View Full Version : Kamaka help

03-10-2014, 07:02 PM
Got this Kamaka soprano gold label (Hawaiian handmade) uke from my aunt, who passed last year. She was a world traveler, and got this on her visits there in 50s/60s. Came in original canvas case pictured. Bridge needs to be re-glued, and there is a nasty top crack in treble side of the top, as well as a small seam sep between soundhole and fingerboard. I'm assuming it is worth fixing, and I'm considering that now, would like to keep in the family, I play guitar.

A few questions 1) when I played it a few years ago, I remember the tuners really sucking, do you folks typically retain these for vintage value, and work with these somehow, or replace them, if so, with what? 2) Is this a decent uke, or piece of tourist trash? It's a teeney weeney little thing, and light as a feather, compared to even a mando. 3) All the pics I see of gold label sopranos show the fingerboard either flush to body, or with a diagonal ended fingerboard extension. This one has a fancy, handcarved fingerboard extension, what's the story behind that, and are there less of this particular design around? Thanks all for any help.

03-10-2014, 08:23 PM
The tuners can usually be adjusted to work very well. They won't ever work like geared guitar tuners because they are not meant to work like those, but can work very well.

The end of the fretboard is one of the permutations Kamaka used, not exceedingly rare. You can send it to Kamaka for repairs, they do a great job and usually charge a very fair price, but you have to pay shipping. However, prepare to wait about a year for repairs from Kamaka.

Should be a great playing uke if you get it back together.

03-10-2014, 08:59 PM
I agree with RyanMFT, call Kamaka. I have a Gold Label pineapple that they repaired for me a couple of years ago that was in much worse shape than yours, and it was quite reasonable. They originally said it would take 6 months to a year to do it but I had it back in about 3 months.

03-11-2014, 05:03 AM
^what those guys said^

03-11-2014, 05:38 AM
I had a Kamaka Tiki repaired by them a few years ago. As long as all the bracing is still there is should be a easy fix. As already said, it may take over 8 months but you should have a real nice uke once done

Good luck

03-11-2014, 06:10 AM
Definitely not tourist trash.

But if you don't want to put the money into having it repaired and keeping it, I'm sure that there are a lot of folks here on UU who would be more than willing to take it off of your hands.


03-11-2014, 06:34 AM
If it's an oddball, I'd mail those pics to Kamaka. They are usually pretty good about responding to questions about their vintage ukes.. MMStan would probably know.


mm stan
03-11-2014, 07:29 PM
Aloha John,
Nice vintage kamaka Circa late fifties or mid late fifties...Check my gold label mid fifties in my avatar... I do have a gold label like yours too
with the low crown and wooden nut....flat behind the nut of the neck... As for tuners, you got to get used to them, they were like that from the factory
you can try to tighten the knob screws.. Some may say keep it original as possible to not devalue it.. but if you want it playable, kamaka has replacements that
are not original and may work better...Yes you have a fine hair line crack going with the grain, any exxperience luther can fix is easy and glueing the bridge on
if you can wait and in no hurry, send it to kamaka...they are much faster than it was before with a year wait time...I like oasis strings on my gold labels...
You can tell it's a fifties with the smaller soundhole or around there. your question if this a decent uke, it was probally the best next to martin back then, you
cant get any better in that time period and certainly worth keeping and fixing..I don't know where you live, you will have to buy a humidifier to keep it from cracking
more..the fingerboard extension was mainly added as decortive, I have not seen one like that before...usually 50's kamaka sopranos end at the body. I think your
kamaka is in very fine condition and may not need a refinish, but after fixing the crack it will look alot better. Your uke is worth fixed about 450 -500 with the crack fixed professionally by kamaka
and kamaka will probally charge 200 or so without a refinish...Good Luck and contact them for actual repair prices and charges..

03-13-2014, 06:54 AM
Cool, thanks a lot to all, looking forward to getting this one back into playing condition. In addition to guitar, I play a little bit of mando too, so the small size of a soprano uke won't be too daunting, I'll just need to learn some uke chords, and hit the woodshed.

02-27-2017, 06:49 PM
Hey, only took 3 years, but I got the cracks fixed, bridge reglued and a setup by a luthier I know in FL. Letting the strings settle in a day or two, and hope I can get the tuners to work acceptably. They were disassembled, cleaned and lubed, so we'll see. New HS case too. Should be fun to play this at the summer house, and WAY more convenient than trying to jam a full size dread guitar in the back of the Jeep for traveling. Now to learn some uke!


02-27-2017, 06:51 PM


02-28-2017, 12:02 AM
Now that's a follow up haha. Big congrats, it looks great! I'm sure you will love learning to play it.

02-28-2017, 01:48 AM
John, that's a great looking Kamaka! And what a nice memento of your aunt. You did the right thing.

Happy playing, and let us know how you're getting on with it.

02-28-2017, 03:45 AM
Congratulations, you did the right thing, it is a beautiful instrument with great looking Koa. As a guitar player you may or may not know that George Harrison was a huge ukulele fan and loved Kamakas. Legend has it while in LA he would buy a bunch of Kamakas and give them out to friends so they could jam together.

Your aunt would be proud.

02-28-2017, 04:13 AM
Thats a easy fix. fixed a gold label with the same problem for a friend a few months ago. it had a great sound

Maiden Uke
02-28-2017, 04:39 AM
Great story. Glad that you followed up with it!

02-28-2017, 05:53 AM
Thanks all. Gonna be a fun journey. I go to Marthas Vineyard in summer, and the local Arts center has weekly uke jams/workshops and an annual uke festival, so I'll be checking those out for sure. https://vimeo.com/141787871

02-28-2017, 06:23 AM
Looking good!

02-28-2017, 06:56 AM
Boy, that turned out great. It should be a joy to play. Beautiful wood grain.