c.1920 Leonardo Nunes Koa Soprano Ukulele

This late-teens, early-20s soprano is the 2nd of 8 koa ukes I'm working on for a customer. This guy is a Nunes (Leonardo Nunes) uke made in Hawaii and, yessir, it sounds and plays great and looks it, too! Check out that beautiful flamed koa!

Work included a brige reglue, fret level/dress, seam repairs, replacement tuner pegs (vintage 20s uke pegs from my bin), cleaning and setup.

This is an interesting uke in the way it's so lavishly figured but extremely plain. I love that about older Hawaiian ukes: they're simple and folksy but very pretty.

The exaggerated "shield" headstock shape looks nice.

I had to cut down the original bridge a heck of a lot to get anywhere near correct action due to the neck angle. After cutting it down I reglued it to the top and then drilled tiny holes in the string-loading slots. Like some modern ukes, the way to string this up is now to pass the string through the hole, pull it out the soundhole, knot it, and then pull the string up to the tuner.

This has that lovely golden-orange color that the best koa seems to glow with.

Note how the back of the headstock actually has a rounded, radiused shape to it. This looks pretty fun in person.

Beautiful, domed-back construction and even more flame!

...and it wouldn't be complete without a nice endstrip...

...and soundhole label!


Jim Tranquada said...

Although his instruments were labelled "Ukulele O Hawaii," Leonardo Nunes (son of the pioneer ukulele maker Manuel Nunes) built his ukes in Los Angeles, beginning in 1914. He was one of many manufacturers of the period who pushed the envelope of ambiguity to take advantage of the perception that Hawaiian-made instruments were superior to mainland versions. He also was happy to take advantage of consumer confusion between the two Nunes firms, as for three or four years he was competing directly with his father's product.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Good point, but also compared to other mainland brands these were made just like Hawaiian ukes.

Rick Turner said...

Just got in an exact duplicate, but with the "made for Geo Birkel" label in it. Jim is spot on re. the LA build thing, and it looks like a Hawaiian-made uke because it was made like this: http://www.ukulele.org/?Videos by a real Hawaiian.
The one I have just has one very small crack and a slightly lifting section of one side at the end block. It was purchased new by the owner's grandfather. It's missing three tuners, so I'll save the one original and put four violin tuners on it without doing much reaming. I'll glue the crack and the lift, and it'll be a player again at about 98 years old.

Mango Mike said...

I've got this exact model. Got it about a year ago through an estate sale. Still in the original felt case with the original cat gut strings (snapped) along with an instruction pamphlet and the original Lion & Healy catalog from which it was purchased. It is in new condition.