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Thread: Ko'olau/Pono Factory Tour

  1. #1

    Cool Ko'olau/Pono Factory Tour

    On a recent trip to Oahu, I was able to tour the Ko'olau/Pono Ukulele factory. Here are some pictures I took for anyone interested.

    Hope you enjoy!

    Ko’olau company makes both Ko’olau and Pono ukuleles.
    * Ko’olau brand ukes are all custom made-to-order in Hawaii
    * Pono brand ukes are the Ko’olau production line. They are handmade in Java and then final setup is done in Hawaii

    This is Danny (our tour guide). Danny does the inspection and final setup of all Pono ukuleles.

    If you have a Pono uke, then odds are that it passed through his hands.
    He is a super cool guy!

    These are the plans for a custom, bow back and front ukulele. The designer has planned out the overall shape and bracing locations.
    The sound holes on this uke are designed like those on a mandolin

    This is a bending gig for creating the “figure 8” sides of a ukulele.

    The wood (in this case Koa) is cut and sanded to the desired thickness. Then they wet it and place it on the gig.
    Pressure is applied and the wood takes on the shape of the template.
    The wood stays in the gig for about 24 hours.

    These are bracing gigs. The bent sides are placed in the gigs to be glued together, and for installation of the bindings and side braces.
    The gig on the left is a for a “Pineapple” style ukulele.
    The one on the right is a traditional “figure 8” style.
    Last edited by tw62862; 05-16-2015 at 11:51 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2014


    That would be a fun visit. Here is a closeup of my Ko'olau tenor tuned high G from the factory:

    There are two signatures on the inside labe.l One is Noa Bonk, and I can't read the other one. Did you get to meet Noa?

    Ukuleles: yes, three.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Southern Oregon


    Quote Originally Posted by tw62862 View Post
    On a recent trip to Oahu, I was able to tour the Ko'olau/Pono Ukulele factory. Here are some pictures I took for anyone interested.

    Hope you enjoy!
    What just happened to the pics?

  4. #4


    Another view showing the internal braces installed.

    Backs and tops with braces (the light colored sticks). They are glued in place and then shaped.
    When ready, the top and back are glued to the sides using the bracing gigs.

    This is a Koa top with an abalone inlay around the sound hole.
    The inlay is done by routing out a channel and then placing small abalone pieces in it. The abalone pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

  5. #5


    This is Noa, installing binding.
    Binding is decorative and also adds strength to the joint between the top/side and back/side.

    This is a supply of necks and heads that have been shaped on a lathe.

    A close up of a head/neck assembly prior to fret board install

    Fret board being installed

  6. #6


    Fret board work and tools.

    Finishing is done by applying coats of sealer and varnish, and then sanding. The process is repeated over-and-over until the desired look is accomplished.

    Here is an example of how the beautiful grain of the Koa wood comes out after several layers of gloss.
    The black stripes on the edges is an example of the binding.

  7. #7


    This is a beautiful custom ukulele made for a customer in Taiwan. The inlay on the fret board is amazing.
    Even though this ukulele will likely be hung up as an art piece…it was built so that it can be played and sounds beautiful.

    Close up of the amazing inlay on this custom uke.

    Upstairs are the main offices, and the demo room. If you’ve ever seen a video of a Ko’olau or Pono being demonstrated by a famous ukulele player, this room is most likely where they filmed it.
    It is also where they keep the Pono “blems”. These are ukes that have minor cosmetic flaws. They are offered for a substantial discount (well over 50% off) over retail
    We looked at over a dozen of them. In each case, the cosmetic flaw was so minor that Danny had to point it out to us.

    The tour is free...kind of
    All purchases are optional...but who can resist, right?

    Here I am...the proud owner of a new Pono Tenor Mango Pineapple

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2014


    Very nice! You must have changed your original post and added commentary. Since you have a picture of Noa, I assume youo did get to meet him then. That would be interesting! That last picture of the Koa grain is really, really nice.

    That is definitely the way to go, if you can: buy it right at the factory. Congrats on the new Pono tenor.

    Ukuleles: yes, three.

  9. #9


    Me and my new baby. I love the pineapple shape.
    I feel like the extra surface area on the sound board gives it very mellow sound.
    I have the same uke (Pono mango tenor) in the traditional "figure 8" shape.
    Even with the same strings, the two sound very different.

    The pineapple has a deep rich tone. I really like it with a low-G

    That's it...hope you all enjoyed it.

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by Icelander53 View Post
    What just happened to the pics?
    Sorry...I realized I could attach them inline with comments. My edit must have happened while you were reading

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