Kala Ukuleles Made in the USA: Meet the Builders

Kala Ukuleles Made in the USA: Meet the Builders

Kala Elite Ukuleles Made In The USA

Nestled in our hometown of Petaluma, CA is Kala Manufacturing: the workshop facility responsible for building our Kala Elite USA Ukulele and California U•BASS® collections since their inception in 2015 and 2011, respectively.

Each year has been a unique challenge and journey in developing Kala’s signature approach, operations, and identity through our California-made series. Much like the global community at large, our Northern California community faced fundamental changes and challenges over this past year. Kala Manufacturing navigated the storm with a small and dedicated team of luthiers. 

Marcos Garcia, Kala Manufacturing’s Head Builder & Luthier, led the charge.

“The pandemic has forced us to think outside the confines of what used to be our ‘normal’.  This has allowed many opportunities to expand skill sets,” explains Marcos.

“People thrive when they feel themselves growing, which makes for a more enjoyable experience.  When you enjoy what you're doing, you tend to put forth your best.”

Marcos Garcia

An outsider peering in on Kala Manufacturing would likely describe our environment as quiet, measured, and methodical. It’s only through the resulting instruments that the pure passion of each builder ultimately shines through. In any given month, this team will be responsible for building about 30 instruments from start to finish. The building process for a Kala Elite USA Ukulele, from wood selection to finish set-up and casing, is a meticulous procedure spanning 1-2 weeks.

So, if you are already the owner of a Kala Elite USA Ukulele or California U•BASS®, we’d like to give you the opportunity to get to know the individuals that built it.

In typical Sonoma County fashion, this is a humble and grounded team with an immense love for what they do -- Meet the Kala Manufacturing team:

Who Makes Kala USA Ukuleles? 

Marcos Garcia

Kala Manufacturing Specialty: Head Builder

Marcos Garcia

Marcos Garcia first joined Kala Brand Music Co. in 2013, honing in on Kala's signature look and sound for almost a decade. Today, he oversees all U.S. operations in Kala Manufacturing.

 

What does our manufacturing department do?

Transform mother nature's gift into pieces of art that will return the favor to adoring ears.


What sets a Kala Elite USA Ukulele aside from other ukulele builds?

Every builder on this team is here because we love building instruments.  We strive to put as much love into our Elites as Grandma does cooking dinner.  


What does a typical day look like in manufacturing?

Coffee, make dust, super glue finger to something you don't want it glued to...strum some strings...lot's o' laughter. Coolest...Job...Ever.

 

Marcos Garcia Side Bending Machine

 

How do you divide responsibilities throughout the Manufacturing team?

With the difficulties the pandemic has presented, all team members are encouraged to learn every aspect of the building process.  Each member has his/her home department.  This is a team though.  If a department is struggling, the department that is most ahead will hop into the struggling department to get things back on track.


What is your favorite part of the Manufacturing process?

Getting dusty!

 

 

Jonathan Mankin

Kala Manufacturing Specialty: Body & Neck Building

Jonathan Mankin
Jonathan Mankin has been with Kala Manufacturing since 2015. A talented woodworker and luthier, he was among those building the very first Kala Elite USA Ukuleles.

 

What are some of your daily tasks in Kala Manufacturing?

All tasks that turn the parts I made for the month into an ukulele body. Bending sides, thickening tops & backs, gluing on internal parts like bracing and blocking. By the end of the day, I’ve made all those parts together to make 2-3 complete ukulele bodies.


What are your favorite woods to work with here?

Hard to say. They all have their own charms and draw-backs. Rosewood is probably the most pleasant to work with for the most part. On the rare occasion we get to make a custom instrument with this tonewood, I really love Walnut. There’s a lot of variation between species and even between pieces of the same species. Great color contrasts and figures, as well as a nice bright tone in my opinion.


What is your favorite piece of machinery or equipment that you work with here? 

The thickness sander is probably the biggest help and the piece I spend the most time and energy using and maintaining.

 

What is your favorite part about building instruments?

Sending a perfectly sanded instrument off to finishing.



Frankie Desouza

Kala Manufacturing Specialty: Instrument Finishing

Frankie Desouza
Frankie Desouza first joined as a Kala builder in 2019. He champions the finish, texture, and overall look of our Kala Elite USA Ukuleles and California U•BASS® alike.

 

What are some of your daily tasks in Kala Manufacturing?

Final sanding and spraying, adding base coats of finish, top coats of finish, and focusing on color and texture.


What are your favorite woods to work with here?

Any and all; each piece has a story to tell. Especially figured wood has not just a story, but something to show as well.


What is your favorite piece of machinery or equipment that you work with here? 

Rotary tools (ie. Dremels & Routers). There’s just so much that you can do with them.


What is your favorite part about building instruments?

Taking raw wood, turning it into something that gives it a voice, and listening to someone play out their feelings.

 

 

Jaime Rivera

Kala Manufacturing Specialty: Final Set-up and Assembly

Jaime Rivera
Joining Kala in 2021, Jaime Rivera is the newest addition to Kala Manufacturing. Jaime's contributions in Final Set-Up help maintain consistency in the feel, intonation, and playability of our instruments.

 

What are some of your daily tasks in Kala Manufacturing?

My work entails setting up instruments. This involves installing tuners, fretwork, fitting nuts and saddles, fitting the neck to the body, gluing necks and bridges and doing a final set-up on the instrument.


What are your favorite woods to work with here?

I love the variety of woods we use, like Mahogany, Koa, Myrtle, Maple and Spruce. Being able to listen to the different sonic characteristics of each is pretty awesome.


What is your favorite piece of machinery or equipment that you work with here? 

One of my favorites is the Heart Sound nut and saddle vice. This allows me to obtain a perfectly flat nut and saddle with precise action on the instruments.


What is your favorite part about building instruments?

Doing the final set-up and being able to hear it come to life.

 

 

 


Keep up with our builders’ latest creations — shop Kala Elite USA Ukuleles here and California U•BASS® here. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates on Kala Elite USA manufacturing and behind-the-scenes looks into our operations.

May 03, 2021 by Joe DeMars
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