View Full Version : Final Results: Torrefied Spruce Top

06-25-2016, 06:52 PM
If I was actually a professional luthier I would have starved to death long ago. This thing took me over a month to build. I work slower that even Ken does.

The experiment: Use a piece of torrefied spruce (terrified spruce?) to see how it worked, looked and sounded. The sides and back were made from an old guitar kit from LMI purchased about 30 years ago and never used. I realized if I tried to build a guitar I was going to end up with ruined wood and a disaster. Thus it sat in my closet all these years until now.

The terrified spruce was interesting to work with. Very fragile and any self inflicted injuries like a thumb nail or a scraper hitting the top made serious damage and a lot of swearing. If I worked with this stuff again I would protect the top at all times with plastic or cardboard. Just look at it and it dents. Tear out was always a concern, but I slathered on the shellac when routing and it behaved well. Odd smell. About what you expect from cooked spruce. Extremely stiff. Didn't sand out particularly well. Wanted to feather and had to be tamed with a couple or three of “raise the grain” wet sandings until it sanded out white and smooth with 400. The stuff is dry and the grain brittle.

Turned out nicely I think and the sound is fantastic.



Note above that the Indian rosewood has changed color over the years. The purples and reds have changed to a darker chocolate brown. Still pretty, but nothing like it was 30 years ago. So it goes with tropical hardwoods. At least now it is stable.


Above is bit of koa I retrieved from the trash as an end graft splice. Looks like a tree to me. Never throw those bit and pieces away. Never know when a bit here or there will work. Note error on the binding splice.... deep sigh. I can do better, but always a tough little join for me to pull off.


Cocobolo on the peghead.


Probably best picture of how the top looks under natural light. A lovely honey brown with a clear shellac finish. No "classic amber" dye needed. It really does look like it is 30 years old... The sound is extremely good and the uke very "alive". I'm very pleased.

06-25-2016, 10:02 PM
Looks stunning.


06-25-2016, 10:08 PM
It's obviously a very nice piece of spruce. That silking figure being indicative of some dead on the 1/4 timber.

My 2 cents....

I'm building a baritone at the moment with some exceptional 1/4 sawn master grade sitka. It has the same characteristics that you are describing with this sample. Very stiff and brittle. Managed to get a few dings and marks in it during the build but they steamed out quite easily.

Also as you noted it really needed some special attention when it came to sanding to get it to behave. Color is not quite as dark as yours appears, but still a nice amber. I'm French Polishing at the moment and the figure is truly amazing.

However it was a float log that has been salvaged in Alaska. Nothing other than sitting in water for some time, and then pulled out and cut into guitar and uke soundboards. No cooking or anything else to modify it.

Your observations may have more to do with the nature of really high grade spruce than the cooking. I've noticed this in several sets I've used that were purchased as "Master Grade". Both in Spruce and Western Red Cedar.


06-25-2016, 10:24 PM
I think your uke looks great. I can't understand how quickly you've mastered binding and purfling to that degree already. I'm close to 100 ukes and they look like rustic plain Janes compared to yours!

06-25-2016, 11:51 PM
You should be proud, this is one stunning uke. The cocobolo goes really well to accent the rosewood and spruce. It looks terrific :)!

06-26-2016, 11:02 AM
Lovely looking instrument. Sound sample?

Vespa Bob
06-26-2016, 11:30 AM
Nice looking instrument. With regards to the binding comment, it shows that you're human, just like most of us! While seeing the perfection of some our resident masters blows my mind, I find seeing another's boo-boos somehow satisfying!:)


06-26-2016, 04:04 PM
Beautiful..........Very nice..

06-26-2016, 05:28 PM
Lovely looking instrument. Sound sample?

I don't do sound samples because basically the sound quality I get is so terrible it is a travesty and doesn't do the instrument justice. Also I hate watching Youtube videos of people doing a 5 minute tortured version of "Tiny Bubbles" on their crappy sounding ukuleles complete with terrible fidelity. Know what I mean? However, I will say all of my ukes sound really good with a couple of exceptions that just sound like ukuleles. No dogs, but they don't shine. This instrument really shines. It has exceptional power and projection that is a real eye opener. My big fear during the build was that the spruce was so tight and stiff that the trebles might come out harsh and strident. I was relieved when they came out chiming. Now the big question is: Did I just build a nice rosewood and spruce 4 string small guitar or did I build a crazy nice ukulele. The thing does sound a little guitar-like (especially with the low G), and is it really an "ukulele"? These are questions I ask myself. I don't have the answer.

06-26-2016, 05:38 PM
Who cares how long it took to build, it's gorgeous!
It really does look like an older, well cared for, babied uke. I can imagine it sounds wonderful.
I would love to build my own uke, in fact I was going to build several, with a "friend" who had all the tools and the idea for us to do it together. We spent a whole hot summer day cleaning and organizing her garage into a shop, and I was pumped. Next thing I knew, she sold all the machines, and said she had needed the money. Would have been nice if she'd been honest with me.
Oops, thread highjacked, congratulations on a great looking build!