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View Full Version : Kanile's K-2 S A "Lucky" Soprano Find and Some Personal Preference Changes



joejeweler
09-06-2011, 04:09 PM
This is going to be a long post, can't be helped,.......but if you stay with it i think at least some of you will come away with some ideas and initiative to add just a little bit of "you" into one of your favorite instruments. Most of the changes are easily reversable, with a few a little less easy but still reversable if absolutely necessary.

Last week i pulled the trigger over at Elderly Instruments on what was listed as a 2007 Kanile's K-2
Soprano, with super claro walnut B&S and a very nice "bearclaw" spruce top,.....probably sitka spruce.
It arrived and "Model #K-2 S" was noted inside,....the "S" meaning "Spruce" top perhaps, where usually Koa is used, or
possibly the "S" signifies "Special". Probably means spruce top, but it does sound mighty special. If the proverbial
"Opening Up" ever happens on this one it may pop my eardrums!

http://elderly.com/vintage/items/180U-988.htm

I had remembered reading on the Kanile'a website that some of their best sounding ukuleles were in this combination of woods.

From the Kanile'a website:

http://kanileaukulele.com/faq15.php?osCsid=4453c88a8732a7b844b06712f8bbc407


Why would I have a 'ukulele made with anything else but Koa?

Koa is a very fine tonal wood. Its popularity in the guitar world has grown considerably. The guitar builders have found out what 'ukulele builders have known for years, Koa produces a very bright and vibrant sound with little over tones. This bright sound is what made the 'ukulele so popular. Now, some customers have trained their ear to a mellower/warmer sound. We will work together and design an instrument with a particular sound in mind. Koa is a beautiful tonal wood, but not the only tonal wood available. Some of the best sounding 'ukuleles we have built have been of Claro Walnut back and sides with a Sitka spruce soundboard. This wood combination is very popular with custom and production guitar builders............
The Kanile'a soprano had been up on the Elderly site for a little while, and i had thought about it most of that time. I didn't really "need" another soprano, as i find the concert size easier to play for me. Both of my Moore Bettah ukes are fabulous soprano's, as well as a few others. Another point worth noting was the bit wider fingerboard width,...listed as 1-9/16" (actually measured in at 1-15/32 but close enough at just a hair under 1 1/2") I figured that, especially at the soprano scale,....going a bit wider would make fingerstyle play a little easier for some tighter passages.

One of the reasons i waited a few weeks before i bought it was because of the 2007 year estimate of production. If i was going to pick up a Kanile'a,.....i wanted one with their newer style "TRU" bracing system. From what i could find out on the net,.....the 2007 date of production would preceed the implimentation of that feature into Kanile'a production by at least a year or more. Not sure of that though........

I never did inquire at Elderly before i ordered it, but i felt like i hit lotto when it arrived a few days later and i eyeballed the telltale "hole-y" braces thru the soundhole! A mirror and flashlight interior view confirmed.....

.....i got the whole bracing package,....all "TRU",.......i sh*t you not! lol


Pic from Kanile'a website: http://kanileaukulele.com/truBracing.php?osCsid=c2d345bb29ad5c4763a956df8371 f887
http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/UketruBracingbyKANILEA.jpg

Got my 1st lucky break there for sure. I believe the uke is probably newer than what Elderly estimated it at, as the
serial #0707-1175 makes it appear as dating from July of 2007. (the way that Taylor and some other companies date their production). If 2007 IS the date of production, then this soprano is probably among the 1st batches produced with the TRU bracing system.

Lucky break number 2 was the sound that emerged from this wood combo is truly exceptional! Joe Souza was spot on when he described it on the website, and to my ears is one of the best sounding sopranos i have heard. Spruce tops might not be the most popular choice among the ukulele buying public, but it's not because of anything lacking in tone production. I'd give some credit to the claro walnut B&S also, just not sure why it works so well but i'd encourage others to try one if they get the chance.

Another pleasant surprise was the beefier neck that blended well with the wider than usual nut width. At just about 3/4" thick at the nut, it feels really good to have a "fingerstyle" friendly neck on such a small instrument.

OK,....so i feel like i hit the tri-fecta here,.....used (and near new) Kanile'a soprano with unexpected TRU bracing, sounds fantastic, and came with an unexpected and much appreciated thicker neck profile. Those are the important details, and to be sure i would not change a thing in those areas.

Were there things i wanted to change??? Of course,....but only from a personal preference point of view.

I'll outline some of the changes i made below, and the reasons why i made them. Some of you might not agree, and that's fine, .......that's what makes them personal preferences.

The frets were well finished , and about what you might expect from a higher end instrument factory producted ukulele. I'm pretty picky here, however, and decided to spend in inordinate amount of extra time getting every last shread of sharpness from the very ends of the frets.

Using a very small file i'd used on thousands of diamond setting jobs in the past to round over prongs to keep them from catching, it worked equally well on smoothing over the thin sharper edge on the fret ends. Followed up with a light "polishing" grade rubber wheel, and then with a light jeweler's polish on a 1" polishing wheel. About 90 minutes later the fret ends were about as perfect as anyone could expect. I certainly can't expect this kind of hand time being spent in any factory setting, where time is limited or the factory can't pay the bills. But for your own instruments, spending a little time on an area like this can put a big smile on your face......

One thing i prefer is for my ukes to be set up a little on the higher action side, to prevent buzzes with a harder string attack. Everyone is different here,....but that's my prefered setup. The action on this Kanile'a was fine for most folks probably, at about 2.5mm clearence at the 12th fret. I like a bit more, and was originally going to order a hard african ivory saddle blank from Bob Colosi. The original saddle and nut appear to be Nubone or Tusq material, which can sometimes be a little bright sounding on a spruce top ukulele. A hard african ivory blank would be as well,.....plus i didn't want to wait a week to get it!

I still have a chunk of 5mm thick ebony from an archtop pickguard i've been canniblizing,.....and there was no wait! Initially i made the new saddle 2mm taller, which comes out to a 1mm increase in action height at the 12th fret. It ended up just a little less than that when i noticed just a very slight hump at the bottom of the saddle channel, and after a few strokes of a fine sandpaper strip pressed against a flat edge got rid of that hump and ended up with a level saddle base. I netted maybe a .8mm increase in action height at the 12th fret,....to about 3.3mm (around 1/8")

I had a set of ebony bridge pins with abalone dots that i replaced the factory white plastic bridge pins with. I also cut off all the extra length, leaving just a few millimeters beyond the string end knot as seen with a mirror and flashlight thru the soundhole. I put a black magic marker line on one of the original bridge pins about where i estimated it should be, and noted how it looked thru the soundhole. Then i used this as a guide to cut all the ebony pins.

Here's a pic of the original replacement ebony saddle along with some ebony bridge pins i had laying around that i switched in place of the original white plastic ones.

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03384.jpg

The tone i found had mellowed a bit,...and i found the warmer tone was very appealing. I still may get around to making an hard african ivory one and swap them out when the whim hits,....but for now the uke is loud and sweet sounding.

However, the new saddle was just a little to plain to my eyes, and the replacement ebony bridgepins still looked a bit out of place on a soprano. I decided to add some curves to the saddle, which is called "scalloping" for those who may not know the term. One direct benefit of the proceedure is that individual string height adjustment is much easier, if that is needed. It's "cool" factor is enough to do the job, and finished up with 600 grit sandpaper, followed by OOOO steel wool and finally polished with a 1" polishing wheel really makes the ebony appear glasslike.

These ebony bridgepins have a slot cut into the sides which are not needed here, so i have a new set on order from stewmac without the slot. As an experiment to see how it would look, i decided to cut down the ball of the pins to the least i could get away with, and still have a functioning bridgepin. I also figured any weight i could get rid of could only improve the sound. When the new unslotted pins arrive i will cut them down also,....i like the look better!

Here's a few pics of the changes made to the new saddle and bridge pins:
(still plenty of a lip to grab to remove pins)

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03469.jpg

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03491.jpg

......more to follow..........

joejeweler
09-06-2011, 04:09 PM
OK,....the new saddle and basic bridgepin configuration was settled,......but i decided to make a new ebony nut in the end. The original was set up well in a white nubone, but there was something i wanted to change.

Although the neck nut width of just under 1-1/2" was wider than usual,.....the string spacing followed the usual spacing on a nut width of 1-3/8". It just wasn't makeing full use of that extra neck width.

A soprano neck is already pretty cramped sometimes, so if i can go wider it will feel a bit less so.

The new nut as installed, with the original nut on top to visualize the slight increase in string spacing which also translates out to a bit more string spacing at the bridge:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03467.jpg

.....and the new nut by itself:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03462.jpg

However, the new saddle was just a little to plain to my eyes, and the replacement ebony bridgepins still looked a bit out of place on a soprano. I decided to add some curves to the saddle, which is called "scalloping" for those who may not know the term. One direct benefit of the proceedure is that individual string height adjustment is much easier, if that is needed. It's "cool" factor is enough to do the job, and finished up with 600 grit sandpaper, followed by OOOO steel wool and finally polished with a 1" polishing wheel really makes the ebony appear glasslike.

BTW, scalloping a saddle is sometimes said to have some effect at directing more of each string's energy in a downward fashion toward the soundboard, with less energy sent laterally as with a regular flat topped saddle. Not sure if that can be shown conclusively, but for sure any lightening done at the bridge can benefit the total tonal output.

It does allow for easier individual string adjustment if that is nececessary, but even without that and the weight reduction, it just looks so cool,.......especially with a high polish on the ebony. Simple way to dress up any ukulele or guitar.

I've done guitar nuts in a similiar fashion,.....might add that later. The difference on a small soprano uke over a guitar is that sometines working in cramped quarters (soprano) your fretting hand has to come up and over the nut. A low and smooth nut where the strings are even with the top of the nut as i have here now might be the best way to go, although not as visually appealing...........


One other change i'm going to make is a lighter set of tuners. Kanile'a uses a pretty thick headstock, so tuner choices are a bit more limited. The Grovers on it now have the longer post, and only come with heavy metal buttons. (permantly attached). The Grovers are pretty reasonably priced,.....but i wanted lighter ebony buttons and today ordered a set of the new Waverly Ukulele Tuners. A bit pricy at $93.00 plus shipping, but they look to have the needed longer post and should be quite a bit lighter than the solid button Grovers.

The ebony buttons will complete the same theme in matching tuners, nut, and saddle.

Not necessary for sure, but it works for me.....

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tuners/Ukulele_tuners/Waverly_Ukulele_Tuners.html?actn=100101&xst=3&xsr=1774

joejeweler
09-06-2011, 04:10 PM
OK,.....we've completed the easiest changes that most anyone might want to upgrade their own ukuleles with,.....custom saddle, nut, and soon to be new tuners.

The next change is a bit more challenging.............

The use of bridge pins for string attachment, especially on a soprano, just doesn't appeal to me. I'd much rather see a string thru or even the traditional knot in the slot at the bridge back used on these smaller ukuleles. Anyway,...the bridge pin holes are already there, and i think i have worked out a more visually appealing look on their soprano sized instrument. Less is more on these already tiny instruments.

However, one thing i noticed right away is the Kanile'a bridge is pretty thick and beefy. Possibly the TRU
bracing system, which doesn't use any form of a bridgeplate under the bridge, makes use of this bridge thickness to add to the top's structural integrity.

It also struck me as visually appearing a bit wide, accentuated by the saddle crossing the entire length of the bridge. Other than the back side having a beveled edge,.....all the other edges have sharp edges. Lack of bridge "ears" compounds the beefy look also.

Having a few custom made guitars with bridges that i liked the look and "feel" of (yep, i'm a confirmed bridge feeler-upper), i decided to go gently and make a few modeling changes that i believe compromise nothing in structural integrity, yet offer to my eyes a more visually appealing and smoother feeling bridge.

By molding in some wings to the outer edges, the bridge immediately began to "appear" less wide on the top. Taking down the saddle length helped there too. The back side bevel was smoothed off in a more rounded manner, and the formally straight and sharp leading edge was similiarly rounded off. On the soprano size especially, this reshaping and smoothing would take little time on a loose bridge with a dremel tool,.....considerable more when mounted on a top! It made a BIG difference to my eyes,.....not sure if you can custom order little changes like this from the get go.....

.....one side benefit of the slight weight reduction to the bridge can only benefit the already wonderful tone coming from this Kanile'a ukulele. I don't have a way to measure it, but it may have picked up a little volumn and sweetness of tone, making an already fine uke even nicer. The wings are still a bit thicker than most wings on a soprano bridge, and thicker than i might have otherwise made them. (again, not knowing if the heavy bridge is part of the design of the TRU bracing system lacking a bridgeplate)

By the way,....the bridge work was done after i spent 15 minutes masking off the entire top with light

cardboard and careful use of masking tape. The ukulele was left strung up so that the saddle was kept locked down, and moulded at the same time along with the wings. The saddle needed just the end points to be sanded slightly to fatten them up a little. I had a 1" long steel cylinder of 1/2" diameter that i used a medium course stick on sandpaper to do most of the work. Once the sanding was level to the saddle slot, i worked the wing edges flat and rounded over the upper corners.

Finished off with 600 grit paper and 0000 steel wool presented a visually appealing bridge indeed, and feels great to touch upon also.

Note: The pics of the smoothed bridge are up in post #1,.....just keeping you on your toes to see if you might have noticed! (pics 2, 3, and 4)

.....here's another view of the bridge changes:

Bridge BEFORE:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03362.jpg

Bridge AFTER:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03494-1.jpghttp://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03472-2.jpg

Slowly hand sanding generated no heat, and works slow enough to be controled. Here's a pic of the sanding tool:


http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03510.jpg

joejeweler
09-06-2011, 04:11 PM
I saved the final change i made to the end, and wish to clarify right off that this change was made on a personal instrument for a specific reason. Playing fingerstyle my nails were hitting the outer edge of the fretboard with enough regularity to become both distracting and annoying. Strummers would not have this problem, or if you used your thumbnail mostly. But use your other fingers and it happens. Part of the reason i raised the action a bit was to try to address this. It helped, but didn't fully solve my problem.

Before i made this more drastic change, i looked up on the Kanile'a website and could find no instance in any of their customazation options for a soprano with 14 frets to the body, and neither 14 or 15 frets in total.

This would keep the fretboard off the soundboard, and allow me the needed clearence. I never contacted them either, because i really like the bearclaw in this piece of spruce. As most of you know, each ukulele has a sound of it's own, so even if i might have been able to order a 14 fret soprano i might not have liked the tone as much as the one in hand. (not to mention the cost of another ukulele)

Anyway, the spruce top has a hole thru it under the fretboard that you can see with a mirror, probably a centering aid in construction. This ruled out my initial thought to remove frets 16-20 and the entire fretboard below that, as well as the top UV finish to blend it togther and add a french polish or other finish to just the top.

In the end i did pull frets 16-20, as reality is they are not all that useful on a soprano scale anyway. Anything in the upper ranges of frets 12-15 quickly begin to lose volumn and tonal definition, so i knew i wouldn't be missing them. There is a good reason a lot of soprano ukuleles come with just 12 frets!

The sweet spot on these ukuleles is really picking or strumming around the 12th and 13th frets as far as getting the best tone, and it's pretty good up arount the 14th and 15th fret areas also. Clearing some space from the 16th to 20th fret areas allowed some flexability in hand placement for better averall tone production. I've still got to go back on the next string change to correct a very slight "angleing" of the drop down area, but it can wait until then.

I left about half of the original fretboard thickness with the thought that at some point i could have a nice inlay added to that area. I might work up an inlay in a 1.5mm piece of ebony that i could just glue onto the lowered section. This still leaves me plenty of finger access and clearance. The dice sections are just 1.5mm thick, and that works fine as far as
clearence.

For now, i came up with a decent design that goes along with the other "lucky" elements of this purchase for me......

.............unexpected "TRU" bracing, thicker neck, ....and of course the wonderful sound! Not that i wasn't hopeful with Kanile'a reputation for excellance, but still,.... every uke is an individual and this one sings!

The serial number 0707-1175 is heavy in 7's, and i was born on 7-17-56,.......so 7's seemed a "natural" when
in searching aroung the house i came across a very old set of die that might be 100 or more years old. The
deep yellow patina on them looked right at home with the golden spruce,......

...........might just leave it this way after all,.....my lucky find "7".

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03477.jpg

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03482.jpg


I,...."four one",......am liking this one more every day!

cheers,
Joe T

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03507.jpg

Uk3player78
09-07-2011, 03:39 AM
I am shocked at the amount you have done. Love the saddle. Not sure about the end of the fretboard. Stunning quality piece of spruce used for that top!

haolejohn
09-07-2011, 08:47 AM
[QUOTE=joejeweler;760061]This is going to be a long post, can't be helped,.......but if you stay with it i think at least some of you will come away with some ideas and initiative to add just a little bit of "you" into one of your favorite instruments. Most of the changes are easily reversable, with a few a little less easy but still reversable if absolutely necessary.

Last week i pulled the trigger over at Elderly Instruments on what was listed as a 2007 Kanile's K-2
Soprano, with super claro walnut B&S and a very nice "bearclaw" spruce top,.....probably sitka spruce.QUOTE]

If the uke you purchased from elderly is the one you linked that is a bearclaw top. Bearclaw spruce can be sitka. It just has figuring in it. I own an ana'ole with bearclaw spruce top. That is a pretty instrument you have there.

zac987
09-07-2011, 09:52 AM
I don't think I would ever add any of "me" to any of my instruments. I'm not a luthier, and my instruments are wonderful without any adjustment (except for nut and bridge adjustments of course)

bbycrts
09-07-2011, 01:19 PM
Yes, it's yours. Yes, you can do anything you want to it. But...as a long-time Kanile'a lover, my heart cries over the butchery...

P.S. - are you going to put a sound port in it?

joejeweler
09-07-2011, 01:20 PM
I don't think I would ever add any of "me" to any of my instruments. I'm not a luthier, and my instruments are wonderful without any adjustment (except for nut and bridge adjustments of course)

That's what "preferences" are,......individual choices. Some decisions are market driven perhaps, for i suppose market
research dictates what the average purchaser requires before he'll lay down his dough.

But i can't ever see the practical sense of a soprano scale ukulele having 20 frets in total, and that's just my opinion. Concert scale,.....borderline,....tenor it definately makes sense as the upper frets are useable although at substantially reduced volumn and tone. That's just the nature of short scale nylon string instruments.

Buying used,....i have a package i wouldn't have personally chosen for myself. Had i ordered this from the beginning, i would have requested 14 frets clear to the body, 14 frets in total on a soprano. (not sure if they would even do that?)
The wonderful tone and bearclaw spruce top made this one a keeper in my mind, so i made some practical choices that
made it easier for me to play fingerstyle.

That would even allow a bit more resonance of the upper bout, and free up another fret position for clear fingering. I chose to keep the 15th fret on only because the side marker dot would have been cut in half, although i could have removed it and plugged it with a piece of rosewood. From a practical sense,....i would never use much above the 14th fret anyway. As i mentioned before,....there is a very good reason a lot of soprano ukes only come with 12 frets, that
being the huge falloff in note quality and volumn of any additional frets in this scale.

Anyway,....ignoring the fretboard alteration,....the one thing i would do again in a heartbeat is contour the bridge edges, add wings, and make the short mushroom head ebony bridge pins if i ever pick up another Kanile'a, soprano or otherwise. In hand the rounded and smoother edges look so much cleaner to my eyes. They are now smooth to the touch also,.....and i already mentioned i was a bridge feeler-upper! :D Visually (to me), it makes the bridge look more to scale with the smaller soprano top.

If i ever do factory order another Kanile'a , i will request a similiarly profiled bridge in the order. More than likely i would pick up a concert scale, however, .....and go out only to 15 frets or so.

Nuprin
09-07-2011, 01:26 PM
How do you pull out the bridge pins now that they're at level with the bridge? Maybe there's a simple way...I just don't see it. My hand would be too fat to fit in the soundhole and get at them from underneath.

joejeweler
09-07-2011, 01:37 PM
Yes, it's yours. Yes, you can do anything you want to it. But...as a long-time Kanile'a lover, my heart cries over the butchery...

P.S. - are you going to put a sound port in it?

No soundport,....the sound is wonderfull as is,.....and "butchery" of the fretboard,....perhaps. Nothing impossible to
convert back with a change over to a new fretboard when i pass on and it enters the market if the new owner chooses to go that route. Soundports were partly involved in a few other ukes because they were being used in some experimental projects, although that point became lost in all the ruckus.

I don't think "butchery" is a fair assessment of the bridge recontouring, however,....and possible you didn't mean to include that in your comment. Given the choice between 2 sopranos in hand to make a comparative evaluation, i believe you might be swayed to give your girl some curves in all the right places.

By the way, on two of my custom brazilian rosewood/engleman topped Kevin Ryan Abbey Grand parlors, Kevin was kind enough to scale down his Mission style bridge to take the place of his usual stepped/sharp cornered bridge he usually uses on the Abbeys. I believe Keven stated in an email he liked it also,.......

.....the bridge contouring i did closely resembles the Ryan bridges on my Abbeys.

This is the Kevin Ryan "usual" Abbey Grand Parlor Bridge. Just never liked the sharp edges and steps:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Ryan%20KOA%20Parlor/DSC02243small.jpg

This is the scaled down "Mission Grand Concert" style bridge i had substituted. Much smoother lines, and my preference. The tapered wings also serve to make the bridge appear smaller on this smaller topped grand parlor.

NOTE: The soundports(flutes) were put there by Kevin Ryan and not added by me. :D

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/RyanCustomMissionStyleBridgeonmyAbbey.jpg

joejeweler
09-07-2011, 02:12 PM
How do you pull out the bridge pins now that they're at level with the bridge? Maybe there's a simple way...I just don't see it. My hand would be too fat to fit in the soundhole and get at them from underneath.

There is enough of a lip created by the factory hole camphering to get a thumbnail under and pry them out, i checked
"before" i cut the tops off the bridgepins and popped them in the holes!

Shortening the posts where they lay on the inside to just the length needed to pass over the string knots plus a few millimeters and taking off the large ball tops saves a lot of weight. Weight off the bridge area helps volumn and sustain,

.......although it helps to have a great sound to start! :D

mailman
09-07-2011, 03:00 PM
It seems to me that this falls in the realm of 'change for the sake of change'....

joejeweler
09-07-2011, 03:17 PM
It seems to me that this falls in the realm of 'change for the sake of change'....

Bridge recontour,....yep,....for the most part although there are some probably small acoustic gains derived from the slight lightening of the bridge and pins. But the bridge does "look" better balanced in size with the small top to my eyes, although it's overall base dimentions haven't changed. More an optical illusion of sorts,.....but the tactile difference is a plus to me also.

.....the fretboard change was of a more practical need,....being clearance needed for cleaner fingerpicking. (by me anyway). I thought that point was made clear in the opening post. If you don't fingerpick,.....not a need for some of you.

I looked at is as something i could always go back to if i ever wanted to, by replacing the fretboard myself which i have done before on guitars. If i ever do, i would use ebony to continue the theme started with the nut, saddle, and soon to arrive tuners with ebony buttons.

The bridge work i have no desire to ever go back,......soft curves and smooth lines appeal to me.

..........the fretboard is growing on me, although i may at some point decide to end the fretboard at about where the
17th fret was. (just before the fretboard removal would expose the small hole in the soundboard). I would have to refinish that small area, and if i couldn't blend it to look good would probably opt for a top refinish and french polish just the top. Even on a ukulele i'm not a heavy strummer,....and prefer the fingerpicking style that John King used. So a french polished top would hold up ok for me. Maybe a poly top finish also???

Not sure about how to get the UV coat off though,....so that's not a project in need of an immediate decision.
A solvent capable of removing the UV top finish would also likely attack the plastic binding,.....so maybe block off the
binding and sides and get up close to them, and carefully hand sand over the binding. A year or two from now,...who knows.............

haolejohn
09-07-2011, 04:42 PM
pretty neat. I'm not a kanilea fan and that is partially b/c of the bridge pins.

joejeweler
09-07-2011, 04:53 PM
pretty neat. I'm not a kanilea fan and that is partially b/c of the bridge pins.

Funny you mention that,.....the high bridge pins on small topped ukes put me off from thinking about buying a Kanile'a also. But after reading about what Joe Souza said on his website concering this wood combination as producing some of
the best sounding ukes,.....i decided to take a chance.

.....removing the ball tops on my replacement ebony bridge pins was an idea that came later, and certainly has put the possibility of a Kanile'a concert on my watch list. The almost flat mushroom head pins don't bother me in the least now, and that's part of the reason i posted this originally. (so others might consider at least that change)

I suspect we're not alone,......and might cause others who might not have considered a Kanile'a for the same reason to
now be willing to buy one. Replacement ebony slotless pins are cheap (6 for $5-$6 or so for a guitar set), and a simple project to get done.

haolejohn
09-07-2011, 04:55 PM
Funny you mention that,.....the high bridge pins on small topped ukes put me off from thinking about buying a Kanile'a also. But after reading about what Joe Souza said on his website concering this wood combination as producing some of
the best sounding ukes,.....i decided to take a chance.

.....removing the ball tops on my replacement ebony bridge pins was an idea that came later, and certainly has put the possibility of a Kanile'a concert on my watch list. The almost flat mushroom head pins don't bother me in the least now, and that's part of the reason i posted this originally. (so others might consider at least that change)

I suspect we're not alone,......and might cause others who might not have considered a Kanile'a for the same reason to
now be willing to buy one. Replacement ebony slotless pins are cheap (6 for $5-$6 or so for a guitar set), and a simple project to get done.

still won't change my mind. Even with the flat pins it is still too much for me. But it does look so much better than the others.

Dan Uke
09-07-2011, 05:34 PM
Joe

Next time try this experiment. Tell everyone you got a custom uke from ??? manufacturer and see how people respond. I wonder if you'll get the same response. LOL

haolejohn
09-08-2011, 03:53 AM
still won't change my mind. Even with the flat pins it is still too much for me. But it does look so much better than the others.

Joe, you do like to change ukes. I see nothing wrong with making these changes. It is your uke. I will say that I like the side sound port modifications the most b/c my next uke will hvae a side sound port. And that bridge opin change is pretty darn neat.

joejeweler
09-08-2011, 09:36 AM
Joe, you do like to change ukes. I see nothing wrong with making these changes. It is your uke. I will say that I like the side sound port modifications the most b/c my next uke will hvae a side sound port. And that bridge opin change is pretty darn neat.

If you go with a sideport, put it up in the upper bout like on the Moore Bettah ukes. There is less bass loss on the "C" string. On guitars the side port on the lower bout can work, ....as with Kevin Ryan and others. But the lower uke box volumn draws too much off a soprano, especially. My concert not so bad,.......haven't done a tenor.

That's one big difference between guitars and ukes, and my reason for installing one on the lower bout in the Ken Timms soprano had more to do with gaining access for some experimental reasons. I make plugs to fill the port when i want to play for other folks,.....and have the port open when i'm playing by myself as i like the extra feedback.

....and yeah,...i like the mushroom head low bridge pins also,......they look right at home on that bridge. I've never seen it done like that before,....and on a guitar it doesn't much matter. But on a small ukulele,....those full size bridge pin ball tops kind of overpower the whole area.

..........watch,......someone will be marketing them soon! :D

Trinimon
09-08-2011, 09:41 AM
While I don't know squat about modding a uke to sound better etc. I will say that I like the low profile bridge pins and rounded bridge profile.

808boy
09-08-2011, 10:30 AM
Aloha Joe,
What you did to personalize YOUR ukulele is admirable to me. Your ideas and craftsmanship is outstanding. It is not unusual to custom anything high end, just look at the automobile side of the spectrum.
Any way, good job and keep on keep'in on..................................BO............ ...............

Kauai808
09-08-2011, 11:02 AM
Wish I had the talent and brass to do modifications like that. Might not be everyone's cup of tea but who cares. It's your uke and ultimately you are the only one who needs to enjoy it. Good job. Can you cut a sound port in my guitar for me? Any advice or writeups on how to do it?

haolejohn
09-08-2011, 11:37 AM
Wish I had the talent and brass to do modifications like that. Might not be everyone's cup of tea but who cares. It's your uke and ultimately you are the only one who needs to enjoy it. Good job. Can you cut a sound port in my guitar for me? Any advice or writeups on how to do it?

this. I think a thread should be started on the step by step process for cutting the sound port in the uke or guitar would be great. I know yo9u kinda mentioned it in the cordoba thread but not step by step.

joejeweler
09-08-2011, 04:05 PM
Wish I had the talent and brass to do modifications like that. Might not be everyone's cup of tea but who cares. It's your uke and ultimately you are the only one who needs to enjoy it. Good job. Can you cut a sound port in my guitar for me? Any advice or writeups on how to do it?

Tim McKnight offers some good instruction on adding a soundport to a guitar. A ukulele soundport will be a bit smaller,
and i like a round one there so that i can occasionally plug it off for better audience response. But when playing for yourself,.....i prefer a port open. (in upper bout about 1 inch diameter)

I've had 35 years doing jewelry repair, and did a lot of ring engraving freehand with a Foredom Flex shaft machine, so
i don't use some of the tools Tim links to below. For a 1" round hole i bought one of those flexable plactic draftsman template with various size circles.

I check with a mirror to make sure no side braces are where i want to put the port. If clear i find the center of the side and put a small magic marker dot there. (check it with a ruler to verify it's centered). Then i place the 1-1/8 or so size circle over the dot,....it pretty easy to see when it centers. With a new sharp point "Sharpee" magic marker, i bend the template over the side and trace out a circle. The 1-1/8" circle tracing will make a 1" circle mark on your side, because of the marker hitting the edge.

I then slowly and carefully use the flex shaft machine handpiece to cut out INSIDE the circle mark,.....leaving about 1.5mm or so wood between my cuts and the mark. This is so that you can use a 1/2" rubber backed drum sander and various grits to smooth out the circle out to the actual marker line. I hand sand the final part with 400 and then 600 grit paper.

I use a small ball or cylinder bur and punch many holes working around the area,....and leave just a little wood between the cuts for support till the end. Then i slowly remove those wood sections.

I also make sure to keep turning the ukulele so that the rotation of the bur, should it snag on the side and come out, that it would scratch the inside of the section to be removed. Hasn't happened yet, but if you daydream or work too fast, the potential is there for the bur to rise up and nick the side. So keep the bur turning always in the direction of the center of the hole. (will mean the uke will be moved regularly)

You can then use masking tape to surround the hole if you want to add a little super glue support to the back side of the new hole. I've never had one crack (some are 15 years old now), but of late i add a little super glue just in case with
my pinky and smear it along the back side. I use the 30 secong longer set variety and make sure to do it pretty quick!
Don't want to be a permanant part of your instrument! :D


This thread talks about it on a guitar,....
http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=141442



I have posted this several times but here ya go:

Sound port installation instructions:

List of materials:
Dremel with router base
http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Inlay,_pearl/Tools_and_supplies_for:_Inlay,_pearl_cutting/1/Precision_Router_Base.html
1/8" Downcut spiral bit (StewMac)
http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Inlay,_pearl/Tools_and_supplies_for:_Inlay,_pearl_cutting/Carbide_Downcut_Inlay_Router_Bits.html
1/2" dia Dremel sanding drum
180, 220, 320 sand papers
Brush on super glue (Stew Mac)
http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Glues,_adhesives//3/Stewart-MacDonald_Super_Glues.html
2" wide Blue 3M masking tape

Tape the area off with two layers of masking tape. Be generous so you don't risk scratching the surrounding finished area around the port.

Look inside your guitar and verify if there are any internal side braces. If so, transfer the brace locations onto the outside onto the masking tape so they are visible from the outside. The new sound port hole must be located between the two internal braces because you don't want to sever a brace. Stay well below the top and back kerfed linings too.

Draw out the port shape on the masking tape. Smooth designs seem to produce a better tone. As a size guide you can use a port roughly the size of a small egg (1-1/2" long). Remember the larger the sound port the higher pitch your guitar will be. Start out smaller and you can always make the sound port larger.

Use the Dremmel, mounted in the router base, along with the down-cut spiral cutting bit. Stay 1/16" inside of the line and cut the hole out.

Put the sanding drum in the Dremmel and now sand to the finished shape outline.

Use 180 sandpaper and round over the internal and external square edges of the hole. Progress to 220 and finish with 320. Be very careful NOT to sand the finish on the exterior of the guitar.

Coat the edge of the hole with superglue. It will dry hard and shiny. Use the edge of the brush to apply the glue and make a circle around the freshly sanded edge.

Remove the masking tape. If the glue is rough (usually it isn't) you can smooth it with 600 wet or dry sandpaper and then buff.

Get a glass of iced tea, kick back on the couch and let me know how big your smile is when you first hear your ported guitar.

Warning [read the fine print >] Even though this may seem like a simple modification please remember there is no way to reverse it once the port is cut. It took me about 9 months of continuous R&D to work out the ideal shape and location for my sound ports. I tune my sound box to a certain frequency and if the port is cut too large you will raise the Helmholz or main air resonance of the body. The result will be a loss of power and projection. If the port is cut to the correct size the sound port will actually produce a discernable gain in forward and 360* projection.

buddhuu
09-09-2011, 03:53 AM
I have to say, I'm a compulsive instrument meddler myself.

Guitars, mandolins, 'ukuleles... I swap out cheap parts for quality ones, make custom bone nuts and bridge saddles to replace plastic, fit pickups, modify or remove scratchplates, remove neck finish, sometimes buff matt finishes to gloss, change fret gauge.

Even though it's all DIY, in some cases it is true to say that, for the money the tweaks cost, I could have bought a better instrument in the first place. But there are things I like and so I fit my instruments to what suits me. I definitely couldn't afford a genuine custom job, so I take a decent budget instrument and tailor it.

Although, to me, the changes I make are improvements (and I consider them to be done to a professional standard), in some cases they have reduced the resale value. One rarely recoups the cost of mods when selling on. Even such a universally liked modification as replacing a cheap mandolin bridge with a top quality one from Cumberland Acoustics is money well spent to enhance one's own enjoyment of an instrument, but you can wave the cash goodbye if you resell.

But I will always be a meddler.

I have a new guitar. In the few weeks that I've had it I have replaced the nut and bridge saddles, removed the pickguard and modified the pickup arrangement. I've taken money off the resale value and invalidated my warranty in many regards. But I am very happy with the instrument.

I find Joe's modifications interesting. I'm considering losing the bridge pins altogether on one of my acoustic guitars. Pesky things... They make restrings a PiTA.

Maybe a sound port too, on my reserve axe. I already have one in my Makala test-bed uke, and it works fine.

dhoenisch
09-09-2011, 04:41 AM
I too tinker with instruments. I rarely ever play an instrument right "out of the box." I at least will always replace the plastic nut and saddle with bone, and, of course, strings of my choosing. I've definitely done re-frets if I don't like the frets the instrument came with. Usually with the tuning machines, I will leave them alone unless they are a problem. If it's an instrument I plan to keep for a while, or will gig with, it has to be set up for my liking. Heck, on my bluegrass banjo, the first couple of years I had it, I tinkered more than I played it. I've had it completely apart at least twice and as of now, it has a different head, tailpiece, and I must have tried about 5 or 6 bridges on it. Most of the work went into the disassembly/reassembly until I got it exactly how I wanted it. Now it's a joy to play, and though it's not a Gibson, it can hold it's own or even overpower one. Would I ever reclaim my money, no, but I love playing it, and that's worth more than what I will get back for it, if I would ever sell it.

joejeweler
09-10-2011, 03:26 PM
Thought i would update the bridge pin change i made. The ones i made originally were never intending on being the final ones, as they have a slot cut into the post that is not necessary, and the ebony was not the best looking.

Today i got in my set of 6 ebony guitar bridge pins from Stew-mac,.....unslotted, and the ebony grade is much better.

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Hardware,_parts/Acoustic_guitar:_Bridge_and_endpins/Acoustic_Guitar_Bridge_Pins,_Endpins_and_Strap_But tons/Unslotted_Ebony_Bridge_Pins.html

They originally stuck up about 1/8" too high. I pushed them onto the open jaws of my Foredom flexable shaft handpiece while it was in my workbench mounted vise. Carefully pushed on while spinning, it self centers and spins true. Then a small file was used while the pin spins and i could turn down the shaft to get close. (easy to pull the pin out of the handpiece and check the fit often) When it was close i used 320 grit sandpaper, and when really close finished up the shaft with 600 grit paper. The ball ends were similiarly finished off with 600 grit paper, but additionally brought to a high polish with a jewelers polishing compound and small wheel.

All the main work was done while the new pins were full length, as the handpiece jaws leaves small grooves in the ends. Those sections are cut off in the end anyway, but it's much easier to work on the pins this way.

I decided to make them with a little more rounded defination to the top, and fitted them really close to each individual hole. To keep them straight, i came up with a simple way to number them that is easy to see and looks pretty cool. I had some small round ball burs that i cut into the tails of the pins, and painted white into the holes for easy visability. When changing strings it will be easy to get them into the right holes.

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03657.jpg

Here you can see the more rounded profile of the mushroom heads. The white plastic pin is one of the originals, the long ebony pin one of the extras from the set of six just purchased. Overall length of the new pins is just 15.5 mm, and they clear the knots by about 1/8" or so.

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03660.jpg

...top view:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03676.jpg

.....and the height savings over the original. With the factory bridge hole camphoring, there is plenty of room to get a thumbnail under the pin lip to lift them out when needed.

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03671.jpg

One other thing i will do when i change the strings is to rig a small sander to work off the small burs and splinters generated when the drilling thru the bridge and top was completed at the factory. Not necessary, but it will be cleaner and the string knots will seat faster. (and release easier when getting a string out)
You can see the splinters with a mirror and flashlight, and since this is a keeper i'll do the little extras.....

joejeweler
09-11-2011, 08:35 AM
I did a separate thread on my install of the wonderful (New) Waverly ukulele 16:1 ratio geared tuners on this Kanile'a soprano, thought i should at least link it here:

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?53065-New-Waverly-Ukulele-Geared-Tuners-(16-1)-Are-Fabulous!-HIGHLY-Recommended

Now with customized ebony saddle, ebony nut, and ebony tuner buttons. :D

.....a little pic teaser:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03729.jpg

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Kanilea%20Soprano%20Ukulele%20Changes/DSC03727.jpg