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Rick Turner
11-14-2014, 08:33 AM
The subject of "what is the best wood for..." keeps coming up here, so I thought I'd get a discussion going re. just what the properties are that make "tone wood" out of a timber. For the sake of discussion, I'm going to use the popular names, but I will post a list of the Latin names in a day or two. I'll also be talking about "real acoustic" instruments, not some of the inexpensive ones like all-birch Stellas or the more bling oriented acoustic electrics.

With violins, you have literally centuries of work by luthiers virtually defining the tone by use of spruce for the tops, maple for backs, sides, and necks, and ebony for fingerboards. With guitars, the range is a bit wider for tops with spruce, Western red cedar, mahogany, and redwood being used; for backs and sides, mahoganies and their ilk and various rosewoods have ruled, with cypress for Flamenco guitars, maple for archtops and some flattops, and more recently walnut, myrtle, and a whole range of alternatives coming on strong as the traditional wood become harder to get.

With ukes, it all starts with koa. Why? Simple...it was the most commonly available wood on the Hawaiian Islands, and it happens to be fairly close to mahogany in it's requisite properties. It's also beautiful.

So what are the properties that make certain woods appropriate for certain parts of the instruments?

Stability
Stiffness to weight ratio (aka Young's Modulus)
Resonant Q
Density (not the same as above...)
Ratio of cross grain stiffness to longitudinal stiffness
Toughness (resistance to breakage)
Tensile strength (not the same as stiffness)
Compression strength
Workability (related to toughness)
Ease of gluing (oily woods are difficult)
Ease of finishing
Availability
Cost

So the appropriateness of a wood is a recipe. You can't take any one or two of the above qualities and ignore the rest. All of the above qualities are quantifiable, too, and the US Agriculture Department has a fabulous Wood Handbook with a lot of the numbers and ratings. When you see the actual numbers, you start to see just why spruce makes sense, for instance.

More to follow, I'm sure...

Recstar24
11-14-2014, 08:52 AM
Awesome idea! If I could add an additional question, can we clarify which factors are the ones that influence directly the sound of the instrument? My guess is:

stiffness to weight ratio
resonant Q (I believe this is a HUGE factor, but misunderstood or not commonly known)
Density
Ratio of cross grain stiffness to longitudinal stiffness
Tensile strength
compression strength

Tudorp
11-14-2014, 09:11 AM
Rick, in this, could you touch base a little on things people do, and Luthiers might do that manipulate, in a good way, or bad a tone and/or resonance? Some like a pick gaurd, stickers, or other things on the top, which is my understanding can diminish the tone quality, or resonance. I see some with stickers all over the top, which kind of makes me wince, but to each their own. Another reason I am interested in this, is I have a mahogany concert, that is by far NOT an expensive instrument, but has a checkered board pattern carved in the entire top. For some reason, this specific uke has a much richer tone than others from the same builder, and has more sustain than any other uke I have played. It seems this uke just wants to ring out. If I am holding it, or just in the same room, talking and not touching the strings you can hear it hum & resonate. Kind of cool really IMHO. My theory is that it might have something to do with the pattern carved in the top maybe giving it more surface area? I think it was done more as a cosmetic thing, but by accident gave this uke a special sound. Maybe it was just a nice mistake that gives this uke it's tone, I don't know, but yourself in your wisdom would probably understand better than any of us.

http://i1238.photobucket.com/albums/ff490/Tudorp/P1110640_zps83ba88b3.jpg

Rick Turner
11-14-2014, 09:41 AM
I'm between spray coats right now with a trip to Carmel coming up, so I'll have to let questions pile up a bit, but one thing:

Do not confuse correlation with causality.

"I played this uke with a (fill in the blank) top and it was fantastic, therefore any uke made with that wood must be fantastic." NOT!
That's like "My kid ate carrots two days ago and got a cold today, therefore carrots cause the common cold." NOT!

Dan Uke
11-14-2014, 10:06 AM
At the end of the day, the luthier is the most important factor IMO. Choose wisely!

timmit65
11-14-2014, 10:10 AM
Thanks, Rick!

I'm not sure if you know, but your name comes up several times in the Ken Caillat's book "Making Rumours".

Kayak Jim
11-14-2014, 10:34 AM
Looking forward to this thread. Thanks for starting it Rick.

Rllink
11-14-2014, 10:37 AM
I'm going to enjoy reading what people have to say about this. I have no experience in this. I do have one question though, who decides what good tone is? Is that subjective, or is there some measure?

DownUpDave
11-14-2014, 10:55 AM
I'm going to enjoy reading what people have to say about this. I have no experience in this. I do have one question though, who decides what good tone is? Is that subjective, or is there some measure?

It seems I like quoting and responding to you. Good questions.

The user of said instrument decides what is good tone. I like a rib eye, you a sirloin, my neighboir a porterhouse, we are all correct in the fact about what we like, all steaks but different. This is at its simplest level but if I like the sound of a Pono over a Koaloha who is to argue with me.

Now there are many factors that go into producing instruments with good tone and I appreciate that as much as the next guy. I have got some pretty expensive instruments in house and more on the way so I like to chase tone, as they say.:-). We can use words like sustain, projection, single note seperation etc. etc. But if you like the tone of what you are holding and playing that is the most important thing

gardens_guitar
11-14-2014, 11:07 AM
Wood Handbook: Wood As An Engineering Material (http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fpl_gtr190.pdf) Centennial Edition U.S. Department Of Agriculture Forest Service

IamNoMan
11-14-2014, 11:18 AM
Ah a "Tale of Two DuDies", play nice guys.

I am interested in both the tonal aspects and what considerations luthiers give to the environmental conditions the instruments are subjected to, in the selection and handling of woods used in instrument making. Particularly:

Thermal Expansion and Contraction.
Moisture content
Humidity and temperature effects on Tone
Use of laminates and veneers
The effect of different woods on Sustain

I have an interest as well in wooden tone rims/rings and Burls, (relative to tone,sustain,volume), for the use in resonators of Banjoleles.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-14-2014, 11:22 AM
I will work around workabillity issues (such as cocobolo (oily) and narra "angry" grain) and cost issues (cheap or expensive) as long as it is stable and taps well (ie, good Q).

Stability is the first priority. If it taps well but has stability issues (ie- alot of Brazilian), it shouldn't get used.

Likewise, If a neck wood taps well but is "bendy" its "unstable". I can live with a stable (stiff, non bendy) neck wood that doesn't tap as nice as others (Hog and SC vs Narra) as long as (as rick has mentioned) it isn't super stiff/strong at the expense of dampening.

Traditional woods aren't necessarily the best- ie Ebony's stability issues for fingerboards against african blackwood , Koa's Q for ukes over, say, a rosewood for more modern uke playing.

Rick Turner
11-14-2014, 11:25 AM
Another few quickies:

"Tone" is not as all over the map as many would like to think. There can be and is some generalized agreement on good tone and bad tone. Yes, there are different qualities of tone that different folks may gravitate toward, but if you were to do some double blind testing, you'd be amazed at how consistent the results would be from beautiful tone to crappy. Yes, it may be subjective, but that does not preclude agreement, pushing the issue into a kind of cultural objectivity, if you will.

It takes playing a lot of instruments to start to understand this stuff, and I mean a lot. Hundreds. Thousands.

A luthier would rather work with great wood than bad wood, though there are a number of things we can do to compensate.

Lutherie wood is graded upon appearance. I've held AAAAA tops that had the stiffness of wet shirt cardboard. I've used seconds that sounded great.

Gardens_guitar, thanks for posting that link. Yeah, that's it.

Some players seem to be able to instantly find "the voice" of any quality of instrument and can seem to make a bad one sound good. Ry Cooder is one of the best of them. David Lindley is another.

Some players have their own true voice that comes through on any instrument they play. Some of it is about virtuosity, much is not. It's hard to pick out great tone players in the uke world; it's much easier in the guitar world. Think of five or six (OK, I'm pushing for seven!) guitarists, for instance, whom you can identify in five notes or less.

Ry Cooder
Sonny Landreth
Richard Thompson
Martin Simpson
Carlos Santana
Gabor Szabo
David Lindley

IamNoMan
11-14-2014, 11:29 AM
Would you folks elaborate on "Q" and "taps" please.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-14-2014, 11:45 AM
Q stands for Quality (there is a more technical term but it escapes me)

However, Wood with a good Q for a jazz archtop is totally different from what you would call good Q for a fingerstyle guitar, or uke. So there are different benchmarks - Judging a woods Q for both a Jazz guitar (maple) and fingerstyle guitar (rosewood) is like comparing Starwars with Good Will Hunting- they are both excellent but just different so the same parameters can't really be used against each other.

By tap I (not everyone) usually mean how good a wood rings- i want a long, clear note (brazilian, honduran and amazon RW, african blackwood (which is a rosewood), and Pernambuco have the best tap ive heard for my needs.

Kayak Jim
11-14-2014, 11:48 AM
Q stands for Quality (there is a more technical term but it escapes me)

However, Wood with a good Q for a jazz archtop is totally different from what you would call good Q for a fingerstyle guitar, or uke.

By tap I (mot everyone) usually mean how good a wood rings- i want a long, clear note (brazilian, honduran and amazon RW, african blackwood (which is a rosewood), and Pernambuco have the best tap ive heard for my needs.

I take it "Q" is a subjective thing?

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-14-2014, 12:09 PM
I take it "Q" is a subjective thing?

Well, a piece of brazilian RW that rings with an excellent Q will ring with an excellent Q for everyone (who can hear), as does a good piece of maple etc- But sometimes, a good long deep ring isn't what you want.

So I would say that:
Q is objective (the same for everyone),
The specific build's desired tone is the Subjective choice from Objective Q

Having said that, some people think only Blondes are beautiful and cant stand the sight of brunettes or redheads no matter how much they are universally acknowledged (objectively) as beautiful.

IamNoMan
11-14-2014, 12:57 PM
Beau your not helping here. You first suggested Qjazz is not the same as Quke. Then you say Q is objective. I realize you know what you mean but I don't.

When you defined tap is how the wood rings do you mean how well the wood sustains vibration with no strings or other wood attached?

I've seen Ash used for necks recently, (more than one citation). I would not characterize ash as bendy or as having a significant tap. I don't think it has much in the way of dampening characteristics either. I don't consider this a tone wood per se. It does have beneficial use in necks from a structural perspective. Is this your view as a luthier? (I'm an engineer).

hawaii 50
11-14-2014, 01:01 PM
At the end of the day, the luthier is the most important factor IMO. Choose wisely!

I almost never agree with Nongdam, but I do this time......:)

Pueo
11-14-2014, 01:25 PM
Ukulele players that you can notice in 5 notes or less?
For me personally, that list is:
Troy Fernandez
Kimo Hussey
Led Ka`apana (he belongs in the guitar list too)
James Hill

I also know a few Hawaiian players that play very similarly - don't always know WHICH one is playing, but it is definitely one of those three :D

Oh, and three more people for the guitar list:

Tuck Andress
Jeff Peterson
SRV

southcoastukes
11-14-2014, 01:27 PM
And of course there's the theory that papier mache will do very nicely for back and sides.

good_uke_boy
11-14-2014, 02:11 PM
Mr. Turner,

Fascinating thread and posts. Please post more. And if okay to ask, which woods are your personal favorites for an ukulele's top, back, and sides? I'm guessing adirondack spruce for top, and a rosewood for back and sides? Thanks.

Oh, as for guitarists one can name in a few notes: Hendrix.

Nickie
11-14-2014, 02:23 PM
Well, this is fascinating. My two faves are: a Kala made of solid mahogany, and my Ohana, made of a solid koa top with laminate sides and back. They sound totally different, of course, but I love the tones of both.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-14-2014, 03:05 PM
Beau your not helping here. You first suggested Qjazz is not the same as Quke. Then you say Q is objective. I realize you know what you mean but I don't.

When you defined tap is how the wood rings do you mean how well the wood sustains vibration with no strings or other wood attached?

I've seen Ash used for necks recently, (more than one citation). I would not characterize ash as bendy or as having a significant tap. I don't think it has much in the way of dampening characteristics either. I don't consider this a tone wood per se. It does have beneficial use in necks from a structural perspective. Is this your view as a luthier? (I'm an engineer).

Sorry-
By tap i usually mean as a rectangle of wood (usually about 5mm thick) as supplied by luthier supply houses places such as LMI. However, i also tap a braced top (or back) and listen to a tone.

Q of maple (of one particular piece) will sound like, and is, the same Q for everyone....if we all had the same ears and listening skills.

The Q of a piece of Brazilian likewise.

What i ment to expound regarding Q was that it is not necessarily the wood with the best Q which is the best wood for a build.

Regarding ash, i've never actually tapped or carved it as im not an electric maker so I can't comment with any authority on ash. However, (and im just thinking out loud here) having pickups (like humbuckers etc) would negate the use of a tonally superior neck wood, or body wood. Perhaps ash is dampening???? I dont know. Electric guitars use body cavities which cut down on feedback (i think???) so maybe ash is tonally a good wood????

Rick will know :)

TjW
11-14-2014, 04:30 PM
I take it "Q" is a subjective thing?

In most engineering it's not. One definition involves the 3db bandwidth. (There's several, all equivalent mathematically) If you drive something at its resonant frequency, it will have the largest amplitude response. There's some frequency lower than resonant that will give half the response. There's another frequency higher than resonant that will give half the response. The difference between them is the 3dB bandwidth. Divide the resonant frequency by the 3dB bandwidth, and you have a number for the Q. Since you're dividing units of frequency by units of frequency, the result is a dimensionless number.
The higher the Q, the longer it will ring.

IamNoMan
11-14-2014, 07:04 PM
Thanks TjW. That puts Q into perspective. Dimensionless analysis is good stuff but knowing the units is helpful too.

AndrewKuker
11-14-2014, 10:44 PM
I always like it when I see cross silking in spruce / visible medullary ray signifies the reed line (grain) of the wood is 90 degrees so it gains and loses moisture at the same rate on both sides of the wood which helps stability and strength. Not that it's seen on every piece that is quartersawn. But that's the cut for the strongest structure possible for that piece of wood.

This video gives the basics on that term "quartersawn"


http://youtu.be/VvUPJPFg4wM
http://youtu.be/VvUPJPFg4wM

Jim Hanks
11-15-2014, 02:03 AM
This video gives the basics on that term "quartersawn"
Thanks Andrew! That has to be the best explanation of quartersawn I've ever seen.

kkimura
11-15-2014, 02:41 AM
And of course there's the theory that papier mache will do very nicely for back and sides.

Very nicely for tops too if we accept that the HPL my Martin OXK is made of is a lot closer to paper mache than not.

vanflynn
11-15-2014, 05:03 AM
Are there general consideration for grain type? e.g. Clear straight grain set -vs- one that looks like an owl's head

Rick Turner
11-15-2014, 06:21 AM
OK, lots of questions here, and I’ll try to get to all of them with my own opinions and experience as well as adding sources of more information.

For a really good article by Dana Bourgeois on his take on “tonewoods”, see this:http://www.pantheonguitars.com/tonewoods.htm
“Q”…yes, correct. This is not a subjective measurement and it is independent of dimensions. To put it simply, it is a measure of how easily a piece of wood (or any other material) is excited at it’s resonant frequency. The higher the Q, the more resonant it will be. The reciprocal of Q factor is damping…the measure of how efficient the material is at suppressing vibration. Probably the highest Q wood I know of is Honduras rosewood, the top choice for professional level marimbas. The acoustic guitar I made for Henry Kaiser to take to Antarctica has Honduras rosewood back and sides, and that guitar rings like a bell in a cathedral.

The velocity of sound through wood is proportional to it’s specific stiffness, aka Young’s Modulus or the Modulus of Elasticity.

Both specific stiffness and Q are independent from density, though those three factors in balance do make up the basic recipe for a great top wood. You want low density so the string doesn’t have much mass to move; you want high specific stiffness so the top can be made light yet strong enough to withstand string tension; and you want fairly high Q so the top doesn’t damp the vibrations.

Back and side choices are like adding the spices to a stew. Softer, lower Q woods will absorb some sound giving the notes less sustain and perhaps more definition. A classic example in the guitar world would be Clarence White’s choice to use a D-18 with mahogany back and sides for lead work where he wanted each note to have a precise duration while using a D-28 with rosewood back and sides for backup where the longer sustain supported the rest of the band and vocals.

Papier mache…yep, the famous Torres experiment “proving” that the top…and I’ll have to add, neck…are the primary factors in guitar tone. That is often totally misinterpreted as proving that the back and sides have no effect…by people who don’t build guitars.

There is a pretty amazing measurement device known as the Lucchi Meter used far more now in the violin world than in the fretted instrument scene. http://www.lucchimeter.com/sound-velocity-in-bow-making/
With the Lucchi Meter, you can measure the speed of sound through a material and get numbers which represent stiffness and Q. It’s a computerized version of what experienced luthiers learn to do tapping and scratching. And…it works.

Tap…yes, we can tell a lot by properly holding a piece of wood and tapping and scratching it, and nobody has taken this technique much farther than Roger Siminoff, former publisher of Pickin’ magazine which morphed into Frets, expert on the work of acoustician Lloyd Loar, and author of a number of excellent books on lutherie. Roger has developed a method of very accurately assessing specific “tap tones” to which the parts of an instrument can be literally tuned to make it perform well. His work is controversial, and he states that you can “get there” using other methods like deflection measuring, but I’ve spent time with Roger, and his methods work; his instruments are amazing.

My fave woods…well, for a more guitar-like sound on a tenor, that is to say good depth of tone with clarity, long sustain with a kind of reverberant quality, yes, my choice is a spruce, cedar, or redwood top with dense rosewood back and sides. These days with Brazilian such an issue, I’m liking Amazon rosewood a lot. Cocobolo is good, and Indian is always a decent choice. My own #1 uke is a highly figured koa one which I kept for the simple reason that it is drop dead beautiful and it attracts attention which is simply good marketing for me. It sounds wonderful, but a more boring wood choice for the top would probably sound better. Next one…

Wood vs. Luthier. Hah! Another trope that is greatly overstated usually in favor of luthiers, and always by non-luthiers trying to prove a point of view they want to believe but have no direct experience with! Yes, we luthiers can compensate a bit here and there, thinning this brace, thinning around the perimeter, “tuning” here and there, but there’s no way we’re going to get fabulous sustain out of low Q wood, nor great midrange and treble out of a too-floppy top. Every luthier I know (and that’s a lot of ‘em) would rather start with a great set of wood and move forward from there. With good wood, there’s a lot more latitude for shaping the ultimate tone of the instrument. And don’t get started on the Taylor pallet guitar thing or the Benedetto knotty pine archtop. I’ll bet if you put any of that wood through Lucchi meter testing, you’d find it to have decent stiffness to weight and Q measurements, as fugly as the wood is.

Quartersawn wood…the main deal with quartersawn wood is it’s stability relative to other cuts from the tree. It shrinks and expands less with humidity changes and it warps less as well. It is NOT necessarily true, though, that vertical grain wood is stiffer than flat-sawn wood. This is particularly true in the guitar world with maple where flat (or slab) sawn electric guitar and bass necks are slightly stiffer than vertical grained ones from the same tree. One of the funny things is that quartersawn wood usually does not exhibit the same spectacular figure…other than flame…as the same wood rift or flat sawn. This is particularly true of Brazilian rosewood (and other similars…) where the ne plus ultra is fairly boring even grained wood.

Ash…kind of like oak…makes fine acoustic instruments, but the look is so far non-traditional that it’s a hard sell. I do have a white oak back and sides Lakeside “parlor guitar” in need of great restoration, and I’ve seen quite a few others. Chicago-made with a look to match Crafsman-style fumed white oak furniture. Ash is a bit softer…more mahogany-like than oak.

OK, am I hitting longest post ever yet?

DownUpDave
11-15-2014, 06:37 AM
Wow Rick, that was a great post. I learned more from that post about woods and how tone is influenced then anything else I have read. Thank you. The only problem now is that this thread will need to be closed down as you have said it all ;););)

Cornfield
11-15-2014, 06:49 AM
I always like it when I see cross silking in spruce / visible medullary ray signifies the reed line (grain) of the wood is 90 degrees so it gains and loses moisture at the same rate on both sides of the wood which helps stability and strength. Not that it's seen on every piece that is quartersawn. But that's the cut for the strongest structure possible for that piece of wood.

This video gives the basics on that term "quartersawn"

Very nice video. That explains the term clearly

hawaii 50
11-15-2014, 07:21 AM
wow nice thread Rick...

to me I believe all things equal(tone wood/type of wood) if 2 builders have the same exact piece....the builder makes all the difference...knowledge time/number of ukes they have built means a lot to me.....

trust the most important too....I have a CR Koa tenor with the same set of Koa like yours....and it is a beautiful instrument.... so I am speaking through experience....

keep doing what you are doing....

Ukulelerick9255
11-15-2014, 07:37 AM
The best toned wood is the wood that goes to the gym the most.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-15-2014, 08:31 AM
wow nice thread Rick...

to me I believe all things equal(tone wood/type of wood) if 2 builders have the same exact piece....the builder makes all the difference...knowledge time/number of ukes they have built means a lot to me.....


Indeed the luthier is the key-
However, it is just as easy to make an bad sounding instrument with woods with the highest Q, as it is to do something stupid even if you have a high IQ.
Having said that, students can also make excellent sounding instruments.

Rick Turner
11-15-2014, 09:31 AM
I would say that the luthier is A key, not THE key. The best of us cannot take bad or inappropriate wood and make a great instrument out of it. That said, a good luthier can make a decent instrument out of mid-grade wood and an inexperienced luthier can make a terrible instrument out of the best wood.

And don't forget the contribution of the neck to the tone of the instrument.

1) I do not buy into the neck "transferring vibrations" to the body via the neck joint. It just doesn't work that way. Yes, a bad or loose neck joint is not good, but I do not detect any difference in tone among Spanish, dovetail, glued or bolted tenon, or bolted on butt joints. As some of you know, my Compass Rose fingerboards do not contact the top, and I hear that as an advantage. On my acoustic guitars, the neck is adjustable and the heel face does not touch the body at all; the neck sits on a tripod of bolts, kind of like 1890s Howe Orme guitars, and they sound just fine. And...I can reset the neck angle in about fifteen seconds.

2) an instrument with a rigid neck and some non-damping mass in the neck and peghead will reflect string energy back down into the top, adding attack and sustain.

This extends to the fingerboard material and even the frets. Some guitarists feel that they get more attack and sustain with larger fretwire, some even preferring the old-style bar frets found on some Martins up until about 1934 or '5.

Some of the qualities of wood can be enhanced with the use of carbon fiber composites...another whole subject unto itself.

AndrewKuker
11-15-2014, 09:42 AM
I thought pernambuco had the highest q

Rick Turner
11-15-2014, 09:49 AM
Andrew, you're probably right about that. I was talking mostly about woods I've used for backs and sides, and I've not used Pernambuco.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-15-2014, 10:10 AM
I thought pernambuco had the highest q

I have 3 Pernambuco uke sets and they all sounds incredible when i tap them- it is certainly as good, probably better then Brazilian RW, Honduran RW and African Blackwood.

Its only downfall is the colour- all mine are bright orange but i think it oxides to a rich brown (like old violin bows)

Rick Turner
11-15-2014, 10:18 AM
That stuff is the gold of the wood world, Beau. Use it well! I know you will.

IamNoMan
11-16-2014, 06:34 PM
I have heard that banjo and harp luthiers are using poplar as a tone wood. AFAIK there are two kinds of poplar wood both seem to have greatly varied characteristics. What's the skinny?

What about Black Locust? Recently heard a banjo with a black locust tone rim. Marvelous resonance that. Black Locust is an Acacia species correct?

Jim Hanks
11-17-2014, 01:59 AM
I have heard that banjo and harp luthiers are using poplar as a tone wood. AFAIK there are two kinds of poplar wood both seem to have greatly varied characteristics. What's the skinny?

I don't know about the technical characteristics but there are at least two uke makers using poplar as a tone wood. The main dig against it is visual - poplar is generally quite plain.

Rick Turner
11-17-2014, 04:49 AM
I highly recommend checking out the Wood Database http://www.wood-database.com/ as a quick and easy reference spot.

Poplar...yeah, you can use it but it's really boring and can have weird green streaks in it. So it's kind of a loser on aesthetics, and for a US luthier, kind of a poor choice for making salable instruments unless they are to be painted solid colors. It's kind of like alder in that sense...more useful for solid body instruments. A lot of really cheap US guitars in the mid 20th century had poplar necks.

Locust...yeah, another one where some of the characteristics are favorable...and the look is just a bit too left of center. Very hard, very rot resistant. Banjo rims...yep. I have a bunch of it in quarter log section form, but I've not cut it up yet to see just what it might be good for. Kind of a pale green look to it...hmmm.

Steveperrywriter
11-17-2014, 05:07 AM
According to what Alan Carruth has said, osage orange delivers a sound halfway between BRW and Indian RW.When fresh-cut, it is pumpkin-colored, but it does age to a lovely brown. Apparently hard to work, but I have a guitar and a tenor ukulele with sides and back of this stuff and the sound is terrific from both.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
11-17-2014, 05:15 AM
According to what Alan Carruth has said, osage orange delivers a sound halfway between BRW and Indian RW.When fresh-cut, it is pumpkin-colored, but it does age to a lovely brown. Apparently hard to work, but I have a guitar and a tenor ukulele with sides and back of this stuff and the sound is terrific from both.

Osage orange is apparently good for bows (not arrows) too.

Yep- its a good tonewood, but ive not worked with it, only worked next to someone working with it

Rick Turner
11-17-2014, 05:26 AM
Osage orange ( Maclura pomifera ) is an interesting wood. In French it's known as "bois d'arc" meaning "wood of the bow"...the bow being the American Indian hunting bow. The French name got Anglicized into "bodark". Like another wood used in lutherie...specifically lute making...Osange orange has sap wood that is particularly strong and elastic in tension while having heartwood that is very strong in compression...just what you want in a bow. It's very strong, and I used it to build Phil Lesh's "Mission Control" Alembic bass #0008 in 1974...a bass that disappeared for about 30 years and is now back in my hands for restoration.
http://www.ricksuchow.com/press-group-167.html

http://alembic.com/club/messages/411/1922.html?1350759984

Rick Turner
11-17-2014, 06:21 AM
And...don't forget that the wood...or whatever...the neck is made of is also a "tone wood". The neck absorbs and reflects string energy into the body. Not much at the neck joint as is incorrectly assumed by many, but back down through the bridge. The neck's own vibrations are more pronounced with long necked instruments...particularly with electric basses where the three main neck resonances are 1) perpendicular to the top, 2) parallel to the top, and 3) a torque twisting of the neck. These resonances are not a good thing; they rob the string(s) of energy at particular frequencies creating dead spots on the neck...the opposite of "wolf tones" which occur in instrument bodies and result in a particular note jumping out louder than it's neighbors.

Jim Hanks
11-17-2014, 07:55 AM
Poplar...yeah, you can use it but it's really boring and can have weird green streaks in it.
The streaky stuff is the best poplar IMO: http://iriguchiukuleles.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/DSC_0867-e1395335983342.jpg

The other maker must use the boring stuff as they veneer it:
http://www.sailoruke.com/custom-sailor-ukuleles.html

Rick Turner
11-17-2014, 11:50 AM
As someone whose company builds and sells ukes, my perspective is that most folks do not want to pay for US labor on instruments that don't have pretty nice looking wood. It takes us as much time to build a uke with pretty wood as boring wood, and there's a lot more money tied up in labor than in materials when paying good old North American wages. At least at this time and place...

I've considered offering essentially the same pineapple uke I teach building as a "festival model"...something that could retail for $500.00 to $600.00 with mahogany back and sides and a cedar top; that is a pretty unbeatable wood combo. I'd go with purpleheart for peghead overlay, fingerboard, and bridge...the wood is hard enough and stable enough, and it would provide that blingy pizazz. It's just about the best price/looks/performance balance I can think of. I just have to get the neck/fingerboard programmed for CNC manufacture...

The point is that there are all these separate issues that must be balanced, and it's not good enough to say you can make a poplar uke and it works. Sure it works.

Can I make a living building them? It does come down to that. I see a lot of folks come and go in the business of lutherie. I'd like to avoid the "go" part of that. You can make what puns you like out of the other part!