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View Full Version : Opinions on walnut top/soundboard?



UkieOkie
11-20-2016, 05:35 AM
Hey Uu'ers, I have experience with lots of different solid top woods from Koa to mahogany to spruce and so on. But to the best of my knowledge I have never even played a solid walnut topped Uke. In a similar vein to the cedar thread going, all other things being equal, what qualities and characteristics do you all ascribe to walnut soundboards? Do you like it?

Thanks,

Trevor

Nickie
11-20-2016, 12:19 PM
I've seen two Black Walnut concert size ukes. They both sounded similar, very mellow, but with plenty of volume. The wood was pretty, with a gloss finish. They had oak binding, which was very striking.

UkieOkie
11-20-2016, 12:35 PM
I've seen two Black Walnut concert size ukes. They both sounded similar, very mellow, but with plenty of volume. The wood was pretty, with a gloss finish. They had oak binding, which was very striking.

Thank you Nicki. Do you recall the brand?

Nickie
11-20-2016, 12:40 PM
By Arrowhead Music in Safety Harbor FL. I don't believe there is a website, and I lost his #. But if you like, I can find him and get some photos. He only builds about one uke a month, and is a darn perfectionist. He told me he won't do custom orders, that's the only reason I don't have one.

UkieOkie
11-20-2016, 12:52 PM
By Arrowhead Music in Safety Harbor FL. I don't believe there is a website, and I lost his #. But if you like, I can find him and get some photos. He only builds about one uke a month, and is a darn perfectionist. He told me he won't do custom orders, that's the only reason I don't have one.

Thanks for the info. If he's a perfectionist then I probably can't afford him at the moment. I am considering g buying one but also i am going to build a couple more cigar box Ukes and I am considering a little different top wood. Thanks again for your replies.

Choirguy
11-20-2016, 01:20 PM
Pete Mai of Bonanza Ukuleles also is making Ukuleles out of Black Walnut, if memory serves (along with Cherry, Aspen, and the Laminate options).

UkieOkie
11-20-2016, 01:37 PM
Hey choir guy, thanks. Those prices are pretty reasonable. Have you played or owned any of his Ukes? If so what did you think?

Jim Hanks
11-20-2016, 01:41 PM
Larry Hinkle uses a lot of English and black walnut sometimes even for tops:
https://www.facebook.com/HinkleUkulele/

This one says it is walnut but he may have other sound samples available.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2M6N0e_LIwo

CTurner
11-20-2016, 02:24 PM
I have a Kinnard tenor that is all walnut. It's sound is "woodsy," and with a nice crispness, if that is helpful to describe. Of course that is more walnut in a uke than you are asking about!

UkieOkie
11-20-2016, 02:39 PM
I have a Kinnard tenor that is all walnut. It's sound is "woodsy," and with a nice crispness, if that is helpful to describe. Of course that is more walnut in a uke than you are asking about!

Hey Craig, send that thing over and I'll try it out and see what I think. Just kidding of course.

Thanks to all for the replies.

Choirguy
11-20-2016, 03:06 PM
Hey choir guy, thanks. Those prices are pretty reasonable. Have you played or owned any of his Ukes? If so what did you think?

I have played them (Silver Creek Ukulele Festival, Milwaukee Ukulele Festival), and have a custom ukulele on order for my school program. They sound nice...but are not going to match the sound of a K model. But then again, they cost 1/4 or less than a K model. They have a pleasant sound...they just started with the wood models in May of this year, so there aren't a whole lot of videos of their work out there...Petey Mack has recorded himself playing his wood "custom" ukuleles.

bunnyf
11-20-2016, 04:43 PM
I have an all walnut LoPrinzi soprano. It is a keeper and my second fav uke (my Bari is my main player). The sound, to my ears, is mellow like mahoghany but a bit more crisp sounding. I love it. It was an incredible bargain at $300.

Ukulele Eddie
11-20-2016, 04:52 PM
The Kinnard Luthier's Reserve #2 that was just completed (and sold at the Ukulele Guild Show) is all walnut. Visually stunning and sounds fantastic:

https://c7.staticflickr.com/6/5573/30779684990_61888f5301_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/NTTVZY)

https://c6.staticflickr.com/6/5592/31033305301_0fd5f1c64b_z.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/PhiNtX)

Michael N.
11-20-2016, 11:03 PM
I use walnut a great deal but for back/sides. In fact it's the wood I use the most, probably my favourite. What you have to understand is that it's the woods properties that has the influence on the tone, not it's name. People tend to get too fixated on this. One of the most important measurements for a woods property is it's density. Walnut is right in there with Koa. All woods vary in density even within the same wood type, so it's quite possible to get walnut heavier than Koa or walnut lighter than Koa. The two cross. Other medium density woods such as maple are also in the same bracket. My point is that I wouldn't get too fixated on wood type and suddenly decide that Koa will give one type of sound whilst walnut or maple will give another. You just can't know unless you are aware of the individual woods properties and all the other factors that go into making an instrument. There are other factors such as young's modulus (the woods stiffness) but again this can vary even within the same species. Having said all that there's no reason not to choose a particular wood if you like the look of it and it's within that bracket of medium density hardwoods.

hammer40
11-20-2016, 11:24 PM
My Compass Rose is an all walnut tenor. I love it. It's always difficult to describe sound but here goes my take on it. I would say it has a woody sound, like mahogany but more bottom end and a less pronounced midrange. Rich and warm but still crisp and clear with good overtones. The trebles are not bright or harsh, but subtle, sweet and clear. A good all rounder, great for subtle finger picking but has some snap when you dig in too. More important is the builder though. That's where the voice comes from the most.

Mine is a Claro walnut, which is supposedly not as dense as a black walnut. So there can be a slight difference between the two as well.

keod
11-21-2016, 12:18 AM
The Kinnard Luthier's Reserve #2 that was just completed (and sold at the Ukulele Guild Show) is all walnut.
All I can say is - WOW!
I can't even imagine how wonderful this must sound.
Thank you for posting. This really made my day.....maybe even my year LOL.

Michael N.
11-21-2016, 12:36 AM
My Compass Rose is an all walnut tenor. I love it. It's always difficult to describe sound but here goes my take on it. I would say it has a woody sound, like mahogany but more bottom end and a less pronounced midrange. Rich and warm but still crisp and clear with good overtones. The trebles are not bright or harsh, but subtle, sweet and clear. A good all rounder, great for subtle finger picking but has some snap when you dig in too. More important is the builder though. That's where the voice comes from the most.

Mine is a Claro walnut, which is supposedly not as dense as a black walnut. So there can be a slight difference between the two as well.

Claro is usually a nicer, richer colour than black walnut. I have had some really nice black walnut with good colour but that was grown in Kew gardens, London. Probably imported to add to their collection and planted as a decorative tree. I was told that local soil conditions and the climate had a strong effect on how the timber looked. Makes sense.
European walnut can also be very rich in colour. All walnut types can show figured grain and look quite spectacular.

spookelele
11-21-2016, 03:45 AM
my opinion is that walnut is beautiful to look at.

As far as sound though, I no longer subscribe to a wood having a sound. I mean.. it does, but the implementation of the build just seems to have so much more influence on the sound than the wood. I'm not sure I could guess a soundboard wood purely on sound any more, because the top guys... make everything sound so good, that I'm not sure the wood is nearly as critical as the builder.

Ukulele Eddie
11-21-2016, 04:21 AM
my opinion is that walnut is beautiful to look at.

As far as sound though, I no longer subscribe to a wood having a sound. I mean.. it does, but the implementation of the build just seems to have so much more influence on the sound than the wood. I'm not sure I could guess a soundboard wood purely on sound any more, because the top guys... make everything sound so good, that I'm not sure the wood is nearly as critical as the builder.

I believe this is correct. I also believe that you can take the same type of wood and end up with different sounds in different builder's hands. In fact, there is a little project brewing about this that I hope to share more about in the coming weeks.

Joyful Uke
11-21-2016, 04:50 AM
All I can say is - WOW!
I can't even imagine how wonderful this must sound.
Thank you for posting. This really made my day.....maybe even my year LOL.

+1. Absolutely beautiful. Too bad we don't have a sound sample, but it looks amazing.

weeshan
11-21-2016, 12:38 PM
While mine isnt a solid...I do have a walnut laminate. I really disliked it out of the box. The Aquila Nylguts made it sound brash and boomy in a bad way. Knowing that walnut is harder and would likely have a warmer, mellower sound with the right strings...I swapped out the strings for Fremont blackline low G Strings. WOW. Its a whole different uke now and I adore it. Just thought Id mention this in case anyone has a walnut uke and arent happy with the sound. Low G cured all issues for me.

Bonanza Pete
11-21-2016, 02:02 PM
Chime in here if I may.
I have built 8 solid black walnut uke's to this point. Comparing identical builds it does sound different than my cherry or Aspen builds. I notice a difference depending on body style , standard double bout versus pear shaped.
I describe it has having a smoky undertone if that makes sense. Very clear and bell like but with deeper tone.
Looks wise I love it but as the old saying goes ' Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"

barefootgypsy
11-22-2016, 05:14 AM
Dave Morgan of DJ Morgan Ukuleles (UK builder) has built at least one uke with a walnut top, and I 've played it - like all Dave's ukes, it is superb. His ukes are ridiculously reasonable considering they are so very, very good! Worth a look.....

UkieOkie
11-22-2016, 08:08 AM
Thanks Pete, barefoot and all others who have provided input.