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View Full Version : Fan bracing a soprano with cedar soundboard?



mwaller
03-23-2009, 05:40 AM
Greetings!
I'm interested in building a soprano from a StewMac kit. However, I'd like to replace the sound board with Western Red Cedar. I briefly chatted about this idea with Donna LoPrinzi (LoPrinzi Guitars & Ukuleles) who recommended that I consider fan bracing if I decide to use cedar. Most LoPrinzi soprano ukes do not have fan bracing - except the cedar ones. Apparently, cedar is quite soft and needs proper bracing to avoid structural problems long-term.
Is the additional bracing a good idea? If so, should I follow plans for a concert uke, but scaled down?
Thanks!
Mika

Pete Howlett
03-23-2009, 06:22 AM
You've got your answer...

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-23-2009, 08:12 AM
I can't speak about cedar since I primarily work with koa. One major consideration is how you thin your top. Sound board thinning and sound board bracing can not be considered separately but must work hand in hand. I personally use one VERY light brace on my koa sopranos, but the tops are very thin as well. I am in possession of a 25 year old Kamaka koa soprano that has such a deep depression between the bridge and soundhole, it would hold four ounces of beer.

Bradford
03-23-2009, 09:32 AM
You might consider doing some research on classical guitar construction. It would be interesting to know how the builders handle cedar vs. spruce tops. I'm not aware of any major bracing changes between the two materials, but I've only used cedar a couple of times. It is generally accepted that the longevity of cedar will be less than other materials. The prime advantage is that a cedar top matures quickly. Keep in mind that it is very easy to overbrace a ukulele, you have to decide between sound vs. instrument life.

Brad

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-23-2009, 02:32 PM
..... you have to decide between sound vs. instrument life.
Brad

It always comes down to that doesn't it?
Generally cedar is a bit stiffer than spruce but there's also a lot of difference between Sitka an Adirondack for instance. Also anytime I make a cedar top I'm constantly afraid of it cracking before it's glued to the sides. Like redwood, it makes me a bit nervous. Sounds great though.

Bradford
03-23-2009, 05:03 PM
And when it comes down to it, if there is any doubt in my mind, I'll throw in a light brace. I would rather lose a little sound than have one of my instruments die prematurely on a customer. Making that judgement comes with experience however. Most beginners overbuild, I know I sure did when starting out.

Brad

koalohapaul
03-23-2009, 08:06 PM
Like Chuck said, sound board bracing and thickness/material go hand in hand. The trick is to thin down the face and brace it light enough to let it flex a little, but not bow to the point where it will affect the intonation. The more the top buckles, the closer your saddle will move to the nut, as well as lower the action on the strings.

In my experience, I have not found fan bracing to work with standards. But, we all build a little different and everyone's got their own taste. What doesn't work for me may very well work for the guy down the street.

While the standard is the smallest and "easiest" to put together, it's often the hardest to make sound good. Since there's so little head room, every part really has to work at putting out great tone.

If you're building for yourself, maybe you should get two kits and compare fan vs. however else you planned on bracing it. It would be a great learning experience and definitely something you will be able to draw on in the future. I'm pretty sure you'll build another. And another. And another.

mwaller
03-24-2009, 07:46 AM
If you're building for yourself, maybe you should get two kits and compare fan vs. however else you planned on bracing it. It would be a great learning experience and definitely something you will be able to draw on in the future. I'm pretty sure you'll build another. And another. And another.

I'm working on just such an experiment with the Grizzly kit!
I've already built one example with a very thin and lightly braced Engleman spruce top. It sounds amazing for a cheap instrument! I'm currently working on a second Grizzly kit that will be nearly identical, except for additional fan bracing. I'll let you know what the results are.
Thanks!
Mika

ukantor
03-24-2009, 08:31 AM
I've tried several different bracing arrangements on "standard" ukes and cigar-box ukes, and didn't find much difference in the sound - if any at all. For sure, if you OVER brace the front it will kill the sound, but provided the bracing allows the front to respond properly, the sound seems to take care of itself.

As I see it, the function of the bracing is to help the front resist distortion from the pull of the strings, and to help prevent splitting, which is always a worry with straight-grained quarter sawn wood. If it does this successfully, without getting in the way of the sound, then you've got it right.

Only time will tell!

Ukantor.

mwaller
03-24-2009, 09:44 AM
I can't speak about cedar since I primarily work with koa. One major consideration is how you thin your top. Sound board thinning and sound board bracing can not be considered separately but must work hand in hand. I personally use one VERY light brace on my koa sopranos, but the tops are very thin as well. I am in possession of a 25 year old Kamaka koa soprano that has such a deep depression between the bridge and soundhole, it would hold four ounces of beer.


Thanks for your responses! When you say that you use "one VERY light brace" - is that in addition to the usual transverse braces above and below the soundhole and stiffener under the bridge? Where do you place this brace?
Thanks,
Mika