PDA

View Full Version : How thick is it? (ukulele sides, bottom, top)



Matt Clara
09-28-2009, 06:40 AM
I'm thinking about talking to a local lumber mill about re-sawing some curly maple planks that are 1 inch thick--I'm nowhere near the point where I'd spend $140+ for book matched back and sides from a luthier supply company, and I want to get some good wood to the right thickness as cheaply as possible. The question is, what thickness do I tell them to re-saw to?

vahn
09-28-2009, 06:46 AM
Thats what she said.
















Sorry can't miss a good Michael Scott reference.... I saw the topic and had to post this

thistle3585
09-28-2009, 07:10 AM
I resaw between 3/16" and 1/4" depending on how sharp my blade is at the time and how much curl is in the maple. I don't know why you'd pay that amount for bookmatched maple sets. If you're talking uke sizes, I'd be more than happy to sell you as many sets as you want for half that.:)

Andrew

leftovermagic84
09-28-2009, 07:11 AM
Thats what she said.

:biglaugh: repped.

RonS
09-28-2009, 07:52 AM
This is not instrument grade wood.... but...

http://www.woodcraft.com/Family/2005149/Maple--Curly.aspx

Go for the 1/8" (3mm)stuff

Matt Clara
09-28-2009, 08:29 AM
I resaw between 3/16" and 1/4" depending on how sharp my blade is at the time and how much curl is in the maple. I don't know why you'd pay that amount for bookmatched maple sets. If you're talking uke sizes, I'd be more than happy to sell you as many sets as you want for half that.:)

Andrew

I should have been more clear--that appears to be about the median price for matched backs and sides. Of course, those are for guitars, but I've not found much out there sized specific to the ukulele, and besides, I'm building a cigar box uke, and I'm not considering buying and expensive back side set. No point in it. And my price isn't all that far off, even for maple:

From Blue Mountain Acoustics: (http://www.bluemtnacoustics.com/woods/backnside/backnsides.htm)
Figured Maple .. extreme figure . $130.00
Figured Maple .. high figure . $100.00
Un-Figured Maple .. low figure . $70.00

From StewMac (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Bodies,_necks,_wood/Acoustic_guitar:_Back_and_sides/Dreadnought_Curly_Maple_Back_Side_Set.html):
4704 AAA set $96.15
4705 AA set $48.08

And even $48.08 is more than I want to spend.

Matt Clara
09-28-2009, 08:49 AM
This is not instrument grade wood.... but...

http://www.woodcraft.com/Family/2005149/Maple--Curly.aspx

Go for the 1/8" (3mm)stuff

Thanks, that looks perfect--how different could it be from instrument grade wood?

Matt Clara
09-28-2009, 08:57 AM
Thats what she said.

Yeah, I was just trying to leave you guys with a softball to smash out of the park. That's just me, being friendly.
;)

Matt Clara
09-28-2009, 10:19 AM
So, perhaps I'm not asking the question right: What are the desired thicknesses of a ukulele's top, back, and sides? I understand it might change depending on the type of wood.

Also, is it possible to resaw to those thicknesses, or is some thickness planing/sanding inevitable?

RonS
09-28-2009, 10:55 AM
Thanks, that looks perfect--how different could it be from instrument grade wood?


Once upon a time instrument grade wood was wood that was perfectly quartersawn and properly dried. Many sawyers are bending the rules lately.

Most commercially cut curly maple is flat-sawn to get the most yield from the log.

BTW, it might be a good idea to get an extra piece or two, just in case it cracks while bending.

Sven
09-28-2009, 11:09 AM
Matt, I aim for 1.6 - 1.7 millimeters for top, sides and back when building figure 8 sopranos. Then some goes in the final sanding process, and the edges of the top are even thinner after (my horribly primitive version of) graduating and tuning.

I've used this thickness for cherry, mahogany and walnut. Maybe leave the sides a bit thicker when you get better at bending. But hey that's right, you were doing a cb. Then I would guess (only guessing) that sides could be 2 - 2.5. For strength.

Sven

bbycrts
09-28-2009, 11:10 AM
I should have been more clear--that appears to be about the median price for matched backs and sides. Of course, those are for guitars, but I've not found much out there sized specific to the ukulele, and besides, I'm building a cigar box uke, and I'm not considering buying and expensive back side set. No point in it. And my price isn't all that far off, even for maple:

From Blue Mountain Acoustics: (http://www.bluemtnacoustics.com/woods/backnside/backnsides.htm)
Figured Maple ….. extreme figure ………. $130.00
Figured Maple ….. high figure ………. $100.00
Un-Figured Maple ….. low figure ………. $70.00

From StewMac (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Bodies,_necks,_wood/Acoustic_guitar:_Back_and_sides/Dreadnought_Curly_Maple_Back_Side_Set.html):
4704 AAA set $96.15
4705 AA set $48.08

And even $48.08 is more than I want to spend.

Give Blue Mountain a call - he sells uke sets and even uke kits - he may be able to quote you over the phone... I've seen decent myrtlewood guitar sets over $100, but similar figure uke sets for only $30. He will thickness sand to your specs, too.

RonS
09-28-2009, 11:23 AM
So, perhaps I'm not asking the question right: What are the desired thicknesses of a ukulele's top, back, and sides? I understand it might change depending on the type of wood.

Also, is it possible to resaw to those thicknesses, or is some thickness planing/sanding inevitable?

Wood is planned and/or sanded after resawing. And yes, those 1/8" blanks will need to be thinned down.

thistle3585
09-28-2009, 12:17 PM
Once upon a time instrument grade wood was wood that was perfectly quartersawn and properly dried. Many sawyers are bending the rules lately.

Most commercially cut curly maple is flat-sawn to get the most yield from the log.

BTW, it might be a good idea to get an extra piece or two, just in case it cracks while bending.

Actually, I would guess there is more tradition in flatsawn backs and sides then there is in quartered backs and sides. The standard seems to have always been quartered wood for tops. I've seen more examples of flat sawn backs in vintage instruments from the early teens through the forties.

Bradford
09-28-2009, 12:19 PM
Hi Matt, to answer your question, I assemble the body with the sides, back and top at 2.0 mm. Finish sanding takes them down another .2 mm, which leaves them at 1.8 mm or so. You are not likely to get the lumberyard to saw that thin.

Brad

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-28-2009, 12:40 PM
Stay away from flat sawn wood when possible, it's not a good choice for what we're doing. Flat sawn koa will shrink 30% to 50% more across it's width than a similar piece or quartersawn. Quarter sawn will also be quite a bit stiffer which is a desired quality in instrument building. A good sawyer, one who wants the most $$ for his log, will rotate the log frequently to get as much quarter sawn wood as the log will yield. It's a PITA to have to shut the saw down and reposition the log to do this but quarter sawn lumber sells for a good deal more. I cringe when I see beautiful curly koa that is flat sawn only because the crew was lazy.
Lately I've seen quite a bit of flat sawn Brazilian rosewood used as they scrape the bottom of that barrel. (They are even digging up Brazilian rosewood tap roots and milling that!)

Matt Clara
09-28-2009, 01:22 PM
[snip much good information on flat sawn vs. quarter sawn wood.

So, Chuck, what thicknesses do you generally shoot for on your tops, backs, and sides? Or is that a trade secret? (Don't want to step on anyone's toes.)

RonS
09-28-2009, 02:26 PM
I cringe when I see beautiful curly koa that is flat sawn only because the crew was lazy.
Lately I've seen quite a bit of flat sawn Brazilian rosewood used as they scrape the bottom of that barrel. (They are even digging up Brazilian rosewood tap roots and milling that!)

Ditto!

I've seen rift cut with as much as a 20% lean being passed off as quartersawn. That really burns me.


Actually, I would guess there is more tradition in flatsawn backs and sides then there is in quartered backs and sides. The standard seems to have always been quartered wood for tops. I've seen more examples of flat sawn backs in vintage instruments from the early teens through the forties.

Actually quartersawn is more traditional for a good reason.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-28-2009, 02:38 PM
There's no easy answer to your question because the numbers don't mean anything. Remember that I work almost exclusively with koa which varies in density and stiffness as about as much as any wood you'll find. And except for my fret scales I really don't use any measuring devices in my shop. When my caliper batteries went out last year I simply didn't replace them. When I thickness sand I do it by eye and feeling, checking each pass for the stiffness I'm after. To build a really good instrument you need to rely on your senses. If I were running a factory my approach to building would be a lot different than it is; it would have to be to keep it economically viable. As it is, I treat each uke individually according to the specific wood I've chosen for it. Trust me. I've got koa that feels like balsa and some that you would think is iron wood. So numbers don't tell me anything.
Generally, sides need to be thin enough to bend yet retain enough of their thickness to work with, while I like my backs to be somewhat stiffer. I like my tops thinner than the backs and are a whole different story. I'll devote more time to the top (and its' bracing) than to any other part of the instrument. Thinning the top is not a one step process but rather is something I do several times throughout the build, constantly adjusting and tweaking. My tops are by no means of consistent thickness either, their profiles probably resembles a roller coaster; thicker is some ares, thinner in others. If there is one common fault I see in most beginner ukes it's that the sound boards are thicknessed to a given dimension (invariably too thick) and then simply left at that. Most of my final top thicknessing is done after the top is glued on. I also take into consideration the mass and stiffness that the finish will add.
Some of it's guess work, some of it is luck, but most of your successful results will come from knowing your materials and trusting your senses.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-28-2009, 02:44 PM
I've seen rift cut with as much as a 20% lean being passed off as quartersawn. That really burns me.

Unfortunately Ron, anything under 20% qualifies as being quarter sawn these days. At least that's where they draw the line here. Most of what I use is within 10%. But it ain't cheap. The last perfectly quarter sawn AAAAA curly koa I bought was $80 bf, the most I've ever paid. In this particular case it was worth it! Thank God they only had a small stash of it.

RonS
09-28-2009, 03:24 PM
Unfortunately Ron, anything under 20% qualifies as being quarter sawn these days.

Sad but true.

koalohapaul
09-28-2009, 09:25 PM
If you aren't familiar with the mill's quality of cut, I would suggest having them cut at 3/16". We can go down to a little under 1/8" on the resaw cut, but our blade is always sharp and the resawer(s) is/are trained well.

In my experience, figured maple doesn't resaw well, unless the blade is razor sharp. I usually mill slightly thicker when I use maple, then spend a little more time surface sanding. Nothing's worse than trying to economize a billet of lumber, only to end up with a bunch of useless sets, because you were trying to squeeze one more out.

I know it's been said before, but it's always better to cut thick and sand down. Once the lumber is too thin or has too many saw marks, it's really hard to salvage.

Matt Clara
09-29-2009, 03:02 AM
Thanks for everyone's replies. I want to point out how cool and powerful a tool/knowledge repository UU is. Yesterday a Google search for "ukulele top thickness" came up with a bunch of general returns, none specific to the topic. Today, this thread is the number one return, and in it we find very specific advice to help get the layperson (me) started as well as some more advanced advice offering something to think about for down the road. How cool is that?
:cool:

RonS
09-29-2009, 03:59 AM
http://www.woodturnersresource.com/pics/quartersawn.jpg
http://www.woodturnersresource.com/pics/quartersawn2.jpg
http://www.woodturnersresource.com/pics/quartersawn3.jpg

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-29-2009, 07:50 AM
Excellent Ron.

Matt Clara
09-29-2009, 08:03 AM
Excellent Ron.

Yeah, I thought it deserved its own thread. Also, I'm power tripping on the google thing.
:D

Pete Howlett
09-29-2009, 08:52 AM
I'm with Chuck on this - there comes a point where you actually 'feel' the right thickness... you are in fact the 'caliper'. And it is quite a sublime moment when you can self assuredly say, "That's just right" because you know it, not you've measured it and checked it and according to my diagram it's spot on - engineering only goes so far and the rest is mojo :cool:

There are good rules of thumb out there and they have been well epxressed in this thread. They are good starting points and help you to establish your own 'rules'.

Like Chuck I make my backs generally .25mm - .35mm thicker than the fronts. Too thin and you can get sinking see the bracing. Unless I have some particularly nasty curl I'll also keep my sides slightly thicker than most. Like Chuck, the front does get a lot of attention and in the final sanding I tend to do quite a bit of feathering so it flexes evenly. As I hold it I like to sing into the soundhole to feel its response - if I can feeel the back vibrating I know it is half way there.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-29-2009, 09:13 AM
My whole point on the numbers issue is that numbers are only important if you want to repeat your results. This is a great idea if you are working with an inert material such as metal or plastic. But every piece of wood is going to respond differently and that is what you need to be aware of. As I mentioned before some woods are known to be more consistent in their properties than others, with koa being one of the woods that vary the most. It's because of this that the calipers are useless to me. But even so, no matter what wood you work with, you would do well to understand your wood intimately if you want to build an excellent ukulele. If you want to build a mediocre uke, simply cut all your wood 3/32" thick and don't worry about it. It works for the Chinese!

uluapoundr
09-29-2009, 08:59 PM
My whole point on the numbers issue is that numbers are only important if you want to repeat your results. This is a great idea if you are working with an inert material such as metal or plastic. But every piece of wood is going to respond differently and that is what you need to be aware of. As I mentioned before some woods are known to be more consistent in their properties than others, with koa being one of the woods that vary the most. It's because of this that the calipers are useless to me. But even so, no matter what wood you work with, you would do well to understand your wood intimately if you want to build an excellent ukulele. If you want to build a mediocre uke, simply cut all your wood 3/32" thick and don't worry about it. It works for the Chinese!

Haha, yes, the Chinese, the Indonesians, the Vietnamese...no offense taken, just talking about their building philosophy on the recent surge of ukuleles.

Didn't Kamaka at one time have visually impaired/blind workers who would tap and sand the tops or is this a myth? Also, I thought I read somewhere that flour or some powder is used on the tops to see where they collect under vibration to determine where to sand. And of course the scientific approach that David Hurd used, sorry, I can't even explain it, you gotta read it on his site, something about mechanical compliance of tops, whew!