Shortly after the turn of the century, Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka began crafting Koa wood ukuleles from the basement of his Kaimuki, Hawaii home. In 1916, he formed his one-man shop, “Kamaka Ukulele and Guitar Works,” and soon established a solid reputation for making only the highest quality ukuleles.
In 1928, Sam Kamaka patented the design that began the original Pineapple Ukulele, which produced a resonant, mellow sound distinct from the traditional figure-eight.
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The Pineapple Ukulele became an instant success worldwide and continues to be Kamaka’s signature ukulele to this day.
On a trip to Oahu, we visited the shop and took their factory tour. Our tour was given by Sam Jr., the son of the founder.
The handmade ukuleles are some of the finest in the world and are made from Koa, a wood found in Hawaii with rosewood and ebony. Each Ukulele takes about five months and they say no two are ever the same.
The tour is as much a history of Hawaii, the Kamaka family and the Ukulele and includes a visit to the workshop where the work is done. It’s a truly fascinating tour and well worth a place on your Oahu travel itinerary.
Kamaka Ukulele tours are available Tuesday through Friday at 10am. The tours are listed as running for about 30 – 45 minutes, but during our visit, it lasted at least an hour. This was a great thing because it was fascinating learning about the process of making a Ukulele, the family history, and their place in Oahu history.
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