c.1950 Mauna Loa Plastic Ukulele

Plastic ukes can be found regularly on fleaBay and the like, but not always in good shape and very rarely setup to actually play. This Mauna Loa dates from the 50s and has its original box (in rough shape) which you can see later down the post. It's a soprano size with the longer (vs. old 13") Martin-style soprano scale and body shape.

It's super-clean and has no cracks and only a little bit of light scratching here and there on the top. I popped a set of new Martin fluoro strings on it, recut the nut a bit, and shaved a couple frets (they were molded a little too high) and voila -- a perfectly-playing, nice-sounding little gadget.

What I like about most of the plastic ukes is that they're so consistent, intone well, and have a proper scale. They also look pretty neat and have the added bonus of fear-free travel to watery places (beaches, lakes, canoes, sailboats).

Sound-wise, I think of these ukes as having the sound of a good laminate uke with maybe a little more "breath" and a little less sustain. I like them a lot for flamenco-style fast-paced strumming.

This particular Mauna Loa has a "bowling ball" finish in a dark purple/deep red palette with some dark blue highlights in it. The top is a little more subdued from the back and sides, though, which are more eye-popping.

This uke has simple pot-metal friction pegs (I like these a lot as they're so simple) that operate like violin friction pegs: you have to lightly press "up" into the headstock as you tune up to get them to hold.

The one complaint I have with this uke is that the dots are in the wrong places! They're on the "even" frets (2, 4) rather than the odd ones.

Usually I have to adjust the saddle but not this time -- after adjustment at the nut the action was already perfectly 1/16" in height at the 12th.

Fun stuff, huh?

Here's the original box...

...with beginner's booklet.

1 comment:

homesteadcat said...

Nice uke. I just got one too for $5.00 from a person who was selling off all the contents of her grandmother's house. The ukulele is in really good shape, but is missing two strings. I will have to get strings for it. Otherwise, it was a great find! It's a good instrument to take to the beach and not worry about it getting beat up. I sew ukulele soft bags with Hawaiian print and now will have to make one special for my new Mauna Loa. I will be selling my soft bags on etsy.com soon (Pineapple Ice). Glad to see the nice pictures of your Mauna Loa.