Kanile’a ‘Ukelele, located in Kaneohe, HI, uses only the highest grade, well-seasoned woods to produce its musical instruments. Each ‘ukulele is scaled to have a perfect intonation and is meticulously assembled by master builder Joseph Souza, who runs the company with his wife, Kristen.
When the company began in 1998, the Souza’s primarily used a nitrocellulose lacquer (commonly known as “nitro”) on its instruments.
The logistics of categorizing, inventorying and identifying instruments while they cured in different stages over a three-week period was a constant challenge. As the instruments were curing, the nitro would release harmful fumes throughout the shop. “I knew there had to be a better way,” Joe says.
Seeing the LightIn early 2006, Joe saw an ultraviolet (UV) cure system while visiting Taylor Guitar factory in El Cajon, CA. “Prior to that visit, I had only heard about and read what little information there was on UV and its use in the finishing of instruments,” he says.
Steve Baldwin at Taylor Guitar, recommended that Joe contact Peter Beck at The Lawrence-McFadden Co. based in Philadelphia, PA, for information on UV coatings technology, and Gordon Knight at UV III Systems, Inc. based in Bellingham, MA, for information on UV equipment. After exploring the process with both suppliers, Kanile’a ‘Ukulele decided to commit to a UV cure system in May 2006.
“I realized when the company who first researched/developed and now leads the industry with this revolutionary finish recommends someone, they know what they are talking about,” says Joe.
According to Joe, only a few guitar companies were using a UV finish at the time, and Kanile’a ‘Ukulele was the first ‘ukelele company to adopt the technology.
“While doing research, I learned how friendly this finish is to the environment and how much protection it could provide to our instruments while allowing the instruments to project, resonate and have all of the sustain that has made our instruments so popular. I knew this finish would set Kanile’a ‘Ukulele apart from all of our competitors,” Joe says.
A Smooth ConversionAccording to Joe, the company experienced few challenges in switching over to the new system. “Most ‘ukulele companies only spray their finish and do not buff their instrument to a high gloss. We were very fortunate because we have always done a high-gloss finish. This made the conversion to UV very smooth. The steps to achieve our superior finish were the same, but the work in progress time was reduced due to the UV curing process,” he explains.
Each Kanile’a ‘Ukulele receives a polyester-based, high-gloss finish that has a photochemically reactive binder that allows the product to cure when exposed to UV light. No special pretreatments are needed; just the UV grain filler and sanding sealer/topcoat that are part of the UV system. With the polyester coating, the company is able to achieve a thin superior finish in just three coats, compared to the 16 coats that were required with the nitro. Additionally, the UV curing process “has been exceptional,” says Joe. “Gordon Knight and his UV III staff have been wonderful to work with, and they built a state-of-the-art light box that fits our application perfectly.”
With the UV coating system, a raw wood instrument can be delivered from Kanile’a ‘Ukulele’s assembly department to its finishing department in the morning and be completed to a durable, high-gloss, mirror-like finish that same day. The finish has the ability to expand and contract with the wood while still letting the instruments vibrate and resonate to produce the “joyful sound” that defines the Kanile’a part of the company’s name.
“Here at Kanile’a ‘Ukulele, we have always prided ourselves on the quality of our instruments. From our selection of the highest-grade, air-dried tonal woods to our exceptional customer service, we always strive to be our best. UV technology is helping us achieve our goal of building and providing the highest quality ukuleles to our customers,” Joe says.
For more details about Kanile’a ‘Ukulele, firstname.lastname@example.org visitwww.kanileaukulele.com. For more information about the UV technology discussed in this article, visitwww.lawrence-mcfadden.com(coatings materials) orwww.uv3.com(equipment).