11/09/2013

c.1940 Sam Chang Koa Soprano Ukulele


This is a customer's uke in for repairs -- which included a bridge reglue, new bridge plate, crack repair and cleating, a fret level/dress, some small seam repairs, cleaning, and setup. It plays great, now, with spot-on action and a lovely, bright but singing tone. It has a sort of "fullness" that a lot of earlier peanut-style Hawaiian ukes don't tend to get but is clearly prevalent in 40s-on-up Kamakas.

These Sam Chang ukes were made by... Sam Chang... in (Honolulu) Hawaii from the late 20s through the 40s as far as I can tell and judging just based on the label style and build I'll bet this was maybe a late 30s or early 40s model.



It's built essentially in the same size, shape, and dimensions as a Martin uke and shares similar bracing to a Martin. As expected, the voice is similar, too... but only "just so far." It has that island "airy, sweet, and bright" sound as well with a good, sparkling, all-around clarity that I find is absent somewhat from the mellower Martin mold.

You also can't help but notice the island-made trappings: nice somewhat curly pumpkin-orange koa wood and a Spanish heel construction.


Cute "Aloha" label and crest. The hole in the headstock would have been used for dangling a strap or some sort of cute decorative thingy to keep the eyes glued to the player.


Koa, separate fretboard. The frets are t-style and not bar frets as on many other Hawaiian makes. The neck has the same width and spacing at the nut as a Martin but the feel front-to-back (thin and flat) is very Hawaiian in nature.


I adore Spartan rosettes.


The bridge reglued easily and only needed minor adjustments to set action.


Gosh, I love the look of the koa on this -- stripey and subdued figure is where it's at, as far as I'm concerned.



The tuners are simple but work great.





Who doesn't like a Spanish heel design?




This half-figured grain is all throughout the uke and gives off nice three-dimensional looks as you turn it in the hands.

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