A concert 'ukelele built by Kanile'a 'Ukulele.
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.
With the UV system, a raw wood instrument can be delivered to the finishing department in the morning and be completed to a durable, high-gloss, mirror-like finish that same day.
Kanile'a 'Ukelele's UV cure light box was built by UV III. The unit includes eight energy-efficient UV lamps, a rotator, and an exhaust and filtration system.
The Sound of Success
February 1, 2007
A UV finishing system is allowing Kanile'a 'Ukulele to build beautiful musical instruments with a faster cure and a reduced environmental impact.
Kanile'a 'Ukulele, 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.
"For many years, different variations of nitro have been and would still be considered an industry standard. The curing process basically consists of allowing all the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to evaporate, leaving behind the lacquer solids," explains Joe.
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 Light
In 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 Conversion
According 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 photo-chemically 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, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.kanileaukulele.com. For more information about the UV technology discussed in this article, visit www.lawrence-mcfadden.com (coatings materials) or www.uv3.com (equipment).