Made In Hawaii: Kamaka Ukulele
At 91, Fred Kamaka Sr. still comes to work four days a week. His job -- leading tours at his family's ukulele factory in Kaka'ako because no one knows this company's story like he does. He's lived it, working here since he was just 4 years old!
HONOLULU - At 91, Fred Kamaka Sr. still comes to work four days a week. His job -- leading tours at his family's ukulele factory in Kaka'ako because no one knows this company's story like he does. He's lived it, working here since he was just 4 years old!
"I had to come in with my father, and he wasn't gonna let me sit around, knowing my father. He was real pake, you know," said Kamaka laughing.
His father, Samuel Kamaka Sr., started making and selling ukuleles in 1916 at his home in Kaimuki.
This year marks 100 years of improvements and they've been innovators from the start. Samuel Kamaka Sr. was the first to design and patent the pineapple ukulele, named for its shape.
Chris Kamaka showed us an updated version of the pineapple. They're releasing just one hundred of them this year to celebrate their centennial.
Made of koa wood with mother of pearl and abalone inlaid designs, it features five plumerias one for each generation.
"My grandfather's generation here. And my dad's generation. Our generation, which is the third, and then my son's generation here, all the way down to the next generations, which would be my grandson's," said Chris Kamaka.
Those generations work side by side. Chris is the production manager. On this day, his son, Christopher, is working on some finishing touches.
A good ukulele starts with the wood. This koa comes from the Big Island. They'll keep it here, slowly drying out for the next four years before it's ready to be transformed.
At Kamaka, hand-made is the only way to go.
"Love of constructing things things correctly. Just like my father said, 'No junk!'" said Fred Kamaka laughing.
They make 4,000 a year. Mass production? Out of the question. Move the shop? No way.
"This is where papa started, historically this is where we should be," said Fred Kamaka.
Papa also taught them how to finish with the Kamaka check. Two Kamakas must check each and every instrument before it's delivered.
"Made in Hawaii, made by us. And when the customer receives it, they know that it's something that we really put our heart and soul into," said Chris Kamaka.