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View Full Version : Wide Grain vs Tight Grain Sound Board? Engelmann Spruce



sam13
09-05-2014, 06:05 AM
Hello All,

I posted this in Uke Talk and it was suggested to put it here ... so here goes.

I am looking at buying another Pono Pro Classic Tenor. Just love the product at its price point.

I have a choice with respect to a few options and one has extremely wide grain and the other tight grain.

I understand the dark lines are the winter growth and the wider section is the summer growth ...

I am curious as to what a wider grain effect will be on tone. I am looking to buy it from a retailer at a distance so I won't have a chance to sit with them and play them thoroughly before buying.

The Tenor with the wider grain has a cutaway, and I might fancy a cutaway since my other Tenor isn't. The tighter grain Tenor has a beautiful back and side and is a little cheaper due as it is a second.

Does anyone have any theory, experience or hard facts to help me with my decision?

Thanks for your thoughts.

sam13
09-05-2014, 06:07 AM
I understand bracing and construction have a lot to do with working with the sound board ... but this is a production Pono I am considering ... so there won't be changes to compensate a wide or tight grain.

ukantor
09-05-2014, 06:22 AM
I suspect that conventional thought would favour the tighter grain pattern, but only playing the two, side by side, will provide the answer. If that is not possible, I'd go for the tighter grain.

I've made ukes with tighter, and wider grained Cedar fronts. The tighter grain looks rather special, but didn't produce a noticeable better result. Well, not to my ears.

Hope this helps,

John Colter.

sam13
09-05-2014, 06:29 AM
Hi John,

Thanks for your input ... I can't play them side by side ... but I appreciate your input .... any other thoughts?

Kekani
09-05-2014, 07:07 AM
If you had asked that question before you started building the `ukulele, I could respond with my thoughts on Sitka Spruce. You need to either ask the builder (which you can't, because its a production model), or play them yourself.

Personally, I favor wider grain on my Spruce, and I look for 25 rpi, which is not that wide, but probably more common than 30+ rpi. However, one of my favorites is my son's Maple Spruce, which has 15 rpi, and has grown into a very sweet instrument. We probably braced that one a little thicker than the tigher grained ones I do now. Which is why, asking the builder is best.

Keep in mind, grain pattern is but one variable in the entire scheme. Personally, there are more things that will affect the instrument that rpi, simple things, like changing strings, setup, etc.

sam13
09-05-2014, 07:14 AM
Thanks Kekani.

As you mentioned regarding the Pono, it is a production model and I can't ask the builder. Maybe I will send John Kitakis an email regarding it.

You did mention a figure of measurement which I am not familiar with ... "rpi" ... is 15 rpi thicker than a 25 rpi? Or is it inverse.

Also, the wider the grain or rpi, would it be a sweeter tone more like cedar vs a tighter grain which could be stiffer and have more attack and sustain.

thanks.

Jim Hanks
09-05-2014, 07:31 AM
Rings per inch, so higher rpi is tighter grain

sam13
09-05-2014, 07:41 AM
Thanks. Jim.

Ukulelia
09-05-2014, 07:57 AM
Sorry if this is obvious, but no one has mentioned it. How about asking the dealer for sound samples of both? Ideally you would play both ukes, but that's not possible for many of us. But a dealer could, and IMO should provide high quality sound samples recorded under the same conditions. I'm thinking of HMS, which does, but asking never hurts if you're dealing with another retailer. If you don't hear a difference, just choose the one you like best in looks.

sam13
09-05-2014, 08:12 AM
Hi Ukulelia,

Yes, good point. I might just do that ... get a blind test on them. Then I can choose the sound or tone which I like ... which is the most important thing.

evilbadger
09-05-2014, 11:16 AM
Sam

I am a newbie to building but I have been doing a lot of reading. According to the luthier's handbook a tight grain will give a brighter sound where the wider grain will give a warmer sound.

sam13
09-05-2014, 11:26 AM
Sam

I am a newbie to building but I have been doing a lot of reading. According to the luthier's handbook a tight grain will give a brighter sound where the wider grain will give a warmer sound.

Hey evilbadger,

Thanks for your input ... any thoughts from more experienced luthiers on this comment?

Kekani
09-05-2014, 12:58 PM
Sam13,

This thread should've ended a while ago. You're talking about a production instrument. Besides the fact that Rick already gave you the thread ending response, I think asking John about grain on his low end instruments is time not well spent on his part. You should order a Ko'olau and then get into rpi.

Personally, not an issue I discuss with my clients.

BlackBearUkes
09-06-2014, 03:53 PM
Sam

I am a newbie to building but I have been doing a lot of reading. According to the luthier's handbook a tight grain will give a brighter sound where the wider grain will give a warmer sound.

I would pay more attention to the age of the spruce, moisture content, stiffness, runout and weight then I would the type of spruce used. Having said that, Englemann spruce is the last spruce I would use for a uke or guitar, it tends to be softer in nature IMO.

Kent Chasson
09-07-2014, 06:16 AM
Here's (http://www.pacificrimtonewoods.com/SitkaSpruceReport.pdf) the only study I've seen on the issue. It was done using Sitka but I think it's reasonably safe to think it would apply to Engelmann as well.

They use an odd term "ability to resonate" in the study. I'm not an engineer but in reading it, it looks like another way of saying stiffness/weight ratio.

It's interesting research and the conclusions match my personal experience which is that wider grain usually has a better stiffness/weight ratio. That's a good thing in my book.

But... I don't think you can make any judgments about the sound of a finished instrument by looking at it. There are way too many variables to assume anything about the sound of wide grain vs narrow grain in a completed factory instrument.

If you can, ask them to send you the one they like :)

ProfChris
09-07-2014, 08:54 AM
If you buy with your eyes you wouldn't want this one, made by Ken Timms from a pallet. I've played it and it's a great sounding uke. Grain lines all over the place. There is no link between appearance and sound, wood is not a consistent material.

http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/full.jpg

But Rick Turner already said this, and he has made more ukes than anyone else who posts here.

BlackBearUkes
09-07-2014, 01:49 PM
But Rick Turner already said this, and he has made more ukes than anyone else who posts here.[/QUOTE]

I don't think your information is correct on this point.

Pete Howlett
09-07-2014, 02:06 PM
It's about stiffness - red spruce is a case in point. You don't need 24 grain lines per inch to have a stiff plate with that stuff! I played a vintage Martin 00 with 5 lines to the inch and wavy grain - it was a killer....

sam13
09-07-2014, 03:09 PM
Thank you very much everyone for your insightful and helpful comments ... I am learning so much. I did ask, and receive videos of both of the ukes and thought they both sounded great. It would appear, and only from a quick iPhone video, that the uke with tighter grains a little more sustain on the frets higher up the neck.

I appreciate all of the input.

Cheers.