Kamaka Pineapple Ukulele

Please check back, as I’ll be updating this page as I find new information.

Probably, in my opinion, some of the coolest ukulele that Kamaka have made are the Pineapple ukulele.  These were designed by Sam Kamaka Sr. in 1916.  He later patented the design in 1928 (Click here to view the patent)  He came up with this design with the purpose of making a small ukulele with a fuller and warmer sound, although there is another story that the pineapple uke was just easier to make (no bending of the sides).

Sam Kamaka Sr. with his first Pineapple Ukulele.

Fred Kamaka with the Original Painted Pineapple.  When I was at the Kamaka Factory Fred said they had it appraised, and it was appraised at: “Priceless”.

Painted Pineapple Ukes were made in the 20’s and 30’s.  Some were painted front and back, some just the back, and others painted on the back with a pineapple decal on the front.

Pre 1928 Style 3 Pineapple

20’s Pineapple with Abalone Trim

20’s Pineapple Non Painted

Notice how this one is rounded at the bottom.  This was the only photo of this one.  But it may have been a one piece side! One long piece bent into the shape.  Most of the Pineapples have a somewhat flat bottom to them.

20’s Style 3 Pineapple

Late 20’s/Early 30’s Style 4 Painted Pineapple

Fred Kamaka with the Original and a mid 30’s Painted Pineapple

3 Early Pineapple Ukulele

Late 20’s Style 4, Mid 30’s Painted, Mid 30’s Style 0

Painted Pineapples

1930’s Painted w/ Supposed Original Case

mid 30’s Style 0

30’s Style 4

30’s Pineapple “Special”

This was most likely a special order, high end, Pineapple Ukulele. Rope & Abalone Binding.  Was sold at Elderly.

Gold Label Pineapple (’54-’69)

Early White Label (’69-01)

Modern Pineapple (2001-Present)

1920’s Pineapple – Homage

This one is currently on UkuleleFriend.com, you can view it here.   Hand-painted by local famed Hawaii artist E. Garcia II. The pineapple, headstock logo, and cigar band at the butt of the instrument were all painted  in 2013 on an actual vintage Kamaka ukulele from the 1920s as an homage to the original painted pineapple model that is highly sought after by ukulele collectors worldwide.

1920pineapple-1

1920pineapple-2

1920pineapple-3

1920pineapple-4

1920pineapple-5

Ka-Lai/Ka-Lae Ukulele

The Ka-Lai ukuleles were made by Kamaka for Johnny Lai. Labeled: “Ka-Lai Pineapple Ukulele / Patented Jan 3, 1928. No. 74,178 Hand Made / Trade Mark registered U.S. Patent Office / Ka-Lai Sting Instrument Manufacturers/ USA”. These ukuleles had the pineapple decal on the body and the “Ka-Lai” decal on the headstock. Later on, probably in the 40s, they changed the name to “Ka-Lae”, to sound more Hawaiian. Monkeypod was the wood of choice and they were less expensive then the Kamaka koa ukuleles.  Ka-Lai was a combonation of Kamaka & Lai.  Another story I’ve heard about these ukes was that after Kamaka closed for the night, Sam Kamaka would let Johnny Lai come in and make these ukuleles in the Kamaka shop.

30’s Style 0

40’s  Style 3

30’s Style 4

Ka Lai Label

Ka-Lae Pineapple

Ka-Lae Internal Decal

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25 Responses to “Kamaka Pineapple Ukulele”

  1. Travis Mullenix Says:

    Hello! I recently purchased a Kamaka Uke at an auction for 32 bucks! 🙂 It has the kk decal on headstock and gold label inside sound hole. The end of the headstock has the three points like the gold label pineapple uke shown in the pictures above. It doesn’t have anything painted on it, but is the same shape as the pineapple ones. Oh, and it has to be the soprano size. It’s pretty small. Seems mine dates itself to the 1954-69 time period. Any way to date it more specifically? Thanks for your help!

    • I’ve heard that sometimes there is a date code sticker inside. If that is there you can date it, otherwise it’s tougher. I’ll give you $60 for it 😉 j/k. Great score!

      • Travis Mullenix Says:

        Thanks “uku”… I’ll take a look and see if I can find anything inside…Hope so. I’d like to know more specifics. If I find anything i’ll let ya know!

  2. Christopher Lai Says:

    Hi My name is Christopher Lai, I am the Great Grandson of Johnny Lai, I am trying to at least revive Metronome music ( the music shop Ka-Lai Ukulele’s were sold from ) anything you can tell me about the Ukuleles would be greatly appreceated thatnks : )

    • What I know is pretty much on the website right now. I’ve got a little bit of extra info, feel free to email me with any questions. Also, I believe Fred Jr. or Chris have a lot of history they’ve collected, maybe email/call them and talk with them 🙂

  3. this is extremely interesting. thanks for that. we need more sites similar to this. i commend you with your great content and great topic choices.

  4. Richard Polishuk Says:

    I’ve owned 4 Kamakas (6-string tenor, baritone, concert, pineapple). I’ve decided that I like the smaller ones best…I sold the bari a couple of years ago and have the lili’u for sale right now. The concert sounds great in low G tuning, and I just bought the pineapple for high G. What a great sound!

  5. Christopher Lai Says:

    I am the Great Grandson of Johnny Lai, My dad told me about the Label Ka-Lai as well as the later Ka-lae if anyone has more information it would be appreciated

    Christopher Lai

    xXStorefrontXx@gmail.com

    • Christopher Lai, I would like to find out who Johnny Lai was…I own a great pineapple kai-lae uke dated dec 27th1947 that is made different than any other uke…it is much heavier and is band sawed which makes the sides a qtr inch thick and is heavier and sounds great…please get back to me…thx rj

      • I always suggest things like this to contact Kamaka directly. They have more info, as I’m just someone who has gathered as much as I can off the web and compiled it. I know some about the company, but no where near what they could answer themselves.

      • Larry See Says:

        I also have one of those ‘3-piece’ Ka-Lae ‘ukes. Interestingly, as you pointed out , the body & neck are 1-piece(no glue joint). Mine appears to be made of Monkey pod.

  6. I have a 1928 patented kamaka ukele with pics I’m trying to find the right place to sell it n e suggestions please contact me thanks

  7. John Tew Says:

    I have a Ka-lai pineapple uke. It looks like the model 3 shown on this web-site. Here is my question: if these were made in the 1930’s, why do the labels say, “Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.” Hawaii did not become a state of the USA until 1960, so why did they put the USA on the label???

  8. […] design by Kamaka Ukelele.   I got this image of Fred Kamaka holding the pineapple ukelele from an unofficial blog page  that has some information about the […]

  9. I have a Kai-Lae Pineapple-probably from the 1940’s. What’s unusual about it is that its only 3 pieces of wood: the top/the back/and the neck & sides are carved from 1 piece- very unusual construction.

  10. Yvonne Lamont Says:

    I have a pineapple ukulele patented Jan 3 1928 no 74,178
    But unfortunately the pegs and strings are missing, does anyone know where they can be purchased

  11. Yvonne, your Pinaplle may have originally had wooden pegs
    (like a Violin) Installing later friction pegs would decrease its value to a collector. I would suggest taking it to a local Guitar repair shop(not a chain store like Guitar Center) and get their opinion. They used that patent date label well into the 1930’s. That 5-digit number may provide a clue if it’s a serial number.

  12. I have one of the original hand painted pineapples, painted on the front. Kamaka’s friend painted it once he was finished making it back in the early 20s. Any idea what it is worh. I think I am ready to sell it.

  13. Just bought a ’62 Pineapple. Wonderful condition. Any body have suggestion on strings to bring out the life of this beauty?

  14. I have a style 3 or 4 pineapple with the “Aloha” decal on the headstock, like one you have pictured. rope-bound top, sound hole and fingerboard. No pineapple paint or decal of a pineapple. This one has dark wood, slotted-end tuning pegs, no metal or plastic, just wood pegs. Are the tuners indicative of a very early version? (I am missing one tuner, if anyone has one??) Also the label inside is black and white with KAMAKA arched across the top and the “since 1916” blurb and “Honolulu 19, Hawaii” at the bottom. Seems like early ’20s… anyone know? Does not appear to be a date stamp, but where would the stamp typically be? Thanks

  15. John Solberg Says:

    My father purchased this style 3 with abalone pineapple uke with the pineapple decal on the face. Kamaka factory at 550 South Street repaired it in 2005. Most beautiful piece I’ve ever seen. Recently my Nephew purchased a Koa Pineapple uke for my birthday. Great Sound !!!

  16. that’s wonderful, thanks for your share,.. I think this is amazing blog

  17. Hovey Grosvenor Says:

    I have a marvelous Kamaka “special” Pineapple pre patent Ukelele that my grandmother purchased from Samuel Kamaka Sr. in 1928. It still has the original customers name lightly scratched in the back, which my grandmother managed to purchase before it was sold to him. I wondered if there is a list of early original customers which could authenticate this Uke and also if there is a place to seek out collectors who might appreciate its vintage for their collection. I play it rarely and it belongs in a proper museum quality environment. Any thoughts?

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