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Thread: NUD: Kamaka HF-3

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Boulder, CO!
    Posts
    380

    Default NUD: Kamaka HF-3

    Well let's start with the good stuff since that's usually why I open these threads: The album! This will be long so I figure what the heck.

    I had started a thread a couple of weeks ago (actually has it even been a week??) trying to figure out the best tenor for me to buy with some extra funds. At this point I can say that my relationship with the ukulele has matured...I had my initial honeymoon phase, butted my head up against my limitations and others' perception, kept coming back and falling away from it like I was doing with guitar, and now I find myself truly playing for myself and for my own exploration 8 years after introducing myself to the instrument.

    Last October, my fiancee and I ran off to Hawaii for five days because I had never been and we rather spontaneously bought the tickets months in advance. Money was tight, but our AirBnB in Waikiki was super cheap and we only really spent any money on food, which freed me up from any real dreaming of walking away from the trip with a Hawaiian-built uke. It just wasn't going to happen. But that didn't stop me from stopping by every uke shop I could find (not really focusing on factory tours because I didn't want to have a schedule) and playing some of the most beautiful ukes I've ever encountered...DeVines, custom Kamakas, black label KoAlohas...I even got to play a couple of Ohta-san's actual ukuleles! I can't remember his name embarrassingly, but I think it's Taylor? The owner at the Ukulele Store in Waikiki was a super great guy and had a really awesome collection for sale and on display. A bunch of his staff used to work for KoAloha, too.

    I played all the four K-brands there and at HMS in Haleiwa (we missed the Waikiki opening by about two weeks), focusing on tenor and baritone as I built a long-term wish list. I narrowed things down pretty quickly: Ko'olau are beautiful but none of them sang to me, they felt overbuilt and not substantially different from the Pono Koa tenor I used to own that I never fully bonded with. Kanilea are probably the best-looking stock ukes out of the four IMO, but the tenor sounded a bit tinny to my ear while the baritone was fantastic. KoAloha and Kamaka tenors were my favorite overall.

    Since I got back from Hawaii I get the itch to play uke more often, and right around the holiday season last year my fiancee got me my Ohana tenor to stoke the flames a bit further. When the time came to make a choice, the KoAloha near me didn't particularly speak to me, while this Kamaka stood out to me because I haven't generally enjoyed Kamaka's in the past and I genuinely enjoyed this one so much more than I remember the others.

    When I went back on Friday for a little session with the Kamaka, I noticed that the date stamped inside the uke was the day we landed on Oahu, which sealed the deal. See, the story is worth it right? This tenor was being built while we were experiencing the island for the first time, the factory about a half mile away from our AirBnB, and we came back together six months later here in Denver.

    As far as a review goes, what can I say: it is a pristine instrument. The tone is sophisticated and full, even with the strings on it that I don't like (I have Worth's on order), and the balance is perfect at the heel with a very large but light uke body balanced by the chunky neck. The Koa is totally my style -- I always dig a skunk stripe look and there is a ton of subtle flame that's really brought out by sunlight.

    Most importantly, there is an immediate bond developing with this uke. I've owned plenty of ukes I've not quite bonded to, and I'm happy to jam away on them but I really needed this uke purchase to check all the boxes and fulfill the dream so I don't have to question the quality of the instrument. I am happy to invest in good guitars and good ukes, but to me this is a once-in-a-lifetime level of investment and I needed this uke to reach that height for me.

    It'd be hyperbolic to say that over the weekend I took leaps and bounds forward because of this instrument, but it was interesting to chip away at things I've been working on without the limitations I've had with my other ukes. I'm really excited to see what I can pick up over the next few months, and I'm also excited to teach my partner to play the other tenor in the months leading up to our wedding date so we can jam with our friends! We're already planning the trip to Oahu for our honeymoon, so we'll make sure the Kamaka tour is added to the list now that we have a fun story to tell.
    -Ben

    Kamaka HF-3 Tenor
    1928 Harmony Johnny Marvin
    Ohana TK-39
    c. 1970's Hikare Baritone
    Gretsch G9100
    Outdoor Ukulele Soprano #43


    Videos

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Reno NV/ Peoria AZ
    Posts
    243

    Default

    Beautiful ukulele! May it bring you countless hours of joy
    Richard from Reno
    soprano and concert guy

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Posts
    517

    Default

    Congrats on your new uke. Your fiancé certainly is a terrible enabler to encourage you to spend your first time on the island in uke stores instead of on the beach or many of the other places worthwhile visiting. I hope you will take a much longer visit for your honeymoon.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Boulder, CO!
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    380

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    Quote Originally Posted by merlin666 View Post
    Congrats on your new uke. Your fiancé certainly is a terrible enabler to encourage you to spend your first time on the island in uke stores instead of on the beach or many of the other places worthwhile visiting. I hope you will take a much longer visit for your honeymoon.
    Haha, don't get me wrong -- most of our time was spent on the beach and eating and drinking and enjoying the weather! So that's what we're going back for -- but yes, an awful enabler who keeps me honest by asking me to play often! Can't ask for more than that!
    -Ben

    Kamaka HF-3 Tenor
    1928 Harmony Johnny Marvin
    Ohana TK-39
    c. 1970's Hikare Baritone
    Gretsch G9100
    Outdoor Ukulele Soprano #43


    Videos

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA
    Posts
    1,314

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    Congratulations on the uke and the story. It's a fine instrument.

    Also on your partner/fiancé.

    Both seem to be exactly right for you.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    714

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    Welcome to the family. I have a HF-3L and it is amazing how quickly three hours can pass with these tenors. I think you'll enjoy it once your Worths arrive. Those cumbersome D'Addario strings weren't my cup of tea.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
    Posts
    485

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    Beautiful pics taken with great flairs, I can’t help but took the liberty to link your image here. Please let me know if you want me to remove the link.

    And I didn’t know the tuning buttons are koa instead of plastic. Very nice.
    Kamaka HF-1 || Martin S-1 Uke || Eddy Finn EFTS-20-S || Kala KA-SLNG || Martin C1K Uke || Enya EUT-M6E
    Check out my ukulele themed paintings in UU forum thread

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA
    Posts
    1,314

    Default

    I believe the tuning buttons on my HF-3 are snakewood. I bought it at the end of 2017 from HMS.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Pensacola, Florida
    Posts
    956

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    Great story and a good looking instrument. It is nice that you were able to play and compare all the K brands and make an informed decision. Happy Uking.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Boulder, CO!
    Posts
    380

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    Quote Originally Posted by AustinHing View Post

    Beautiful pics taken with great flairs, I can’t help but took the liberty to link your image here. Please let me know if you want me to remove the link.

    And I didn’t know the tuning buttons are koa instead of plastic. Very nice.
    Hey no worries, I forgot how to post them in the post anyways! They look so much like Koa but I think they might be Snakewood as someone else said. I love the feel of them though, and they look a lot better than the old MOP ones they used to have IMO.
    -Ben

    Kamaka HF-3 Tenor
    1928 Harmony Johnny Marvin
    Ohana TK-39
    c. 1970's Hikare Baritone
    Gretsch G9100
    Outdoor Ukulele Soprano #43


    Videos

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