9/30/2015

1920s Lyon & Healy "Mauna Loa" Soprano Banjo Uke




Sheesh! Today was very much a meet and greet in the shop. That meant that I didn't get much done save packing a few instruments for shipping -- and this cute little thing. This one bears the "Mauna Loa" brand that Lyon & Healy used for student to mid-level ukes and banjo ukes and it has a neck that feels very much like a Camp Uke and has the same taller old brass frets.

It came in a dirty and finish-flecked shape but after a fret level/dress, a couple mods, and a bunch of cleaning it turned out to be a nice little player. The wider nut width and C-shape profile recalls regular wood-body soprano ukes from the time more than contemporary banjo ukes (which have more mandolin-ish necks) which is a trait shared with period Oscar Schmidt jo-uke builds. This is generally a little more comfortable for wider-spaced "open" chords and fingerpicking techniques.


The main uke itself is a pretty typical thin, several-ply wood rim with a basic poplar neck with frets-embedded-in-top rather than fretboard-added. What sets it apart from other makes at the time is the non-dowel construction (the neck is "bolt on") and the very cool green-finished metal resonator that attaches to a U-shaped bracket set on the interior of the rim.

All the hardware on this uke is original, by the way, save the period bridge and period friction tuners (both from my parts bins).


The "Mauna Loa" logo is pressed into the headstock.



I was lucky to have a bridge that was exactly the right height in my bins. It's from a different, period banjo uke but puts the action spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret. The strings are Martin fluoros.


The coolest bit is the relief-style design on the back of the resonator and the two-tone green finish to it. It looks pretty slick in person and has a "tooled leather" feel.


Oops, sorry for the out-of-focus. It was gloomy, dark, and dreary today.


...and the out of focus here, too! I may re-shoot tomorrow.





Aside from adding a second neck bolt when reattaching the neck during setup, I also replaced the dilapidated wooden resonator feet (originally fixed to the interior of the resonator) with a couple of old spacers attached to the foot of the rim. This is a bit more of a secure footing and actually holds the rim more level than the originals.

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