Frequently Asked Questions About Kamaka Ukulele
How can I purchase a new Kamaka ukulele?
You can purchase a new Kamaka ukulele from any of our authorized dealers or order one directly from the factory. As a Kamaka customer you are entitled to the highest quality customer service. Our Retailers can assist you with any questions you may have about our instruments, including our Limited Warranty and serial number registration.
Why is it so difficult to find a retail store that sells Kamakas
them in stock?
The demand for our instruments greatly exceeds the supply. Our authorized dealers report being unable to keep our ukuleles on their shelves and because of our backlog, there is a mandated waiting period before our dealers can re-order.
Follow this link for a list of authorized Kamaka Dealers.
How will my serial number be used?
In late 1999, Kamaka Hawaii implemented a serial number system for all of its new ukuleles. Serial numbers allow us to determine model, year, originating retailer and original purchaser. This information can be extremely valuable because we can automatically retrieve your information at the factory should we ever need to track your ukulele for you.
Do you sell factory seconds?
Kamaka Hawaii no longer sells factory seconds.
What are the different Kamaka models available?
Kamaka Hawaii manufactures 9 different models of ukuleles: standard (also known as a Soprano), standard pineapple, concert (also known as an Alto), tenor 4-string, tenor 6-string, tenor 8-string, baritone, standard deluxe, and the concert bell shape deluxe. Please see Our Instruments Page for more information and for photographs of the different models available.
What qualities should I look for in a ukulele?
A good ukulele should have excellent sound and be comfortable and easy to play. It should also have good tone, intonation and resonance. Tone is the overall quality of the sound when a note is plucked, and is a highly subjective criteria from individual to individual. Intonation is the accuracy of the notes along the fretboard. Resonance is reflected by how round the sound of the ukulele is. The best way to check for resonance is to have someone play the ukulele while you listen across the room. None of these qualities, by the way, can be checked when you purchase your ukulele over the internet.
What kind of wood does Kamaka use and where does it come from?
Kamaka Hawaii selects only the finest quality wood for its instruments. The primary wood used by Kamaka is from Acacia koa, the largest endemic tree in Hawaii. Koa is one of the most desired woods for ukuleles because of its beautiful color, grain patterns and tonal quality. Koa wood is generally grown on the Big Island in areas that were once fields of molten lava.
After purchasing koa lumber, Kamaka Hawaii naturally ages the wood for at least four years at the factory. The natural aging of koa wood is a vital and time-consuming step of the ukulele making process at Kamaka Hawaii, and sets the highest standards in the ukulele industry.
What is a custom ukulele and how do I order one from Kamaka?
A custom Kamaka ukulele is an ukulele made to your specifications by our luthier, Casey Kamaka. Due to our present backlog and the high demand for our instruments, Kamaka Hawaii is currently not accepting any orders for custom ukuleles.
Please contact Kamaka Hawaii for further information and pricing.
What is the difference between the regular Kamaka models and the "specials"?
Kamaka "Specials" are semi-custom ukuleles with certain features that are added based on your specifications. The features available for "specials" include curly koa wood (Premium 3A and Premium Full Curl 4A), spruce top, rosette (maple, rosewood, koa, or shell), ebony fingerboard and bridge, inlaid fingerboard, "long neck", and pickups (passive or active). Also considered Kamaka "specials" but not available at this time are binding (maple or rosewood) and purfling (shell). Please contact Kamaka Hawaii for further information and pricing.
Please contact Kamaka Hawaii for further information and pricing.
What kind of strings should I use on my Kamaka?
Strings significantly alter the sound and feel of your ukulele. Over the years we have tried numerous brands of strings on our ukes. We highly recommend our own strings for your Kamaka ukulele. Kamaka ukulele strings are available through our authorized dealers or at our On-line Shop.
What kinds of cases are recommended for my ukulele?
Kamaka Hawaii recommends two types of ukulele cases: hardshell and Protec. The hardshell cases offer greater protection for ukuleles and are a higher grade case. The Protec cases are sturdy, light, water-resistant and perfect for traveling. Protec cases are utilized by many of our customers who are professional musicians.
How should I clean and care for my ukulele?
Kamaka ukuleles have a lacquer finish and can be cleaned with a damp cloth, not wet. We recommend buffing your Kamaka with a dry, soft, clean cloth such as 100% cloth baby diapers. You can also use a commercial instrument cleaner like Martin Guitar Polish or GHS Guitar Gloss. We do not recommend that you use a cleaning product that has wax in it. Oil should only be used on the fingerboard and not on the lacquer finish of your ukulele.
Kamaka ukuleles are built with solid wood, which is directly affected by temperature and humidity. Gradual changes in temperature and humidity will generally not be harmful to our instruments. However, rapid changes in temperature should be guarded against. Keep your ukulele in a good case when not in use. Avoid storing it near heaters.
I have an older Kamaka ukulele. How do I determine its appraised value?
We recommend that you contact an independent appraiser for the current value of your Kamaka. Many factors such as markings and the original condition of the instrument are considered. We do not appraise our ukuleles in the current secondary market.
Can I tell how old an ukulele is by the Kamaka label?
Generally, yes. See Dating Your Uke and Historic Kamaka Ukes. However, there are always exceptions, particularly since our company has continuously made many kinds of ukuleles since 1916. Thus, in order for us to be able to accurately date your Kamaka, we need to see it.
We are frequently referred to eBay auctions for highly sought after vintage Pineapple ukuleles that contain the item description "Made in 1928." A closer examination of the Kamaka label may reveal that the ukulele was not made in 1928, but rather was patented in 1928. Many of the Pineapples that have the 1928 label were produced long after Sam Kamaka obtained the original patent.
How do I verify the authenticity of a Kamaka ukulele on eBay?
You can't, unless you have someone who is a Kamaka expert look at it in person for you. Certain features such as the "KK" decal on the headstock, the label in the soundhole, the shape or tuners, may identify a uke as a Kamaka, but are by no means conclusive. You will not know for certain if the uke you bid on is the real deal until you receive it in the mail. We have received countless inquiries at the factory about auctions on eBay for used Kamaka ukuleles. Our expert eyes cannot always identify in the pictures any flaws, repairs, modifications, or even counterfeits for that matter. Although we periodically scan eBay for irregular auctions for our ukes, copyright infringement, and counterfeits, we remain unable to provide reassurance to eBay buyers who choose to purchase ukuleles photographed from their best angle, sound unheard.
What if my ukulele needs to be repaired?
If you bring your Kamaka to our Kakaako factory, we can assist you in having your ukulele evaluated and repaired. We are sorry, but we no longer repair any ukuleles other than our own. For more information please see our service and repair page.
Are there any authorized repair persons on the mainland who can do repairs on my Kamaka?
No, Kamaka Hawaii currently does not have any authorized persons to do repairs on your Kamaka.
Why do I need to contact the dealer I bought my Kamaka from if I believe my ukulele has defects covered under the Limited Warranty? Why can't I simply contact the factory?
Our retailers provide Kamaka customers with the highest quality service and are there to assist you with any questions you may have about your Kamaka. Under our Limited Warranty, owners are required to work directly with the retail store where the ukulele originated from, unless the ukulele was purchased at the factory.
The "double K" decal on the headstock of my ukulele is scratched off. Can I purchase a replacement decal from the Kamaka factory?
No. You may bring your ukulele in for repair, and if necessary, we will replace the "KK" decal for you. The famous "double K" design has been a registered mark with the U.S. Copyright and Trademark office since 1958 and is owned exclusively by Kamaka Hawaii. It is not offered for sale. Any sale of replacement "KK" decals by third parties is unauthorized.
I recently saw a vintage Kamaka at a pawn shop with exposed fretwire ends. Why such poor fretwork?
We have seen some of our vintage ukuleles come in for repair with the same problem. The condition you describe is most likely a result of dry climate and wood shrinkage, rather than a reflection on the craftsmen who made the ukulele years ago. Weather changes drastically affect your ukulele in this way. If you live in a dry climate, you should purchase an instrument humidifier which you can get from a music store or from our online shop. If properly maintained, your Kamaka ukulele will provide you with many, many years of enjoyment. We have a proven track record for building lasting instruments.
My child wants to learn how to play the ukulele. Although I would like to buy her a Kamaka ukulele, I am concerned that she will not take care of it, and that the ukulele may be too high-end for a beginner. Do you have any advice about this?
We regularly supply both public and private schools in Hawaii with our ukuleles, and have done so for many years. With proper instruction, even young children can be taught to care for a Kamaka ukulele. When giving factory tours to children, we teach them about the appropriate care for the instruments and demonstrate the sound quality of the different ukulele sizes. Because children are naturally musical, they are easily able to differentiate between our models.
As our friend Jake Shimabukuro tells his fans, beginners should learn to play on the highest quality ukulele possible. Beginners tend to get easily frustrated if their ukuleles do not stay in tune, or if the intonation is off. If your child later decides she is not interested in the ukulele, there is a huge secondary market for our used instruments. Used Kamaka ukuleles are in high demand, especially if they are in original or mint condition.
Should I buy a new or a vintage Kamaka?
Purchasing a new Kamaka allows you to begin your own tradition. Because the instrument will be played only by you and perhaps those close to you, it will be more personal to you than a vintage Kamaka with an unknown owner/owners. New Kamakas will normally not require repairs for some time, whereas vintage ukes may need significant repairs. Also, new ukes are covered by our Limited Warranty; vintage ukes are not.
Over the years, we have continuously made improvements in our design and processes that give lasting value to our ukuleles. In recent years, we have upgraded the shape, neck and finish, and replaced the headstock decal with a pearl inlaid logo. As it ages, a well-made instrument will improve and "open up" as long as it is well cared for, and this is certainly true of Kamaka ukuleles.
Many ukulele players prefer the sound of our vintage instruments. A vintage Kamaka that has been passed down in families is a very unique instrument because of the connection to the people who originally played it. If you are considering purchasing a vintage Kamaka, you should verify whether it is in its original condition, play it to see whether you like its sound, and compare it to the sound of other ukuleles you are considering. If you find a vintage Kamaka you like, have fun with it! Kamaka ukuleles never go out of style.
How is Kamaka able to maintain consistent high quality in its musical instruments?
First and foremost, we aim to produce superior-sounding instruments made with only the highest-quality materials and craftsmanship. The bottom line is the sound, and to keep the sound quality consistently high, we instill pride of workmanship in our employees. Kamaka craftsmen are highly trained in performing the specific tasks that are essential to the ukulele building process. From our assembly and parts line, to our sanders and sprayers, we could not ask for a better team. Our workforce has vast experience in ukulele building; most of our employees have been with the Company for more than 10 years. Our most senior employee has been with Kamaka for nearly 50 years.
In addition, multiple quality checks are performed daily by the floor supervisor to ensure adherence to Kamaka standards until the ukuleles are completed. Finally, prior to being delivered to our retailers and customers, every new instrument that leaves the factory is personally checked for quality assurance by Chris Kamaka.
There are so many ukuleles today being made by different makers. I like the traditional look of Kamaka but I also like some of the newer designs as well. What is the best ukulele for me?
No matter what anyone tells you, the best ukulele for you is the ukulele you enjoy playing the most. We invite you to visit our Retailers' showrooms and try out the many different ukuleles that are available in the market today. Whatever ukulele you choose, be sure it makes you smile!