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View Full Version : please can you help me identify these ukes?



wolfybau
11-20-2011, 04:07 AM
well once again I think perhaps I've been foolish with my money but I am hoping not. I just sold one of my guitars so I have been lookign aroudn for an inexpensive uke that I can put a pickup in and use for performances and teaching. I bid on 2 ukes on ebay at a low bid not realy expecting to win them but to my surprise i did, both of them. I am not sure what they are, but they look old and have all their tuners :D

could anyone please tell me if these are a known brand what year they might be and they are worth anything?

this one was sold in a display case with old vintage sheet music. I like it because it looks like one of the old vintage ones ive seen and I relay like that body shape.is this the real thing?
it looks in fair condition but with a little separation of the back in the other photos. also looks like it was varnished over unfortunately.


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here is a pinnapple one, also touted as 'vintage' but this realy doesnt look like it is much to me , like the finish is very bad, but I wnated to try a pinapple and what I got it for was a rediculously low price so its not a loss if I can make it playable.

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if these are worth more than I paid , Id probly like to trade or sell so i cna get something with a pickup already instll, because if they are vintage and any good i wouldnt want to be drillign holes in it and rather they went to someone who could restore them.

can anyone help me out here with some info and opinions?

wolfybau
11-20-2011, 04:19 AM
here are some other photos and over the tuners if that helps to identify them.

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im also cuious what kind of wood, mahogany perhaps?

RyanMFT
11-20-2011, 05:23 AM
The uke in the shadow box looks like a Regal/Harmony shape, on the older side, so I would think it was made in the 30's. Perhaps it had a supertone label in it at one time. Look inside when you get it. So, a common mahogany uke, made in Chicago. You will have to see how it sounds and plays. Someone loved it to put it in that box, or loved the image of a uke and the vintage sheet music.

The pineapple is curious. Looks much newer to me. Hard to say without a label. If I had to guess from the pictures I would say it is Japanese made anywhere from the 60's on. Looks fine though, I think a lot of those Japanese made ukes where pretty well made. Again, you'll have to see how it sounds/plays.

If you'd like to put a pickup in one I don't think it is a problem. Neither is a rare or particularly sought after vintage uke. I do hope they play well for you and you have a blast with them.

mm stan
11-20-2011, 12:02 PM
Aloha SA,
Good Score...they look very much playable..wouldn't mind them in my collection...happy strummings..

wolfybau
11-21-2011, 12:01 AM
thanks for the info, gee that is too bad that they are not worth anything. :( Ive been trying to find photos of similar models of those brands to get some idea of what they are and what year they are from, but have not been sucessful.

the pineapple uke does have a crack in the back so i may just stick the neck on a cigarbox instead if that is possible. could be yeah the other one ended up as a wall decoration because it was not god for anything else ;) but might be a gift for my daughter, she has a lot of old vintage furnature and decore from teh 40's and she might like it for her wall. I am now kind of wishing that I had saved that moeny toward something better since money is so tight at the moment. well live and learn. the $ would have just went to food any way and then i would have nothign to show for it .:rolleyes:

Shakespeare
11-21-2011, 08:42 AM
I like the look of the first one. It looks authentically old and therefore cool.

RyanMFT
11-21-2011, 08:59 AM
Wait....don't assume they are worthless....IMHO, that pineapple has potential. You might be able to remedy the crack pretty easily and have a fine uke. If it is Japanese made, you are likely to have a well made instrument.

The first one has some age, and may indeed be a good player as well. It is clearly old mahogany and could come to life once you string it up. You'll have to see when they arrive! I hope you'll post what you find.

ukulelepuapua
11-21-2011, 09:03 AM
I agree, further pictures with the tuners/headstock and maybe the inside of the ukes might help us identify! The pineapple most definitely has potential. :D

ukeeku
11-21-2011, 09:36 AM
the fist one looks like a harmony, is the neck a V neck? meaning it kind comes to a point at the back. that means harmony for sure (Unless someone copied it in a little home shop)
for a price refernece. I sold my 1920's (And yours is with the wood tuning pegs) I got $450 a couple of years a go. Mine was a big 10 football one with a richter label. smakll fixed crack on the side.
here is the post on it
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?32397-FS-1920-s-Big-10-Richter-Soprano&highlight=richter

wolfybau
11-21-2011, 10:38 AM
thanks very much for the insight and taking time to look at these. unfortunately there doesnt seem to be a label with either. I know that makes it difficult to identify :( I wrote to the seller and asked if they have any info on their history they coudl send along, mabee they will have some clue. If anything I love a good mystery. ;) Well even if I cant find their history , perhaps there is some hidden music mojo in them, I could use all the help i can get haha

here are a few more photos from the seller of the pineapple, one showing the crack. what would be the best approch for repairing that? should I lift the whole back and reglue it?

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and of the other one, which seems to have a sort of mottled stripping to the wood , but its hard to tell from this picks and all that ikky varnish. if it turns out to be any good to play perhaps should I strip all that off and see whats under there?? it does look as if the neck might come to an edge, even thugh the heel looks round.

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another question if I may, are these old instrument generaly solid wood or did they use laminantes back then?

that richer is very unique! $450 wow, well I was hoping perhaps I would get lucky and I could get mabee half that for these. unless of course they are playable and sound good and I realy love them and want to keep them :o

wolfybau
11-24-2011, 05:57 PM
I tryed finding a similar uke in the Harmony line but couldnt find anything so I was just looking at ukuleles from 1910 & '20's in general.

I found one that looks very similar to the uke from the display case , link here:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/HAWAIIAN-UKULELE-UKE-1920s-LYRA-/130455839421#vi-desc

down to the stripy sort of wood , here is a pic of the side of mine, and the curvy striping.

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it also has the same 3 black rings aroudn the sound hole , here is a pick of mine:
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and the tuners and headstock look very similar to me so does the heel joint. the overall shape looks similar, but slightly differnt?


what do you think? am i onto something here?

RyanMFT
11-24-2011, 07:55 PM
Well, I think you are onto something. The shape of the bridge looks very similar as well. Those sharp ended tuners are not real common, so you may have an old Lyra.

To answer one question, old ukuleles are often solid wood. Cheaper vintage uke's are often made of birch, rather than Mahogany or Koa, and that is how they saved money as opposed to using laminated wood. Seems like laminate didn't come in until after the war, but others might know more about this than I do. However, wood was cheap before WWII and I believe laminate is mostly machine made, and that just didn't exist before the war. Correct me anyone if I am off about this.

Another interesting thing to me is that uke was in a shadow box, but the brace which can be seen is covered with black tar/ash/crap. If it is a good player and you want to clean the inside, you can use the rice trick. Pour in some plain, dry white rice, cover the sound hole with painter's tape, and shake shake shake....

One more thing I notice about the your "Lyra" uke is that the action looks very high. Of course you'll see when it arrives. I wonder why it is so high and if the neck is bowed at all. Since it doesn't have a removable saddle it is not very adjustable at the bridge. Again, you'll see when you get it. I'd like to see more pictures.

As far as the pineapple, I wouldn't remove the back. It should be glued and cleated from the inside. Looks like there was a label in the pineapple but it has gone away. When do you expect them?

wolfybau
11-25-2011, 03:57 AM
thanks for answering my questions , and the opinion :)
so if this is a good chance this is a Lyra, do you think this may actualy be koa, as the one in the link? or is that one not realy koa either? in one of the things Ive read they did make the very old Lyras out of it. the finish is so dark though is there a way i can tell? if it is playable do you think it would be worth refinishing?

yes I was wondering about why there is that 'ash' in the sound hole, thanks for that great tip with the rice! I would have never thought of that

yes your right I noticed that took abotu the action. mabee that why it was just uded for a display because ti was unplayable. hopefully it cna be worked with and restored. it almost looks like perhaps the bridge is coming up in one of the photos, I sure hope its not the neck, but who knows what its been through. but I wont know these things until I can inspect it. That one of the things I love about old instrument is the history , wondering where its been and what it has seen, who has played it.

I havnt found info on the pineapple yet. cleated from the inside? do you have any recomendations on how this is done? the crack seems wide when I do this will the crack narrow or will I need to use soem kind of wood filler?

Also any recomendations on glue? shoudl I use a hide glue for these old instrument or is it ok to use a glue liek titebond? anything I should realy avoid doing?

I will start studying and researching how to do this repair. if anyone coudld point me in the right direction that would be great. Ive worked manly on modern instruments and guitars. never tryed to repair antique acoustic instruments before.

RyanMFT
11-25-2011, 11:29 AM
There are a lot of resources online for crack repair. I am not a luthier, just a hack so anything like this I take to my luthier. Depends on the value of the uke if it is worth repairing. It looks pretty good from the photos though.

You may want to make sure it is hydrated as sometimes if they are dry they can swell up a bit and close some of that crack. Here is one resource which might be helpful from frets.com
http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luthier/Technique/Ukulele/UkeCrack/ukecrack.html

wolfybau
11-26-2011, 01:54 AM
that a great link! thanks RyanMFT. good advice of the humidifying, we used to do that with a lot of old acoustic guitars at ausic store I worked at, a lot of people would bring them in with warping and such. they would set them with the sound hole down ontop of big humidifiers.

not sure when the instruments will get shipped to me , with the holiday season and all. a week perhaps.

wolfybau
11-29-2011, 03:51 PM
well the pineapple is in, dont have my own photos yet, but had a look at it. it has someinteresting atributes

what caught my eye first was how wide and thin the neck is, its thinner than any uke neck ive ever seen. the whole thing seems very delicately made, the body is very thin wood as well the frets look to be brass and are very thin and fine too. they almost look too low though.

other features, the sides are made from a single piece of wood, no tail join. it also looks as if the back was one piece that extended onto the heal of the neck from the look of the grain and shape, though it has separated at the heal and needs repairs. there are several cracks, but no holes, the bridge looks solid , but the top and sides are sparated at the tail area. but nothing clamping and glue wont repair. though I havnt had a look inside with my mirror yet. the worst thing is the finish it is very bad, liek much of it rubbed or was partialy sanded off then the person did a very poor job of trying to refinish it. Im gonna guess the wood is mahogony? there is reminance of where a sticker was ripped off and what looks like under it was a pencil mark of some kind.
so yes it does have real potential from what I can tell, if I can get the neck reglued properly so the action is ok. I'll try to get pictures up sometime this week, other things allowing.

do any of these features indicate something of its origin? I've been searching the web and cant find anything like it. no similar tuners either.

ProfChris
11-30-2011, 01:45 AM
The back extending over the base of the heel, plus ultra-light construction, suggests 20s/30s made in Hawaii. If so I'd expect it to be koa - will be interested to see the pics. A picture of the back taken through the soundhole might be illuminating.

OTOH the fretboard looks quite different from most 20s/30s Hawaiian ukes I've seen.

wolfybau
11-30-2011, 07:43 AM
The back extending over the base of the heel, plus ultra-light construction, suggests 20s/30s made in Hawaii. If so I'd expect it to be koa - will be interested to see the pics. A picture of the back taken through the soundhole might be illuminating.

OTOH the fretboard looks quite different from most 20s/30s Hawaiian ukes I've seen.

20's- 30s'? hmm I dont know, Ive been reading that Kamaka held a patent on the pineapple shape until the 40's and the headstock doesnt realy look like thiers. the only other made around that time were KaLai i've read. Stll thier dont quite look like this either. The tuners look later certianly but mabee these were something added later to replace wooden ones? ..

oo that would be great if it was koa!
ive been inspecting it closer and it looks as if it was painted at one time? there are traces of what look like a rusty reddish paint along the nut and frets, also some littel hints of blue on the sound board , perhaps the reddish stuff was some kind of stain? ive been looking over it with a jewlers glass for hairline cracks and such, it realy looks like paint, that was sanded off the rest of the instrument, and also a darker stain added because where the wood had the most finish removed , liek on the neck, the wood itself looks very white, could this be made of koa sapwood instead of mahogny? it kind of reminds me of the sapwood on the block of koa i have , but could they make a whole instrument out of it?

this is turning out to be quite a mystery :)

Ill try to take some pics tonight or tomarrow, my mother has a large square magnifing glass I can use to get better photo detail I think. anything or part in particular, or other angle, I should photograph that might help identify it? I was hoping when I received it the labe had ust fallen off inside but no such luck :(

RyanMFT
11-30-2011, 08:35 AM
Well, glad you got the pineapple. Looks like it is a candidate for a refinish since it already needs some work and it isn't a rare, extremely valuable uke. Still, the construction sounds really good and I am excited to see how it turns out. I bet you could make it really nice!

I look at the bridge style and shape to compare to other ukuleles. Often, there is something about a bridge style which points one in a direction. However, mystery uke's are mystery uke's and usually cannot be pinned down. Again, that doesn't mean they aren't great players. I bet that pineapple is light and will be resonant and lively once you bring it back to life!

I'm looking forward to the pictures!

wolfybau
01-30-2012, 06:54 AM
sorry I did not get photos up sooner Ive been soooo busy

but here they are, some Ive taken with my camera through my loop to get closer shots.

drat I just realised most of the pohotos got deleted of my camerA! :(

well here are what I have

soem doen with my loop for close up

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wolfybau
01-30-2012, 07:03 AM
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top photo shows a bit of the bottom where soem fo the finished chipped away. with the naked eye I thought it was the reminance of gold paint, what I thought was gold pain is actualy the incredible iriridecence of the bare wood under all that bad finish! I chipped a bit of finish that was coming off the fretboad and that seems the same, I dont recall ever seeing bare wood shine quite like that...

the third pic is of the pencil marking and reminance of the sticker inside the sound hole. the photo s taken from the side btw not virticaly


I guess I should start as separate thread in the luthier section when I start to restore it. I sure could use the advice on glue etc. from the look of that wood it could be relay lovely adn I dont want to mess it up. I havnt got money for a profession restoration.