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View Full Version : Turning my satin Kamaka into a gloss



wickedwahine11
07-18-2010, 04:39 PM
Okay, I know that satin finishes are supposed to sound better. I also know satin is more traditional. And I already have two gloss ukuleles (my Kanile'a and KoAloha). But I can't help it. The one thing I have always regretted is that my beloved Kamaka (my most versatile uke) is not gloss. I just sort of feel like the curl in the wood would be more visible in a gloss finish. And I can't help it, I like pretty, shiny things.

So at today's uke festival I asked Fred Kamaka, Jr. whether I could have it changed from satin to gloss. I told him I will be on Oahu until Wednesday afternoon and asked if I could have them do it. He told me to bring it in tomorrow morning at 8am and they would try to do it before I go. And if it isn't done in time, they will ship it back to me. It is very reasonable in price, and I don't think I will regret it, but I hate parting with that uke and I am scared. Just curious, do you guys prefer satin or gloss on your ukes, and would you do it?

And nope, I can't afford to buy a new one so that is not an option. ;)

70sSanO
07-18-2010, 06:02 PM
I'm a little partial to gloss top and headstock and satin sides and back.

I've hand rubbbed out both my ukuleles to a gloss top and headstock. The finished product has a gloss but doesn't have that thick plastic gloss look.

If you have to add another coat of finish to get to a gloss, I'm not sure I'd do that.

John

ukeCANjam
07-18-2010, 06:09 PM
I'm a little partial to gloss top and headstock and satin sides and back.

I've hand rubbbed out both my ukuleles to a gloss top and headstock. The finished product has a gloss but doesn't have that thick plastic gloss look.

If you have to add another coat of finish to get to a gloss, I'm not sure I'd do that.

John

How did you hand-rub it? I have a satin finish, but its glossy on the edge because my strumming hand brushes against it alot.

P-co
07-18-2010, 06:11 PM
I like satin myself, just looks right for a beautiful timber, looks natural. If I went gloss it would have to be flawless like most guitars, the gloss ukes I have seen are often only average looking. Maybe they are going for a handmade look.

cletus
07-18-2010, 06:33 PM
I think satin looks better. My uke is also developing some glossiness from strumming. I kinda like it.

Mr Bill
07-18-2010, 06:42 PM
Hi WickedWahine11,

Kamaka finishes with lacquer so it's no big deal at all.
Less than an hour when you've got a shop with proper tools
already set up. Sure go for it, I like shine too.

Cheers

kissing
07-18-2010, 07:13 PM
I love gloss too.
It's not so much that satins sound 'better' than gloss.
There is a difference in tone, but it's not a 'better/worse' thing.

Lori
07-18-2010, 08:11 PM
I would definitely go for the gloss. I am a big fan of beautiful wood grain, and I love ukuleles with glossy finishes. They are like jewels, they are so beautiful. I find the satin finish a bit sad, especially on plain ukes. To have Kamaka do it for you, I wouldn't hesitate!!
–Lori

Ronnie Aloha
07-18-2010, 08:48 PM
I asked Fred about the finishes too. The six string they had on display was a gloss finish while all the other display ukes were satin. He said the gloss was a mistake and that they usually use satin ukes for their displays. He said the long time players like the traditional satin finish on their ukes. However, the retailers like the gloss finish since it has more of a bling factor.

I asked Fred about the sound differences but he said there isn't any. Both ukes get the same six undercoats and the seventh coat determines if it is gloss or satin finish.

They brought one of my 40+ year old sopranos to me at the show. One year in the shop for a new nut, regluing of the fretboard, top, back and saddle along with a complete satin refinish. The uke looks brand new now. I took it out of the case during the show and a lady behind me thought it was a brand new uke! I told her it was over 40 years old and she was stunned. I love the satin finish on it but I would probably have loved it in gloss too.

I just pulled out my concert KoAloha in satin finish that I leave in Hawaii and I love it too. All my ukes on the mainland are gloss finishes. In all honesty, the satin finish feels smoother. Its almost silky while the gloss tends to feel a little more sticky.

mm stan
07-18-2010, 09:46 PM
Aloha Wahine 11,
Before I thought that a thick coat of finish muffled the sound of the ukulele...now I think it's the thickness of the soundboard and finish
that matters. My thought is when you refinish your uke, you sand away some of the thickness of the soundboard which may affect the
sound. To accomadate that, a thicker finish would resolve that issue. I once had a Kamaka 4 string tenor that had been over finished
(heavy coat of gloss) and it sounded really muffled. I put on a lighter guage strings and it resolved that issue for me. Jus my thoughts...
But the gloss makes them look nice and gives them protection....others may like the satin look of the vintage series more..Personal perference..

ukestah
07-18-2010, 10:32 PM
I definitely think the satin finish feels much smoother/silkier than the gloss which like Ronnie Aloha said, is stickier. However I have a hard time playing 'ukes with a satin finish properly, it's as if I baby the instrument too much and I don't want to do hard fast strumming with them. It's definitely a psychological thing there. My cousin has a 4 string tenor Kamaka (made in 1980 or so) and after getting the gloss treatment by the folks at Kamaka a while back, definitely made the instrument stand out. It brought out the curls in the wood and did so without sacrificing the sound (to my ears anyway).

clayton56
07-18-2010, 11:11 PM
I like the look and feel of gloss but I think I prefer the open sound of satin. I really like the brush-applied finish like Koaloha uses. It looks like varnish, but is not polished to that mirror finish. That would be my choice.

guitharsis
07-19-2010, 01:45 AM
Didn't read your original post before voting. Voted for leaving the satin finish, but if Kamaka is willing to do it and you prefer it, go for the gloss!

wickedwahine11
07-19-2010, 01:49 AM
Thanks everyone for your replies, I am so nervous that I can't sleep but I have decided to go ahead and have them do it. I am most nervous about not getting it back before I leave the island.

I agree with you Ron, the satin is very silky to the touch and the gloss is stickier. But my tie-breaking factor resulted from the fact that the back of my neck is inexplicably gloss, while the headstock, back, sides and top are all satin so this would make the entire uke more uniform in appearance. Plus, there are a lot if nicks and scratches and I think it will be a bit more protected this way. Plus, just flipping it over to see the glossy portion of the neck compared to the satin headstock was a dramatic difference in the appearance of the wood. I am fortunate enough to have a uke with really nice curl to the koa and want to emphasize it, even if I don't sleep until I get it back.

Fred told me the same thing about how the better players prefer satin, and that music stores make them do gloss because it pops more visually for casual players. I am certainly not good enough for it to make a difference in my sound, and I guess pretty, shiny things attract me.

I had someone tell me it is a question of preference, and that changing from satin is like dating a brunette who when you go out again has dyed their hair blonde...they are the same person but with a slight difference. So I guess this gentlewoman does, in fact, prefer blondes.

Raygf
07-19-2010, 03:13 AM
The things a crow puts in his nest
They are always things he finds that shine best
Somehow they'll find a shiny dime, a silver twine
From a Valentine
The crows all bring them shiny things (from "Shiny Things" by Tom Waits)

Caw, Caw, Caw! Just call me Crow. Give me gloss any time. I love the pop of grain through gloss. I just wet sanded and polished my Kala Acacia Tenor and it looks very nice. I've never done anything like this before. I can hardly believe I actually did it without fear or trepidation. Well, okay very little fear. It was fun. I'd never try it myself on a Kamaka or any other high end ukulele.

Please post pictures! I'm sure there are plenty of crows around who will want to see it.

Regards,
Ray

guitharsis
07-19-2010, 04:34 AM
You're going to love it! Yes, please post pics.

Nice poem Ray.

Ahnko Honu
07-19-2010, 05:55 AM
Do what your heart tells you to and you will be happy. I personally have no preference with maybe a 50/50 split flat/gloss in 'ukuleles I own.

haole
07-19-2010, 05:58 AM
You don't see too many satin Kamakas. I'd keep it the way it was and try to track down a gloss one just like it. ;)

Raygf
07-19-2010, 06:28 AM
You're going to love it! Yes, please post pics.

Nice poem Ray.
The poem is verse one of Tom Waits' song "Shiny Things". Great tune and an excellent collection of songs. "Orphans; Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards" Here's the rest of the song. Tom is a true American treasure.

Leave me alone you big ol' Moon
The light you cast is just a liar
You're like the crows, 'cos if it glows
You're dressed to go, you guessed I know
You'll always cling to shiny things

We'll, I'm not dancing here tonight
But things are bound to turn around
Though the only thing I want that shines is to be king
Here in your eyes
To be your only shiny thing

Regards,
Ray

wickedwahine11
07-19-2010, 07:04 AM
You don't see too many satin Kamakas. I'd keep it the way it was and try to track down a gloss one just like it. ;)

I wish I could but it is just not a possibility. I'm not a lawyer anymore I just own a little travel agency and folks aren't cruising like they used to. I had to promise my spouse no more ukuleles unless I sell one. The Kanile'a has too much sentimental value and I went through too much trouble to get the KoAloha. So this has to be my one and only Kamaka. (She writes in the 42 bus to South Street and the Kamaka factory).

RyanMFT
07-19-2010, 09:59 AM
It is your uke, I think you should have it the way you want it. Plus, what a great experience to take it to Kamaka and have them change it! I do want to see pictures!!

wickedwahine11
07-22-2010, 08:46 AM
I just picked up my Kamaka from Chris Kamaka yesterday morning. I can't say enough about how I appreciate how quickly they were able to do this job. I was leaving the island on Wednesday and he made sure it was ready for me before I had to leave for the airport.

It still smells heavily of lacquer, but it is really beautiful. I think the gloss helped to bring out the curls in the koa wood, and the best part is, I had two horrible gouge marks under the bridge (from a stringing accident) and he was able to remove them. They also cleaned up the fretboard nicely -- it looks and feels like a brand new instrument but is still my beloved Pele underneath. I feel like she got a makeover and while she was lovely before, she is now stunning.

The only downside was that I had a set of Fremont Flurocarbon low g strings on it when I dropped it off, and I forgot to ask for those back, because Chris strung it with a new set of Kamaka strings. And while I love Kamaka, I hate Kamaka strings.

So this morning, I put on some Alliance Savarez (with a Corum low g) onto her, and she is singing once again.

I'll have to try to take some pictures. The funny thing is that before, with the satin, the curl showed when I angled it properly and used a flash. Now with the gloss, I can take it from any angle and see the curl, but I'm not sure how different it will look in a photo...

I couldn't be happier with the uke, or with the service provided by Chris Kamaka. :)

NatalieS
07-22-2010, 09:01 AM
Wow I'm glad to hear you're pleased with the result! Please take some pictures (and if you have some "before" as well), I'd love to see the difference.

Ronnie Aloha
07-22-2010, 09:16 AM
Just emailed you a photo of the "new" Kamaka. I was able to check it out at the airport in Honolulu since we were on the same plane back. Freaking stunning!

Ahnko Honu
07-22-2010, 09:19 AM
This experience has only added to the sentimental value of your Kamaka making her even more special and priceless, and a family heirloom. You made a great choice. Hopefully you can eventually pass it on to a family member who appreciates this.

Ronnie Aloha
07-22-2010, 09:51 AM
Hopefully you can eventually pass it on to a family member who appreciates this.

How is my sister Staci doing? Have I ever told you how much I appreciate your uke? : )

mm stan
07-22-2010, 05:32 PM
I just picked up my Kamaka from Chris Kamaka yesterday morning. I can't say enough about how I appreciate how quickly they were able to do this job. I was leaving the island on Wednesday and he made sure it was ready for me before I had to leave for the airport.

It still smells heavily of lacquer, but it is really beautiful. I think the gloss helped to bring out the curls in the koa wood, and the best part is, I had two horrible gouge marks under the bridge (from a stringing accident) and he was able to remove them. They also cleaned up the fretboard nicely -- it looks and feels like a brand new instrument but is still my beloved Pele underneath. I feel like she got a makeover and while she was lovely before, she is now stunning.

The only downside was that I had a set of Fremont Flurocarbon low g strings on it when I dropped it off, and I forgot to ask for those back, because Chris strung it with a new set of Kamaka strings. And while I love Kamaka, I hate Kamaka strings.

So this morning, I put on some Alliance Savarez (with a Corum low g) onto her, and she is singing once again.

I'll have to try to take some pictures. The funny thing is that before, with the satin, the curl showed when I angled it properly and used a flash. Now with the gloss, I can take it from any angle and see the curl, but I'm not sure how different it will look in a photo...

I couldn't be happier with the uke, or with the service provided by Chris Kamaka. :)
Thanks for the update Wahine 11,
I'm happy that you're happy with the results of your beloved Pele's makeover!! I can't wait for the
before and after pic's to see the difference with the grain and curl and how much it popped out!!!
Girl, I'm sure your other ukes will be very jealous....you know!!!!
Would you say it has the same tone as before or slightly different and how??
Well enjoy your new old Kamaka...and "Keep strumming them strings" Ukuleles are for eva's...
Way to go Girl....You Goooo.....MM Stan.....

MissJonib
07-22-2010, 05:53 PM
Personally, I think satin looks more straight-forward and sincere. The have a warmer sound. I also really think matte or satin finishes show off the wood better. When I think of Kamaka, I don't think of a high gloss uke. That said, if you really want gloss, and if, and ONLY if Kamaka is going to do it, well then, alright. You'll know it is done right, anyway. And if it's what you wanted in the first place, that's what you should do.

wickedwahine11
07-22-2010, 06:26 PM
Personally, I think satin looks more straight-forward and sincere. The have a warmer sound. I also really think matte or satin finishes show off the wood better. When I think of Kamaka, I don't think of a high gloss uke. That said, if you really want gloss, and if, and ONLY if Kamaka is going to do it, well then, alright. You'll know it is done right, anyway. And if it's what you wanted in the first place, that's what you should do.

Interesting...everyone from music store owners to players I've talked to, even Fred Kamaka Jr. himself told me that the satin is far more rare nowadays, albeit more traditional. Fred said that most traditional players (and old school) prefer satin, but the music store owners all only want to order gloss ones. I agree, the satin is beautiful, but I actually think the gloss shows the wood grain better now than in the satin. With the satin, you had to catch it in just the right light to see the curl -- otherwise it wasn't as noticeable. Now, the curl really pops off the ukulele.

But to each his/her own. Satin is wonderful and I do miss the smooth feel of it, but all in all, I'm very happy with the refinish job Chris did for me.

faithmusic
01-30-2011, 01:38 PM
I think satin looks better. My uke is also developing some glossiness from strumming. I kinda like it.

Hey cletus, nice youtube video, I enjoyed it! (I'll Never Fall In Love Again)

cletus
01-30-2011, 02:46 PM
Hey cletus, nice youtube video, I enjoyed it! (I'll Never Fall In Love Again)http://www.youtube.com/user/krouk


That is the artist known as krouk!:worship:

Cletus only dreams of being that talented...:uhoh:

But I hope you enjoy my channel anyway.:wallbash:

faithmusic
01-30-2011, 04:25 PM
http://www.youtube.com/user/krouk


That is the artist known as krouk!:worship:

Cletus only dreams of being that talented...:uhoh:

But I hope you enjoy my channel anyway.:wallbash:

Thanks for the info. I've also been uploading some fun stuff with my baritone uke on youtube, if you'd like to check it out.
http://www.youtube.com/user/cruzsongs
Thanks again.