Pono F.A.Q.

“Ko’olau” and “Pono” are registered trademarks of the Ko’olau Guitar and ‘Ukulele Company

Q – You have various large size ukuleles, sometimes named BN and sometime called Tenor Guitars.  What are the models and descriptions?

A –During the past few years we have introduced new Pono ukulele models. One in particular that has become popular is our BN (Baritone Nui). Nui in Hawaiian is defined as a “big.”  

Our BN is tuned as a standard Baritone Ukulele, but due to a body width of 13 5/8” it’s tone and volume is impressive. Our goal was a modification of the original steel string “Tenor Guitar” about one hundred years ago. However our design accommodates nylon strings, including classical style bracing, a slightly wider neck, and a radiused fingerboard.

Another model we are now producing is our UL4. Originally we titled this a Tenor Guitar, however due to it’s smaller size, we are simply calling it our Pono UL4 Baritone. Body width is approximately two inches smaller than the BN models. At 11” wide, it’s about one inch larger than a baritone ukulele.

Strings were also a factor. We designed our first UL4 models for steel strings. It’s like playing a somewhat large baritone ukulele, but with steel strings.

Next came inquiries as to why this model doesn’t have nylon strings.       Which did make sense.

And so now we proud to introduce the new Pono Baritone ULN4, Nylon String.  Body woods are Acacia, Mahogany, and Ebony.

Nylon and Steel String Pono Baritone UL4 models:

ULN4-1 all acacia, solid headstock, satin finish, NYLON

UL4-1 all acacia, solid headstock, satin finish STEEL

ULN4-2 all mahogany, solid headstock, satin finish, NYLON

UL4-2 all mahogany, solid headstock, satin finish, STEEL

ULN4-20 Mahogany with Spruce or Cedar top, binding, gloss finish, NYLON

UL4-20 Mahogany with Spruce or Cedar top, binding, gloss finish, STEEL

ULN4-40 Ebony with Spruce or Cedar top, binding, gloss finish, NYLON

UL4-40 Ebony with Spruce or Cedar top, binding, gloss finish, STEEL


Q – Describe your new Pono Octave Mandolins?

A – Our new Octave Mandolins are a product of the combination of our guitars designs blended with mandolin tuning.  They all have 8 strings.  And we are making two sizes.  One is a small body, utilizing a similar design of our UL 11 1/4″ parlor guitar body.  Scale length is 21 1/2″

And a larger 13 5/8″ body similar in design to our BN Tenor Guitar. Scale length is 23″

Each model is made to accomodate either mandolin tuning GDAE or guitar tuning DGBE.
As an Octave Mandolin we use four sets of unison gauged strings.  Two wound, and two plain.
As a Tenor 8-String Guitar, we use string gauges similar to the top 8 strings of a 12-string guitar.  So pair #4 and pair #3 (D and G) are in octaves, and then pair #2 and pair #1 are in unison.

Of course other options are possible, as long as the integrity of the body and neck are compatible with string tensions.

All models are available in either Mahogany or Acacia.  And all tops are Engelmann Spruce. Fingerboards and Bridges are Ebony.  Nuts and Saddles are bone.  Finishes are either Satin or Gloss, and either available with an optional Sunburst Finish.   

All models include a hardshell case. 


Q – Where are Pono Guitars and Ukuleles made?  

A – For most of the 14 years that we have been making Pono Guitars and Ukuleles we have had a factory on the island of Java in Indonesia.  A few years ago we found a very experienced group of classical guitar makers in a northern province of China, and thus some models were made in that factory.  They were beautiful and sounded good. China now has a bad reputation for making cheap junk, but China actually has the longest history of the arts and high quality craftsmanship. But somewhere along the line, after being commissioned by US and European companies to make cheap stuff, they acquired the reputation for only making inferior quality goods.
But our main issue with China was the location.  Our factory, which included older and experienced craftsman was very remote and rural.  So it was difficult for the transport of supplies and export of our instruments.  It also became difficulty for us to actually be in the factory (which is mandatory for on site quality control). And so, we discontinued production in China.  So to answer the question, for the most part we have been in Indonesia, and will continue there in the future.  

Q – On some Ko’olau and Pono guitar and ‘ukulele models you use Rosewood.  What Rosewoods do you use?  And what are the differences?

A – As most of us know by now, all species of Rosewood are now are now on governmental endangered lists, and banned from use.  There are some legal permits available, with documentation and permit fees, however for most of our instruments we have discontinued the use of any Rosewood.

All of this is sad and was not due to use or misuse by the stringed instrument industry.  It was scale furniture and archectural lumber suppliers that have been clear cutting rosewood forests.  And of course, impoverised countries and land owners have been selling large quantities of wood until finally CITES (the international agency that is supposedly protecting endangered species) put a stop to all deforestation.

Obviously we are in position to counter act such legislation, but instead comply, and thus discontinue the use of all rosewoods.  So, for now we will continue to use Acacia Koa and other Acacias found throughout the world.  And also Mahogany and Mango.  For a few higher end models we are still using Ebony, however Ebony also will most likely end up on the endangered list soon.   

Q – What wood are you using for fingerboards and bridges?

A – Up to the middle of 2017 we used Rosewood and Ebony for fingerboards and bridges.  However beginning August 2018, with the discontinuation of Rosewood, all fingerboards and bridges will be Ebony.  


Q – What are your current basic Pono ukulele models? 

– Mahogany Series and Mahogany Delux Series. 
– MS and MSD Soprano
– MC and MCD Concert
– MT and MTDX Tenor
– MTD-CR Tenor Cedar top, radiused fingerboard
– MTD-SP Tenor Spruce top, radiused fingerboard
– MT-8  and MTD-8 Tenor 8 String
– MB and MBD Baritone

– Mango Series and Mango Delux Series
– MGS and MGSD Soprano
– MGC and MGCD Concert
– MGCP and MGCDP Concert Pineapple
– MGT and MGTD Tenor
– MGTP and MGTDP Tenor Pineapple
– MGT-8 and MGTD-8 Tenor 8 String
– MGB and MGBD Baritone

– Acacia Series and Acacia Delux Series
– AS and ASD Soprano
– AC and ACD Concert
– AT and ATD Tenor
– ATD-CR Tenor Cedar Top, radiused fingerboard
– AB and ABD Baritone


Q – What is the difference with a “Delux” model?

A – gloss finish and wood upgrade


– TE  Thinbody Electric:  Tenor and Baritone size, thin body with a passive saddle pickup. Active amplification optional.    Acacia body, and top woods are either Acacia, Cedar, or Spruce.  Patterned after our Ko’olau CE Thinbody Electric series.  All Thinbody models include a custom hardshell case. 

TE Thinbody Tenor, satin finish 
TE-C Thinbody Tenor with Cedar top, satin finish
TE Delux Thinbody Tenor, gloss finish
TE-C Delux Thinbody Tenor with cedar top, gloss finish
TE-SB Delux Thinbody Tenor, gloss BLACK finish
TE-MD Delux Thinbody Tenor with figured mango top, gloss finish
BE Thinbody Baritone, satin finish
BE-C Thinbody Baritone with Cedar top, satin finish
BE Delux Thinbody Baritone, gloss finish
BE-C Delux Thinbody Baritone with Cedar top, gloss finish


– Thinbody Tahitian, pineapple shape thinbody, back soundhole, satin finish
– TT-4 Thinbody Tenor 4-String
– TT-8 Thinbody Tenor 8-String 


Pro-Classic Series:  This is our custom premium line of Pono ‘ukuleles. They are crafted with master grade woods, top and back wood binding, wood marquetry rosette, and a Model 5 which has turquoise stone top purfling. Available with either a solid or slotted headstock. Four different wood combinations.  All include a custom hardshell case.

1. Ebony back and sides, spruce or cedar top 
Solid headstock:
ET-PC Tenor 
ETC-PC Tenor Cutaway 
ET-5-PC Tenor 
EB-PC Baritone 
EBC-PC Baritone Cutaway 

Slotted headstock:
ETSH-PC Tenor 
ETSHC-PC Tenor Cutaway 
ETSH-5-PC Tenor 
EBSH-PC Baritone 
EBSHC-PC Baritone Cutaway 


2. Acacia top, back, sides, cutaway models have a Cedar top
Solid headstock:
AT-PC Tenor 
ATC-PC Tenor Cutaway Cedar top 
AT-5-PC Tenor 
AB-PC Baritone 
ABC-PC Baritone Cutaway Cedar top 

Slotted headstock:
ATSH-PC Tenor 
ATSHC-PC Tenor Cutaway Cedar top 
ATSH-5-PC Tenor 
ABSH-PC Baritone 
ABSHC-PC Baritone Cutaway Cedar top 

3. Mahogany back, and sides, Mahogany or Spruce top 
Solid headstock:
MS-PC Soprano  (4:1 geared friction style tuners)
MC-PC Concert  (4:1 geared friction style tuners)
MT-PC Tenor
MTC-PC Tenor Cutaway
MT8-PC Tenor 8-String

MB-PC Baritone 
MBC-PC Baritone Cutaway

Slotted headstock:
MTSH-PC Tenor 
MTSHC-PC Tenor Cutaway
MBSH-PC Baritone
MBSHC-PC Baritone Cutaway

5. Mango top, back, and sides.  Solid Headstock
– MGT-PC Tenor
– MGTP5-PC Tenor
– MGTP5-PC Tenor Pineapple

Q – Is Mahogany becoming endangered?  Will there be a problem getting Mahogany?

A – Genuine Mahogany (Swietenia Mahogani and Swietenia Macrophylla) has been used extensively in construction, both architectural trim and the boating industry. Neither are now commercially available from their original natural habitat, namely Central and South America. And so now Mahogany has become endangered and expensive. The highest quality, Swietenia Mahogani (Cuban or Caribbean Mahogany, and sometimes called small leaf mahogany)  is now available only where cultivated. On Oahu we have this species thanks to botanists in the 1800’s. But it’s rare, very expensive, and used only for our Ko’olau models. This is a heavy and dense variety of Mahogany, at a weight of 40lb/ft and a
Specific Gravity of .64. 

The other species from the Caribbean is Swietenia Macrophylla (sometimes called Honduras Mahogany or big leaf mahogany).  This is the species most people are familiar with, both for body woods, and nearly every guitar neck ever made. The weight and density of this Mahogany is lighter than “mahogani” with a weight of 34.lb/ft and a Specific Gravity of .54.
But this species too is no longer available in it’s original environment. Swietenia Macrophylla is now cultivated plantation style in other countries, and used for furniture, ship building, architecture, and musical instruments.
What’s confusing is that there are many other woods that somewhat look like, and named “Mahogany” but technically not the original Mahogany (mahogani and macrophylla). Some of them are Khaya from Africa and Toon from Asia and Australia.

For Pono production we use both species, Swietenia macrophylla (big leaf mahogany) and Swietenia mahogani (small leaf mahogany).  The story goes that the Dutch planted both mahogany species in Indonesia over 200 years ago (which was also done in Hawaii) . Mahogany an excellent body tone wood, and still the perfect wood for necks. But back to the question, yes mahogany is becoming more expensive than most other woods. Many of our customers still prefer the natural beauty, sweet tone, and excellent projection of Mahogany, for back and sides, and even used as a top wood for a mellow warm tone.  And of course, it can be combined with a spruce or cedar as a top soundboard. 


Q – Why do you use Acacia wood?

A – For the same reason we use Hawaiian Koa.  It’s pretty and it sounds good. Our Acacia wood is the same species as Hawaiian Koa (Acacia Koa). But the Acacia that we use for Pono ‘ukuleles and guitars is Acacia Preta (and possibly a crossover of Acacia Melanoxylon in Australia, since Australia is only a few miles south of Java).  The various Acacia’s are plentiful and not endangered, at least not yet. There are over 1300 different species of Acacia throughout the world. In fact there are so many different “acacia” trees that many arborists have a difficult time distinguishing them. But they all have similar characteristics. The actual trees look somewhat alike, and the wood grain is similar and beautiful. Our new Acacia model is our solution to the limited supply of Hawaiian Koa.

Q – What’s the difference between Mahogany and Acacia as an instrument wood?

A – As for tonal comparisons to Mahogany, the Acacia family (including Acacia Koa) is different in weight and density. Most Acacia wood, including Acacia Koa has a density of about 40lb/ft and a  Specific Gravity of .55.  Mahogany is lighter (35 to 40lb/ft) but approximately the same Specific Gravity (which is weight compared to the same amount of water), producing a warm tone, and a unique tonal clarity.   And what’s really interesting is that in time Mahogany changes in color and tone more than any other wood we have experienced. For those who own vintage mahogany guitars and ‘ukuleles, the aged tone is unsurpassable.

Acacia is heavier and more dense than Mahogany, and thus has it’s own unique tonal projection. And of course a beauty all it’s own. Most people are familiar with the sound of Acacia woods, having owned or played instruments made of Hawaiian Koa. All Acacia woods are similar.  The Acacia that we use for our Pono instruments is similar in appearance to what was known to old timers in Hawaii as “black Koa.”

For lack of a better description, Acacia wood produces what could be called a deep woody tone. And some models we use Spruce and Cedar as a top wood for a wider tonal range. 

Acacia Preta does lack the rich red color tones of Acacia Koa, but still has beautiful black and brown figured grain patterns. We have been reluctant to use Acacia woods in the past due to the confusion of this species. Our Hawaii ecosystem is fragile, and it cannot afford to supply the entire earth with its resources, so we make it very clear that our Acacia wood for Pono ‘ukuleles is not made of Koa from Hawaii.

Q – Most Mahogany guitars and ‘ukuleles are dark in color. Why is your Mahogany so light in color?

A – Because most people have come to associate mahogany with a dark brown red color. Actually what you are seeing is stained wood.  And this has been going on for so long that most people have never seen a guitar or ukulele with the natural color of mahogany.
We do not stain or dye our mahogany.  What you are see on Ko’olau and Pono instruments is the natural color of mahogany. The general perception is that the darker the better.  We prefer it natural.
True mahogany in it’s natural state is a beautiful light red brown.  

Another reason mahogany has been stained in guitar and ukulele production is that it’s often remnant and poor quality pieces used on guitars and ukuleles, and so manufacturers use a dark stain to hide blemishes.  The wood still produces a good tone, but usually has cosmetic blemishes that would be unacceptable if not stained.
We have to admit though that we too have stained mahogany in the past.  Not very many, but we thought we needed to please the common perception of the acceptable color of mahogany.
After a short time though we decided to just leave it natural and allow the wood to naturally age.  We still get calls and emails wondering if our mahogany is real.
It should be noted too that staining has a tendency to “muddy” the clarity of grain. Unstained Mahogany has beautiful distinct and feather like grain lines, and a natural light to medium brown red color.
And as mentioned above, the most interesting phenomena is that mahogany will naturally darken when exposed to light. So in only a few months you will notice your mahogany instrument darken in color, naturally.  


Q – What is the different sound of all of the woods you use?

A – That’s not an easy question, but here is a simple answer (and it’s important to remember that one wood is not better than another, just different):

– Mahogany top, back, and sides: warm and mellow tone. Very even note equalization. The most traditional combination of woods for an ‘ukulele have been either all Koa or all Mahogany.

– Mahogany back and sides with Spruce or Cedar top: with the addition of Spruce or Cedar to the top of a guitar or ukulele the overall tonal range is increased. In other words, because Spruce or Cedar are technically “soft” woods, with more tensile flexibility, they can vibrate more freely and thus create clearer and pronounced treble and bass notes. Again, not better, just different.

– Mango is a wood we are using more often.  It’s usually plentiful (as long as it’s not mango season, when cutting down a mango tree is very popular).  Mango wood grain is sometime unpredictable, and so we only select some, and reject most.  The appearance is wildly beautiful.  And on our fancy models we try to use the most figured and curly grain.  As for tone, Mango is similar to Mahogany in weight, density, and tone.  

– Acacia Koa top, back, and sides (available on Ko’olau models only): somewhat similar to Mahogany, but due to it’s density and weight (41lb/ft and .55sg, compared to Mahogany at 34lb/ft and .54sg), Koa produces a brighter, more projecting tone.

– Acacia Preta – similar to Acacia Koa, similar density, lighter weight. Warm tone.

– Acacia (Koa or Preta) with a cedar or spruce top. As mentioned above, cedar and spruce are soft woods and flex and vibrate more freely than hardwoods. Thus more projection and a wider tonal range.

– Ebony: the ebony we use is a rare species of ebony. The most common ebony used throughout the centuries has been from Africa, usually called Madagascar Ebony. And traditionally has been all black (though much of it is stained black because the accepted perception of ebony wood is black).

But the species we use is a higher and more expensive grade of ebony called Macassar, because it comes from an island in the Indonesian archipelago that was once named Macassar. We use this species of ebony for both our Ko’olau and Pono models. But due to the expense and difficulty in acquiring this wood, production is very limited.

On the scale of weight and density, Macassar Ebony is among the heaviest and most dense. However when machined properly the weight is not overbearing. Wood properties are likened to the various species of Rosewood, but with a different cell structure. And thus a different tone. Deep like Rosewood, but with more clarity. For Pono models we have chosen to combine the ebony back and sides with western cedar.

Q – What’s the difference between Spruce and Cedar?

A – Both are considered “soft” woods, from evergreen trees.  Both have a tensile flexibility that’s different from “hard” woods, such as Mahogany, Koa, Rosewood, Maple, and Ebony.  Due to their flexible or “bendable” nature they are excellent as top soundboard woods.  Simply stated, when strings are played the top vibrates, which causes a “pumping” action, and thus projecting tone out the soundhole.  Although Spruce and Cedar both great top woods, due to their density and specific gravity (weight) the tone is different.  Spruce is slightly harder than cedar, and it’s cell structure is different, and so tone and volume is bright, clear, and projecting.  Cedar is softer and thus produces a  warmer tone, somewhat like an aged spruce.  Our Spruce is Englemann Spruce from British Columbia Canada.  And our Cedar is Western Red Cedar from Vancouver Island Canada. 


Q – Are all Pono ukuleles still available with a hardshell case?

A – Our Pro Classic Series, Master Series, Baritone Nui, UL4 Nylon and Steel String, and TE Thinbody Electric models include a hardshell case.   All other Pono ukuleles do not come stock with a hardshell case.   


Q – Why do you no longer offer Hawaiian Koa wood for Pono instruments?

A – Due to limited availability, and the environmental endangerment of Koa, we will no longer use Hawaiian Koa for Pono guitars and ‘ukuleles. We are now using a related species called Acacia Preta. Traditionally, Mahogany and Koa have both been used for stringed instruments, and both have their own distinctive sound. They are both good, but again, Koa is becoming rare and difficult to acquire quantities of high grade lumber. A similar wood that we use, and actually has been prized by guitar and ‘ukulele makers for many centuries is Mahogany. Pono mahogany ’ukuleles are very similar to the classic Martin and Gibson mahogany ‘ukulele. Sweet and mellow, with good volume and projection.


Q – Are gloss or satin finishes available on all models?

A – Mahogany, Mango, Acacia Series and TE Thinbody Electric models are available in both gloss and satin finish.  All Pro Classic Series models have a gloss finish. 


Q – Are Pono Guitars and ‘Ukuleles made by the Ko’olau Guitar and ‘Ukulele Company? What’s the difference?

A – Yes, Ko’olau makes Pono, but not in Wahiawa. We actually spend much of the year working in our Java Indonesia factory. We personally manage and oversee all of our Pono manufacturing.  All designs and styles are patterned after our Ko’olau instruments, and manufacturing techniques are supervised on a daily basis by our staff in Hawaii.

Ko’olau models have become our “custom” line of instruments. They are only available on special order, and normally take several months to complete. So several years ago we decided to retain our very limited production of Ko’olau instruments, but to accomodate a larger customer base with a duplicate line of guitars and ukuleles named Pono.
Of course with any manufactured product that is “mass” produced, there will be more problems. As much as we enforce strict quality control measures our Pono models will still have more issues than Ko’olau. But for an all solid wood instrument, very closely duplicating Ko’olau (we use our same molds, tooling, and dimensions), most of our customers feel they have a well constructed, professional, and asthetically beautiful instrument at a very affordable price.

In the past, stringed instruments made in Asian countries were thought of as cheap and of poor quality. But times have changed. Actually, much of the problem was due to European and American contractors (large production guitar manufacturers) who commissioned Asian manufacturers to make cheap guitars, ukuleles, and violins. So they accomodated our needs. But things have changed. You can still buy inexpensive products from China, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, and Vietnam (actually about everything we own). But those countries are also capable of manufacturing some of the finest quality stringed instruments in the world. Most high end instruments remain in their own country, bought and played by their own middle and upper class musicians.

Although Asia has now become associated with cheap and inferior, most Asian countries have a long history of fine art and craftsmanship.  And though difficult to admit,  sometimes they surpass the quality of our own domestic products. Not always … but what used to be the slogan “if it’s made in America, it’s the best” is not always true these days. Yes, some fine quality workmanship is still available in the US, but various factors such as costs of operation and pride in craftsmanship (or a lack of it) have caused a shift of manufacturing to other countries.

Though we may not realize it, many products we buy now are made in Asia.  And sadly it’s not always because of the cost.  As mentioned above, with proper quality control, Asian countries are manufacturing excellent products.  Each day we readily use our computers, iPads, cell phones, and an array of other electronic products made in Asia.  And rarely complain, we are just happy to have them.  And many of the autos we drive are made in Asia, namely Ford, Buick, Volvo, VW, Nissan, and Toyota.  And again, rarely complain or question where they are made.  As long as they are good quality.  The same is true of musical instruments.  

But aside from where our Pono instruments are made, we are personally involved in each phase of production, spending considerable time overseeing operations. In fact we daily monitor manufacturing, and then conduct a thorough inspection of every Pono instrument, first at our Indonesia factory, and then again perform a similar inspection and set-up at our Hawaii factory. So, with that being said, yes, Ko’olau makes Pono.


Q – The fret ends on my Pono ukulele are sharp.  Why is this a problem on an instrument that’s considered high quality?

A – On occasion we hear a customer question how a flaw or defect could have passed through so many levels of quality control. No matter where anything is made there will be problems, and defects slip by. But what’s important is that a manufacturer stand behind what they make. Whenever there are defects due to faulty craftsmanship we will repair or replace the instrument. Our record of quality customer service speaks for itself.

As for sharp fret ends, be assured that Pono ukuleles NEVER leave our factory (or follow-up inspection stations) with sharp fret ends. In fact, all final end fret work must pass what we call the “baby butt” inspection. Frets are meticulously filed, sanded, and buffed until they are as smooth as a babies little behind, or as we say in Hawaii “okole.”

Regardless, we do believe you when you say your fret ends are sharp. But again, they were not sharp when they left our factory. The reason they became sharp is that your instrument is now in a new climate. And it’s not that you necessarily did anything wrong in the care of your instrument. Your fretboard is made of wood, and your frets are metal, and and wood and metal expand and contract differently. As wood dries, it shrinks or contracts, but again, metal does not change.  And so, as the wood shrinks, the metal fret ends protrude out the edges. 

Again, metal frets do not change in size. But woods change, and in this case, they shrink when they get dry. We build all Ko’olau and Pono guitars and ukuleles in a controlled atmosphere of 40% to 50% humidity (43% to be specific). Luthiers have to find a balanced environment to build, knowing their instruments will be going to either dry or moist environments.

Regardless of the weather outside, our factories are controlled, always at the same 40% to 50% humidity level. If your instrument remains in Hawaii, or goes anywhere on the earth where humidity levels are higher than 50% then the fingerboard wood will expand. However when humidity levels are below 40% the fingerboard will shrink. Taking in moisture and expanding is ok, but too much shrinkage is not.

If there is too much humidity the frets can possibly become dislodged from the slot, thus needing to be reset. And due to the fingerboard becoming wider (expanding), there will be a slight gap between the end of the fret and the edge of the fingerboard. This looks bad and may need a little adjustment, but not a big problem.

However when humidity is low, again ….. woods shrink. And this can cause severe problems. Complaints come in, and we hear of negative chat line discussions about sharp fret ends. This occurs, not because the instrument left our shop with sharp ends, but instead because the fretboard has shrunk. Remember, the fret does not shrink, but instead it protrudes off the edge and feels sharp. The good part of this is that is is easily repairable. 

Most of our customers say “but I take good care of my instrument, I even have dehumidifiers in my case.” And that’s good, but when your humidity is naturally 20% to 40% or less (such as in most of the western US states), or becomes low due to heating and air conditioning (which is the rest of the country), then regardless of how many humidifiers you have your instrument woods will shrink. The good news is that eventually your instrument will acclimate to your environment. In the meantime it will expand and contract. Back to the fingerboard, whether it’s a $200 guitar or ukulele, or $4000, fret ends will protrude and be sharp if the fingerboard has shrunk.

To illustrate and readily show the above explanation, you could turn on your bathroom shower (hot water). Leave it on for as long as you feel comfortable wasting hot water. Set your guitar or ukulele in the bathroom and close the door (not in the shower, but somewhere in the bathroom). After turning off the water in about 10 or 15 minutes, continue to leave the instrument in the bathroom for an hour or so to fully absorb any left over moisture. In most cases you will immediately feel your frets less sharp because your fingerboard has now expanded.

Obviously this is not the solution to maintaining your instrument every day. But this will allow you to see what happens when your fingerboard has now expanded due to humidity.

After your instrument is again back in its natural environment, and after a few days the fret ends are sharp again you will need to have your frets “dressed” as they say. A qualified luthier repairperson will not only level and crown the top of the frets, but more importantly trim the edges to match the new width of your fingerboard. This may be necessary a few times over the next couple of years, but eventually the fingerboard will settle in and stop what is termed transpiration, or the release of moisture and resins.


Q – The bridge came off of my instrument. I bought my ukulele three years ago and the bridge came off. I thought this was a high quality instrument?

A – This may sound like a dumb excuse, but the bridge is supposed to come off, especially under adverse conditions. If you noticed, it’s glued on, not screwed on. We could screw them down, but believe it or not, we want the bridge to come off when the instrument has experienced a traumatic impact or drastic temperature change.  Thus in most cases, when a bridge comes loose, it’s due to damage or extreme climate temperature and humidity changes. 

Your instrument is under a lot of stress, many pounds of tension (35 lbs to 55 lbs depending on size of ukulele, and a guitar up to 100 lbs) when all strings are tuned up. Because of that tension, when your guitar or ukulele is subjected to some sort of damage (being dropped, thrown, banged against the wall, left in hot or cold weather, left in a hot car or trunk, and a multitude of other adverse circumstances) … something has to give. If your bridge is screwed down, either the neck will crack or come loose, or the top will pull up and not only crack but also break loose all internal bracing. So, a bridge is designed to come off. You might call it the “pressure” valve. Rather than the whole thing blowing up, only the bridge comes off. As long as you are not in it’s path when it comes off, everything will be ok ….. it can easily be repaired.

When this happens, be assured it happens to guitars and ukuleles worth many thousands of dollars. Again, it’s ok, it can be fixed. But it should be repaired by a qualified luthier repair person. Although it’s a relatively simple repair, it still must be done right or the instrument can be ruined.


Q – Pono instruments are made in Asia.

A – yes, Ko’olau has a factory in Southeast Asia, in particular, in Indonesia.

Ko’olau and Pono luthiers have many years of experience in the construction of very high end classical and steel string guitars. Pono instruments are not simply a cheap “import” but instead, made with the same pride and integrity as our Ko’olau models. Times have changed, and so has the quality of production throughout the world. So as mentioned above, it’s not so much an issue as to where something is made, but instead, who made it. To answer the question, our current manufacturing of Pono is on the island of Java in Indonesia, just to the west of Polynesia and just north of Australia.  Our staff include luthiers who have been building high end guitars for over 50 years. And again, we work closely to achieve the same high quality standards of Ko’olau.

The popularity and success of our Pono instruments is not simply a clever marketing ploy, but instead due to our many years of experience at building Ko’olau instruments and working to maintain our high standards of excellence. We do not just buy instruments from someone and put our name on it. They are OUR instruments. All Pono guitars and ukuleles are patterned after our Ko’olau models. Our Hawaii operations provide engineering design and on site supervisory liaison assistance to accomplish the manufacture of high quality musical instruments.

And our Pono workers have the same meticulous and conscientious attitude that we have in Hawaii. We consider our Pono and Ko’olau ukuleles similar to the duo level auto makers such as Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infinity, and Honda/Acura. Both are made by the same manufacturer, but made in various locations around the world, and both are very high quality.

Here is an interesting quote that we read recently. “I have a dream ….. that one day ‘ukulele players will not judge an ‘ukulele by the location of its fabrication, but they will judge the ‘ukulele by the content of its voice”

So, whether it’s a Ko’olau or a Pono, the goal remains the same ……. high quality.


Q – Do you make “Pono” guitars?

A – Yes, we now have a complete line of Pono guitars.  And a separate website named ponoguitar.com

– UL Parlor 11 1/4″
– Li’i Parlor 12 1/4″
– O and OP Parlor 13 1/2″
– Concert OO 14 1/2″
– Grand Concert OOO 15″
– Dreadnaught 15 5/8″
– Grand Auditorium OOOO 16″
– Tenor Guitar (nylon and steel string)
– Nylon Hybrid 15″


Q – Other than body woods of Acacia, Mahogany, and Ebony, what top woods do you do use?

A – Spruce and Cedar.  Unless custom ordered we usually combine Rosewood with Spruce, and Acacia and Ebony with Cedar.   Mahogany models are either all mahogany, or with spruce or cedar tops. 

Our Cedar (Western Red Cedar) is from Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada.  And our Spruce is Englemann Spruce from the interior of British Columbia Canada (the Revelstoke area), and Sitka Spruce from Canada and Alaska for select models  All Cedar and Spruce used for Pono Guitars and Ukuleles is 3A to 4A mastergrade wood.  

Q – What amplification do you offer for guitars and ukuleles?

A – All Pono ‘ukuleles are available with our “Pono” brand undersaddle transducer passive pickup. We have them custom made for us. A “passive” pickups is designed for direct conductance of tone and vibration, and thus has no internal pre-amp or battery. This decision was not only to keep costs down, but our passive system is actually the finest quality “stand alone“ pickup we have tested (stand alone meaning without a preamp). However in certain settings of high levels of amplification an external outboard preamp can be used to convert the system to active. Any variety of outboard Pre-Amps are available at music stores.

A new option we are offering is a variation of our L.R.Baggs Element pickup called MiSi.  The pickup itself is the same, but the preamp is made by MiSi.  Batteries are not required, and a recharging of the active system is accomplished by plugging the end jack into an AC outlet for 30 seconds. 

Q – Do Pono instruments have a warranty?

A – Yes, warranty is extended to the original retail purchaser for one year from the date of purchase. Warranty covers defects in materials and/or workmanship. Upon initial receipt of your new instrument, if you are not satisfied you may return it within three days, in original condition to the Authorized Dealer you purchased it from, for a full refund, no questions asked. Afterward, our limited warranty is valid for one year from the date of purchase. A “limited” warranty is designed to cover manufacturer defects. Warranty does not include shipping costs, neglect (including improper climate control and humidity regulation), abuse, strings, finishes, fret wear, or machine head tuners. Pickups and all electronic components have a one year warranty. Proof of original purchase will be necessary for any claims. All return shipping costs will be the responsibility of owner.

Q – What should I do if there is a problem with my instrument?

A – We suggest that you retain your original sales receipt, and also make a copy. This must be included when returning your instrument for a repair covered under warranty.

If you experience a problem with your instrument it is best to contact the Authorized Dealer where you bought the instrument. They may be able to resolve the problem without the need to return your instrument to our factory, which will save you the expense of return shipping. However, you may contact us personally anytime with any questions about your instrument.

If it is determined that your instrument should be returned to our factory here on Oahu we will issue you a Return Authorization file number. This number must be legibly written on the box. Please include a short note of explanation of what you feel is the problem. Also include your contact information, including name, address, phone number, and email address. Again, please include a copy of your original sales receipt.

Please note: You, the purchaser are responsible for shipping costs. Upon receipt we will examine your instrument, and determine if the problems you have noted are due to faulty craftsmanship on our part, or possibly due to environmental factors such as humidity or lack of it, or other possible issues of misuse. If it is determined that problems are due to faulty craftsmanship, we will repair your instrument (usually within 30 days) and return it to you, and we will cover the cost of repairs and return shipping (if covered under warranty).

Note: If upon examination of your instrument we determine that issues are NOT related to faulty craftsmanship on our part, but instead due to either misuse or adverse environmental climate control of your instrument, we will notify you immediately of the cost of repairs and the cost of return shipping. Upon receipt of payment for repairs and return shipping costs, we will proceed with repairs, and return your repaired instrument to you within 30 days.

If you choose not to have your instrument repaired, upon receipt of return shipping costs we will have your instrument shipped back to you.


Q – Where are Pono Guitars and ‘Ukuleles Available?

A – We have a network of domestic and foreign dealers throughout North America, Australia, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Singapore. Please see our website under “Authorized Dealers” for each listing. They offer all Pono ‘Ukulele models.
We are currently revising our network of dealers to include only a select few in each geographic area of the world.  If you are unable to locate a dealer, please contact us and we assist in any way possible.

For further questions and inquiries:

Ko’olau Guitar & ‘Ukulele, Inc.
Pono Guitar & ‘Ukulele
401 North Cane St. A-10
Wahiawa, Hawaii 96786
(808) 622-1064 • Fax: (808) 622-1646
e-mail: sales@koolauukulele.com