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Pete Howlett
12-10-2017, 04:52 AM
As it becomes more apparent that the use of tropical hardwoods for musical instruments is unsustainable, the use of our local woods will be more frequently seen. Start making a stock of them now before they get priced out of the market. Walnut is a good place to start and here's why:


https://www.facebook.com/no1petehowlett/videos/10155949367516031/

printer2
12-10-2017, 05:41 AM
I enjoyed a couple of your videos I have watched. I did pick up from you gluing the cutaway piece to the block. I can see how it makes doing the miter so much easier.

resoman
12-10-2017, 12:08 PM
Love walnut!! I doing one right now. Lovely stuff

dave g
12-10-2017, 12:58 PM
Walnut bends really well!

Nickie
12-10-2017, 03:15 PM
Thanks for this Pete. I love seeing more and more luthiers using indigenous species. My luthier friend in the next town uses oak. I call them oakeleles. He also uses pecan.

sequoia
12-10-2017, 05:36 PM
Walnut is a fine wood for instruments and very much underappreciated, but we should define our terms. The meaning of "Walnut" is different in Europe and in North America. European or so called "English walnut" Juglans regia is different than so-called "American walnut". English walnut grows in Europe and Asia. American walnut (Juglans hindsii) is related but a different beast in significant ways. I just point this out because they are, while similar, different woods. Then there is the so called "walnuts" that are totally unrelated like "Peruvian walnut" and "African walnut" which are not even closely related. Anyway, both English and American walnut share the characteristic of being easy to work and easy to finish. What more could a person want? The main problem I have experienced with walnut is that it sounds a bit dark and woody which can be an asset in the right hands.

saltytri
12-10-2017, 07:17 PM
Pete, you're not only right. Your timing is impeccable: here's a current project, a juglans hindsii concert. That's claro walnut for those less inclined toward Latin than our learned friend, sequoia. This stuff even looks good inside the box and I love working with it. It bends like a dream, even the super curly variety. But no water, right? :)

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4645/38090942575_f0a24eb0e4_z.jpg

Pete Howlett
12-11-2017, 02:49 AM
Juglans regia and juglans hindsii bend in very similar ways. I demonstrated with hindsii and am just doing a 'proof' build using regia for a concert Dewdrop style - it's a memeorial uke to be presented to the UOGB in memory of Kity Lux who passed away recently. I'll post up something later this week about it...

saltytri
12-11-2017, 04:41 AM
Did you say something about stockpiling walnut?

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4595/38100483305_b9cf75415d_z.jpg

mikeyb2
12-11-2017, 05:00 AM
Maybe we should close this thread now,before anyone else sees it, and before panic buying wipes the UK out of Walnut, like it seems to be doing with Rosewood!!

ksquine
12-11-2017, 08:35 AM
I'm glad that customers are finally realizing that there's life after Brazilian rosewood. I got so tired reading about how only Brazilian rosewood cut by virgins in the light of the full moon was required to make a superior instrument. Truly magical stuff. :uhoh:
I've been using walnut for years since I got a free off-cut that was just big enough to make a concert. Great stuff to work with and it smells so nice...I was hooked. Cherry, Maple, Oak, Birch are all good options too.

jupiteruke
12-11-2017, 03:12 PM
Most of what I build with these days (back & sides) started with me and a chain saw. Very local. American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is great stuff, and when cut just right has wonderful figure. Here in the eastern US we have black walnut (Juglans nigra). Then there is apple, dogwood, casuarina, hard maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (Acer rubrum), etc. etc.

In order, left to right, sycamore, casuarina, black walnut

sequoia
12-11-2017, 05:55 PM
That's claro walnut for those less inclined toward Latin than our learned friend, sequoia.

Yes, yes claro walnut for the less learned. Oh also sometimes just called "California walnut". I love the stuff. Problem is, the nice stuff has long since gone beyond my means pricewise. Pity. But thanks. I like to think of myself as learned. I just learned that I can't afford the stuff. I make do with Umbellularia californica and I'm happy. Mostly.

Michael N.
12-12-2017, 05:16 AM
You can find AB Walnut in figured grade which will no doubt be less expensive than claro. AB Walnut doesn't always have the best colour but that can be addressed with a tinted varnish. I basically stopped using rosewood and ebony around 5 years ago so walnut and maple have become my staple woods although I was using them long before that. There's no difference in the sound between walnut and maple, they are about the same density. You'll find just as much variation between maple and maple as you would between maple and walnut, in terms of density and stiffness. Colour is different of course and for most people it's the colour of the wood that defines the tone! Put a blindfold on them and they would really be in trouble.

FloridaSon
12-12-2017, 06:36 AM
Newb question: Can oak be used for tonewoods like walnut? Interesting discussion you guys.

Pete Howlett
12-12-2017, 07:33 AM
Oak is a great tonewood.

Michael N.
12-12-2017, 07:58 AM
Newb question: Can oak be used for tonewoods like walnut? Interesting discussion you guys.

A better question (at least for a maker) is: would anyone buy it?

FloridaSon
12-12-2017, 09:07 AM
A better question (at least for a maker) is: would anyone buy it?

Would someone not buy it due to looks, sound or something else?

Pete Howlett
12-12-2017, 10:14 AM
Yep. That's the darndest thing about wood associated with furniture making. Strange it should be oak that gets left out in the cold. I love it!

Michael N.
12-12-2017, 12:13 PM
Would someone not buy it due to looks, sound or something else?

Well I'm not of the opinion that no one in the world would buy an instruments made of oak, there's always the (very) odd person who will give something a chance. Oak just isn't in the line of vision as far as the vast majority of buyers are concerned. It probably needs a few well known players to promote it in order to change it's status. It's a pity because there's plenty of oak to be had, new oak or countless old tables that have seen better days - I have one, 1930's vintage, nearly 100 year old oak! It works beautifully with hand tools, probably because it was fully air dried.

TjW
12-13-2017, 04:23 AM
Apparently there is an old wives' tale that oak 'absorbs the sound' and therefore won't be resonant.
Stupid. But relaying stuff like that lets people feel smart, and so it keeps going around.

maryagn3s
12-13-2017, 02:24 PM
Oh gosh! PETE! Are you forgetting that when I came to you asking to commission a uke built of all UK woods in 2011, you said No?

I had to go to 2 other builders - one in Sweden/Sven and one in the UK/Rob and I ended up getting ukes from each.

I think you are right that wood choice is changing but there are European builders who've been using alternatives for the last 5-10 years.

I like the way they're also all helping each other.
:)

I think the future is varied and hopeful. :)
mx


As it becomes more apparent that the use of tropical hardwoods for musical instruments is unsustainable, the use of our local woods will be more frequently seen. Start making a stock of them now before they get priced out of the market. Walnut is a good place to start and here's why:


https://www.facebook.com/no1petehowlett/videos/10155949367516031/

EDW
12-13-2017, 04:21 PM
Does walnut work well for complete instrument bodies, or is it better to pair with a different wood for the soundboard?

Pete Howlett
12-13-2017, 11:20 PM
I don't remember Mary. Some of the first Pete Howlett named ukes back in 1995 were walnut and yew... Besides, things have changed so much. I'd still be building mainly koa instruments if the market wasn't so strangulated by CITES and greed.

sequoia
12-14-2017, 08:36 PM
Does walnut work well for complete instrument bodies, or is it better to pair with a different wood for the soundboard?

In the very distant past I made a couple of all walnut dulcimers and the instruments were not a great success. The sound was a bit tight and constrained and frankly disappointing. This might have had nothing to do with the wood but how I built the instruments. Still, if I was going to use walnut (and I love walnut), I would use a different wood for the soundboard. Walnut makes a great back and side set but maybe not so much as a soundboard. It seemed to lack pop and projection and like I said, it was dark and tight sounding. Doesn't mean it wouldn't work but that in my hands it did not. If I built such a beast today, I would use a spruce soundboard or something a bit more responsive.

Titchtheclown
12-14-2017, 09:51 PM
When I read threads like this I think of the poor Portuguese immigrants in old Hawaii cutting cane, dreaming of home. They think a bit of music from home would be nice. They scrape together some local wood and cobble together a pale imitation of a cavaquinho. It sounds OK. Not like the ones from home, but OK.
The locals pick them up. They don't know what a real cavaquinho sounds like. The music grows to the new sound.
New experts arise.
New truths are established.
No doubt new woods will be found. Old woods will continue to used.

Michael N.
12-15-2017, 12:26 AM
Does walnut work well for complete instrument bodies, or is it better to pair with a different wood for the soundboard?

I use walnut a lot but only for back/sides of instruments.
Let's bring a bit of numbers into the game. average density of Koa is near 0.58 Kg/M3. Average weight of walnut is . . . . near 0.58 Kg/M3. Given that there are variations in the properties of koa and variations in the properties of walnut there's absolutely no reason why walnut should not sound as good as koa. Unless you know the particular property of walnut that doesn't make it sound good? People go by the name of the wood far too readily and yet they seem totally oblivious to the fact that any wood type has a fairly wide variation in density and variations in other properties. You end up with silly generalisations that are near meaningless. It's very much like the spruce v cedar debate. It's a generalisation, especially when I have examples of spruce that feel and weigh very much like some cedar. Generalisations don't work for individual pieces of wood though.

Andyk
12-15-2017, 07:53 AM
The last two posts were very well put. But please keep quiet about local woods.... I rather all the trees in a far off tropical island were all used up instead of in my back yard
:)

EDW
12-15-2017, 08:39 AM
Yew shouldn't worry! :rolleyes:

DPO
12-15-2017, 02:59 PM
Yew shouldn't worry! :rolleyes:

He shouldn't, but Rose would.
:)

Graham Greenbag
12-15-2017, 09:17 PM
Oh gosh! PETE! Are you forgetting that when I came to you asking to commission a uke built of all UK woods in 2011, you said No?

I had to go to 2 other builders - one in Sweden/Sven and one in the UK/Rob and I ended up getting ukes from each.

I think you are right that wood choice is changing but there are European builders who've been using alternatives for the last 5-10 years.

I like the way they're also all helping each other.
:)

I think the future is varied and hopeful. :)
mx

My guess is that over the years Pete has built many Ukes in many different materials, and that his use of alternative materials and body shapes has evolved during that time as his confidence, capability and experience increased. If your aim is to build the best instrument possible for a commissioning customer then surely you will restrict yourself to the materials and methods that you, at that point in time, have confidence in - a safe and perfectly practical course of action. Of course a Luthier might specutively build other Ukes as experiments to offer for sale or scrap dependant on the quality of the build or outcome.

That Pete is now saying something different to the past suggests to me that he’s ‘big enough’ to change his mind and that he now has the additional information to justify it. Surely that can but be applauded.

maryagn3s
12-16-2017, 09:49 AM
thanks for mansplaining.
good to know i can always count on this forum on UU for that!

:)


My guess is that over the years Pete has built many Ukes in many different materials, and that his use of alternative materials and body shapes has evolved during that time as his confidence, capability and experience increased. If your aim is to build the best instrument possible for a commissioning customer then surely you will restrict yourself to the materials and methods that you, at that point in time, have confidence in - a safe and perfectly practical course of action. Of course a Luthier might specutively build other Ukes as experiments to offer for sale or scrap dependant on the quality of the build or outcome.

That Pete is now saying something different to the past suggests to me that he’s ‘big enough’ to change his mind and that he now has the additional information to justify it. Surely that can but be applauded.

Diogenes Blue
12-17-2017, 02:23 AM
Local wood is where it's at. Here's a mixture of local black walnut, maple, cherry, aromatic red cedar, and poplar. ...And one African mahogany.

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spongeuke
12-19-2017, 07:50 AM
I haven't seen any use of persimmon for fret boards or bridges. My father had a set of 1 - 4 drivers in his golf bag with persimmon heads. It is certainly dense enough.

sequoia
12-19-2017, 05:06 PM
I haven't seen any use of persimmon for fret boards or bridges. My father had a set of 1 - 4 drivers in his golf bag with persimmon heads. It is certainly dense enough.

Yes, persimmon could be the ultimate fretboard material. Hard as hell. Tough on tools I'm led to believe. Janka hardness (2,400) less than ebony or rosewood surprisingly. The most alarming aspect though is its purported characteristic of drastic shrinkage. Drastic shinkage of a fretboard might be problematic. Hello protruding fret edges! Well seasoned I suppose could counteract this effect. Below a quote from the Wood Database:

Persimmon wood is heavy, hard, and strong for a temperate species. It has excellent shock and wear resistance, but has a very high shrinkage rate, and may experience significant movement in service.

spongeuke
12-19-2017, 07:54 PM
Persimmon wood is heavy, hard, and strong for a temperate species. It has excellent shock and wear resistance, but has a very high shrinkage rate, and may experience significant movement in service.
I guess I have to store some billets for 5 years or find an aged stash.

jackj
12-20-2017, 03:17 AM
I haven't seen any use of persimmon for fret boards or bridges. My father had a set of 1 - 4 drivers in his golf bag with persimmon heads. It is certainly dense enough.

My Pisgah Banjo (http://pisgahbanjos.com/) has a persimmon fingerboard and tone ring. Great stuff.

Ukecaster
12-20-2017, 03:41 AM
The best sounding guitar I ever had was this OM with black walnut B&S, paired with an Engelmann spruce top, a great tonewood combo IMO. Don't know if that would translate well to a uke, but I'd love to hear one.

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Jardin
12-20-2017, 04:25 AM
My last two tenors were Black Walnut and Spruce (Sitka) and I plan on doing Black Walnut & Engelmann soon.....I absolutely love the combo as the sound is very full and rich, highly recommended...and they are locals that were sustainably harvested (the black walnut not sitka).
Funny thing is that this is locally harvested wood (New Mexico) and the grain pattern in these particular boards are strikingly similar to your OM...I did not get pictures of the other but this one is close as well....105454105455

sequoia
12-20-2017, 04:32 PM
My last two tenors were Black Walnut and Spruce (Sitka) and I plan on doing Black Walnut & Engelmann soon.....I absolutely love the combo as the sound is very full and rich, highly recommended...and they are locals that were sustainably harvested (the black walnut not sitka).
Funny thing is that this is locally harvested wood (New Mexico) and the grain pattern in these particular boards are strikingly similar to your OM...I did not get pictures of the other but this one is close as well....105454105455

Nice looking uke. I especially like the end graft. Very different and well done. Any pictures of the top?

Jardin
12-21-2017, 09:20 AM
Thanks Sequoia.....I will just post a handful and hope no one minds....These are actually pictures of my first build
Black Walnut Back & Sides
Sitka Spruce Top
Indian Rosewood Fingerboard
Honduran Rosewood Bridge
Honduran Mahogany Neck
Mulberry Head-plate Overlay and heel embellishment
Turquoise Inlays
And boy she sounded sweet...I can say (getting back on topic) that though I will use the bit of tropical hardwoods I already have I really enjoy building from domestic woods and they sound great...Cheers
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sequoia
12-21-2017, 05:39 PM
Very nice... I like the turquoise inlays and have been thinking of doing a similar thing on the fretboard. Hard to really screw that up. So far I've only done fretbaord dots and rosettes out of turquoise. I won't copy, but I was thinking the same sort of swirl design. Darn! Guess great minds think alike....

Jardin
12-22-2017, 04:35 AM
Though I had not seen anyone use spirals or stone inlay for that matter before doing this one...there is nothing new or "original" in this world, just slightly different than what inspired us so run with it as far as I am concerned. I have seen plenty of your work and it has also been inspiring.

I really like using turquoise and other stones. It just sets things off in a good way for my tastes.Adds another element to the piece. For what it's worth I use hide glue instead of CA as I prefer to use as many natural materials as possible. But CA works just as well with less yellow tinting...but I have found a way around that part.
On others I have also used natural pigments to color the space in-between the stone fragments....So you can really get some great color combos and still use natural ingredients.

Anyway, sorry for going off topic and thanks for looking.... back to the never ending task of french polish!

Titchtheclown
12-29-2017, 09:17 PM
Interestingly looking at my holiday snaps this Silver Oak (grevillea robusta) ukulele built in 1967 by Kamaka shows people have been looking at alternative timbers for a while.

Grevillea robusta is classed as an invasive species in Hawaii. It even grows down here in chilly Canberra. The main source for craft woodworkers around here is unruly garden trees being removed. It has lovely flowers and attracts nectar feeding birds.

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