Need some guidance with vintage Kamaka

NAFIGATOR

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Hello Ladies and Gentlemen.
I need some help, please. I just purchased a vintage Kamaka ukulele in need of restoration. It is from '50s based on my research. It needs some work which I am pretty confident I can do. But it also needs replacement tuners. Please see an image in the attachment. Two of the tuners are broken. The other two don't look too promising either with all the rust you can see on the screws. I don't have a uke in my possession yet, but I am pretty sure all four better be replaced. I'd like to locate original vintage tuners for this instrument. Second choice would be a contemporary replacements that look as close as possible to original. Would you have any recommendations for me? Thank you in advance.

ED.
 

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ghostrdr

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looks like waverly or grover tuners to me... good luck - sounds like a fun project
 

man0a

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My mom broke one of the tuners on her old 1960s vintage Kamaka. She went to the factory and they offered to sell her either friction tuners similar to the originals or planetary tuners similar to what Kamaka now uses on their soprano ukuleles. The Kamaka people say that UPT tuners are the most popular choice for repairs like this. If you talk to them by phone, have your ukulele handy as they will need to know how thick is the headstock etc to pick the right replacements for you.
 

Kenn2018

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Ask the folks at Kamaka if they have replacement tuners, and if not what they would recommend.

If they can't help you, then get the best quality friction tuners you can find. Such as Waverly or Gotoh. I think StewMac sells both brands.

Personally, I do not like friction tuners. They are a PIA to use for fine tuning. Those look like they are friction tuners. In which case, I would suggest that if you are going to replace the tuners anyway, get Planetary tuners. Either Gotoh or PegHed. You'll have to enlarge the holes with a reamer. But they are much smoother and easier to use. There have been several threads about replacing friction tuners with UPTs on the Forum over the years, so do a search. MyaMoe used to have a video or two about mounting PegHed tuners. And I think Joel at TUS/HMS has a vid on mounting Gotoh UPT tuners.

Good luck.
 

donboody

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Ask the folks at Kamaka if they have replacement tuners, and if not what they would recommend.

If they can't help you, then get the best quality friction tuners you can find. Such as Waverly or Gotoh. I think StewMac sells both brands.

Personally, I do not like friction tuners. They are a PIA to use for fine tuning. Those look like they are friction tuners. In which case, I would suggest that if you are going to replace the tuners anyway, get Planetary tuners. Either Gotoh or PegHed. You'll have to enlarge the holes with a reamer. But they are much smoother and easier to use. There have been several threads about replacing friction tuners with UPTs on the Forum over the years, so do a search. MyaMoe used to have a video or two about mounting PegHed tuners. And I think Joel at TUS/HMS has a vid on mounting Gotoh UPT tuners.

Good luck.
Ya know, I mean this with all due respect, and I understand that there is a huge possibility I just do not possess the experience to ascertain the nuances, but I have had 8 ukuleles and I have never once considered that I may need to upgrade the tuners. Obviously this uke is in dire straits and needs new tuners. But I’ve honestly never been playing one of my ukes and thought to myself “these tuners need to be upgraded.” How do you tell?
 

merlin666

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You can look for used tuners to keep it vintage,but if you want to use new ones the Kamaka friction tuners will be best choice for vintage look For easier tuning performance if you intend to play it a lot get the Kamaka UPT replacements.
 

badhabits

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I wonder if UPTs can be installed w/o hanging over the edge of the headstock...to me the holes look farther over, more outboard, compared to more modern tuners and it looks to have a rounded edge
 
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John Colter

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The tuners on your Kamaka may (or may not) be the original fitments but they are very similar to the cheapest type of friction tuners that are commonly available. They were fitted to the painted 'Mahalo' sopranos and the like. They work perfectly well.
Cheap friction tuners - 15-05-2022.JPG
 

merlin666

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In the factory they told me that their UPTs are designed for replacement of old ones so should be right fit.
 

NAFIGATOR

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Thanks everyone for a lot of useful information!
I am a believer in keeping vintage instruments as original as possible thus hoping to find original used or NOS tuners. As far as precision of tuning I am not very concern. I have 1920's Martin Soprano with original wooden pegs and it tunes just fine - close enough to full around 5 minutes a day. I don't intend to use these ukes for serious performances. For that I have a contemporary tenor with build-in electronics.

So I guess I will ask one last question... Is there a specific brand/model of fairly inexpensive tuners that will fit this Kamaka without modifying the holes? I would buy it to use temporary while continue hunting for original ones. Thanks.
 

gustophersmob

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They are almost certainly a small diameter shaft (somewhere between 1/8”-9/64”). Having just gone through this with a Gibson soprano, as near as I can find there are no modern drop in replacements. Even the most simple, no-name Chinese brand you can find on eBay for $5 a set use a press fit ferrule which would require a large hole. Even the shafts on these cheapies are a larger diameter. No matter what, you’ll be enlarging the holes.

I personally went with gotoh friction pegs (I also don’t mind friction pegs) as they seem to be some of the highest quality for a reasonable price (at least in US Amazon).

the biggest challenge is how close do you want it to look? All modern tuners also have larger buttons, so the shafts and buttons (and usually the ferrules) are visually more prominent. The only way I know around this is to try to find a vintage set on reverb or eBay, or a cheap vintage uke to steal the pegs off of.

Another consideration is weight. On my vintage Martin concert, I’d be ok upgrading the Grover champion pegs with gotoh upts because the weigh is similar. But on a small, lightly built soprano that weight difference will be noticeable.

pics on the gotohs on my Gibson soprano

E354620E-F7E9-494F-A443-B59CE2C2F07A.jpegF374C431-0AE6-4882-8A69-0EA7C04A9F0F.jpeg
 

gustophersmob

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They are almost certainly a small diameter shaft (somewhere between 1/8”-9/64”). Having just gone through this with a Gibson soprano, as near as I can find there are no modern drop in replacements. Even the most simple, no-name Chinese brand you can find on eBay for $5 a set use a press fit ferrule which would require a large hole. Even the shafts on these cheapies are a larger diameter. No matter what, you’ll be enlarging the holes.

I personally went with gotoh friction pegs (I also don’t mind friction pegs) as they seem to be some of the highest quality for a reasonable price (at least in US Amazon).

the biggest challenge is how close do you want it to look? All modern tuners also have larger buttons, so the shafts and buttons (and usually the ferrules) are visually more prominent. The only way I know around this is to try to find a vintage set on reverb or eBay, or a cheap vintage uke to steal the pegs off of.

Another consideration is weight. On my vintage Martin concert, I’d be ok upgrading the Grover champion pegs with gotoh upts because the weigh is similar. But on a small, lightly built soprano that weight difference will be noticeable.

pics on the gotohs on my Gibson soprano

View attachment 140669View attachment 140670
To add some clarity: a lot of these old vintage pegs bear against small flat washers on both faces of the headstock. Most all modern (with the exception of some cheap no-name ones) use press fit ferrules which need a bigger hole, or some kind of tapered ferrule which requires a beveled countersink (the cheap Grovers are this style).

I was originally hoping to find a moder set with a small shaft diameter that I could use with the existing washers, but couldn’t find any.
 

Paul1973UK

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Have a look on ebay for 'used' tuners and you might find some that are 'age appropriate' ? I imagine there should be some in the U.S.
I know I'm in England but i've managed to find a few sets of 1/8" & 3/16" shaft size that are suitable to replace damaged tuners on the vintage banjoleles that i've restored, and they have been cheaper than the cheapest 'new' ones available.
 

badhabits

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"Lucy's vintage tuners" on ebay look the part (round not hex fitting), but still require installing a ferrule/bushing
 

Neil_O

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Ya know, I mean this with all due respect, and I understand that there is a huge possibility I just do not possess the experience to ascertain the nuances, but I have had 8 ukuleles and I have never once considered that I may need to upgrade the tuners. Obviously this uke is in dire straits and needs new tuners. But I’ve honestly never been playing one of my ukes and thought to myself “these tuners need to be upgraded.” How do you tell?
My best tuners stay in tune for weeks or longer. My worst tuners need retuning after five minutes. Those are the ones I feel I need to replace.
 

man0a

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My best tuners stay in tune for weeks or longer. My worst tuners need retuning after five minutes. Those are the ones I feel I need to replace.
I heard (on the YouTube channel owned by the owners of this forum) that if your strings don't need to be retuned regularly, they are probably worn out.
 

merlin666

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I heard (on the YouTube channel owned by the owners of this forum) that if your strings don't need to be retuned regularly, they are probably worn out.
Probably depends on what regularly means... If it is minutes or days. On ukes with new tuners for me it is days, while my white label Kamaka with corroded friction tuners needs adjustment every hour or so. I notice worn strings when they break or the winding unravels.
 

Ukecaster

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These nexpensive Ping tuners worked fine on my vintage gold label Kamaka soprano, when the original tuner buttons crumbled. My Kamaka also had very small tuner post holes. The Pings were the only ones I found with posts small enough to fit without mods. I reused the original metal washers on the headstock face, instead of bushings, which would have required drilling.