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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: mLKauai Date: 7/9/2021 8:42:26 PM
I have been scanning the marketplace here for years without luck, hoping to find a William King (Chantus) tenor for sale as there were quite a few Flea Market folks here that had them back in the days he was making ukes (2004 thru 2010?) just around the time that "custom" ukes started being a thing.
I have been a fanatic about setup, intonation and tone... and specs: nut width, scale length, woods etc.
Because I live on Kauai, its not convenient to see and try out different ukes, so once I got hooked on a good luthier I could be assured of my needs being met.
I've had quite a few of his ukes pass through my hands back then as well, and settled on my daily player over the years: a 2006 Koa, 37mm nut width, 17 plus inch scale (not his 18" long scale) no radius fretboard. I play the heck out of it and it shows.
...I've always appreciated Kiwaya ukes strictly as an online voyeur. They are not exactly "custom", but are light, clean, precise builds.
I remember passing a Wiliam King all mahogany tenor on to MusicguyMic for William, at the one of the two Uke festivals over on Oahu that I could get to back then...and I showed a couple ukes there for William; this one was light as a feather and sang like a bell !
Thats the impression I got of the Kiwaya tenor builds and when I recently got around to desiring another player uke I saw a place that sells them: Aloha City Ukes (YouTube).
Instead of the classic Martin specs they have a line of Kiwaya tenors that have 37mm nut width!
I'd been looking at them for months and today just pulled the trigger on the Mahogany (a few hundred less than the Koa). I'll let you know how it is.

...and thats my story, Aloha from Kauai!
Posted By: ed w Date: 7/14/2021 9:46:25 AM
Great to hear. Kiwaya makes terrific instruments
Posted By: mLKauai Date: 7/18/2021 6:23:37 PM
Thanks Ed, good to see there's still some interest in the FM bulletin.
Yes that is the consensus, what can be found online anyway... I'm not sure. I just had that image in my head, which can be a problem if you know what i mean.

Back in the day, I would get some ukes sent from Oahu to Kauai with a right of return if I didn't like it... guys like Musicguymic, Shawn UkuleleFriend, etc. I just had to pay the shipping either way. USPS air used to be around 25 or so.

That was when I learned that old school Martin tenor/bari didn't exactly come close to the ringing tonal quality of their concert and soprano. (That said I would never say that Peter Moon or Iz's sound was lacking when they played those Martin tenors...)

Eventually I got a taste of what a great luthier could do with a custom made tenor... and what they could do for the customs at the big brands like Kamaka, Koaloha, and the individual luthiers, which have blossomed over the years.

Update on the Kiwaya mahogany tenor (with the 37mm nut):
---nice but "no cigar".
I'm sorry to say it just doesn't measure up in tone. I know Mahogany and Koa are close enough that its not the wood, although perhaps the Koa would be better... Super light, playability was fine, it just sounded... "tinny?".
I do a lot of soloing, limited as I am in talent, and the individual note tones have to be good. I changed out the skinny brown strings and put on my usual Savarez Alliance 540 R's but still.
I gave it to my 22 yr old youngest daughter who is still "just learning".

The qualities of my 2 William King tenors circa 2006-7, have just risen another notch in my view; even the long scale 18" mahogany that I had William sort of "overbuild" for durability.
I had sold that one to Musicguymic (God rest his soul)... and then bought it back from him a few months later.

Just a note that I'm sure folks here know; a good custom uke is a treasure. From now on I'll consider getting over to the builders shows when I can make a Waikiki getaway again. At my age and personality, its not that easy but worth the effort I'm sure, just to see, and hear, hopefully touch, some of the most marvelous instruments I'll ever get to see in my lifetime.

I just got to figure out what the hell big brother requires of me to fly out for a few days.

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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. -