Thursday, January 10, 2008

Visiting KoAloha

KoAloha has become synonymous with quality in the 'ukulele world. So I was very much looking forward to visiting KoAloha during this trip to Oahu. I brought my Pineapple Sunday with me for an issue with the bridge and signed up for the factory tour at the same time.

When we got there we met Brian, who was our tour guide that day. He talked to us a bit about KoAloha and walked us through a sanding exercise to make a souvenir key chain out of a piece of koa wood. While we were working on the key chains, Papa KoAloha came out and looked at my Pineapple Sunday. He remarked that the bridge is in normal condition as the koa wood is soft so the string cutting into the bridge is inevitable. He proceeded to show me a better way to put the strings on and assured me that the bridge is OK and they would still honor the warranty if it really breaks someday. I was satisfied with that. Papa played my Pineapple Sunday a little bit and remarked that it's a good one.

After spending a little time in the showroom area, we proceeded to go into the factory. KoAloha's factory is not very big, but I went through it with great interest. It was so cool seeing ukes actually being built. I'm going to post a few pictures I took on the tour below with some captions describing them. Check them out. Some of the stuff I saw are probably not there everyday.

A couple of things I learned about KoAloha that I didn't know before:

-KoAloha is a play on the words Koa and Aloha. I had thought it was like Ko'Aloha with the apostrophe, but it's really KOAloha. Can't believe I didn't see that.

-The Okamis are Christian family and the signature KoAloha headstock actually has the following meaning: The 2 K's in the logo means "King of Kings", which refers to the almighty God. The center staff is the king's staff, or the Sceptre. There are 7 points on the headstock specifically representing the number 7. All this time I thought the headstock was just something that's supposed to look like a crown or a pineapple head. I literally got the chills as Brian told us about this. I'm a Christian myself, so this is a very cool thing to know and I am even more proud to own a KoAloha 'ukulele.

Now, on to the pictures:

Here's the display wall at the showroom. There are several custom built KoAloha ukes there as well as some production models.

The production tenor Sceptre. This thing pumps out some serious volume. Very strong and high fidelity sound.

The first Pineapple Sunday. Notice the bridge is like a regular soprano's bridge.

Papa KoAloha showing me how to re-string my Pineapple Sunday by demonstrating on a tenor Sceptre.

Brian showing us the original KoAloha 'ukulele. It's a tunable and playable mini made for a souvenir shop. It cost $350 originally and is now worth much more than that.

Tuning and playing the original KoAloha 'ukulele.

The koa stash at KoAloha.

A chunk of curly koa. This is for KoAloha custom ukes.

A couple of custom inlaid fretboards. KoAloha currently does the inlays by hand instead of laser. They feel it gives the uke a more personal touch.

A few ukes waiting to be completed. I was surprised to learn that KoAloha actually uses 2 screws to reinforce the bridge. The use of screws for bridge seems to be a controversial subject when I read about it on internet forums.

Papa KoAloha was in the process of making a batch of Pineapple Sundays and I got to see what it looks like during the production process. Very cool!

A bunch of bent Pineapple Sunday sides. Check out the blocks that make up the pointy parts of the body. I've always wondered what that area looked like on the inside.

A stack of Pineapple Sunday bodies. Looks like they are waiting to be sanded or have been sanded. The 'ukuleles in the Masterpiece collection are only touched by Papa KoAloha during the production process, except for the finish application. So these ukes are really like custom built ukes.

Check this out. Those 7 Masterpiece series Sceptres standing on the ground (ebony back/sides and spruce top) each has an MSRP over $4000. So that's close to $30,000 worth of ukes right there! Yowza!

For the factory tour finale, the KoAloha gang plays a song for us. It sounds very nice.

So there is a look at my trip to KoAloha. It was a cool experience. If you are in Oahu, be sure to contact KoAloha for a factory tour. It was a blast for me and if you enjoy 'ukuleles, it's a no-brainer to visit them.

1 comment:

Woodshed said...

That looks like so much fun. I'll have to start saving my pennies for a trip to Hawaii.

Which uke should I bring on my next trip to Oahu???

What's the maximum you'd spend on a ukulele case for your best uke?

If you could steal one of my ukes, which one would it be???

How curly do you like your koa? (preferably on a uke)

What's the maximum number of ukes a perfectly sane person should have???

Poll: How often do you play the ukulele???

Poll: Which guitar company's approach to ukes do you prefer???

Poll: What's your favorite type of headstock???

Poll: The new basic Collings concert uke (UC-1) sells for about $1k, your reaction is: