Types of Kamaka 'Ukulele
Kamaka Part 2
Welcome back! In this second part of this “Top Ukulele Companies Series” (I’ll come up with a better name, sometime, maybe) on Kamaka, we will briefly look at the ‘ukulele that make up their impressive catalog. Each ‘ukulele is crafted at their factory in Kaka’ako, and each has its own distinct look and feel, though each contains the characteristic soft, mellow character that Kamaka ‘ukulele have become known for. All of the Kamaka ‘ukulele are strung wit high tension nylon strings that produce a clear timbre with a long sustain. Kamaka produces about 3,000 ‘ukulele a year and it can be fascinating to see how these pieces are made.
Each ‘ukulele is made out of 6 pieces of wood: 2 in the back, 2 in the front, and 2 on the sides. You can notice below that koa ‘ukulele have varying levels of curliness, these waves in the wood.
The amount of curliness determines if the wood will be used for a classic, deluxe, or a custom ‘ukulele. To prepare the wood to become an ukulele, the wood dries for 4 years before being shaped into an instrument. After being made, the ‘ukulele rest and dry before they are ready to be played, with classic models taking about 24 hours to dry, and deluxe models taking about a week.
The Kamaka classic is the primary Kamaka ‘ukulele with a simple, refined look.
The Kamaka classic standard, the HF-1, is the Kamaka classic soprano. This is perhaps the most classic ‘ukulele that you can find today, made in the original size of the classic ‘ukulele with solid Hawaiian koa. Each piece made within the classic Kamaka series is made of solid koa with a mahogany neck and ebony fretboard.
Kamaka deluxe models come in two main designs. In the first deluxe series, trim and rosettes are made of very small pieces of rosewood, koa, and maple wood to create a look akin to entwined rope. The deluxe ‘ukulele also have binding on the top piece made out of rosewood. In the second deluxe series, you can see beautiful abalone trim and rosettes. This series also features an ebony plate on the head, and some of the deluxe models have slotted headstocks rather than the more common friction or geared tuning pegs.
Perhaps the most famous of the Kamaka deluxe line is the Jake Blue, the custom tenor 'ukulele designed by internationally renown performer Jake Shimabukuro. Similar to the HF-3D2I with the abalone inlays, this one also features blue purfling (hence the name) around the abalone to help the shell pop, a flat Kamaka headstock, and Jake's signature on the fretboard. This model is incredibly rare and hard to find, so if you happen to find one on our website, take a look! They go fast!
Unique Kamaka Models
Some ‘ukulele, notably the HB-2, the bell-shaped ‘ukulele, have a steel wound string to have a low-g rather than a high-g. These steel wound strings can also be found on the 6-string Kamaka, developed to celebrate the statehood of Hawaii, and the 8-string Kamaka, developed on the bicentennial anniversary of the statehood. For more information about the different Kamaka models and how these ‘ukulele are made, Kamaka offers tours of their factory every Friday at 10:30-11:30am. We highly recommend taking one of these tours to learn more about these wonderful instruments!