Kamaka rescue!


Well-known member
Oct 6, 2010
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Honolulu, HI, USA
Okay, so waaaay back in August of last year, some kind soul here on UU pointed out this abused Kamaka Gold Label available on Etsy:


Being a sucker for a sad face, I picked it up and shipped it off to Kamaka for repair (4-6 mos, they said. :p).

Well, I just got it back, and check it out now:



Hard to believe it's the same uke, eh?

And I really, really, *really* hate to say it, but I am so broke these days I can't afford to keep it. :(
This story warms my heart. There's a special place in heaven for people who rescue abused inanimate objects. That ukulele looks wonderful -- and happy -- now.

I'd definitely consider buying it from you for (1) what you paid for it on Etsy + (2) the cost of repairs + (3) a small premium/profit to you for your efforts. Please PM me if you're interested.
Glad to see the follow up on this ukulele! Sorry you can't keep it.

Did they replace the soundboard? Looks like they did rather than try to repair the original. Makes me wonder why they changed the nut, tuners, and the bridge? Did they give any insight on the reason for changing those parts?
Yep, new top and new fretboard. It looks to me like the new fretboard is thicker than the original, which may have required raising the nut and the new bridge. I'm afraid I didn't ask for the specifics, just said "Please save it". :)

The tuners were changed out because one of the originals wouldn't hold, and had a broken key. I was rather expecting to get the three working originals back in the package, but didn't, I guess I should have asked for that beforehand.
Compensated bridge is standard now on some of the Kamaka's (tenors for sure). Took mine by the factory for an action check last month and the bridge was replaced with one of the new ones. Looks as if the old parts were replaced with new stock. As you probably know, repairs are typically done by a Kamaka family member (Paul in my case). Great company whose instruments are backed solidly.
I truly don't mean to be a wet blanket, but if they replaced the soundboard, fretboard, nut, bridge, tuners... and possibly the back from the look of the pictures, what does that leave as "original"? Just the neck and sides?

To me it doesn't look like the same uke because, well, it isn't the same uke. I hope I am wrong and they just did some amazing refinishing work after repairing all of the cracks and abrasions...
The neck, sides, and back are all original. Whether or not that's a big issue is up to whoever owns it. If you like, feel free to consider it a new kamaka with a few vintage parts. :) Either way, it's a large step up from what it started as.
The neck, sides, and back are all original. Whether or not that's a big issue is up to whoever owns it. If you like, feel free to consider it a new kamaka with a few vintage parts. :) Either way, it's a large step up from what it started as.

Nice! :)

The real question is- how does it sound? Do you have a sound sample/video?
I can't play worth a damn, but I'll see what I can get for you in the next day or two!
WOW! What an amazing transformation!! That looks GORGEOUS!!

Shame you'll have to sell it tho! :(

Also looking forward to a sound sample!
For those of us who may want to do the same, can you give a ballpark figure on what Kamaka charged for this job? I've considered many pineapples that were less damaged that this one, but still pretty bad.?
Chap, Thanks for rescuing it and so sorry to hear that you have to sell it. Hopefully you'll get some quality playing time in before it sells.

Phil, I have a tiki that's in for repair also. The 4-6 months is now more like 8-12 months. The cost depends alot on what all is wrong and if the braces are all intact and usable. I'm lucky that I just need a new sound board. The estimate is about $250 for new soundboard and regluing some seperation on the back and new finish job. One of the real killers is the shipping!
They do an amazing job of restoring these older "well used" Kamaka's. The one I had the repair similar top cracks & needed a new bridge (the original one had been SCREWED on w/wood screws - causing two of the top cracks). The Kamaka approach to these repairs seems to be to get a playable instrument w/as much of the original wood & components as possible or reasonable. For me, the fact that I now have a uke that was originally built about the same time that I "popped out of the womb" but looks like its still young, makes me smile! I won't be selling mine & expect to pass it on to a grandchild at some future date.

Cost of the repair, including shipping, was ~$300. And believe me, I really, really, want to avoid selling it. I put the Harold Teen uke up on ebay, if that does well enough, maybe I can avoid selling this one. :p
I think $300 for that amount of work, including shipping is a really good deal. It does seem that Kamaka goes for playability over conservation. However, it makes sense given that most of their ukuleles are not rare, but are mostly enjoyed as players. I am glad you brought it back to life, just sorry you can't keep it.
Assuming you didn't pay too much for it 'broken' ....... that is an excellent price & result! It has given the old uke a new life & I bet it sounds terrific too!
I salute you Chad, to rescue this lovely uke and Kamaka did a great job on repairs.
Thanks for sharing the before/after pix.
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