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L'Ukes Lutherie
10-09-2014, 03:58 AM
Let's say you were asked to build one that sounded "punchy". Ignore for a moment that "punch" and "ukulele" aren't normally associated. What choices/changes would you make? I am by no means a traditional builder (or a professional for that matter), so nothing is off the table. Wood choice(s), dimensional adjustments, bracing style, finishes, etc. are all up for grabs. Oh, except that the scale length is specified at 13-7/8".

Opinions, please? Thanks-

strumsilly
10-09-2014, 04:39 AM
Punch is vague, but it evokes the Martin soprano sound for me, real "barky" . some people making very nice copies, Kiwaya , Black Bear, Timms. So I'm thinking lightly built mahogany.

mzuch
10-09-2014, 05:20 AM
If by "punch" the customer means loud with less sustain, consider making an archtop uke with f-holes.

L'Ukes Lutherie
10-09-2014, 05:25 AM
Let's define "punch" as loud, with an agressive attack, bright tone, strong fundamental pitches, clear note separation, and relatively short sustain. I think that's about right. yeah? So far I'm thinking parallel tone bars -mandolin style- to drive the top as a unit, and a really ringy pingy low-damping wood like ebony for the fingerboard and bridge. Am I barking up the right trees?

Michael N.
10-09-2014, 05:39 AM
Let's define "punch" as loud, with an agressive attack, bright tone, strong fundamental pitches, clear note separation, and relatively short sustain. I think that's about right. yeah? So far I'm thinking parallel tone bars -mandolin style- to drive the top as a unit, and a really ringy pingy low-damping wood like ebony for the fingerboard and bridge. Am I barking up the right trees?

Nearly. Ebony (Bridge) won't do anything for loud. We are dealing with Nylon strings and you need to get 'responsive' if you want to convert their limited energy. You can only do that by keeping the weight to a minimum. You need a light weight and very responsive soundboard. Spruce or one of the other usual suspects comes to mind, minimally braced.

L'Ukes Lutherie
10-09-2014, 06:16 AM
As for strings I figured to set it up with fluorocarbons (denser, stiffer, and thus brighter than nylon) at a relatively high tension to drive the top. That's not manipulating the hardscape though. I'm currently thinking that the top will be spruce cedar or doug fir, and thin. 1.5mm thin. To add stiffness (for the higher tension setup) without mass I was planning to add some curvature to the mating surface of the tone bars, to hold the top in tension and induce some "arch" to the top. I've done this before -with success- to make tops that were thin and driveable but stiff enough to not potato-chip, or worse, taco under string tension.

Why not ebony? It rings like a bell. I thought it's density allowed it to dampen less and so transmit more energy to the top. Am I mistaken? If so, what then?

orangeena
10-09-2014, 07:11 AM
I make type o style, mahogany soprano's which are maybe 2cm deeper from front to back. This makes them quite a bit louder that your standard uke and there is a bark for sure.

Chris_H
10-09-2014, 07:17 AM
Ebony is heavy, and has more inertia than a lighter wood. Also, Ebony has great damping qualities, in addition to energy transmission. I use Ebony for tonearm mounting boards in turntable construction for this reason, for its damping qualities, without being dead.. For that same reason, I would question the use of Doug Fir for a top wood. Ebony does not ring like a bell, compared to woods that actually ring like a bell.

Michael Smith
10-09-2014, 07:47 AM
If I was trying to get the greatest volume I would make a rosewood body with a cypress top with rosewood for bridge and fingerboard. Side sound port may or may not add a little volume but at least you would think it did while you are playing it and it seems to keep any barking down. I would use fan bracing because that's what I know how to do well but I have tried falcate bracing and it did seem to increase volume on the soprano I used it on.

L'Ukes Lutherie
10-09-2014, 10:20 AM
OK. I've heard conflicting reports on ebony. Might be electric vs. acoustic folks, and I'm misunderstanding something. At any rate I can't speak from experience, as I don't normally purchase raw materials (reclaim, salvage, repurpose, reuse. Yes) and chunks of unwanted ebony don't seem to exist. Rosewood I have used, and it does ring like a bell -or more acurately, a marimba (a highschool music teacher was cleaning out a storage closet... that's where I got it). Not big enough for backs or sides, but great for fretboards and bridges.

Remember the design brief is "punch" not "shout". I don't see absolute volume as the main point so much as the attack and tonal character. Perhaps all doug fir is not created equal. The tight grained old growth (like that found in old framing timber) has great tonal brightness and clarity, abd can also make for lightweight, stiff necks.

L'Ukes Lutherie
10-09-2014, 10:44 AM
Falcate bracing got me looking, which led me to Trevor Gore. Fascinating stuff. Thanks.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
10-09-2014, 10:47 AM
Perhaps all doug fir is not created equal. The tight grained old growth (like that found in old framing timber) has great tonal brightness and clarity, abd can also make for lightweight, stiff necks.

Douglass fir can be an excellent tone wood. David Hurd told me it was his favorite top wood to use.
BTW, no matter what wood I use my ukes all pretty much sound alike. Leads me to believe that the builder has more to do with a particular sound than the wood used. For me, technique comes first and materials are secondary considerations.

L'Ukes Lutherie
10-09-2014, 11:11 AM
Sir, on the point of the importance of materials I would say that you and I are in accord. It's actually part of what got me into and keeps me going with the whole "second-hand stuff" experiment. That said, different woods... consider boatbuilding. An oak mast would make about as much sense as a spruce keel, and no "tap-tone"required.
It does seem to me that most builders settle on their basic design perameters and make only incremental deviations from it, with most variation from instrument to instrument being either in materials or embellishments. I suspect there is a business model at work in that decision. Being neither able to nor constrained by making a living at this, I experiment liberally, and sometimes produce fantastic failures.

Any thoughts, design-wise, on ways to sharpen the attack and focus the tone (besides growing long fingernails on the right hand)?

stevepetergal
10-09-2014, 11:21 AM
Asked for punch, I'd deliver something electric and let the customer define punch any way he/she liked.

(Or perhaps a percussion instrument)

L'Ukes Lutherie
10-09-2014, 01:17 PM
Yes. Humor noted (and a serious point taken). Let's keep the discussion acoustic for now. The Clarophone (a banjo-uke) -I own one- is essentially a drum with strings and a neck. I think there is a lot in its sound that we're after: pounding attack, bright tone, strong fundamental, short sustain -think George Formby, just without the twang (tone-wise, not the lime-flavored salt, which incidentally is great in bloody marys (the drink, not the South Pacific matron character)). Any ideas on how to get there?

Michael N.
10-09-2014, 09:50 PM
I can only go on my knowledge of tone and Guitars. Virtually all that you describe is a product of a thin, very lightweight soundboard. Think Flamenco Guitars with their quick response, fast decay, punchy. These types of soundboard are more akin to the skin on a Banjo. Banjo's are loud, punchy, very responsive, quick decay. Don't for one minute think that you start controlling each and every aspect of the tone. That is cloud cuckoo land. You can only push the tone in a certain direction and usually at the expense of something else. So a slight twang might be the price to pay. It's also true of Smallman Guitars (mostly), loud, responsive but often with a nasal type twang underlying the sound.

L'Ukes Lutherie
10-14-2014, 03:29 AM
Thanks guys. I'll let you know...