View Full Version : Who needs top bracing?

Pete Howlett
05-27-2018, 08:15 AM
I had the opportunity to look at a his vintage Guild mahogany baritone ukulele which was a real surprise: Crazy slim neck with a thin ebony fingerboard, completely stable; top with just a transverse brace below the soundhole, a thick spruce bridge patch and a lower diagonal transverse bar between the back of the bridge plate and butt end. The front had a pleasant 'pull' curve to it - about 20ft radius I'd say but no "Hawaiian Belly". When I installed the ebony end pin the beautiful orange drill shavings indicated the mahogany to be Honduran or Belize - the very best. A great 'find' at an amazing price. Everything about this instrument was counter to my expectations. What a pleasant surprise :)

I didn't take any photos but after about 5 and a quarter minutes of this interview with my students on a build course you can see it in action.


Anyone else have one of these? Are we simply wasting wood and time bracing the front of our instruments? I wish I had time to experiment!

05-27-2018, 10:11 AM
I haven't seen one of them, but a couple of others over the years that used a heavier top. About 2.2 - 2.5mm thick and the top also had a dome to them. I'd presume that the transerse braces had been shaped and glued in a dish.

There were not loud in your face instruments, but did have a lovely tone to them with much more dynamic expression that many of the modern instruments lack.

Pete Howlett
05-27-2018, 01:06 PM
Thanks for the insight Allen. Going try this for sure. I have some nice khaya that would be ideal for my new baby baritone shape....

05-27-2018, 04:29 PM
Are we simply wasting wood and time bracing the front of our instruments? I wish I had time to experiment!

Heck of a good question... I've got the time but maybe not the guts. You go first.

Michael N.
05-27-2018, 09:44 PM
It's been done quite a number of times. In fact without any brace beneath the soundhole harmonic bar. I suppose it starts with vihuelas but Torres did a small guitar without any bracing. I did a copy of that and somewhere on U-tube is a video of it. My recollection of it (I had a fan braced to compare) was that it was loud, surprisingly loud. Theory states that you have to go thicker on the soundboard adding a lot more mass than you would on a soundboard with bracing. Bracing allows the maker to go thinner without adding a lot of mass.
There's absolutely no reason why an instrument without bracing won't work. In fact mine worked extremely well as evidenced by the shear number of comments that I received. There may well be a longevity question though - dependent on how thin the soundboard is taken and the particular qualities of the individual piece of wood. I suppose the trick is to keep it thick enough that it doesn't take on significant distortion (especially over time) and thin enough that it 'works' efficiently. It also brings into question how long you expect a soundboard or instrument to last. If an instrument sounded extremely good is 20 years life expectancy enough? what about 30 or 40? I personally think that if a player gets around 40 years out of an instrument then we can safely say that it has done it's work and given great service. Some players may be happy at half that.

05-27-2018, 10:21 PM
As an amateur maker, experimenting with bracing to find the sound that pleases me is what makes this a fun hobby.

Its always interesting to see what other makers are trying. I saw this on Youtube a while ago, and if I understand correctly, Pepe Romero has dispensed with the bridge patch and fans. He's replaced these with a second skin graduated from the centre outwards and using a dished solera/go bar deck has built in a domed top. Presumably its thickest between the bridge and soundhole.

It seems to be successful. Maybe there are forum members who have encountered these instruments and have opinions on how they sound/play?

It could be that my next instrument will feature my own version of this braceless top.


Pete Howlett
05-28-2018, 12:00 AM
I really do not like the sound of that romero ukulele. Maybe it was not recorded right... The guild is 50 years old and still going strong.

05-28-2018, 01:32 AM
Here's some explanation of skin bracing and another sound sample. Does this sound better?


05-28-2018, 03:16 AM
Sounds wonderful to me.

John Colter

Pete Howlett
05-28-2018, 05:32 AM
Thanks for the vimeo link. Nice projection and sustain. Great idea. However not a lot of tonal colour. I think fan bracing seems to have a way of giving the instrument a three dimensional sound. This to me is 2D.