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Flea Market Music offers an on-line community for ukulele players, informative books on the ukulele, ukulele CDs,songbooks, videos and information on our instrument manufacturing of the FLUKE ukulele. Brought to you by "Jumpin" Jim Beloff.
Roy Smeck Concert Ukulele

Original Post By: jeff mercer Date: 8/8/2009 12:22:00 AM
Here's a really lovely looking early Kamaka Pineapple uke on eBay.

(Perhaps a kind BB member could provide a link ?)..280381770781...

I'd be really interested to know what techniques builders/repairers would use to close those top cracks..or if they're close-able (possibly a new addition to English language :o) at all ?

Duane? Rick ? Several Dave's ?

Not intending to bid, by the way, simply interested in what would be involed in a "restoration" of this uke from a technical point of view...

Posted By: William Date: 8/8/2009 3:11:29 AM   (Updated: 8/8/2009 3:12:35 AM)
If the crack actually has a gap which cannot be closed gets a different treatment than if the two sides touch each other all the way. For a separation I put a thin piece of veneer on the underside. {if the uke is 3" thick, put a four inch thick piece of foam in a baggie and place that below the crack.} Carefully place the piece of veneer skin between the foam in the baggie and the separation. You will want about 1/4" of veneer on each side of the gap. When you have it in place, using a hypodermic needle filled with TitebondII, push down a sedtion of the veneer and squirt a thin line of glue up under the top wood.
When you let go, the foam acts as a constant pressue to hold the wood in place. Countinue gluing until you have glued all of the edges together. The foam makes a great "clamp on the inside. After an hour you can move or remove the foam. If you want to do it as slick as grease on a doorknob, use a vacuum cleaner to shrink the foam so you can easily place it under the separation. Filling in the open area is Chapter 2.
Posted By: ChefJeff Date: 8/8/2009 9:28:38 AM

Posted By: Rick Turner Date: 8/8/2009 12:43:49 PM
William, that's a great technique! Thanks...

I'd be tempted to use hot hide glue or the LMI white glue instead of the Titebond, but the clamping technique is spot on. You could also do that with a strip of closed cell foam weather stripping and use dowels to prop it up to maybe get a bit more of a view of the inside with a mirror.

If the two sides of the crack are offset, you can then very gently clamp the high side down with one or more wooden cam clamps while the reinforcing/backing strip glue joint sets. Be sure to keep the open crack clean of any glue squeeze-out because the next step will be to inlay a strip of whatever the top wood is...koa, mahogany, etc.

This kind of repair is not something to do for the first time on a vintage uke unless you are prepared to live with the consequences of not getting it quite right.

The biggest challenge will come with finish touch-up...the trickiest and most time consuming part of instrument restoration.
Posted By: duane Date: 8/8/2009 1:59:16 PM
This uke looks very dried out. My guess is there are a lot of problems that are not visibly from the photos. If this were to come into my shop, I would carefully remove the back. This would give me access to all the interior surfaces to make repairs, that is, cracks, loose linings, neck set, what ever. Repairing the top and back cracks would be much easier and more efficient with the back removed. I would use what ever glue was originally used with this uke, probably hot hide glue. I would repair the finish with shellac and try to match the original color of the koa to any new wood that needed to be added.

This is the kind of thing I do all the time. I am in the process of disassembling on old 6 string Kamaka that has been badly repaired and is now falling apart. Slow but satisfying work.
Posted By: Rick Turner Date: 8/8/2009 4:02:48 PM
Having looked at the photos, I'm with Duane on this one. First get this uke up to reasonable humidity...a few weeks at 50% might work, or there's always the old "in the bathroom with a hot shower running" trick. Bear in mind that this was made in a tropical climate, and now it's in the desert. The back can come off fairly easily, and then all the problems can be dealt with much more easily than working through the soundhole. I don't think William, Duane, or I would be at all surprised to find loose braces and maybe loose kerfing inside there, and with the back off, fixing it all will go much better.

I'd probably saw the back off with a small circular saw blade in a Dremel with a router base, and then use a Japanese hand saw at the end and neck blocks.

It might be worth making a quickie mold of the body to preserve the shape while gluing the back back on. The sides could be shimmed or wedged into place.

I have a feeling that the cracks will not go back together perfectly, even when the instrument is humidified. It will probably need splices and cleats. But you should see the repairs on old violins!

This uke is worthy of nice job.
Posted By: allenhopkins Date: 8/8/2009 4:15:03 PM
What I can't get over, is the seller saying it's in "100% original condition" when it has seven cracks in top and back, and a hole in the side! Doubt it came from the Kamaka shop in such a porous state...
Posted By: PHMike Date: 8/8/2009 6:01:50 PM
The term 'original' in regards to condition usually just raises a red flag for me. There is original factory condition, original 'as I found it in the attic' condition, etc.
Posted By: poster one Date: 8/9/2009 1:57:05 AM
Here's an interesting article that's right on target with this post:


Posted By: Dasher Date: 8/9/2009 6:50:56 AM
Interesting that two posts on uke restoration would appear on the board within hours of each other. Of course, the second could have been inspired by the first.
Posted By: ChefJeff Date: 8/9/2009 8:32:21 AM
"Original condition"

People who say that often mean only that no parts have been changed, it hasn't been refinished, etc.
Posted By: Rick Turner Date: 8/9/2009 1:20:52 PM
Well that one's going to get refinished once it gets fixed or it will continue to look like a wreck!
Posted By: jeff mercer Date: 8/10/2009 7:01:02 PM
Thanks for the interesting replies, all .

Despite the cracks, it certainly attracted plenty of attention..33 bids, & sold a few minutes ago for $441.00 !

What I'm now wondering is how much do you think the owner is looking at in repair cost ? With all those cracks fixed, & as Rick pointed out, definately a re-finish, I'd think that uke has lost any "cache" in the collector market, so I hope whoever won it gets a really nice "player" uke out of it, as I suspect it's not going to be much of a bargain once repairs are figured in .

Just out of interest, here's another Style 4 Pineapple from the complete opposite end of the condition spectrum...very clean & tasty !

eBay # 260461026457...( Thanks for the link last time, ChefJeff..us Jeffs' gotta stick together, y'know ? :o)
Posted By: Rick Turner Date: 8/11/2009 9:29:26 AM
In the vintage guitar market, that would still be considered moderately beat up. Collectors are looking for showroom, unplayed perfection...actually kind of boring! That one has cracks that may or may not have been fixed well. It's still very appealing, and the condition of the label and decals is pretty good.

One of the big issues with early Hawaiian ukes is that they were generally made in a much more humid climate than many wind up in, so you get wood shrinkage and cracks.
Posted By: Dave in Petaluma Date: 8/11/2009 10:39:33 AM
I'm with duane about removing the back and gaining access to the interior for brace regluing. I just finished a similar project and when played, it wasn't up to Kamaka standards. I will remove the back and put a bridge plate in and a possible redesign of the bracing. Glad I used hide glue very easy to unglue.
Williams technique is an eye opener for repair without the removal of the back.
Posted By: ChefJeff Date: 8/11/2009 2:54:01 PM
Dé nada, Jeff.

Posted By: ToeBone Date: 8/11/2009 4:35:43 PM
I saw that nice one earlier today. part of the pineapple paint is scraped off up near the top, and a few cracks, but still very nice
Posted By: jeff mercer Date: 8/11/2009 7:20:46 PM
Actually, speaking of back removal, there is another vintage Kamaka Pineapple on eBay at the moment where you would'nt have to go to the bother...it does'nt HAVE a back :o) ! Seriously !

It must have been removed at some point, & either lost or thrown away...does'nt have a bridge, either..good restoration project for a handy repairperson, though !

Rick, yep, I totally agree that the "collector-grade, mint-condition, never been played" scene is a bit of a bore..if you laid eyes on my workhorse electric guitar for the past 25-ish years- a '66 Tele, you'd KNOW I agree :o) ! ( I think you can see it on Youtube by typing in "Old Purple/Slim Dusty Family" ). To most non-musicians, it looks like a piece of junk, but it's a fantastic instrument .

I have around 23 vintage ukes, the vast majority being pre '35 Hawaiian made, & I think the grand total of ONE does'nt have at least one repaired crack...it just sorta goes with the territory when it comes to old ukes, & as you pointed out, particularly the early Hawaiian ones, given the unique environment in which they were constructed..and the sometimes surprising places they ended up some 80 or 90 years later !

Any plans to come through Sydney between your Tassie building course & the Cairns Ukefest ? The door is open :o)
Posted By: jeff mercer Date: 8/12/2009 8:25:17 PM
Oops, forgot to post the auction number for the..er.."aerated" Pineapple uke mentioned previously..


Nice looking uke..a top of the line Style 5 ( actually, there was a model above that added a border of "pearl" inside the rope binding, around the body & up the neck, but I don't think that many were made...sort of a "presentation" model in vintage banjo parlance :o).

Should be interesting to watch this one..again, it probably won't have much appeal to "hardcore" collectors, who as Rick T pointed out, are usually after showroom condition, but hopefully someone will end up with a killer "player" uke for not too much (after repairs, of course !)..don't think you'd get much of a sound out of it in it's current condition :o) !
Posted By: DougD Date: 8/12/2009 9:44:29 PM   (Updated: 8/12/2009 9:45:36 PM)
Hey Jeff - Thanks for the YouTube link - its always great to see fellow members in action (guess thats you pickin' it). A doggy lookin' great soundin' guitar for sure.

Gotta love Australians (selectively, of course)!!
Posted By: ToeBone Date: 8/13/2009 10:15:03 AM
It looks like someone decided to screw the bridge down once it started separating.

Jeff, do you know what years these painted versions were made? Do you have any idea when Kamaka started using patent tuners?
Posted By: Rick Turner Date: 8/13/2009 3:23:46 PM
Jeff, I often change planes in Sydney! I'd like to see the place, it sure looks good from the air.

Not sure yet about details on the Cairns uke festival; as of now we're talking about running the "build a uke" course on the four days before the festival. If it comes together, I'll be teaching with Allen McFarlen, a really fine Cairns-based guitar and uke builder; he's trying to line up our being able to use the Cairns Woodworkers' Club facility. We're hoping for a dozen students. It's all still in the talking stages.

I'd love to run a course in Sydney at some point, too. I've got this teaching thing down to being pretty portable with a bit of local, on-site infrastructure being necessary, but pretty easy.
Posted By: jeff mercer Date: 8/13/2009 7:49:22 PM

My pleasure ! Yep, that's me..hope I did'nt scare you :o) ! Thought the Aussie "outback" footage might be of interest.

When it comes to vintage ukes, & particularly early Hawaiian ones, the type of tuners don't seem to be much of a reliable guide to year of manufacture, in the way they can be with vintage Gibson mandolins, or old Fender guitars etc.

I have a reprint of a 1918 Sherman,Clay & Co. catalogue showing the full line of Kumalae ukes, & there were four tuner options available..wooden mahogany or rosewood, or mechanical "Champion Brand" friction tuners with a choice of either black or white buttons...not listed, either, were the "Ivoroid" or "Celluloid" violin-style pegs that often show up on Kumalae, Nunes & others...several of the island companies were churning out ukes at such a fast rate during its initial rise in popularity that I'd be guessing it was more a matter of whatever was at hand, rather than an across-the-board "changeover" to a certain peg style..

I can't find it at the moment, but I'm sure I've seen a c.1940 Martin catalogue that still lists the Style 0 uke as having wooden friction pegs..I don't think I've seen ANY Martin uke from that era with those..Martin switched to "Patent" pegs in the mid-20's, I believe, yet they were'nt the only company who were a bit "lazy" when it came to keeping catalogues up to date...Gibson were notorious for it too, sometimes picturing discontinued models, or models that had sometimes gone through fairly major design changes than the one pictured in the "current" catalogue of the time...

Yeah, if you can, definately try to make some time to visit Sydney..it really is a beautiful city..I believe your partner is an Aussie..where from ?

Posted By: jeff mercer Date: 8/14/2009 9:50:42 PM
Hey, ToeBone,

Just realized forgotten to answer part of your last question..

The little pineapple motif between the soundhole & the bridge is not actually painted on..It's a decal, or transfer..looking closely at my Style 3, I can see the rectangular border of the transfer pretty clearly..

The "true" painted pinepple ukes were literally hand-painted with a pineapple skin design, & are probably up there in the top 5 or so collectible & desirable vintage Hawaiian-made ukes..I saw one go on eBay recently for $5,150 ! ( the auction was 160351133310..the photos are probably still up if you wanna take a look ).

As to when Kamaka dropped all the "fun stuff", like rope-binding, pineapple transfers etc. my guess would be late 30's/1940..somewhere around there..and the early painted ones may only have been done sporadically for a few years, which contributes to their rarity.

Posted By: ToeBone Date: 8/15/2009 3:43:29 PM   (Updated: 8/15/2009 4:00:51 PM)
Thanks for that info, Jeff, and thanks for the heads up on that ebay item.

I see in the Tony Ku book that he estimates all of his painted pineapple Kamakas to be early to mid 30's. I wonder if that was because it was depression years and those were actually cheaper to make?
Posted By: Rick Turner Date: 8/17/2009 12:08:27 AM
Jeff, my friend, "Ukulele Lou", lives just outside of Hobart. She plays at various festivals on the Aussie mainland several times a year as part of the "Wayward Sisters." In Tassie, she's in a couple of bands, the "Spring Chickens" and "Coyote Serenade." She plays guitar and uke in all settings.
Posted By: jeff mercer Date: 8/17/2009 8:59:35 PM

The name "Wayward Sisters" has a sorta familiar ring..it's possible we've done some of the same festivals..

I'm currently playing with James Blundell, & before that, 4 years with Sara Storer ( which included a lot of touring backing Troy Casser-Daley ) , & before THAT, 8 years on the road with Slim Dusty :o)..not names that would mean much in the US, but your friend Lou would likely know of them..

I'll keep an eye out for 'em :o)


Did you see that "backless" Style 5 Kamaka pineapple sold for $275 ? Not sure what the crack repairs & having a new back made and fitted is gonna cost, but it's still gonna be a fraction of what the same uke in "mint" condition would set you back !

( I remember seeing the same uke at Island Guitars in Honolulu a few years back, in reasonably good condition...they were asking $3,500 !).

Cheers all,
Posted By: Rick Turner Date: 8/17/2009 9:56:30 PM
Jeff, they do the Redlands Bluegrass Festival nearly every year, and also Harrietville. Lou played the National a few years back too, but I'm not sure what the band configuration was on that one.
Posted By: jeff mercer Date: 8/18/2009 8:29:19 PM
Redlands Bluegrass Festival ?

Rick, that brings back a funny memory !

I don't remember for sure what year (2002 ?) that I did that gig as part of the "featured" act of the festival...I'd accepted the gig, & our plane tickets had been booked, before I was informed that each individual band member had to give a "workshop"..which is a standard expectation, apparently..I just didn't know !

Having never given one before, I was INCREDIBLY nervous in the weeks leading up to it..waking in the middle of the night, constant "butterflies", the whole nine yards :o)!

Now, I'm relatively confident in my abilities as a player..( Well, most of the time, anyway :o), but what I was envisaging was getting up on stage in front of a room full of guitarists that could all play like Tony Rice ( insert Jake here for those of you unfamiliar with Mr.Rices' guitar playing ), & having them all sit there thinking "Who's THIS guy think he is ? I can play better than THAT!!" :O)

So the day arrives, I'm horribly nervous, I get up on stage in front of about 20 people holding their guitars, & just to get an idea of the "skill" level in the room, I said "Hi, everyone..now I assume everyone here is familiar with the Lester Flatt 'G-run'?"..

..not ONE person put up their hand, so I ended up spending a very pleasant half-hour wandering around the room showing to what mainly beginning guitarists is a (relatively) simple 8-note phrase that is essential to the bluegrass guitar style !

Went out on the verandah with a cold beer at the end, almost crying with relief :o), when a fella came up & said "Hey, we all wanna say thanks, that was terrific ! We had a guy here last year who just got up on stage & played all these blazingly fast licks, & none of us learned a thing !"

Man, I felt about 10 feet tall !

Talk about worrying over nothing :o)

( I've done the National, too, so it must be one of those two places that I've seen the name of your friend Lou's band, most likely.)

Posted By: Anthony29 Date: 4/8/2018 1:18:10 AM
Hi Jeff, I’ve recently discovered this forum, looking for info on Jonah Kumalae, and have been enjoying reading your ‘back’ posts. Very interesting! And great that a Sydney person has all this (esoteric?) knowledge and information. Do you have or recommend a site/forum for NSW uke players? Cheers, Anthony

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Flea Market Music offers an on-line community for ukulele players, informative books on the ukulele, ukulele CDs,songbooks, videos and information on our instrument manufacturing of the FLUKE ukulele. Brought to you by "Jumpin" Jim Beloff. -