c.1920 Hawaiian-made Fancy "TABU" Koa Ukulele

When a local acquaintance from town brought this uke in for me to repair, I knew right away it was going to be special before I'd even seen it because it was carried-in in a deluxe, period hard case. One barely ever sees them on anything but high-quality old ukes.

So, when the case was opened and it wasn't a Martin, I was even more excited! In this case it turned out to be a mid-teens to early-1920s Hawaiian make with the familiar "TABU" stamp (meaning, Hawaiian manufacturer's association, I think) on the back of the headstock.

It's, of course, a high quality instrument with a nicely-thinned and braced flamed koa body, gorgeous koa neck, and a profuse amount of rope binding and detailing throughout.

Yes, this literally glows fiery, flamey orange all over. Lovely inlaid rope down the neck.

See the flame? Ooh-la-la!

At any rate, work on the uke included cleating and filling that crack to the bass side of the bridge as well as regluing the original bridge, followed by a fret level/dress and setup. During setup I also realized that the bridge needed to be recut and to get proper back-angle and down-pressure on the strings I converted the bridge type over to this pin-style design.

In addition to looking cool (and hearkening back to older ukes and Portuguese instruments of similar design), the pin-style bridge gives much better back-angle on the strings and saves the bridge from excess sideways tension (so it stays glued longer over the yearS).

Lovely, chocolate-striped stuff on the sides.

This has, surprisingly, Grover mini-Champion friction pegs which were sort of deluxe for the time. I'm more used to seeing wood pegs on these.

Spanish heel construction makes this a good, sturdy instrument.


Yeah, of course they put in a pretty endstrip, too!

...and there's that nice case! All in good order, too.

1 comment:

karl said...

Your explanation of the Tabu trademark is perfect. Interesting is that Leonardo Nunes, based in LA, was one of the 'genuine Hawaiian manufacturers' as well, according to Tranquanda's history book.