View Full Version : What wood to buy?

02-24-2009, 04:28 PM
This is just my attempt to help both those looking for their first ukulele and veterans that have bee helping them so much. I hope it can help those looking with more knowledge on their endless journey for perfect tone.
If anyone thinks something on here is a little weird or more to add please tell me. I am trying to keep personal opinion out of here and use what is generally agreed on. I this gets enough support/use I will probably add more sections later. Constructive Criticism welcome/encouraged. I'm using slashes/lines a lot here.

Solid vs. Laminate

Laminate- To begin laminates are essentially plywood or thin pieces of wood glued together at a 90 degree angle to each other. Laminates generally have lesser sustain and most would say have inferior tone. But why would someone want a laminate then you ask? Well put simply, it's cheaper to make. Another good thing about laminates is that they are more resistant to humidity and will not crack very easily.

Solid wood- Solid wood is as the name implies, solid wood. They are more expensive and in most cases you will spend over $250 for all solid wood ukuleles. Solid wood unlike laminates change their tone over time as they are broken in.

Some ukuleles have a solid wood on their top only, as it is the most important part as far as tone and projection go. Which can be an excellent choice for a great sounding ukulele for an affordable price.

Wood Types

Before we go into the general differences between woods it should be mentioned that every ukulele will be different even if it's from the same tree. Size also affects the overall tone, a smaller soprano will produce a brighter punchier tone than the more mellow tone of a tenor. The brand and tension of string will also affect the sound, but we will not go into that now.

Spruce- When you think of a guitar with that light yellow top you are picturing a spruce top, as it is a very common on both guitars and ukuleles. It is usually only used as a top wood, and often paired with laminates on the sides and back. It is quite bright bright, loud and gives good articulation.




Cedar- Cedar is similar to spruce in visual andaudio qualities such as its brightness, but it is sometimes used on top, sides and back.



Maple- Maple is once again similar to the spruce a bit on the bright side, an good articulation, but more of a twang sound. Look similar to spruce as wel, with light colored grain.



Mahogany- Mahogany is a very popular wood used on ukuleles either as a fully mahogany ukulele or the back and sides of a spruce top. The reason for this is because it is so well rounded a sort of jack of all trades. It has a good mid range sound and is not expensive to use compared to many other woods. It is great first choice at its price point and because of the fact that you can learn what you like in your tone.




Koa- A more expensive wood due to its limited supply(only found on the big island), and high demand. However it has a deep rich tone that has more low bass to it than most other woods. It is used my many professional artists and most high end ukulele manufacturers build only koa unless requested otherwise.




Acacia- In the same family as koa and therefore has very similar tonal qualities as koa. However it is more common as it is not only found on one island. A good choice to get that warm sound without forking out $900.



Mango- Mango is not as common as some of the other woods listed here, but it is growing as a wood of choice for many players. It has a very warm tone, warmer than koa.




I would like to thank many of the users as I Scavenged a lot of the information from different places of this site to put it together here and also just for everything this great site does to help anyone new, confused or advanced it's a great site and community.

02-24-2009, 04:47 PM
Cool.. Good job on the write up...

02-24-2009, 08:31 PM

This is a GREAT resource! I love the video samples too. But which wood is the BEST? (jk, everyone knows the best wood is mahogany)

02-25-2009, 04:33 PM
Thanks for this resource! Extremely helpful.

02-26-2009, 05:24 AM
I was set on Acacia until I read this. Now I have to contend with finding Mango ukes as well...