c.1920 Kumalae Flamed Koa Soprano Ukulele

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We're enjoying it up here in VT! Last night I burned the midnight oil and fixed this guy up for show...

This gorgeous flamed koa uke was made by Kumalae in Hawaii probably around 1920-1925. There's nothing wholly symmetrical about it, but it in its folksy stylings and killer sound it's an awesome uke. My work included cleating/repair of a smaller top hairline crack, small seam reglues/repairs, a bridge reglue, fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup. I had to seat a number of frets a little better, too, since much of the fretwork had settled "off."

This peanut-shaped uke is a little wider and bigger than most Kumalaes and is roughly the same size as a modern soprano uke. Check out the lovely figured and medium flame to the bass side of the top.

The decal is fantastic on this guy and the finish is also in top shape. Original wood pegs and original wood nut.

The neck shape is actually cut a bit "off" with more overhang on the bass-side strings and less on the treble side. This was how it was to begin with because I reglued the bridge back to its original position since it was correct for intonation. When you play it, this doesn't matter at all, but the whole instrument has a slightly "Picasso" effect in its build. I love that about these old Hawaiian makes... they're all a bit off-kilter but part of me thinks that's what makes them sound so great and look so appealing!

The three-ring rosette is in good shape and pops right out.

I had to re-slot the original bridge slightly but otherwise there was no modification necessary. Action is a hair above 1/16" at the 12th fret because the last 3 frets "dip" a little bit off from the board compared to the rest of the frets. In actuality, if they were perfectly level with the rest of the frets, the action would be on the dot at 1/16" at the 12th. Basically, what I'm saying is... it's perfect and plays great!

The flame on the sides is incredibly nice!

I like wood violin-style pegs because they lighten the whole thing up and give it a folksy look.

Nice flame on the back, too. The koa in this is that perfect "golden ginger ale" color...

Good, sturdy, Spanish heel design.

The end-strip looks great. You can also see the one (1) crack on the top, below the bridge. That's all cleated up and filled and perfectly stable. Note the slightly mismatched seam for about 1" on the top edge, treble side. All glued safe.

Nice interior label.


Anonymous said...

I'm not 100% suree but yoiur Kumalae seems to date before 1915. In 1915 Jonah Kumalae won the PPIE Gold medal in California and thereafter all kumalae's had a mention of this on the headstock and soundhole sticker. My understanding is that from 1915 to 1919 most Kumalae's only had the soundhole sticker, retaining the headstock logo that you have. After 1919, the very familiar PPIE Gopld Medal headstock logo became standard along with the soundhole sticker with that mention.
I own a ca. 1915 to 1919 Kumalae model 2 with the older headstock logo like yours, and with the PPIE soundhole sticker.
Your ukulele has the older soundhole sticker with the older headstock logo, dating it 1915 at the latest.
Dan C.

Anonymous said...

I meant that from 1915 to 1919 most Kumalae's only had the newer PPIE soundhole sticker, retaining the older headstock logo like your's.
Dan C

Anonymous said...

Humm.. your's does have the PPIE mention but on an earlier styled soudhole sticker, not the usual we find. Your's must be ca 1915 - 1916, just after the exposition. Nice uke.
Dan C.