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Pete Howlett
02-11-2017, 01:26 AM
There have been a number of questions regarding building in oak. I've just completed a tenor in quarter-sawn English oak with alder neck and Mgurure fingerboard and bridge. I'll post some images and a video here next week to inspire all you who have questions regarding this timber. My observations regarding English oak - I cannot speak for American white or red:

1: It works very nice and is easy to hand bend, holding its shape well
2: Our standard thickness regimens work with this material so no special requirements needed
3: Oak is very stable so ideal for use as a tone wood
4: On our prototype sustain phenomenal, tone more spruce-front-like, comparable with our boutique master grade wood instruments

All of this contradicts the advice my tutor gave me at college when he proclaimed, "You cannot make a good instrument out of a ring porous wood like oak." If only he was alive today for me to show him how wrong he was...

So my advice - get down to your local store - for British readers, I bought this oak in B&Q, the equivalent of Home Depot in the US and it was perfectly dry and seasoned, ready for immediate use - and buy some oak and experiment. I also think that given the situation arising with exotic and traditional instrument making woods the time has come for us to seriously look at the specie alternatives to these traditional materials. I believe you can make most woods work for you...

cml
02-11-2017, 02:06 AM
Great Pete, really looking forward to seeing and hearing it!

Kevs-the-name
02-11-2017, 03:57 AM
I have a few sets of this acquired from a retired guitar luthier.
He used to love using it.
Will look forward to seeing your results Pete. At some point I am going to making something with mine.

saltytri
02-11-2017, 04:42 AM
I've stashed away this beautiful piece of figured white oak in the hope that someday someone will want an oak ukulele. In the guitar world, there's plenty of favorable information about oak for back and sides, as long as it doesn't look like the wood used in grandma's bookcase.


https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3943/32684745602_671c133d4a_b.jpg


https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2737/32684744582_7273f629df_b.jpg

Pete Howlett
02-11-2017, 06:04 AM
Go to it boys - you won't be disappointed.

saltytri
02-11-2017, 06:24 AM
I suspect that no one would be disappointed by the structural and tonal qualities.

Here's the question: would you buy one?

Pete Howlett
02-11-2017, 07:17 AM
Yes, that is the question isn't it? Folks buy those carbon fibre ukes and Magic Flukes are going against the grain. Why not oak? I suspect it's all question of marketing.

cml
02-11-2017, 07:52 AM
I suspect that no one would be disappointed by the structural and tonal qualities.

Here's the question: would you buy one?
I would build one. And yes, if I werent building, I'd consider it - especially with pretty wood like yours. Think of that wood with a nice spruce top and some nice bindings. I think an abalone rosette/inlay would match it very nicely as well...!

lauburu
02-11-2017, 08:33 AM
I suspect it's all question of marketing
Correct. Market perception favours the likes of mahogany and koa because they are well promoted. However, if a Jake S or a James Hill started to rave about the superior qualities of their latest oak instrument, you wouldn't be able to build them fast enough.
Miguel

Pete Howlett
02-11-2017, 10:17 AM
Ko'olau build mostly spruce top tenors, have been doing for years so I am not sure the market is as conservative as we think it might be...

sequoia
02-11-2017, 07:07 PM
I don't think anybody would dispute that oak can't make a fine musical instrument or that it doesn't work and bend just fine. It is a fine wood for lutherie. The problem, to me at least, is that oak looks ugly. It looks coarse to my eye. It looks like IKEA furniture. The grain lines are generally wide and unpleasing to the eye. The color tends towards a sickly pale yellow. That being said we have to realize that "oak" is a broad category of trees and there are many species of wood in the Quercus. sp. family. The picture posted above on this thread is the rare exception to the rule. It actually looks interesting. To compare Koa to Oak is no comparison. One is a wood that can be breath taking in its flame and figure looking almost three dimensional. Oak never looks three dimensional. It just looks like... oak. Whether this will catch on as a look to the general ukulele buying world in my mind is doubtful. But maybe the sad thing is that these oak instruments can sound great, even magnificent, but nobody wants to buy them. Kinda sad. This is art and music we are talking about. Not the same as selling tractors. No matter how good they are they have to look pretty.

ProfChris
02-12-2017, 02:35 AM
I think you need an interesting piece of oak to begin with.

Finishing is tricky though. I don't know how to pore fill for a high gloss finish without looking like furniture.

This one worked for my taste:

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3918/15214548422_37792787c3.jpg

Pore filled with mid brown shellac, working it well into the pores, then more shellac on top. The pores are maybe 2/3 full, so it's not a flat gloss, but I like the texture and the grain looks natural.

Pete Howlett
02-12-2017, 03:13 AM
Who are these 'nobodies' who don't want to buy them? Broad statements like this are unhelpful; they almost prove the point that more people need to get with the plan - koa and mahogany are fast becoming recognisable finite resources, one day, soon to become 'rare' as instrument woods. And just as plain koa and mahogany can look very boring and furniture like so oak, with spectacular figure can look very attractive. Figured wood is what we are about - I am not suggesting by any stretch that we should substitute one for the other... on the contrary, my choice was driven because of the colour and figure in the board of oak I bought.

Mutantmoose
02-12-2017, 06:01 AM
So, how was it to work? Here in California, I've worked with both red and white oak, and I find it splintery and difficult. I can see it being a good wood for back and sides, and I am interested in using local non-endangered woods, but oak hadn't been on my list.

EDW
02-12-2017, 06:11 AM
Some interesting discussion here and nice pics of some instruments

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?60233-Oak-as-a-tonewood

cml
02-12-2017, 07:37 AM
Some interesting discussion here and nice pics of some instruments

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?60233-Oak-as-a-tonewood

Really nice, thank you. Personally, I think those look GREAT. I really dont see why people would think all oak is boring.

EDIT: Also, you get to call your ukes oakuleles :). Sorry. I had to.

sequoia
02-12-2017, 08:36 PM
Broad statements like this are unhelpful; they almost prove the point that more people need to get with the plan - koa and mahogany are fast becoming recognisable finite resources.

I don't disagree that koa and "mahogany" are finite and diminishing resources and that alternate woods need to be substituted. We have known that for years. (As an aside I will say that I think that there is plenty of these woods out there but that it is being hoarded and held back until maximum profits can be made by selling it at the right time, at the maximum price, but his is beside the point), the point that I was making is that oak is basically an ugly, unattractive wood that is not going to catch on with the ukulele buying public.... Oh and as the poster pointed out earlier in this thread is that oak can splinter unpleasantly and does dull tools unmercifully. Nobody is gonna argue with that.

Pete Howlett
02-12-2017, 08:53 PM
Well, the statements are still broad and sweeping - 'some' oak is ugly to you and 'splinters easily' for others. My experience working wood over the past 40 years has led me to conclude that every stick you touch is going to behave characteristically different from the last. However, careful selection tends to eliminate surprises :)

It is a fact that mahogany is being annihilated and koa is no longer plentiful as it is cynical to assume that somehow we are being denied the best by a conspiracy of hoarders... talk to anyone on the Islands of Hawaii - the 'good stuff' is all but gone with even the well-established manufacturers of koa ukulele scrambling for instrument wood! And there is that bald patch in the center of South America that 40 years ago was green...

We all have our opinions and I am tired of spitting matches. My experience making ukulele for nearly 22 years now leaves me optimistic for the industry IF it is prepared to embrace change - the buying public is not going to stop if they are offered what we and the availability of materials dictate to it. We and the larger manufacturers have to embrace change, not rage or react to it. There needs to be an evolved consciousness in the ukulele community that recognizes change is a good thing and that we shouldn't take the earth's limited resources for granted.

mainger
02-12-2017, 08:54 PM
oak is basically an ugly, unattractive wood that is not going to catch on with the ukulele buying public.

Amen to that.

Pete Howlett
02-12-2017, 09:54 PM
Just sold it... a video is up on the UU Facebook site.

sequoia
02-12-2017, 10:05 PM
We all have our opinions and I am tired of spitting matches. .

I don't think anybody is spitting mad here Pete. We are just trying to have an interesting discussion on an important topic. I for one will admit that my assertion that there might be a vast hoarding conspiracy is over the top. Might be a little truth in it, but not as much as maybe I think. I totally agree with you on the coming and present scarcity of traditional woods. All I'm saying is that oak ain't gonna be the next big replacement. Ovangkal? Plenty of that.

Pete Howlett
02-13-2017, 02:10 AM
Good ideas here Bill. You can do paint effects like CoLlings with their gold pore filler under black finish is coarse woods like oak.... say, anyone know how they actually do that finish?

kkimura
02-13-2017, 02:51 AM
It's all in the eye of the beholder isn't it? My koa printed HPL ukulele resembles a counter top if you hold it at a certain angle. From the playing position, it looks fine to me.

Pete Howlett
02-13-2017, 03:30 AM
Nailed it...

Timbuck
02-13-2017, 03:36 AM
I think British oak looks great..all the panels in the House of Commons-UK Parliment are made of it.

kohanmike
02-13-2017, 06:42 AM
I agree with Pete, it's only a personal opinion that sequoia puts forth, not a fact as he makes it sound. I love the look of oak and can easily see it used in an instrument.

Mutantmoose
02-13-2017, 07:05 AM
Well, the statements are still broad and sweeping - 'some' oak is ugly to you and 'splinters easily' for others.

Pete, I didn't mean to suggest that all oak is splintery, it's just been my experience, and that is when I have used it in woodturning. It is miserable to turn, so I am interested in how it is to work for uke building, especially milling it, sanding it, and bending it. With my past experience, I'm frankly shocked that it can be bent at all, and I'm rather pleased to hear it. I apologize if I misled you with my statement.

I do agree with trying to use less "exotic" or "endangered" woods, and more "local" woods. (Quotes because I feel these words can be subject to interpretation, and I just want to acknowledge that.) I've been building a tenor with local walnut back and sides, and a old-growth reclaimed redwood top, and it has been a blast, though the walnut can be challenging.

Here in California's central valley, walnut, oak, poplar, and other woods are very common. I'm especially hoping to get some walnut that is cut at the graft between two species, there is an amazing color change at that point in the wood.

Pete Howlett
02-13-2017, 09:42 AM
This is how it should be in an ideal world - sourcing local to make local for local. Having made that statement I have to say also that you ought to use other species from sustainable sources. My current choice of African woods is going to look distinctly unsustainable and render my statement very hypocritical in a few years time if the rapacious logging there by countries like China continues.

ProfChris
02-13-2017, 10:41 AM
My oak was locally sourced in that it was the bar top of the village pub. I'm told it might have grown in Turkey though.

It was no trouble at all to plane and bent really easily. No splintering, but cut end grain chipped out easily if knocked accidentally.

And it worked really nicely as a soundboard too.

Main drawbacks: straight grain looks a bit dull, but is ok for sides; the pores take a lot of filling.

jcalkin
02-13-2017, 12:24 PM
Mahogany is a boring wood, made popular for instruments by Gibson propoganda early in the 20th century. But people got used to it. Like it or not, at least oak isn't boring and has never given me any issues to speak of either as a turning wood or a lutherie wood. Here's pix of a soprano I have going.
97795 97796 97797

southcoastukes
02-13-2017, 12:40 PM
Nice use of filler, John!

DPO
02-13-2017, 03:20 PM
Mahogany is a boring wood, made popular for instruments by Gibson propoganda early in the 20th century. But people got used to it. Like it or not, at least oak isn't boring and has never given me any issues to speak of either as a turning wood or a lutherie wood. Here's pix of a soprano I have going.
97795 97796 97797

I love building with different woods.
Nice job I like it.

kohanmike
02-13-2017, 09:22 PM
Very nice John, great example of oak being attractive.

Pete Howlett
02-13-2017, 10:49 PM
I've ordered some copper and gold filler. Next 'free' build will have a gold/copper grain fill against a spirit stained black body. For this, I'll be able to put a Khaya neck on it :)

EDW
02-14-2017, 02:40 AM
Pete- I hope you will post pics!

Pete Howlett
02-14-2017, 11:00 AM
This is the prototype

97813

97812

97814

97815

Got some lovely plain oak today to try out the paint finish - it would be a shame to hide these lovely medullary rays wouldn't it? Doesn't look a bit Stickley or Green and Green now does it? :)

1300cc
02-14-2017, 11:34 AM
i love it, can you pls post some fingerpicking sound.

Andyk
02-14-2017, 11:37 AM
Makes me think a nice bog oak fingerboard would finish it off nicely

Rrgramps
02-14-2017, 11:41 AM
I like that, Pete. The oak, and everything else.

I also like the fact that you built one without bling and adornments of binding, rosette, logos, and artsy stuff; because it gives me a hope to build my first ukulele plain. That way I can focus on getting a simple instrument completed without the nerve wracking extras, and not be embarrassed because I didn't or can't. (Of course I know that your instruments are the finest, and you've made just about every kind of ukulele possible).

Back to the oak, it's good, looks good, and I'm hooked on the prospect of useing domestic woods after SM mahogany stock gets used up or the price shoots up too high.

printer2
02-14-2017, 01:27 PM
This is the prototype

97813

97812

97814

97815

Got some lovely plain oak today to try out the paint finish - it would be a shame to hide these lovely medullary rays wouldn't it? Doesn't look a bit Stickley or Green and Green now does it? :)

Perfect the way it is in my opinion.

Pete Howlett
02-14-2017, 02:15 PM
Bog oak is not as stable as it's younger incarnation... it is also hard to acquire. There is a sound sample on my Facebook page. The figured stuff is not going to be neutered with a paint finish I can assure you.

Please don't be discouraged by what I and other professionals do - aspire to it, yes! Compare yourself to it, no! I love the plain, unadorned 'Hawaiian Style' I call it. It is an opportunity for the wood instead of the maker to shine :)

EDW
02-14-2017, 04:02 PM
I love the plain, unadorned 'Hawaiian Style' I call it. It is an opportunity for the wood instead of the maker to shine :)

While I think you are right, in some ways it allows the maker to shine even more. Like a chef making a plain broth, there is nowhere to hide- no flash, no bling, just your artistry and craft. Beautiful work.