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Ko'aloha Ukulele shop tour pictures!


Koaloha Ukulele shop tour

Today we stopped by the Ko'aloha ukulele factory and took a short tour of the facilities!  First off, this was the first tour of our trip, so at this point I don't have much to compare it too, but my overall impression was very good.  Everyone was very welcoming and knowledgeable, and quite generous with their time.  This is a small company (less than 12 people-ish) which means there is a lot to be done, so we very much appreciated them taking a few moments to show us around!

Ko'aloha ukuleles are one of the "4 Hawaiian K Brands" along with Kamaka, Ko'olau, and Kanile'a.  They are totally handmade on Oahu and display some unique and modern design elements mixed with traditional wood choices and a rustic but classy aesthetic. 

 The most obviously unique piece of their design puzzle is the "Uni-brace" system that supports the internal structure of Ko'aloha ukes.  I also noticed that they seem to use incredibly thin tops, but not at the sacrifice of structural integrity or longevity.  All their ukuleles come with a full lifetime warranty and they are happy to show off the solidarity of their instruments by putting one on the ground and standing on it (yes, literally). 

"Pops" is the man behind the design and also quite the inventor/handyman/problem solver.  His previous career was in plastics and he holds several patents (three if I remember correctly).  The shop is littered with molds and small inventions that he has come up with to expedite the quality and production of the instruments.  They currently complete about 16-18 ukuleles per day.  The most interesting piece of homemade equipment in the "Pops" arsenal was a multi blade fret board slotting saw that cuts the fret slots in a fingerboard in literally 5 seconds.  Yup, he thought it up and built it himself.  Necessity = the mother of invention (but only if you are wicked-smart and not lazy).  

Pops is the man behind Ko'aloha

The Ko'aloha crew seems like a happy and hard working bunch.  They are in control of their product from raw lumber to final finish (they use a catalyzed high solids varnish).  Half the shop seems dedicated to milling and drying wood, and the other half to the building of instruments.  There is an isolated "side bending room" where all the sides are hand bent on a very unassuming piece of pipe heated with a blowtorch.  The upstairs is the spray room, but I was not able to get up there since spraying was in progress at the time.  

I would highly recommend this ukulele factory tour for anyone interested in seeing how it is done the Hawaiian way.  The tour has a great mood and is well guided, honest, and even entertaining.  The only con is that the location is slightly hard to find, but this is not a big deal.  It is worth mentioning that Ko'aloha was the only factory that had 2 tours per day, one at 10:30 and another at 1:00, which is actually quite useful and awesome.  All the other shop tours are at 10:00-ish, which means that you can only do one a day!

Ukulele Side Bender

Ko'aloha Scepter Ukulele

Standing on a Ko'aloha Ukulele

Ukulele Fret Slottiing Saw

Ko'aloha Ukulele Bracing

Ukulele Milling shop

Koa Ukulele Billets

Custom made clamps!

Koa Ukulele Book Match

Raw Koa Ukulele boards

Curly Koa for ukes!

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