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Thread: Asking for wood help

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Posts
    4

    Default Asking for wood help

    Hi,
    I have been woodworking for 20+ years and have decided to make my daughter a Ukulele. She has been learning for about one year but has been using a not so good instrument (it has a painted palm tree on it).
    I would like to use woods that compliment each other and thats where I need help.
    I have some well dried, beautiful plum that was her grandfathers tree. Is plum a good choice for the sound board - back - sides?
    I also have some black walnut, would it be good for the neck or fret board?
    What other types of wood can or should be used with the plum and black walnut?
    I shouldn't have a problem with construction, I would also like it to sound good too, and add some personalization.
    Probably going to go with concert size.
    Any input will be appreciated, Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Little River, California
    Posts
    1,565

    Default

    Your choices of wood will be fine if they are properly seasoned. I have actually never heard of using plum wood in an uke, but I say go for it. Like someone said earlier, anything goes with ukuleles.... Walnut should be fine for a neck as long as it is relatively straight grained.... Also I find that women with small hands tend to like that concert size. .... Oh, and you said you would like it to sound good too. Don't we all! That is actually the point of the exercise. We are not building furniture here. Input: Build it thin and build it light. Good luck! Send pictures!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Posts
    4

    Default

    Plum is similar to cherry, a little more dense/heavy. The walnut is almost perfectly strait, very dark chocolate color. I will post photos as I build, hopefully get some input as I go.

  4. #4

    Default

    If you daughter is still a child I suspect you will be building her a soprano, the hardest size to build well. I suggest you use a softwood top like spruce for your first build. There is a little more room for error with a softwood top. The body should be made of quartersawn wood and the two woods you have suggested will work well. A comfortable instument to play requires a light neck, thus walnut to my mind is not a good choice. Mahogany or spanish cedar is a much better choice paired with open backed tuners to keep the weight down. The fingerboard should be made of a dense hard wood such as ebony, rosewood, etc. Walnut is a little too soft. You would do well to get your hands on fine instrument like an older Martin or Kamaka soprano and measure carefully.
    Michael Smith
    Goat Rock Ukulele
    www.goatrockukulele.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Cairns, Australia
    Posts
    2,057

    Default

    I think a concert is the one I'd go for as a first instrument. Building a good soprano is actually rather difficult.

    Walnut would be suitable for the back and sides. Luthiers pay good money for nicely figured walnut. I've got several sets sitting on the shelf to use one day.

    Plum would work for a neck. And if it was me I'd use some of the walnut for a peg head veneer to tie it in with the body.

    As for the soundboard, I don't know what Plum would be like. But certainly a spruce one will work a treat.

    Fret boards need to be hard, and are usually a darker timber. Don't know what your local choices are, but certainly the standards like ebony and rosewood aren't difficult to source.

  6. #6

    Default

    There are some wonderful sounding walnut instruments and it's one of my favored woods to build with. It makes a fine neck as long as it's thin enough. It's great for back and sides. It makes a nice top too as long as it's quartersawn and no thicker than .070". The plum I have handled is more dense and harder than most walnut so it should work well for a fingerboard and bridge. That could make for a unique instrument. A softwood top would be fine if your daughter is careful with things otherwise it might not hold up as well as a walnut top would. So there you go, clear as mud. Several excellent builders with polar opposite advice. Have fun.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Posts
    4

    Default

    Daughter turned 20 last month. So concert size should be fine.
    I would like to stay away from softwoods since she is a little clumsy.
    I am want to use ebony for the fingerboard, seems like the best option for this part.
    Other woods I have are Mahogany, Cherry and Australian Lacewood. The lacewood I have is 2" x 2" x 6'
    I also have 2 mills local to me that import assorted woods and one that reclaims American Chestnut, so sourcing is just going out & seeing whats available.
    And, Yes Ken . . . . Clear as mud.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Posts
    176

    Default

    A plum back and sides would be great, also it is as hard as rock maple so it should have no problem as a fretboard, match the bridge with it also would be cool. A walnut top would be fine but a darker top and lighter back sometimes look funny. The walnut would be fine for a neck, as said light tuners. American Chestnut is a little more dense than sitka spruce but not much harder. So it can be used as a top. Alaska yellow cedar is used as tops and it is a little harder than sitka. Douglas Fir is a bit harder yet. Birch or maple is just under the density of walnut, about as heavy as anyone goes I guess. A concert sounds fine.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Posts
    4

    Default

    Ok, This is where I am so far.
    Sides, back and bridge will be plum.
    Headstock and neck - Black Walnut
    Fretboard - Rosewood
    Saddle,Nut & knobs - Corian
    What I can't figure out is the soundboard . . . . . Suggestions?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Location
    under the palms in tempe, az
    Posts
    1,677

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    With that combination my initial reaction is Adirondack Red Spruce. That would be a powerful and rich concert with some nice overtones. You could go the other end of the spectrum with Redwood, but I’d stay away from cedar, personal preference.

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