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Thread: NUD - *rough* 1930’s Kamaka historic mahogany pineapple

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
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    Sacramento, CA
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    119

    Default NUD - *rough* 1930’s Kamaka historic mahogany pineapple

    Despite some poor eBay strategy I lucked out by ending up with this 90 year old uke for about $200. It’s rough but it’s a pineapple and it’s cool to think that maybe Sam Kamaka himself made it.

    Here is a YouTube sound sample

    So now I have to figure out what to do with this “Historic Mahogany Pineapple (30's)” described here (minus the painted pineapple) Kamaka Historic ukulele

    Right now the uke doesn’t sound good at all. Feels fragile, the wooden pegs don’t hold the strings in tune and it doesn’t seem to project or sustain sound very well. The frets are pretty low too. My 50+ year old gold label Kamaka holds its own when compared to my modern KoAloha. This 1930’s one? Not even close.

    So now I’m left to wonder if I should keep this as primarily a wall hanger that I strum 2-3 times per year or should I have Gotoh UPTs installed and have a luthier close and cleat the 2 cracks on the soundboard?

    What would you all do? Would I be destroying or improving this old instrument by installing modern tuners? I have plenty of other ukes to play, so maybe this would best be left as an art/story piece? Also, what strings would you vintage owners recommend (hopefully not real gut strings hahaha)?

    I would appreciate any and all thoughts on this. Uke on!

    4EF3C474-EFAA-4146-B2E1-C33D48709751.jpgEEA75A7D-1FA1-4FCA-B5F1-B763D53EDCD3.jpgD337200A-C881-489B-81E2-A164E34C4516.jpg83DA5C48-302F-425A-9B81-292E25F45C2D.jpgD521425C-181B-46D2-A4E3-BBE99D4432EA.jpg
    Last edited by Gmontema; 06-14-2019 at 01:36 AM. Reason: Strings question
    I think I have pineapple UAS

    Ukes in order of purchase
    2018: Córdoba concert 15CM, Luna soprano, Islander tenor AT-4, Iriguchi concert “Ma’Alaea” - Birdseye maple top and poplar back Aug 2018
    2019: Mahalo soprano Kahiko, KoAloha koa pineapple soprano KSM-01 (made in 2012), abused but unused gold label Kamaka koa pineapple, *rough* 1930’s Kamaka “Historic Mahogany Pineapple” with Philippine mahogany and wooden peg tuners.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Location
    Sacramento, CA
    Posts
    119

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    Here are some more pics with a side by side with my gold label

    CEA83BB4-2386-46AC-B978-CDA2206F88B3.jpg 05A1B905-2C70-4DBC-AF14-83972AF00C6E.jpg
    I think I have pineapple UAS

    Ukes in order of purchase
    2018: Córdoba concert 15CM, Luna soprano, Islander tenor AT-4, Iriguchi concert “Ma’Alaea” - Birdseye maple top and poplar back Aug 2018
    2019: Mahalo soprano Kahiko, KoAloha koa pineapple soprano KSM-01 (made in 2012), abused but unused gold label Kamaka koa pineapple, *rough* 1930’s Kamaka “Historic Mahogany Pineapple” with Philippine mahogany and wooden peg tuners.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    140

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    I'd talk to a good luthier to see if any of the playability issues can be fixed and if there's a chnace that's the case I'd get the crack fixed.

    You could also get a luthier to have a look at the tuning pegs and re-seat them or get new wooden pegs. I had an old Kumalae and I got a very good violin luthier to re-seat the wooden tuning pegs. Sure they are still as fiddly as hell but that way you preserve the uke and make it more playable.

    Edit: I just saw the video. It is pretty rough I'd still most probably take on the challenge of getting the uke more playable but that's me.
    Last edited by raffrox; 06-13-2019 at 09:37 PM.
    Soprano: Maui Music Pre-fire SK (Koa), Ohana SK-38 (Mahogany)
    Concert: Barron River (Curly Maple)
    Tenor: Pono PKT-2E (Koa)

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by raffrox View Post
    Edit: I just saw the video. It is pretty rough I'd still most probably take on the challenge of getting the uke more playable but that's me.
    Luckily I’m more into tone and playability versus minty, bling bling (although I do like to admire from afar). Wasn’t it awesome how the uke decided to go out of tune when I hit the D chord?
    I think I have pineapple UAS

    Ukes in order of purchase
    2018: Córdoba concert 15CM, Luna soprano, Islander tenor AT-4, Iriguchi concert “Ma’Alaea” - Birdseye maple top and poplar back Aug 2018
    2019: Mahalo soprano Kahiko, KoAloha koa pineapple soprano KSM-01 (made in 2012), abused but unused gold label Kamaka koa pineapple, *rough* 1930’s Kamaka “Historic Mahogany Pineapple” with Philippine mahogany and wooden peg tuners.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    140

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gmontema View Post
    Luckily I’m more into tone and playability versus minty, bling bling (although I do like to admire from afar). Wasn’t it awesome how the uke decided to go out of tune when I hit the D chord?
    I think it owul dbe great to get a well worn kamaka that looks like that singing better. Definitely some character there.

    With the old pegs on it I thought it did remarkably well
    Soprano: Maui Music Pre-fire SK (Koa), Ohana SK-38 (Mahogany)
    Concert: Barron River (Curly Maple)
    Tenor: Pono PKT-2E (Koa)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    378

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    I think you should restore it into playing condition, and there's no real dillema between originality and playability:
    - have the cleats closed
    - low frets were the norm, don't change them
    - even those pegs are quite easy to get back into working condition: rough them up with a little sand paper, but some resin on them, put them back in. It takes a little skill to use them, but once you can, you'll find it easier than heavy, cluncky planetary tuners

    The crucial bit is the action. If you can't restore that by changing bridge height and/or nut height, it's probably the neck angle, and that means some surgery that will cost you a good deal of the price you already paid for the instrument.

    But I think behind thos problems, is a very nice sounding gem... The woods, the construction, the light weight all point in that direction.

  7. #7
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    UK
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    Please don't over-humidify it, and certainly don't soak the fingerboard in oil - that can cause huge problems with frets lifting etc. Some humidifying, and a gentle wipe of the fingerboard with oil if you like.

    That long soundboard crack can't be helping, and there might well be a loose brace under it. Both would impact the sound and are fairly easy fixes - post in the Luthier's section where you might find people with experience of old Kamakas. I build ukes, but I've not worked on a Kamaka.

    A luthier could advise on UPT tuners - they might be pretty much a direct drop in to the holes, with a little bushing, and that wouldn't really affect its vintage value. Or, as someone else suggested, get the pegs shaved and the holes reamed to fit, when you might be surprised how well they work.

    Aquila Nylguts are your closest to gut strings and will give you an idea how it originally sounded. Fairly high action is to be expected - ukes from that period were built with action around 3mm (1/8 inch) at the 12th, some even a little higher! From your video, it doesn't look much worse than that.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    Catskill Mountains, NY
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    I would leave it as original as possible, and have the cracks repaired. Those tuners might not work as well as Gotohs, but they look cool. A good luthier will know what to do and what to leave as is.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    NH
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    Some rosin on the pegs and a string change might do the trick.
    Martin OXK Soprano
    Kamaka HF3 Tenor
    Eastman EU3C Concert
    Martin S1
    Martin T1K

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
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    Marin County, CA
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    Get it restored! It deserves a chance at life again.

    As for the pegs, why not replace them with Pegheads?
    http://www.pegheds.com/

    They look like original friction violin pegs, but are actually geared inside. Super slick.
    Current UAS fallout:

    Ohana SK-21A — ‘10s L. Nunes Ukulele 0 Hawaii Soprano — ‘60s Kamaka ‘Keiki’ Soprano — ‘70s Kamaka White Label Soprano — Blue Frog Soprano — aNueNue Moon Bird US200 — Ohana SK-30L — Cocobolo Concert #382 (teak!) — Outdoor Ukulele Carbon Tenor — ‘50s Harmony Baritone


    Mead Ambassador/Horticulturist at Heidrun Meadery since 2017

    Teaching Music Together since 2019

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