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View Full Version : kamaka vs Koaloha factory tours



kalmario
03-18-2012, 06:10 PM
hypothetically speaking if you happened to be in hawaii in november, and had time to spare which tour would you do?

Assuming wife would only allow one, and Assuming I have no allegences to either brand, cause you just don't see them in my neck of the woods.

any other suggestions while we are in town either would be appreciated too

Cheers

Cliff

p.s. spending half the time in Oahu, and the other in Maui, and hoping to get to the big Island to the volcanoes too (fingers crossed)

wickedwahine11
03-18-2012, 07:07 PM
I have done both tours(the one at Kanilea too) and highly recommend them both. I prefer the KoAloha tour, as I thought it was a bit more personal (maybe due to the ohana feel of Brian and the Okamis). That being said, if you have no allegiance to either brand, I wold say opt for the Kamaka one. They are located much closer to Waikiki so they are easier to get to if that is where you are staying, and the history of Kamaka is great, especially if you get Fred as your tour guide.

That being said, if you are hoping to pick up a uke during the tour, opt for KoAloha as they sell factory seconds there and Kamaka usually doesn't have any for sale.

Trinimon
03-18-2012, 07:07 PM
From what I've been hearing, the KoAloha tour will make you fall in love with their ukes and they treat you like Ohana. :)

kapahulu50
03-18-2012, 07:19 PM
You can't go wrong with either. If you're trying to fit it into a busy few days on Oahu, you might find the kamaka tour a little easier on the schedule. If you (and your wife) want a real taste of local style, I'd opt for the koaloha tour, it's a real slice of Honolulu life.

kalmario
03-19-2012, 08:00 AM
thanks for the replies guys, (wickedwahine11, i have read your blogs on that too, very cool, so thanks for putting that up for all us others)

as an aside which shows the most building going on?

Cheers

Cliff

Gillian
03-19-2012, 09:07 AM
I'd say Kamaka is the most automated of the three. They have special machines that cut the necks, special machines that heat bend the sides. Of the three, Kamaka also has the dustiest air. I was coughing up koa dust for hours... The history of the place is obvious, especially if Fred Kamaka is the tour guide. I got the sense that place was all business and didn't see any workers there smiling.

When my husband and I drove to Kaneohe for the Kanile'a tour, we were the only ones there so we had a personal 2 hour tour with Joe Souza who was fantastic. They have the cleanest factory, I'm guessing because of their use of high UV gloss. Maybe because there were only two of us, we were able to get "up close" to the ukuleles in the building process. I had a nice conversation with the guy who was carefully selecting the abalone dots for the fretboards. It was apparent that there was more time spent on making a Kanile'a than a Kamaka. Kamaka cranks out between 50 and 75 ukes a day. Kanile'a makes 8. Joe had a few ukuleles for sale in his office. I bought one that had just been strung, a gorgeous concert deluxe made from "log 39". Joe offered to let me hold, but I only touched, Aldrine's old uke that was in for a tune up.:cool:

The KoAloha tour was fun and the sense of ohana permeated the place. Brian led the tour, showing us the strength of their 'unibracing' by standing on a ukulele. We met Paul Okami, who gave us a free tube squeezer, one of his inventions. They have factory seconds for sale. As I was debating between a longneck soprano and a Sceptre, a man walked in, asked if he could play the soprano and we had an impromptu jam session. I thanked the man and bought the soprano. Brian told me I just jammed with Roy Sakuma.

GinnyT11
03-19-2012, 09:20 AM
Great info, Gillian! Thanks for this careful explanation of the distinctions.

I wonder which abalone dots make the cut...

coolkayaker1
03-19-2012, 09:23 AM
Gillian: this is super useful information and fun to read.

BadLands Bart
03-19-2012, 09:26 AM
Go visit all three....you know you really want to!!!!
Have fun and pick out a nice rememberance of Hawaii!!

mds725
03-19-2012, 11:14 AM
When I was in Oahu last April, I took the KoAloha and Kamaka tours but had to skip the Kanile'a tour. I posted about my Kamaka tour here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?46049-My-Kamaka-Factory-Tour), but I never got around to posting photos from my KoAloha tour. What people have said about the Kamaka and KoAloha tours reflects my experience. At Kamaka, Fred told great stories about the history of Kamaka and the ukulele, and he let me hold the famous Pineapple #1 and one of the Jake Shimabukuro $5,000 limited edition ukuleles. At KoAloha, I got to hold the mini-ukulele Papa built that got him started making real ukuleles, and I also got to touch a broken Brittany Paiva custom ukulele that was in for repairs. KoAloha sells factory seconds and they had a nice selection while I was there, although no tenors at the time. It was my experiece that Kamaka feels a little more like a factory than KoAloha, but tou can't go wrong on either tour. They were both loads of fun.

I met Joe Sousa this past weekend at a presentation he gave in San Francisco on ukulele building and Kanile'a. It was lots of fun. I'm definitely going to find time for the Kanile'a tour on my next visit to Oahu. Plus, I think Kanile'a is the only one of the K brands that makes an 8-string baritone (which, you know, I need :) ).

mds725
03-19-2012, 11:18 AM
When my husband and I drove to Kaneohe for the Kanile'a tour, we were the only ones there so we had a personal 2 hour tour with Joe Souza who was fantastic. They have the cleanest factory, I'm guessing because of their use of high UV gloss. Maybe because there were only two of us, we were able to get "up close" to the ukuleles in the building process. I had a nice conversation with the guy who was carefully selecting the abalone dots for the fretboards. It was apparent that there was more time spent on making a Kanile'a than a Kamaka. Kamaka cranks out between 50 and 75 ukes a day. Kanile'a makes 8. Joe had a few ukuleles for sale in his office. I bought one that had just been strung, a gorgeous concert deluxe made from "log 39". Joe offered to let me hold, but I only touched, Aldrine's old uke that was in for a tune up.:cool:.

Joe seemed like a great guy when I went to a presentation he gave about Kanile'a in San Francisco this past weekend. I can believe that he would spend two hours on a factory tour. Building ukuleles is definitely a labor of love for him and his family. It's great that you were able to buy a "souvenir" from your tour.


The KoAloha tour was fun and the sense of ohana permeated the place. Brian led the tour, showing us the strength of their 'unibracing' by standing on a ukulele. We met Paul Okami, who gave us a free tube squeezer, one of his inventions. They have factory seconds for sale. As I was debating between a longneck soprano and a Sceptre, a man walked in, asked if he could play the soprano and we had an impromptu jam session. I thanked the man and bought the soprano. Brian told me I just jammed with Roy Sakuma.

Holy crap! Roy Sakuma! What a special ukulele that soprano you bought at KoAloha must be for you.

keliiyama
03-19-2012, 03:03 PM
Kanilea is a great company. When you meet Joe it's like meeting an old friend you haven't seen in years. He's is very warm and is a great speaker. The tour is also very instructional. They pretty much give away all that they do in their construction. Check them out. Also the drive to the Windward side is worth the trip:) After the tour just head into Kailua to Lanikai beach.

snunez
03-19-2012, 03:15 PM
how much do koaloha factory seconds go for?

Gillian
03-19-2012, 08:45 PM
how much do koaloha factory seconds go for?

When I was there in 2010, their factory seconds were about 25%-30% less than list price. It was a challenge to find the imperfection. With my longneck soprano, it was a bubble in the finish, smaller than a pinhead, located on the edge of the soundhole. I paid $475 with a free case.

kalmario
03-20-2012, 01:46 PM
just saying thanks for all the advice, guess I'll have a go at getting along to the Koaloha factory, getting excited about the trip now and its ages away

cheers

Cliff

Gillian
03-20-2012, 08:44 PM
Holy crap! Roy Sakuma! What a special ukulele that soprano you bought at KoAloha must be for you.

Here's a picture of him playing my uke. My husband took a video of our little song session. A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.


35286

kapahulu50
03-20-2012, 09:16 PM
Wow Gillian that's one special uke! Ive always admired how roy sakuma dedicated so much effort to teaching ukulele and getting so many people excited about it. He passed up a lot of opportunities to be a performing star in order to focus on teaching. His annual festivals at kapiolani park are one of my favorite events of the year.

Gillian
03-21-2012, 07:42 AM
Wow Gillian that's one special uke! Ive always admired how roy sakuma dedicated so much effort to teaching ukulele and getting so many people excited about it. He passed up a lot of opportunities to be a performing star in order to focus on teaching. His annual festivals at kapiolani park are one of my favorite events of the year.

Now that I know my uke can really sound sweet in the right hands, it is a great impetus to practice, practice, practice.

Every year I circle mid-July on my calendar in the hopes that I might be able to attend Roy's uke festival (and that the KoAloha factory has a barely blemished factory second tenor for sale!)