12/22/2016

1920s Kumalae Koa Soprano Ukulele





I received this uke in trade and it's been sitting around the workshop ever since. I like Kumalaes, though, so it's been a shame to let it sit. A customer of mine asked after ukes suitable for his kids (I'd just sold a few, recently, that I thought would've been alright, to be honest) and I said -- basically -- that I have a nice old koa uke and it can be cheap for what it is due to its condition. When he picked up some other repairs this left with him. Something like this, done-up, is so far superior to a modern import instrument of the same price that it's almost shocking. It also has the joy and history beaten into its character, too, right?

This came with some "already-done" repairs which included a ton of cracks drop-glued on the back and a headstock break glued-up as well. The repairs that I did to spruce it up included cleating a top crack, recutting the bridge for good intonation and action height, a fret level/dress, replacement (period) tuners, and some seam repairs. It's now playing on-the-dot, strung with D'Addario Titaniums, and has a pretty loud, sweet, warmer-than-expected voice.


The orangey-yellow koa looks pretty, no? Most of the Kumalaes I've worked on have had either this stuff or a bright, full-on orange color to their koa.


Original bone nut, replacement (but period) pegs.


The fretting wasn't the most accurate from the factory, but after some effort at the bridge it intonates pretty darn well for an old Hawaiian.



The bridge has been shaved a lot and so I modified the stringing to "through-top" holes (something you see on new ukes from time to time -- you pass the strings through the hole and then ball them up and knot them through the soundhole). The "saddle" is thus formed by the back of the bridge terminating at a line around its middle, much like on some early Weissenborn (as I recall) and Kamaka ukes.











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