Tour of Milling Department at Kanile’a ‘Ukulele

Kanile’a Hawaiian Island Tenor
Joe Souza in the milling room.

Anyone who’s been around ‘ukuleles for a while know they can vary in price from under $100 to over $2000 and beyond. Every ‘ukulele has it’s day under the sun. As your playing becomes more refined, so does your preference of ‘ukulele. You start to hear, feel, and see things you weren’t aware of before such as the subtleties and nuances in tone or even specific sizings in the neck and body. Education is power; understanding many different aspects of ‘ukulele playing keeps you well rounded and gives you more of an ability sculpt your playing to your taste.

So when moving on up to ‘ukulele number two or three or just to higher quality, doing some research will make it easier to make a decision. Understanding the amount of work and skill that goes into building an ‘ukulele not only helps deepen your appreciation for the instrument but gives you a better idea of the different possibilities for it. If you ever have the chance to tour an ‘ukulele factory, you should! Many factories offer regular tours and are insightful and fun. Even after seeing many of the ‘ukulele factories on ‘Oahu I am still mystified and amazed seeing a chunk of wood turn into a beautiful work of art.

Book matched set of koa

One of the leading ‘ukulele companies in Hawai’i is Kanile’a ‘Ukulele. Many know Kanile’a ‘Ukulele as one of the, “Three K’s” alongside Kamaka and KoAloha. They have established themselves by embracing new technology and always keeping the players needs in mind first (as owner Joe Souza was an ‘ukulele player before he started to build). Not to mention Joe is one of the nicest, most humble, and most sincere individuals you will ever meet.

Here Joe takes us through the first step of building a Kanile’a by giving us a tour of the milling department. Watch as he explains how they take cords of fresh Koa wood and turn them into beautifully book matched sets for new ‘ukuleles. Also he talks to Frank, the head technician of the milling department, about a day in the life at the factory.

So look who’s building ‘ukuleles in your area and see if you can stop by the shop! If you find yourself on the windward side of ‘Oahu in Kaneohe, stop by the Kanile’a factory. They give daily tours of the shop Monday through Friday at 10:30am.

For more information visit their website here.

-Neal Chin


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