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Zenin
08-07-2012, 12:14 AM
I just picked this up from a flea market for $50, a significant upgrade from my beginner Kala. I've just no idea what make it is?

There's no maker's mark anywhere inside or out, although there's a bit of residue on the headstock that makes me think it might have had a sticker logo at some point. The only label is a "Made of Genuine Mahogany" sticker on the back of the headstock. It is all solid wood, front, sides, and slightly arched back.

It looks like a martin clone of some kind (but what isn't?). The bridge looks like a Regal (solid wood, no separate saddle)? Although I can't find any other ukes that have an inset purfling around the mouth quite like this or anything else with the double dot fret markers.

The tuners also seem pretty unique, I've only found one other photo of them on an instrument and the owner claimed they were from the 60s and weren't original. Maybe they're not original to this instrument either? If they weren't original it would make me feel better about replacing them...they aren't the nicest..

My best guess is a 1960s Kay of some kind.

Thoughts?

41266;41267412684126941270

ukeeku
08-07-2012, 01:27 AM
60's seem right by the tuners. Great find either way. no idea on maker.
Any marking on the inside neck block or bracing?
Also your dog is a good support for the pictures

ukulelecowboy
08-07-2012, 03:02 AM
Shark fin tuners and genuine mahogany sticker and headstock shape suggest Harmony. No question about it. It pre-dates the molded plastic fretboard so I would say forties.

Also, the double fretboard dots are identical to a Roy Smeck Harmony concert. Never seen one that wasn't sunburst.

Excellent find!

hmgberg
08-07-2012, 03:45 AM
Shark fin tuners and genuine mahogany sticker and headstock shape suggest Harmony. No question about it. It pre-dates the molded plastic fretboard so I would say forties.

Also, the double fretboard dots are identical to a Roy Smeck Harmony concert. Never seen one that wasn't sunburst.

Excellent find!

Yep! Harmony. Here's one that's virtually identical, apart from the double position markers Mike noted:

http://www.sprucetreemusic.com/harmsopuke0111.jpg

Look at the heel and the bridge. Harmony made so many variations on this basic mahogany soprano, it is tough to account for them all. They are good players. The frets on yours appear to be crowned, which is helpful. I have a Roy Smeck with frets in the neck (pre-plastic fingerboard) and the frets were not crowned. So, while I always liked the sound, it was a challenge to play...until I crowned the frets. The scale is a bit shorter than on Martin sopranos.

ChrisRCovington
08-07-2012, 04:37 AM
I would guess Harmony also. The back of the neck and peghead and the shape of the crown are identical to my Roy Smeck. I'd be willing to bet it has a 13" scale length compared to Martin (and a lot of other markers) that had a 13.625" scale length. Harmony cranked out a lot of junk plywood ukes in the day but their solid mahogany ukuleles are really very nice. Plus you can find them used for a fraction of the price you'd pay for a new Chinese solid ukulele. They tended to make them very thin like old Hawaiian makers and the old Martin style 0 ukuleles (this is why I'm sure it has such a good sound) so they can get cracks pretty easy. Make sure to keep it well hydrated. Great find and congrats on the new ukulele. Great dog too! If I tried to photograph a uke with one of my dogs i'd have a uke with crew marks all over it lol.

ChrisRCovington
08-07-2012, 04:39 AM
Oh yeah it looks like you have nylon Aquilla strings on it. Change them out for some flurocarbons (Martins, Worths, etc.) they tend to bring out the sweetness of a mahogany ukulele better.

ukulelecowboy
08-07-2012, 04:39 AM
The tuners also seem pretty unique, I've only found one other photo of them on an instrument and the owner claimed they were from the 60s and weren't original. Maybe they're not original to this instrument either? If they weren't original it would make me feel better about replacing them...they aren't the nicest..

The tuners are definitely original. Especially with the slot head screws

Mike

ChrisRCovington
08-07-2012, 05:09 AM
The tuners are definitely original. Especially with the slot head screws

If they aren't original they are at least contemporary. My Roy Smeck had three black plastic tuners and one shark fin. I'm not sure which were original the fin or the black ones but they had all been on my ukulele for a long time. If you needed to change three out of four tuners I'm not sure why you wouldn't just switch all four out. On the other hand if you only needed to change one and you had a shark fin on hand it might make more sense (maybe I'm looking too deep into this?).

Anyway, you can get some small ping tuners on Elderly's website. They shouldn't require much if any alteration to the ukulele to install. They are smaller than most tuners you can buy now. I've never used them myself but have heard good things about them.

mm stan
08-07-2012, 05:42 AM
Great score...have some extra tuners like that I threw on my 50's Kamaka....

Zenin
08-07-2012, 10:43 AM
Thanks for all the info!

Googling around now for Harmony ukes I'm finding quite a few matches...I've no idea how I missed them before.

From what you guys have told me and what I've found around the web now I'm thinking 40s. There are a couple I found nearly identical that claim circa 1935, but they have older looking tuners. 50s seems too late as everything I've found that claims 1950s has a plastic fretboard.

I'm not sure what exactly is meant by "crowned" frets? They do all appear filed downed flat and even, is that crowning?

I'll try different strings, Aquila are just what I had extras of (I haven't used anything else yet). When I got it it had what appeared to be fishing line on it, albeit a couple different thicknesses. It was lifeless and muted, like those fake toy guitars, and could not be tuned (I stopped trying..fearing I would snap the neck..). This is my first solid wood uke, so I'm open to trying other string options.

It has a couple very tiny nicks, but no cracks anywhere and the finish is perfect. The only significant flaw is the bridge has tilted forward very slightly, pulling up a bit off the top. It does seem to lower the action just slightly...which causes the G and A string to buzz just slightly when fretted and I think it's affecting the intonation a tad. I'm not sure if that's easily correctable, especially as the saddle is wood. I'd probably need to have the bridge removed and re-glued?

Would it be a total abomination if I routed out the saddle and replaced it with bone? Would it destroy the instrument's resale value?

strumsilly
08-07-2012, 10:51 AM
before I went through the trouble to modify the bridge, I'd put a little piece of plastic or cardboard under the buzzing strings at the saddle to see if that is whats causing the buzzing. could be the fret has raised up or needs to be leveled. crowned frets means they have been rounded instead of being flat.