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View Full Version : Kamaka bumpy seam



garyg
11-03-2011, 02:26 AM
Greetings players, I just bought a Kamaka white label soprano off the internet and when it arrived I noticed that it had a slightly raised seam where the two side "panels" come together at the bottom (not the back) of the lower bout of the uke. The seams on all my other ukes are tight. This isn't an open seam, just one where you can feel that the two "panels" aren't flush. The sound is fine, and there's no movement of the panels but I wonder if this indicates problems to come? Any thoughts? TIA, g2

Doc_J
11-03-2011, 02:45 AM
Greetings players, I just bought a Kamaka white label soprano off the internet and when it arrived I noticed that it had a slightly raised seam where the two side "panels" come together at the bottom (not the back) of the lower bout of the uke. The seams on all my other ukes are tight. This isn't an open seam, just one where you can feel that the two "panels" aren't flush. The sound is fine, and there's no movement of the panels but I wonder if this indicates problems to come? Any thoughts? TIA, g2

Had the same thing on a recent model Kamaka soprano. It didn't look like a wood crack or seam split, but just to be safe I percussed hot hide glue in it. Old Brown Glue works well for this application too.

wickedwahine11
11-03-2011, 08:17 AM
I have the same poblem on my Kamaka tenor. I had a seam separation so I sent it to the factory for repairs and when I got it back, it had a raised bump where the bookmatched halves meet. They told me that it was not structural, only cosmetic and that I would have to completely replace the top otherwise. When I mentioned it here on UU I was told it was likely an issue of the glue adherence.

Perhaps yours also had a similar repair and outcome. Keep an eye on it though, my seam is now reopening so the repair isn't holding well. Good luck to you.

garyg
11-03-2011, 01:18 PM
Interesting comments, sounds like Kamaka has a problem to me. I took the uke over to my local luthier and he said that there was no seam separation and therefore no problem, but that obviously I should watch it. Thanks for the advice. cheers, g2

Bradford
11-03-2011, 04:10 PM
I concur with your local luthier. Assuming normal ukulele construction, there should be a heel block directly behind the joint and that is what the sides are glued to. Unless you see signs that things are coming apart, I would not worry about it.

Brad

Teek
11-03-2011, 04:45 PM
My white label concert has an uneven feel at the butt joint and I had never before noticed that it looks like it has separated the slightest bit. It is also at McCabe's getting it's bridge glued back on. I opened the case on Sunday to see the bridge sitting up at the neck. Sunday my laptop died and the battery went completely dead on my motorcycle. (Sunday was not the best day I've had recently).

The luthier said that he could see signs of sawdust at the leading edge of where the bridge was originally glued on, and said it was just a case of not enough glue and the wood not being clean enough. He said essentially (my own interpretation of his words) that Kamaka is like that as far as building. They live in paradise and are very laid back.

However, I had a repair job done on a vintage Kamaka by a local luthier who gave it back to me with the back separated, a chip out of the headstock where he replaced the nut, and two side cracks that before had just been faint bruises, plus he wrinkled the perfect decal on the headstock. He was disdainful of the construction on this vintage piece, so didn't take any care of it when he handled it. I didn't find out until after I got it home and opened the case. Good thing for him too. I have been debating sending it to Kamaka, but probably won't.

Skitzic
11-04-2011, 03:08 AM
My white label concert has an uneven feel at the butt joint and I had never before noticed that it looks like it has separated the slightest bit. It is also at McCabe's getting it's bridge glued back on. I opened the case on Sunday to see the bridge sitting up at the neck. Sunday my laptop died and the battery went completely dead on my motorcycle. (Sunday was not the best day I've had recently).

The luthier said that he could see signs of sawdust at the leading edge of where the bridge was originally glued on, and said it was just a case of not enough glue and the wood not being clean enough. He said essentially (my own interpretation of his words) that Kamaka is like that as far as building. They live in paradise and are very laid back.

However, I had a repair job done on a vintage Kamaka by a local luthier who gave it back to me with the back separated, a chip out of the headstock where he replaced the nut, and two side cracks that before had just been faint bruises, plus he wrinkled the perfect decal on the headstock. He was disdainful of the construction on this vintage piece, so didn't take any care of it when he handled it. I didn't find out until after I got it home and opened the case. Good thing for him too. I have been debating sending it to Kamaka, but probably won't.

That is the worst thing I have heard in a long time. Did you go back and give him and earful?

mr moonlight
11-04-2011, 06:16 AM
I've heard a few times that Kamaka, when compared to other high end Uke's doesn't always have the same level of construction quality. Is there any truth to it?

wickedwahine11
11-04-2011, 11:00 AM
I've heard a few times that Kamaka, when compared to other high end Uke's doesn't always have the same level of construction quality. Is there any truth to it?

As to construction quality mine was built well -- but the repair they did was not great (hence the bump and subsequent reopening of the seam). The part that ticked me off was they admitted after the fact that they knew it had the bump when they released it to me, that irritated me more than the bump itself.

But as to initial construction quality, the ones I have seen are quite good. The finish level might not be up to the Kanilea ukes I have seen, but the Kanilea UV finish is unique in its beauty. I saw another recent thread about buzzing in some Kamaka ukes that were straight from the factory so maybe their attention to detail isn't that of the KoAloha or Kanilea guys for setup purposes -- they do a very high quantity of builds so maybe a few slip through the cracks.

I don't mean to disparage their ukes though, they are great instruments. My tenor is my favorite uke I have ever played, and I own a KoAloha and a Kanilea as well. And others have had wonderful experiences with their repairs, so who knows? I am probably just bitter because they didn't solve my problem (despite the $100 I paid -- not including the over $90 in shipping costs) -- it actually now has an open seam AND a bump. But on the whole I recommend their ukes for playability and sound and the history of the company (I just think the edge in customer service and warranty goes to KoAloha).

garyg
11-06-2011, 06:39 AM
Wow, very interesting to hear all of this. Certainly disappointing to hear that the "unevenly joined bottom seam" is something others have seen. Their ukes are way too expensive to be sent out this way. If my old Martin and Gretsch ukes that cost under $20 to the original buyers can be made with evenly joined seams, then there's no reason why Kamaka can't do it. Does anyone know if there is variation in the quality of Kamaka ukes made during different time periods? For example are white label ukes made with less concern than yellow label or older ukes, do the post-2001 ukes display higher level of craft (sounds like this is a no). Sorry to hear about others repair troubles, seems like a good luthier is like a good therapist, you may have to go through 2-3 to find the one that suits you (or just does quality work) <g>. cheers mates, g2

RyanMFT
11-06-2011, 07:05 AM
Well, given Kamaka's reputation one would think that their construction is spotless.......however, I see higher quality construction on their ukuleles in the last few years, but older ukeleles leave a lot to be desired as far as precision. I have a Kamaka Pineapple from the 30's and the build quality is pretty rough compared to several mainland built ukuleles I have from the same era. However, it plays and sounds pretty good.....

I have a Kamka from the 1990's and the construction is good, but they used a VERY heavy Shaller tuners which I changed out, a black plastic nut and saddle(glued in)......when I talked to Chris Kamaka about it when I met him at a festival he looked it over and confirmed it was plastic.....and told me that I could get the saddle out if I tried. I will leave that to my luthier. If you watch Kamaka ukuleles on eBay it is common to see them with top cracks. I know some of this is from humidity and age but to their credit, I'm not sure their older uke's were constructed to put up with tension and play wear for 40 - 80 years so I give them a break.

If you want spotless construction.....Collings and Compass Rose will far eclipse Kamaka IMHO. However, Kamaka makes an excellent ukulele, bumps and all!

Oh, and about finding a quality therapist.....we are out there.....I'd like to think I'm the KoAloha of therapists.....but I'll leave that to my clients to decide!

Teek
11-06-2011, 08:54 AM
That is the worst thing I have heard in a long time. Did you go back and give him and earful?

In my youth I would have taken the uke back (they are in Sherman Oaks, I'm in West La, it requires a trip on the 405 :P) and asked for the owner and raised a really big stink, and probably gotten my money back. Since them I have become a Buddhist and though I'm not a good one, my perspective is different now. They had done an electric guitar setup for me for practically free, and I had received a lot of general info from this tech and also he gave me a box of old vintage cast off tuners to dig through for a match on a vintage guitar, for free, with just a request to bring it back when I came back for the pineapple. I think it was a bad decision on my part once I knew he was not a uke lover to leave it. I did tell him re replacing the nut that it didn't have to be a perfect match, I wanted a player, and when he said he could try something to straighten out the back bow, I trusted it would not involve overly tight clamps on vintage wood. I'm not taking responsibility for the bad work, just saying my trust was misplaced and life goes on. He did put the bridge back on with correct intonation at least. I was going to sell this pineapple because I really need to downsize, but now it has been through so much I expect I will keep it.

Paul December
11-06-2011, 09:11 AM
As to construction quality mine was built well -- but the repair they did was not great (hence the bump and subsequent reopening of the seam). The part that ticked me off was they admitted after the fact that they knew it had the bump when they released it to me, that irritated me more than the bump itself.

But as to initial construction quality, the ones I have seen are quite good. The finish level might not be up to the Kanilea ukes I have seen, but the Kanilea UV finish is unique in its beauty. I saw another recent thread about buzzing in some Kamaka ukes that were straight from the factory so maybe their attention to detail isn't that of the KoAloha or Kanilea guys for setup purposes -- they do a very high quantity of builds so maybe a few slip through the cracks.

I don't mean to disparage their ukes though, they are great instruments. My tenor is my favorite uke I have ever played, and I own a KoAloha and a Kanilea as well. And others have had wonderful experiences with their repairs, so who knows? I am probably just bitter because they didn't solve my problem (despite the $100 I paid -- not including the over $90 in shipping costs) -- it actually now has an open seam AND a bump. But on the whole I recommend their ukes for playability and sound and the history of the company (I just think the edge in customer service and warranty goes to KoAloha).

I always thought there was a Kamaka in my future, but recently I've read too many negative stories about them.
OTOH while I do occasionally hear of a problem with KoAloha, it seems like the company stood by their instrument and made it right.
I understand mistakes happen... but really matters how a company deals with them.

garyg
11-06-2011, 12:02 PM
@Ryan, my soprano is from the same era (white label) but it has a bone saddle and nut, hmmm no it just looks like it has a bone saddle and nut, now that I look at it, it's white plastic (:-( . Pretty shabby for a prestige uke. @Paul, OTOH, it is a very nice sounding uke and only has a few minor dings even though it's 10-40 years old. I'd buy another one if I could get a good price on one (< $400). Don't write them off but be choosy.

RyanMFT
11-06-2011, 12:53 PM
@Ryan, my soprano is from the same era (white label) but it has a bone saddle and nut, hmmm no it just looks like it has a bone saddle and nut, now that I look at it, it's white plastic (:-( . Pretty shabby for a prestige uke. @Paul, OTOH, it is a very nice sounding uke and only has a few minor dings even though it's 10-40 years old. I'd buy another one if I could get a good price on one (< $400). Don't write them off but be choosy.

Well said Gary. Kamaka are who they are, and overall they do a good job. When I asked Chris if the saddle on mine was plastic he looked at it closely and said "Yeah, it is plastic" with kind of a cringe on his face. He knew that isn't what it should be. However, I changed the tuners to much lighter tuners, and eventually I will change the nut and saddle. Perhaps it will sound even a little better. I don't want to imply that it doesn't already sound really nice. However, I just can't understand why they would have glued in the saddle.....

garyg
11-06-2011, 01:17 PM
@Ryan, yeah my saddle (and probably the nut) is glued in too, with *lots* of glue. Well at least people are talking about the problems rather than internalizing things in "Kamaka shame" <g> . Onwards and upwards, g2

foxfair
11-06-2011, 06:24 PM
I always thought there was a Kamaka in my future, but recently I've read too many negative stories about them.
OTOH while I do occasionally hear of a problem with KoAloha, it seems like the company stood by their instrument and made it right.
I understand mistakes happen... but really matters how a company deals with them.

Buy new Kamakas if you have fear of their repair problem, recent Kamaka product seems to be kept in stable - awesome quality. At least mine(2) are wonderful.

wickedwahine11
11-07-2011, 05:58 AM
For example are white label ukes made with less concern than yellow label or older ukes, do the post-2001 ukes display higher level of craft (sounds like this is a no). Sorry to hear about others repair troubles, seems like a good luthier is like a good therapist, you may have to go through 2-3 to find the one that suits you (or just does quality work) <g>. cheers mates, g2


Buy new Kamakas if you have fear of their repair problem, recent Kamaka product seems to be kept in stable - awesome quality. At least mine(2) are wonderful.

Yeah, but my uke is a build date of November 2007 - hardly a vintage model. That being said, my issue was not in construction but in the repair problem.

mr moonlight
11-07-2011, 07:30 AM
Yeah, but my uke is a build date of November 2007 - hardly a vintage model. That being said, my issue was not in construction but in the repair problem.

That's one thing I'm not understanding. Why, if you sent an instrument back to the factory for repairs that it should come back less than perfect? Sure, if you want to save some cash and just do a temp fix, but if you just want the instrument repaired properly it shouldn't be an issue.

Although if an instrument is out of warranty, I'd take it to a local luthier before sending it to Hawaii. No shipping, no climate change and you can inspect it before you take it home.

foxfair
11-07-2011, 08:27 PM
Yeah, but my uke is a build date of November 2007 - hardly a vintage model. That being said, my issue was not in construction but in the repair problem.

I understand; I was just saying it to people who haven't owned a Kamaka and need to make his own decision. I recognize that Kamaka has some hit and miss. Statistically I could say that both K's have the repair ratio in a similar level, however if you look at how long they run their business and how many cases they need to deal with after selling, there is a huge difference. Again, I'm talking about the pure number things, and not backing one company up or another. There is always room to be improved.

garyg
11-08-2011, 03:36 AM
@Foxfair - Well I own a Ko'olau, and a Ko'aloha and the craft is definitely higher on those ukes, but Kamaka has the higher rep for sure. Really there's no excuse for poor quality/customer service in a premium brand. It's just that Kamaka has made decisions that likely are based on maximizing profit (it's difficult to interpret this in any other way) rather than providing higher quality instruments/repairs/customer service. It's just like my bank who in my refinancing is taking 6-8 weeks which means that I'll lose my lock in on my mortgage. When I ask them why they say, "we're slammed" but apparently they can't figure out that this is the time to hire some out of work experienced loan officers. Nothing personal here Foxfair, I just think that there's no excuse for shoddy work from a high end producer of any type.

SuzukHammer
11-12-2011, 11:38 AM
Interesting stuff.

I have a Kamaka on hold. I had played a pineapple Black Bear and thought it was much better uke.

I just may change my order.

may?? I'm thinking "will"