David "Kawika" Hurd is a self-taught ukulele maker who began his trade as a hobby in 1985. Since moving to Hilo, Hawaii in late 1991, he has been making and repairing ukuleles full time with the help of his wife Helen. At this point in time, he has made more than 600 ukuleles.
The business specializes in the 4-, 6- and 8-string tenor ukuleles , with the baritone ukulele, concert ukulele and soprano ukulele also made regularly. Photos of our instruments can be seen in the Photo Gallery. Please see the price sheet and our building philosophy for further details regarding pricing and construction. With the exception of a few vintage instruments, all ukuleles sold by our company are entirely made by Kawika Hurd. Our koa wood (acacia koa) ukuleles have an ebony nut, bridge and fingerboard. As shown in the site map of our website, we have discussions of ukulele resonances, tunings and string tensions, The Journal of Guitar Acoustics index and ordering information, as well as building tips, a listing of old instruction manuals, an identification database for older Hawaiian ukuleles, an analysis of the ukulele fretboard for several keys and much, much more. New things are being added as time permits -- please return every month or so. The table below and to the left allows other parts of the website to be accessed as well.
Our building schedule involving five instruments at a time takes about three months to complete. We prefer to make only one or two sizes of instrument within a given schedule (i.e. tenor and/or baritone in one group; soprano and/or concert ukulele in another group).
Although we favor a traditional look, technology plays a strong part in our building philosophy because of my science background:
All tenor and baritone necks have a full-length,
3/8" square imbedded graphite carbon/epoxy bar
beneath the ebony fret board for greater stability and
better tone. Calculations
regarding neck stability under string stress.
Fronts and backs are matched acoustically using a
frequency generator and Chladni patterns. Young's modulus
is measured for these boards as well as our brace woods
and used to further grade and match these materials
during the building process.
All tops are optimized by mechanical compliance mapping
to insure a systematic approach to achieving high sound quality.
Pore filling is done using both modern
(epoxy) and traditional (French polishing with pumice and oil) methods.
Overlying thin coats of shellac as applied by brush and
traditional French polishing techniques optimize the look of the curly or
figured koa as well as provide for future ease of repair.
Numerous steps of slow- speed hand sanding and
final sponge buffing give the instruments a unique silky
Each instrument is individually voiced, with the final sound being optimized by custom- made wire-wrapped nylon core bass strings by D'Addario and trebles by Savarez. The koa wood (acacia koa) used in our instruments is all figured or "curly". Colors range from blonde through rich browns, with red overtones and streaks not uncommon. Spalted woods are sometimes used for the back and sides and are available on a limited basis. The blues, greens and pinks of our New Zealand paua shell fret board and side dot markers complement the ebony fretboard and koa neck. Grover friction tuners complete our desired traditional look. See STRINGS and SOUNDS for a further discussion of ukulele sizes, tunings and string tensions, and Our Ukuleles Played For You for a series of sound files played using our instruments.
While I think that the Hawaii Visitor's Bureau might be enchanted with the concept of an open air ukulele shop, wafted by gentle Trade Winds, shaded of cocoanut palms and with the dulcet tones of tropical songbirds in the background, such a setting is simply not appropriate for the building of better quality instruments. Hilo has about ten (10) feet of rain a year and the relative humidity ranges from about 55% during El Nino conditions to 75-100% during the rest of the year. It has rained for as long as 8 weeks at a time. This means that any instrument built in such a higher humidity environment and then moved to a much lower humidity will develop cracks, generally on the front and/or back. Our instruments are built in a lower humidity (50%) and stable temperature (75-80 F) controlled environment to insure greater stability during manufacture as well as less movement in other environments after completion. In spite of such precautions, it is still recommended that instruments going to persistently drier climates use instrument humidifiers such as the RDM Humitron humidifier for violin & viola available from better instrument stores.
To explore more of the website, please refer to the Sitemap and Search Engine