if it is worth taking to a luthier and fixing up. The full photo set is here (http://picasaweb.google.com/portlandjosh/Kamaka), but I am posting some pictures below too. Any thoughts? I only paid $15 for it, so nothing serious if it is a lost cause.

Cheers,
Josh

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemDBkGbgI/AAAAAAAAABc/NndNEVOCdsI/s576/2010-07-09%2009.07.37.jpg
http://lh6.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemKPgyxqI/AAAAAAAAABg/Ng3tzEevfJ4/s800/2010-07-09%2009.07.50.jpg
http://lh4.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemNwt9GkI/AAAAAAAAABo/6pqxC8ZztI0/s800/2010-07-09%2009.08.21.jpg
http://lh5.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDemMBAF7kI/AAAAAAAAABk/lYqIRyLZH3o/s800/2010-07-09%2009.08.10.jpg
What a score, Josh...are you teasing us???I'll give you double your money...choke, ckoke..LOL
Check the neck is straight, and call Kamaka and ask them for suggestions for a good luthier in your area.
I'd send them pictures, so they know you're serious...I'm sure when they see them, they'll call you pretty
quickly. II'd say just go with a new bridge and the finish will be fine original. MM Stan...
Then throw some strings on, and jam...BTW-by then I don't know which is a bigger jewel, and which I would really choose....

Teek
07-09-2010, 04:15 PM
Good lord, it's a gold label Kamaka pineapple that you got for $15 and you want to know if it's worth having a luthier put a bridge on it?! I mean seriously?!?!? These guys go for like $300 easy with the bridge intact and otherwise about the same, and even with cracks. Unless the nut is on as crooked as it looks in the pics, I hope that's not a twist in the neck? If the neck is good, what a STEAL!

Have the luthier put an ebony nut and saddle on it with a very simple bridge, it will sound fabulous. Lucky dog. ;)

Really nice they go for about $450 and up.

Fio1999
07-09-2010, 04:53 PM
You sir are the Indiana Jones of Ukulele treasures!!!! Kamaka folks are the definite resource for your "piece of eight" or should i say "pineapple of eight" Enjoy !!!!!

portlandjosh
07-09-2010, 05:03 PM
Totally excited by all of your responses! I'll definitely contact Kamaka about it. Not sure what the significance of the "Gold Label" is, but I'll be researching it tonight! I'll be sure to keep y'all posted of what I learn... Cheers, Josh

DeG
07-09-2010, 05:19 PM
Gold label means it was made between 1954 and 1969.

Harold O.
07-09-2010, 05:27 PM
Let's say you decide to send it Kamaka for repair. Two-way shipping plus repair time puts you out a couple hundred bucks and you'll have the best possible repair on a terrific instrument.

If you hire a local luthier, you will be out a hundred bucks or so.

If you do it yourself, you're out the cost of a bridge.

If you chose to simply hang it on the wall, you still win.

If it were mine, I'd send it to Hawaii for repair.

Mr Bill
07-09-2010, 05:49 PM
Hi Josh,

I don't play the ukulelel yet, and don't own one either,
but I have a pretty good handle on fretted instruments and that baby's a gem.
Best of luck with that beauty.

Envious, Bill

RyanMFT
07-09-2010, 07:31 PM
Dude, what a find!!! I would fix it in a second. If it were me, I would go to a good local luthier, or do it yourself. I am sure Kamaka does great repairs but their website says the wait is a year and I don't think they will do a better job then a local person. For me, the shipping, and the wait would make me stay local.

Anyway, congrats on an amazing find!! Play that baby and enjoy!

RevWill
07-09-2010, 07:41 PM
Yeah, I'd go local too. Just make sure you go to someone good. Do a little research, find out what kind of bridge belongs on the instrument or simply find a design you like. (Think about this: Dave Rawlings' main Gibson archtop guitar has a custom made one-piece ebony bridge that is totally wrong in terms of vintage correctness, but it's his favorite instrument. The guitar was missing the bridge when he acquired it, and he just thought a one-piece ebony would work, so he had a luthier make it.)

I wouldn't mess with the finish. I think old checked finishes look very cool on old instruments. I wouldn't hesitate to clean it up and polish it, but I personally wouldn't refinish. I would have a superstitious worry that the checked finish sounds better.

If the neck is warped or twisted a good luthier might be able to put it in a press to correct it. Seriously have it looked at.

I think you have a real gem there.

Ahnko Honu
07-09-2010, 09:50 PM
I've seen allot worse sell for allot more. She would be cheap at $50, and definitely worth a new life.

Tsani
07-10-2010, 04:51 AM
That Kamaka is pure gold, and not just the label either. In case you have not noticed, vintage ukes are hot. That's because they sound great! Warning...do not sand or refinish it! The varnish is part of the sound. You've got about 50 years of resonance built into that baby - don't rub it off! That finish is part of its authenticity, its charm, and its value. That ukulele only needs a bridge and strings. I would have the bridge done locally by a quality luthier. You could ship to Hawaii, but by the time you have paid shipping you could probably get a comparable Kamaka on ebay. $200 is the low end on a Kamaka soprano in good shape. The pineapple shape is plus. You lucky dog. I got a deal like that one time - it makes you want to get lucky again. If you get bitten by the vintage uke bug you will be haunting local antique shops and checking ebay constantly. Many people have NO IDEA what ukes are worth. A little knowledge is money in your pocket.

In the end though, the sound is the thing - and that Kamaka will never do you wrong. :drool:

haole
07-10-2010, 05:56 AM
I guess you could make it into some really nice toothpicks.

Dude, if that uke had no NECK it would still be worth more than $15. Any remotely competent luthier can make this into a great player for relatively little cash. :D

portlandjosh
07-10-2010, 08:58 AM
I just cleaned it up with polish and a soft cloth, and it really shines up nicely. I'm definitely leaning towards not touching the finish and instead having a local luthier repair the crack, install a new bridge (I'll try to get one straight from Kamaka), and see if they can do anything with the nut and tuners. It'd be hard to let her go to Hawaii for 12-18 months for a full-blown Kamaka repair. I really appreciate the advice and also the enthusiasm. I have been beaming about this since last night, and especially after polishing her up, I feel like the bee's knees.

After cleaning/polishing:
http://lh4.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDjHOpXFdAI/AAAAAAAAAEA/_eqeRczFxQA/s512/2010-07-10%2011.46.52.jpg
http://lh6.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDjHQ_r-A8I/AAAAAAAAAEE/fYguYxr8TCw/s512/2010-07-10%2011.48.04.jpg
http://lh3.ggpht.com/_JuXWz6X08ww/TDjHTHLiXEI/AAAAAAAAAEQ/dn5hAgQuv6M/s512/2010-07-10%2011.48.22.jpg

Cheers, Josh

koalition
07-10-2010, 09:10 AM
Send um to Kamaka brah! Howeva long take fo repair, at least going be in da hands of Kamaka factory! Going be dat much moa sweetah!

uke552
07-10-2010, 10:10 AM
Great find! Man, I'm gonna have to start driving to Portland for yard sales....

RyanMFT
07-10-2010, 01:11 PM
I looked as closely as I could at the pictures. What is wrong with the nut? Did I miss something in the pics? The tuners look fine too....??

Looks great cleaned up. I especially liked the picture with the tape price tag on it! I would buy that so fast and jump up and down with excitement while handing them the money. Any chance you asked them if they had the bridge around somewhere?

portlandjosh
07-10-2010, 07:37 PM
I asked if they had the bridge, but no luck. The seller had picked it up about 15 years ago hoping to restore it and hadn't done anything with it since. She knew what she had, but didn't have interest in it any more.

The nut is crooked, which is what makes the neck look twisted. I'm pretty sure the neck is straight, but the goofy nut makes it look weird.

experimentjon
07-10-2010, 08:11 PM
Nice find. I would personally just turn this into a DIY project and get a nice vintage beater uke out if it. But that's just me, because I like to fix things. I peronally don't think it's worth shipping to Kamaka and waiting for that long for a repair, because by then, you'll probably have a bunch of other new ukes. :) I wouldn't try to restore then flip the uke, because unless you make it a DIY project, the repair costs will probably eat into most of your profit. But with some work, this should indeed make a great player.

mm stan
07-10-2010, 10:38 PM
Aloha Josh,
I gave this some thought, it would be nice to send it to Kamaka to be repaired correctly and in the mean time get another ukulele to learn on.
By the time it get back to you, you'll be pretty good by then and will appriciate your Gold Pineapple even more. I'd say that would be the best
upgrade situation possible. Just my thoughts...Good Luck whatever you do!!!!
BTW-If you do go all out on the repairs, I'd say it should be a keeper since there is no way that you'll make a considerable profit on it, if any.
MM Stan....Ukuleles are for eva!!!Uke on...if you want ot sell it, let me know...LOL

portlandjosh
07-11-2010, 09:16 AM
I don't have any interest in fixing and then flipping it. If I invest in getting it in playing condition, it is going to stay right here in my collection. I've read some good arguments on both sides about doing it local or sending to Kamaka. I've emailed Kamaka to see what they have to say. l'll also consult with a local luthier before deciding. I'll definitely let you know what I do.

Cheers, Josh

Teek
07-11-2010, 11:05 AM
There's a luthier in your neck of the woods who just built my first custom by name of Brad Donaldson, he's a member here and does exquisite work. A nice ebony nut and saddle on a simple koa bridge would be fairly authentic to the uke and give it the proper voice (gold labels I believe are one piece koa bridge and saddles but IMHO ebony looks and sounds better). I wouldn't touch the finish and I wouldn't fix it yourself. It would be well worth it, and even with cost of repairs you'd have it playable for less that half what they currently run on eBay. I agree for that price you don't want to sell it. It worked too hard to get into your hands! ;)

UkuLeLesReggAe
07-11-2010, 10:41 PM
anything that you are able to reuse, even if it needs a bit of love right now, isn't junk. Something like... a packet of chips that's empty, is junk....

anything of use, is jewel..

especially this! if you consider it junk though... My address is only 1 PM away ;)

MissJonib
07-11-2010, 11:51 PM
I have a similar Kamaka, in similar condition; it should be fixed and ready to play any day now. You can contact Kamaka and purchase a new bridge and whatever else is missing. They will ask you to email photos--and you already have some great ones. The new bridges are slightly larger than the old gold label ones, though, so you will either have to measure carefully when attaching it or find a luthier to do it for you.
Desipite the condition, I think you got a steal! I paid a lot more than that for mine! Look on eBay and see what they are selling for, and I am sure you will be pleased.
Kamakas are koa wood and that uke will play beautifully. I think you just experienced every ukulele player's dream of stumbling onto the Holy Grail for a song at a garage sale!
Nice job!

MissJonib
07-11-2010, 11:54 PM
I don't think you should refinish her. I think the issue is the missing parts--who cares if she is banged up? I would really leave the finish alone. I worked in the antiques business for years and know that the worse thing you can do is remove the original finish from an item!
You could SEND it to Kamaka for repairs if you want, and they might refinish it for you, but that is the only way I would do it. You don't want to mess with the wood too much because it could affect the sound! just get the parts fixed and replace what you need to replace and then start playing!

portlandjosh
07-12-2010, 02:18 PM
I just spoke with Kamaka (they called me back, very quickly I might add), and they are encouraging me to send it to them. Tekla at Kamaka said it was made in the late 50s, and she has seen much worse condition than this instrument. So I'm a bit torn. I forgot to ask if they would send me a nut and a bridge to have a local luthier put on (there are good ones here in Portland, I understand), but I am leaning a bit towards sending it to them to handle. She guessed in the $200-$250 range, depending on what they need to do to get it in playable condition. The good part, is they do a totally free estimate, as long as I pay to ship it there. Seems like I should at least send it there to have them give me an estimate. Bummer on the 12-18 month turn around time, but maybe I'd have a real gem to pass on to my kids (when they're MUCH older!).

So, still trying to decide...

Melissa82
07-12-2010, 02:58 PM
I just spoke with Kamaka (they called me back, very quickly I might add), and they are encouraging me to send it to them. Tekla at Kamaka said it was made in the late 50s, and she has seen much worse condition than this instrument. So I'm a bit torn. I forgot to ask if they would send me a nut and a bridge to have a local luthier put on (there are good ones here in Portland, I understand), but I am leaning a bit towards sending it to them to handle. She guessed in the $200-$250 range, depending on what they need to do to get it in playable condition. The good part, is they do a totally free estimate, as long as I pay to ship it there. Seems like I should at least send it there to have them give me an estimate. Bummer on the 12-18 month turn around time, but maybe I'd have a real gem to pass on to my kids (when they're MUCH older!).

So, still trying to decide...Doooo eeeeet!

mm stan
07-12-2010, 04:00 PM
Aloha Josh,
Go for it!!! I knew they would reply quickly, since they knew you were serious. And that's just estimated time, it could be done
alot quickly once they see it actually. Usually it's done before, but I guess they don't want disappoint you if it's not. Like I said
get another one to play until it gets back, and when it does come back...You'll be more experienced to handle the Gem. Not
to mention also, you'll appriciate it better!!! Like you said it could be passed down line in your family.....Do it right, It's a Kamaka..
You might as well get the best out of it since you have the perrrfect oppertunity now...I'm sure it's not going take that long there's
no structural damage at the seams..it should be back alot sooner. Well good luck, and let us know what you do and how it turns out!!!
MM Stan...

portlandjosh
07-28-2010, 01:02 PM
Well, I sent the uke to Kamaka to look at and give me an estimate. New bridge, new nut, crack repair, refinish and new strings all for only $125! And it should take less than six months. Sounds like an absolute bargain to me. One of the best parts about Kamaka, is they call you directly rather than communicate through e-mail. A nice personal touch.

Cheers,
Josh

mailman
07-28-2010, 01:19 PM
Can you tell from there that I'm green with envy? Kamaka soprano pineapple....completely rejuvenated, by Kamaka, no less....for $15 plus $125 plus shipping! When will it be my turn?

Seriously, congrats on the great find!

mm stan
07-28-2010, 01:45 PM
Aloha Josh,
That's a really sweet deal, they must have liked you...$125.00 and six months or less...Jus happy for you!!
You did the right thing....MM Stan...
I'd give them a shout here later on the good and fast service you received!!!
Keep me informed on how it's going!!

mm stan
07-28-2010, 01:50 PM
[QUOTE=mailman;427532]Can you tell from there that I'm green with envy? Kamaka soprano pineapple....completely rejuvenated, by Kamaka, no less....for $15 plus $125 plus shipping! When will it be my turn?

Seriously, congrats on the great find![/QUOTE
Seriously, I'd second that too Mailman.....Please if you're listening up there....

wickedwahine11
07-28-2010, 01:58 PM
New bridge, new nut, crack repair, refinish and new strings all for only $125! And it should take less than six months. Sounds like an absolute bargain to me.

Fantastic news Josh! You made the right move. :)

RyanMFT
07-28-2010, 02:28 PM
I agree, for $125....what a deal. You will have basically a brand new Kamaka when they are done with it. I can't believe they can do it for so little.....I suggested you take it to someone local, but I stand corrected! Clearly Kamaka is the way to go!

portlandjosh
07-28-2010, 03:05 PM
I agree, for $125....what a deal. You will have basically a brand new Kamaka when they are done with it. I can't believe they can do it for so little.....I suggested you take it to someone local, but I stand corrected! Clearly Kamaka is the way to go!

I had a local luthier give me an estimate, and he thought it'd be at least $150 and three months for him to do it. I can't wait to see what they can do with it. If they treat it with the level of care they've already shown in communicating with me as a potential customer, then I know I'll have a great product in the end!

mm stan
07-28-2010, 03:39 PM
I had a local luthier give me an estimate, and he thought it'd be at least $150 and three months for him to do it. I can't wait to see what they can do with it. If they treat it with the level of care they've already shown in communicating with me as a potential customer, then I know I'll have a great product in the end!
Kamaka usually charges less than other luthiers when repairing/restoring their own....for sure...

portlandjosh
10-28-2010, 02:16 PM
Uke has been restored and returned to me! Check out pictures on this thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?37551-Newly-restored-Gold-Label-Kamaka!).

Gmoney
02-03-2011, 07:01 PM
Uke has been restored and returned to me! Check out pictures on this thread (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?37551-Newly-restored-Gold-Label-Kamaka!).

Just bought one a bit like yours with a couple more cracks, but after reading this thread - its going off to to Kamaka ASAP. They did a great job on yours.

PedalFreak
02-04-2011, 06:30 AM
Seeing a refin always kills me :(

That always immediately takes 40% of the value away (from a $ perspective). And that old finish is 100x better than the new finish. It's had years to age, to cure, to sink into the wood. As a guitar tech I NEVER recommend a refin unless it is a real mess (like it has been spray painted, or already stripped of the finish).

But in the end, I guess, it's the owners decision :)

Gmoney
02-04-2011, 06:34 AM
Seeing a refin always kills me :(

That always immediately takes 40% of the value away (from a $ perspective). And that old finish is 100x better than the new finish. It's had years to age, to cure, to sink into the wood. As a guitar tech I NEVER recommend a refin unless it is a real mess (like it has been spray painted, or already stripped of the finish).


SO, would you suggest just getting the cracks & bridge professionally fixed? I kind of agree about the new finish part of it... I also like the patina & the obvious benefits sound-wise that aging brings to the table.

PedalFreak
02-04-2011, 07:12 AM
SO, would you suggest just getting the cracks & bridge professionally fixed? I kind of agree about the new finish part of it... I also like the patina & the obvious benefits sound-wise that aging brings to the table.

Yep. Make it structurally sound again, replace the bridge. Leave the finish. There is always a sound difference also after a refin. Especially with Nitrocellulose finish. It eventually becomes part of the wood, it bonds and sinks into it. So many people still think that the finish checking on instruments are bad, to tech's and many luthiers its a sign of a well played instrument.

Skitzic
02-04-2011, 08:02 AM
...why can't I find this stuff at yard sales...?

Great find!