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View Full Version : Our visit to Ko'olau/Pono (and maybe HMS too)!



erios999
12-23-2012, 02:03 PM
Well folks, where do I start? For a good part of the year my girlfriend and I had been planning a trip to Oahu. Her first time and my third. Ever since my first visit to the islands in 2010 I've never shut up about it. For lack of a better word, it moved my soul and I was convinced it would move hers. It did by the way :). We landed December 7th at around 11:30am. We picked up the rental and headed to Waikiki for lunch. I took her to Pua Pua Ukulele to show here where I first strummed an uke during a free lesson for the tourists. After that it was straight to Waiawa to Ko'olau/Pono to visit the shop.

We pulled into a pretty nondescript, little industrial park where you could hear roosters crowing in the background. This is where it all goes down. Really not much to look at from the outside and not set up to take customers. We walked up and told the first person who noticed us that we heard we could buy ukes there. Braddah's name was Danny and he was an awesomely nice person. He took us upstairs past, a guy setting up some clamps and some other guys maybe doing finishing work. He probably spent an hour or more with us. Not the slightest hint of impatience. He helped us discover what would be the best instruments for us as we were really overwhelmed. He went through all the differences of the ukes, would tune everything and then hand it right over. It was too much for us amateurs to take! This room full of ukes is also where a lot of the Hawaii Music Supply videos are done. You'll be able to tell in the pictures. In the end my girlfriend picked up an MT and I got the MTD8. John Kitakis who was also very friendly, told me that the 8 string is the uke he brings home every day. He said he loves the harmonics.

I've probably rambled more than you care to read. I have to say big, big mahalos to Danny for his patience and kindness! We wanted to take a picture with him and John but we were trying not to creep them out. Still wish we did though. Hawaii is a beautiful place but it's the people that make it special.

-Rick

P.S.: We visited Hawaii Music Supply in Haleiwa too and they were just as awesome. Maybe I'll share that visit in this post too.

46671 46672 466734667446675

erios999
12-23-2012, 02:06 PM
Just a few more pics. Please let me know if I'm committing any faux pas.

46676466774667846679

LifesShort
12-23-2012, 03:06 PM
That's so cool. I enjoyed reading your post, especially since I am getting a new Pono for Christmas. Very envious!

Depthy
12-23-2012, 03:10 PM
Sounds like a fun trip! congrats. Just curious, how different is the MTD from the MT?

coolkayaker1
12-23-2012, 03:23 PM
Extremely interesting. So, they do take people right off the street, or was this an exception for your and your sig. other, e?

erios999
12-23-2012, 03:23 PM
Sounds like a fun trip! congrats. Just curious, how different is the MTD from the MT?

It was very fun Depthy and thank you! :) As far as I understand, the MTD is the gloss (Deluxe) version of the MT. Getting to hear both of them in person showed me that there was the slightest hint of muting with the gloss finish. It seemed like the satin finish rang more and longer. Of course, I could be imagining.

-Rick

erios999
12-23-2012, 03:25 PM
That's so cool. I enjoyed reading your post, especially since I am getting a new Pono for Christmas. Very envious!

Thank you! :) Looking forward to hearing about your new Pono as soon as you can share!

-Rick

erios999
12-23-2012, 03:31 PM
Extremely interesting. So, they do take people right off the street, or was this an exception for your and your sig. other, e?

Initially I was unsure but I was browsing the Oahu Craigslist one day and noticed a pretty basic ad for ukes up in Waiawa at what just happened to be the same address as Ko'olau's.

Edit: Found the post! honolulu.craigslist.org/oah/msd/3438361713.html (hope it's ok to link it)

Craig
12-23-2012, 03:43 PM
The last time my wife, Cali, and I visited John, Noa's and Andrew's shop, I ordered my first Ko'olau! I'll have to leave my credit card at home the next time we visit!...;)

BlueLatitude
12-23-2012, 04:46 PM
More pictures please!!!

kvehe
12-23-2012, 10:25 PM
Great story! Thanks! Any more pix? I'd been wondering what you chose, since I remembered that you'd be there on 12/07.

uke42
12-23-2012, 10:29 PM
Did you happen to notice if they where going to be open on the 24th or 26th? I'm on vacation visiting my sister who's house is about 5 minutes away from Wahiawa. I've already been to HMS twice and also visited the Kanile'a factory. I've already bought two Pono's thru Ko'olaus ebay website. I'm curious as to what other seconds they have and maybe get a price quote on a custom Ko'olau Tenor.

devvyleys
12-24-2012, 01:27 AM
Wow, all this great talk about your visit and Pono ukes in general make me wish I'd given a second thought to getting a Pono MT when I had the chance recently to get one at a fantastic price. But some self-control was in order then...

coolkayaker1
12-24-2012, 01:42 AM
The last time my wife, Cali, and I visited John, Noa's and Andrew's shop, I ordered my first Ko'olau! I'll have to leave my credit card at home the next time we visit!...;)

You, Craig, are one of the few that truly does service to a Ko"olau with your playing. It's okay to own them...you can bring your credit card. lol

erios999
12-24-2012, 09:40 AM
More pictures please!!!

Heh, heh sure, but of what? I can take more pics of the ukes but I think I only have maybe two more of the Ko'olau shop.

erios999
12-24-2012, 09:46 AM
Great story! Thanks! Any more pix? I'd been wondering what you chose, since I remembered that you'd be there on 12/07.

Thank you :). I have a couple more pics of the shop I think and I can take all the pics you'd like of the ukes. I picked up an MTD8, 8-string, mahogany, gloss, tenor and my girlfriend picked up the MT, mahogany, tenor with the satin finish.

erios999
12-24-2012, 09:51 AM
Did you happen to notice if they where going to be open on the 24th or 26th? I'm on vacation visiting my sister who's house is about 5 minutes away from Wahiawa. I've already been to HMS twice and also visited the Kanile'a factory. I've already bought two Pono's thru Ko'olaus ebay website. I'm curious as to what other seconds they have and maybe get a price quote on a custom Ko'olau Tenor.

Not sure about their holiday schedule. I'd give them a call. They are really nice folks. I remember a lot of baritones and tenors. There were a few concerts and fewer sopranos. I'm working off of memory here so take that with a few tons of salt. Actually, you should be able to see in the pictures. Whatever was on the wall (that was Pono) was available. I think I have one more pic that showed what was on the wall. I'll put that up in a few.

-Rick

erios999
12-24-2012, 09:55 AM
Wow, all this great talk about your visit and Pono ukes in general make me wish I'd given a second thought to getting a Pono MT when I had the chance recently to get one at a fantastic price. But some self-control was in order then...

I tell you what buddy, I was so jealous of my gf when she got that MT on discount (the only one available) that I bought one yesterday on Craigslist that happened to show up here in Phoenix! It's a joy to play and listen to.

-Rick

Steedy
12-24-2012, 10:05 AM
Awesome report, but now we need pics from your visit to HMS please. :cool:

mds725
12-24-2012, 01:22 PM
Thanks for the report. I have a two Ponos -- a mahogany baritone and a six-string mahogany tenor that was a blemished/refurbished uke sold by Ko'olau on eBay. Love them both, and always wanted to stop in on the Ko'olau/Pono factory. Thanks for the pics and congratulations on your new ukuleles!

Plainsong
12-24-2012, 01:43 PM
The only faux pas is not having a ton of more pics from the factory. I remember back in the day when you couldn't get Oahu cases. They were only under the Ko'olau name then, and you could only get one easily by getting a Pono or Ko'olau. Anyway, I really really wanted one of their cases for my uke, and John answered the email and was happy to send it all the way here to Finland. Ever since then they've been tops in my book.

The only Pono I didn't much care for was sold to me new from an online store that doesn't exist anymore in Germany. It wreaked of smoke and no amount of airing out could kill it. It's like he forced the Pono specifically to chain smoke. Anyway, not the instrument's fault at all, and that shop doesn't exist anymore anyway. They have comfy necks, to me anyway. Enjoy the 8 strings!

Trinimon
12-25-2012, 04:43 AM
Awesome! Looks like you guys had fun.

marclin723
12-25-2012, 10:17 PM
Sounds like a fun trip! congrats. Just curious, how different is the MTD from the MT?

MT: stain finish, rosewood fingerboard & bridge, open gear tuners
MTD: gloss finish, ebony fingerboard & bridge, closed gear tuners

uke42
12-26-2012, 07:15 AM
I went to Ko'olau on the 24th. They still had a great selection of blemished Ponos on the wall. Very tempting especially the RTSH 5 cedar top that was under $600. I resisted ;) I went mostly to talk with them about a custom Ko'olau and was lucky to speak with Noa. He graciously spent a few minutes describing the different woods and which ones would fit my taste. He also showed me a beautiful finger board that had koi fish inlay. Someones going to have a very special custom uke with that finger board. I wish I had taken pictures of it. Now comes the hard part. What woods will I use for my custom tenor and how will it look. I've decided that it will be a spruce top, most likely bear claw, with ebony face plate, finger board, bridge, and binding. But I haven't decided what wood to use for the back and sides or if it will have a standard or slotted head stock. I can't decide whether to use koa, myrtle, walnut, or rosewood. Leaning toward koa.

hawaii 50
12-26-2012, 07:25 AM
I went to Ko'olau on the 24th. They still had a great selection of blemished Ponos on the wall. Very tempting especially the RTSH 5 cedar top that was under $600. I resisted ;) I went mostly to talk with them about a custom Ko'olau and was lucky to speak with Noa. He graciously spent a few minutes describing the different woods and which ones would fit my taste. He also showed me a beautiful finger board that had koi fish inlay. Someones going to have a very special custom uke with that finger board. I wish I had taken pictures of it. Now comes the hard part. What woods will I use for my custom tenor and how will it look. I've decided that it will be a spruce top, most likely bear claw, with ebony face plate, finger board, bridge, and binding. But I haven't decided what wood to use for the back and sides or if it will have a standard or slotted head stock. I can't decide whether to use koa, myrtle, walnut, or rosewood. Leaning toward koa.


Aloha R glad you made it to Wahiawa..still raining? pouring like cats and dogs here..

adirondack spruce? i think blonde 4A Koa would look real good..that fretboard you saw with the Koi..i think Ko'olau uses Larry Robinson for their inlay work..he is in Northern Calif..check out his designs on his Facebook..Robinson Custom Inlays..the guy does all the top Uke and Guitar makers..

Gyosh's inlay done by him for his CR
take care tell everyone i said hello..

bildio
12-26-2012, 07:31 AM
Interesting reading. Thanks for sharing your experience.

How do you like the 8 string uke?

Craig
12-26-2012, 11:25 AM
I've decided that it will be a spruce top, most likely bear claw, with ebony face plate, finger board, bridge, and binding. But I haven't decided what wood to use for the back and sides or if it will have a standard or slotted head stock. I can't decide whether to use koa, myrtle, walnut, or rosewood. Leaning toward koa.

Here's a pic of Cali's Ko'olau with Koa, Spruce and maple binding:46751

connor013
12-26-2012, 11:56 AM
Oh, man!

That must have been an awesome hangout. Thanks for sharing.

Ko'olau is my number one dream uke. (For now I'll live loving my Pono.)

erios999
12-26-2012, 01:20 PM
Ok, it looks like I only have one more pic of the shop.

46753

erios999
12-26-2012, 01:21 PM
Thanks for the report. I have a two Ponos -- a mahogany baritone and a six-string mahogany tenor that was a blemished/refurbished uke sold by Ko'olau on eBay. Love them both, and always wanted to stop in on the Ko'olau/Pono factory. Thanks for the pics and congratulations on your new ukuleles!

Thank you kindly!

erios999
12-26-2012, 01:25 PM
I went to Ko'olau on the 24th. They still had a great selection of blemished Ponos on the wall. Very tempting especially the RTSH 5 cedar top that was under $600. I resisted ;) I went mostly to talk with them about a custom Ko'olau and was lucky to speak with Noa. He graciously spent a few minutes describing the different woods and which ones would fit my taste. He also showed me a beautiful finger board that had koi fish inlay. Someones going to have a very special custom uke with that finger board. I wish I had taken pictures of it. Now comes the hard part. What woods will I use for my custom tenor and how will it look. I've decided that it will be a spruce top, most likely bear claw, with ebony face plate, finger board, bridge, and binding. But I haven't decided what wood to use for the back and sides or if it will have a standard or slotted head stock. I can't decide whether to use koa, myrtle, walnut, or rosewood. Leaning toward koa.

Hmmm... decisions, decisions.

-Rick

erios999
12-26-2012, 01:33 PM
Interesting reading. Thanks for sharing your experience.

How do you like the 8 string uke?

Hey there Bill,

I really love the sound, the harmonics. It's much more dramatic to listen to. On the other hand, it has caused me to appreciate the simple, beautiful innocence of a 4-string uke. There's something that moves one when listening to a passionate voice and just enough of an instrument to back them up. Being new, my fret hand is weak and it takes a lot of force to get all those strings down. I'm forcing myself to take days off from playing to give my hand time to get stronger.