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View Full Version : Back from Oahu and the Koaloha factory tour.



GKK
09-24-2011, 04:49 AM
My wife and I just returned from our anniversary vacation in Oahu and we had a Great time!

We took the #42 Bus from Waikiki which dropped us off about 250 yards from the Koaloha factory since we didn't rent a car and even though we walked the wrong direction, Mrs. Okami guided us back to their shop.

There were only five people working at the time and it was amazing how so, few people could produce so, many quality Ukulele's!

One really interesting fact too, me was when the wood is placed in the drying room, All the water released from the wood is collected in 5 gallon buckets and is heated (with the coleman stove) and used to help bend and shape the sides of the ukulele body. Nothing from the Koa wood is wasted!

Another interesting fact: Curly Koa grain is only found towards the bottom of the trunk where the weight compresses the grain and makes the "curly" grain pattern, which is another reason for the high cost of this beautiful pattern.

Our tour guide was Dominic and he was very funny, sincere, humble and down to earth. Dominic even refused a $20 tip we tried to give him. We also, had the pleasure of meeting Papa (Koaloha) Okami himself! He was busy at the time but, he still came by shook our hands, introduced himself and thanked us for taking the tour.

Mr. Okami made a Fret cutting machine which was really cool and Dominic even gave us a couple acrylic toothpaste tube squeezers which Mr. Okami invented and patented then sold to a company.

Anyways, here are the pictures.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0728.jpg

http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0729.jpg

Paul Okami, teaching another worker how to select and cut the boards.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0731.jpg

Curly Koa wood blanks (sorry for the blurry picture).
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0733.jpg

GKK
09-24-2011, 04:53 AM
Uni brace.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0746.jpg

Date Stamp.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0739.jpg

Musubi rice ball Sound hole.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0744.jpg

Lazer cut head stock Logo.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0753.jpg

GKK
09-24-2011, 05:09 AM
Wal-Mart Coleman stove, (Dominic said, "every shop needs one, right?") used to heat the recycled water to bend the body sides.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0735.jpg
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0736.jpg

Fret & Nut cutting machine invented by Mr. Okami.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0760.jpg

Old way of cutting the frets.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0759.jpg

GKK
09-24-2011, 05:15 AM
Ready for the first of 9 finish coats.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0756.jpg

Dustin, sanding in between each coat of clear before the Final coat.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0749.jpg

Lazer cut Bridge.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0755.jpg

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
09-24-2011, 05:15 AM
Glad to hear you had a great trip. That fret-cutting machine looks wild!

GKK
09-24-2011, 05:22 AM
Custom Koaloha's with our very cool tour guide, "Dominic"!
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0767.jpg
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0772.jpg

Custom Head stock Logo.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0768.jpg

GKK
09-24-2011, 05:25 AM
And my Favorite!... The Japan Earthquake disaster Koaloha with 100% of the costs ($1500) going directly to the Japan relief effort.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0764.jpg
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0766.jpg

Trinimon
09-24-2011, 05:33 AM
Cool pics! Thanks for sharing!

garywj
09-24-2011, 05:48 AM
Thanks for the post.

uke4life
09-24-2011, 05:49 AM
Awesome pics...Are those Relief Ukes tenor or soprano? Are they still for sale?

GKK
09-24-2011, 08:52 AM
Awesome pics...Are those Relief Ukes tenor or soprano? Are they still for sale?

Yes, the Japan Ukulele's are still for sale.

The Japan Ukulele's pictured are soprano but, I'm sure Koaloha makes other sizes as well.

GKK
09-24-2011, 09:01 AM
Here's the Tube Press squeezer Mr. Okami invented and patented then sold to All Seals, Inc.
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0889.jpg
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0890.jpg
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j179/karengarret/Koaloha%20Factory%20tour/IMG_0892.jpg

bdukes
09-24-2011, 10:00 AM
Aloha Garret,

Welcome back! Sounds like you made the most of your tour. Dom was our guide too. Super nice guy... like they all were.

So, did you bring any of those tasty treats hanging on the wall home?

It's interesting to see in person how Papa Koaloha's previous career in plastics and engineering influences their ukulele business today. Especially when you look at the jigs and custom machinery like the fret cutter. Thanks for the pics.

GKK
09-24-2011, 12:02 PM
Aloha Garret,

Welcome back! Sounds like you made the most of your tour. Dom was our guide too. Super nice guy... like they all were.

So, did you bring any of those tasty treats hanging on the wall home?

Thanks, Bill

No, unfortunately I didn't bring home any of the wall Uke's but, if I did, it would've been one of the Japan relief ukulele's which I thought were Beautiful!!!...

molokinirum
09-24-2011, 02:50 PM
Awesome pices...mahalo for posting them!!
Glad you had a great trip and Happy Anniversary!!!!!!

3nails4holes
09-24-2011, 04:36 PM
thanks for posting these pics. did you get any video?

koaloha needs to sell t-shirts!

i can't wait to go on a factory tour someday!

GKK
09-24-2011, 05:22 PM
thanks for posting these pics. did you get any video?

koaloha needs to sell t-shirts!

i can't wait to go on a factory tour someday!

Sorry, no video.

I was hoping they could play a song but, they were kind of busy that day. Yes, T-shirts would be a Great souvenir to have!...

GKK
09-24-2011, 06:28 PM
Awesome pices...mahalo for posting them!!
Glad you had a great trip and Happy Anniversary!!!!!!

Thank you, molokinirum.

We had a Great time!

sonicbaker
09-24-2011, 06:59 PM
Thanks for the detailed tour report! I'd like to do that one as well as Kamaka when I'm there next year. How long of a bus ride was it approximately?

joeybug
09-25-2011, 12:16 AM
Great pictures and a great post, it's not something I'm likely to ever do, so nice to live vicariously through others going! Love the look of those Japan Ukuleles, very pretty :D

And Happy Anniversary! Glad you had a nice trip :D

freackykit
09-25-2011, 01:24 AM
Great post,

Thanks for sharing and happy aniversary!

Chris

v74
09-25-2011, 03:01 AM
Thanks for all the pictures.
Really enjoy.

Mahalo,

joekulele
09-25-2011, 05:04 AM
Thank you for posting all the pictures.it's cool to see where my "Leilani" was born. One day I will make the pilgrimage!
-Joe

GKK
09-25-2011, 07:45 AM
How long of a bus ride was it approximately?

The bus ride was about 20-25 minutes with about 12 stops. I asked the driver if he could tell me when the Dillingham Zippy's stop was next so, we could exit and he let us know and stopped. My wife was kind of startled when we exited the bus right in front of an elderly homeless lady sleeping on the bus stop bench so, be aware this is an industrial type area not a touristy type. We were told by the airport shuttle driver that the Hawaii bus system has won awards and is one of the most efficient bus systems in the nation.

The buses were nice and clean and arrived about 5 minutes early. I was kind of confused looking at the schedule so, I called the bus line and the lady told me exactly where and what time to catch the #42 bus (which was right in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village) and where to catch the return bus.

Also, on the Koaloha website, it says you can take the Redline Trolley which stops near their shop but, when I called Koaloha, Brian told me that the Redline trolley does not go there anymore because they had to cut the route.

Skottoman
09-25-2011, 07:49 AM
I also did the tour back in 2009. It's a great thing to do when on the Island, and I picked up a great "2nd" Concert Uke while I was there. Your pix are great and nail the experience quite well. Thanks for sharing!
Cheers,
Skottoman

Coconut Willie
09-25-2011, 08:18 AM
Great pics and story!! Thanks
Happy Anniversary!!!!

rossjr
09-26-2011, 08:30 AM
I just got back from HI last month and took the same tour. It was very informative, fun and highly recommended. My only regret is that I didn't buy a Uke from them while I was there, at the time they only had a saprano and I am told old and inflexible for that. I was trying to work on them to donate a Pineapple Sundae to me, I mean my charity, but that didn't work...:D

Seriously it's worth the time and effort, if you are going to Oahu, make it over there, they give the tour twice a day....

Aloha!