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Thread: Worth repairing a Kamaka Keiki?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2021
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    Default Worth repairing a Kamaka Keiki?

    When I got married, we decided on a tropical theme for the reception. As part of that, I purchased an old tiki bar on craigslist, and the seller threw in some old Hawaiian decorations, including a decorative ukulele.

    A few years down the road and I decided to start learning ukulele as my quarantine activity, and so got a little more interested in them. Just a couple days ago we finally had room in our house for the tiki bar and decorations, and upon picking them up I realized that the ukulele wasn't just decorative. After some research, I've discovered that it's a Kamaka Keiki gold label ukulele, made by Kamaka between 1963 and 1970 for the Japanese market.

    I haven't been able to find any online that look exactly like this one, though. Most of them just have the 'k k' on the headboard. The only one I've seen that has the full 'k keiki' label has a guitar style body rather than the pineapple style.

    I have an appointment to drop it off tomorrow with a luthier, but I was hoping to find someone familiar with it here who had some idea how much it could be worth, and how the sound will be once it's fixed up. From what I can tell, while the keiki is an entry-level uke, Kamaka seems to be a higher end brand. For reference, my other uke is a Kala KA-15S.

    PXL_20210111_185559467.jpgPXL_20210111_185617030.jpgPXL_20210111_185536450.jpgPXL_20210111_185457248.jpg

  2. #2
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    Jul 2008
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    Wow! What a lucky find! It looks to be in pretty good shape. It is missing a tuner and the soundboard in the second picture may show a crack. It can definitely be repaired. I might ship it back to Kamaka and they can repair it for you for a fee also. They can also tell you more about it.

    From Kamaka's website: From 1963 to 1970, to compete against unscrupulous ukulele manufacturers who tried to sell fake "Kamaka" ukuleles in Japan, Kamaka & Sons Enterprises collaborated with Tokyo Stringed Manufacturing Co., Ltd. to produce ukuleles for sale in Japan. Called "Keiki Kamaka," the ukuleles were made of mahogany, and were only available in the standard (soprano) size. "Keiki" means "child" in Hawaiian, a fitting name for the lowest-priced, beginner's model.

    A pineapple shaped Keiki is pretty cool! I bet it sounds great!

    Congrats!
    Everyone I know who is into the ukulele is 'crackers' so get yourself a few and enjoy yourselves - George Harrison

    Some of my faves right now: *Kamaka HF-3D2I *Kamaka HF-3D Anniversary *Kamaka HB-2D *Sumi Kobo Spruce/Maple Tenor *Blackbird Farallon Sunburst *Blackbird Clara *KoAloha KTM-00 *Concert Flea

  3. #3
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    Nice! I would definitely look into fixing it up

  4. #4
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    Raleigh, NC
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    Yes, I'd at least see how much the luthier would charge to repair it. If it's free of cracks and the neck is straight, it should be a wonderful player. Here's a standard Keiki on Reverb:

    https://reverb.com/item/3785335-kama...l-mahogany-koa

    The pineapple should be even sweeter
    The site truncates my signature so I can't tell you

  5. #5
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    Jan 2020
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    Default

    good find. so were these make in Hawaii by Kamaka, or made in Japan for sale there?

  6. #6
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    To me, it sounds like they were made in Japan. Nice find, hope you fix it up. If no cracks, you may just need a new tuner. If it was mine, I'd first get a $17.00 set of Ping friction tuners (link below), try one in the missing spot (super easy to do, using a small flat washer instead of opening up the small hole for the Ping bushing), string it up and see how it plays/sounds. Then, if all is well, you could either replace all 4 tuners, or look for a vintage matching one, if that is preferable to you. The friction tuners on my old gold label Kamaka soprano were really bad, cracking buttons, etc, and a set of Pings looked and worked great.

    https://www.ebay.com/i/142252370451?...SABEgImqPD_BwE
    Last edited by Ukecaster; 01-11-2021 at 10:52 AM.
    John

  7. #7
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    Jan 2021
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostrdr View Post
    Wow! What a lucky find! It looks to be in pretty good shape. It is missing a tuner and the soundboard in the second picture may show a crack. It can definitely be repaired. I might ship it back to Kamaka and they can repair it for you for a fee also. They can also tell you more about it.
    It definitely has a crack in the soundboard. A couple, actually. The visible one in the picture runs nearly the length of the soundboard. I'll absolutely contact Kamaka as well, although I suspect that'll be a lot more expensive than using a local. Do you think there'd be any difference in quality between Kamaka's repair and a reputable local luthier?

  8. #8
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    Jan 2021
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ukecaster View Post
    To me, it sounds like they were made in Japan. Nice find, hope you fix it up. If no cracks, you may just need a new tuner. If it was mine, I'd first get a $17.00 set of Ping friction tuners (link below), try one in the missing spot (super easy to do, using a small flat washer instead of opening up the small hole for the Ping bushing), string it up and see how it plays/sounds. Then, if all is well, you could either replace all 4 tuners, or look for a vintage matching one, if that is preferable to you. The friction tuners on my old gold label Kamaka soprano were really bad, cracking buttons, etc, and a set of Pings looked and worked great.
    Thanks, I'll take a look at those! While I'd prefer to just get one to replace the missing tuner, the actual... keys? grips? are missing on all three remaining pegs, so it'll probably be easier to just replace them all.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SaintWacko View Post
    It definitely has a crack in the soundboard. A couple, actually. The visible one in the picture runs nearly the length of the soundboard. I'll absolutely contact Kamaka as well, although I suspect that'll be a lot more expensive than using a local. Do you think there'd be any difference in quality between Kamaka's repair and a reputable local luthier?
    Yes, probably a bit more expensive and time consuming, but they will do the job well and have an interest in returning your kamaka keiki pineapple to a terrific condition. Some "luthiers" are great and others are used to working on electric guitars and apply a one size fits all approach to problems. I had a special ukulele that it took me two years and like 3 "luthiers" who were well respected in my area before I finally sent it back to the manufacturer to fix the issues the first luthier created.

    If there are multiple cracks, it sounds like it has probably dried out and needs to be re-humidified a bit. I might leave it in your bathroom where you shower for a few days and see if the cracks close up a bit. They'll still need to be repaired.
    Everyone I know who is into the ukulele is 'crackers' so get yourself a few and enjoy yourselves - George Harrison

    Some of my faves right now: *Kamaka HF-3D2I *Kamaka HF-3D Anniversary *Kamaka HB-2D *Sumi Kobo Spruce/Maple Tenor *Blackbird Farallon Sunburst *Blackbird Clara *KoAloha KTM-00 *Concert Flea

  10. #10
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    Jan 2021
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostrdr View Post
    Yes, probably a bit more expensive and time consuming, but they will do the job well and have an interest in returning your kamaka keiki pineapple to a terrific condition. Some "luthiers" are great and others are used to working on electric guitars and apply a one size fits all approach to problems. I had a special ukulele that it took me two years and like 3 "luthiers" who were well respected in my area before I finally sent it back to the manufacturer to fix the issues the first luthier created.

    If there are multiple cracks, it sounds like it has probably dried out and needs to be re-humidified a bit. I might leave it in your bathroom where you shower for a few days and see if the cracks close up a bit. They'll still need to be repaired.
    Hm... Well, maybe I'll postpone my appointment with the local luthier in order to see what I hear from Kamaka. I called them earlier today and they had me send in some pictures so I can get some idea of what I'm dealing with here.

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