View Full Version : Advantages of different finishes.

06-23-2009, 04:59 PM
I was looking at Kanile'a ukuleles and I noticed that some are sold as "gloss finished" or "satin finished." So that leads me to wonder what are the advantages of having an ukulele that does not have a gloss finish, in other words, what makes satin finish desirable? Is it pure aesthetics? I would have thought that the absence of a gloss finish would leave the wood with less defense against the natural forces of ukulele players. I read on some guitar forums that satin finishes don't affect sound, but it mainly lowers labors costs, thus creating a cheaper ukulele.
But would it be wise to save... 50 bucks for a satin finish over a gloss finish? They don't protect the ukulele as much as a gloss finish does, according to some guitar forum. So I would think that a $50 investment would be a wise one so that your ukulele won't experience dirty stains or oil marks, etc. But if you rub the satin finish ... a lot.. it becomes glossy... so what gives?

06-23-2009, 05:44 PM
The popular theory is that the satin finish instruments are louder and have more sustain because the wood is not as "restricted" as with a gloss finish and can resonate more.

06-23-2009, 06:08 PM
One thing I dislike about satin finishes is that piezo pickups really pick up movement across the surface. So if you move the back of your uke at all against your shirt or move the cloth of a sleeve across the soundboard you can hear the friction with certain pickups. This is not as much an issue when the uke is miked.

06-23-2009, 08:49 PM
Satin, Gloss. It's the same stuff. It's just that a "deglosser" additive has been added to the Satin before it's applied. It can be as thick or as thin as a gloss finish, and just as durable. Manufacturing is cheaper as they can bypass the labor intensive buffing stage. Small scratches don't show as bad, but you can't buff out any scratches on a satin finish without shiny spots showing up.

I've had both. I think I prefer gloss, especially on a Uke as it "clings" to my forearm better and doesn't try to run away as a play it.

06-24-2009, 02:49 AM
It's the same stuff ... It can be as thick or as thin as a gloss finish, and just as durable.
Some factories seem to apply gloss finished more thickly than some apply satin, so it may be more restrictive of the top's ability to vibrate. I have both styles and like both - it depends on the uke, for me. My Mainland cedar is LOUD and gloss. My Kala cedar is not quite as loud, but is satin. Both are wonderful.

Most of my collection is gloss, but I have no preference for the finish.

And for cleaning your uke... it's like cleaning the chrome on your motorcycle. Part of the ritual.

06-24-2009, 03:00 AM
With acoustic guitars I think a satin finish sounds a little more crisp and dry, while a gloss finish sounds somewhat more refined - but the difference is subtle (like the difference between a Tele and a Strat, but even more subtle than that).

06-24-2009, 04:17 AM
I think it is a common misconception that gloss finish ukes will not have the same resonance as a matte/satin finish.
One thing people like about the matte finish is that fingerprints don't show like on a gloss.

06-24-2009, 07:33 AM
I have both...a gloss UV finish on my Kanile'a tenor, and a satin style finish on my Kamaka tenor. The gloss doesn't show scratches or nicks like my satin one does, but the satin one doesn't show fingerprints the way gloss does...

pink flamingo
06-25-2009, 09:46 AM
oh man, finishes, strings, laminated or solid, koa or mohogany, etc etc

think when the time comes to buy myself a decent uke I'm just going to cry out of shear panic... or buy every option available, one of these two, ...probably the latter.

I speaks for my noobness I didn't even know there were this many things to consider I just went for 'Oh my that's so pretty ooh and with flowers'. Probably not the best way to go about it:rolleyes:

06-25-2009, 09:53 AM
'Oh my that's so pretty ooh and with flowers'

Is there any other way?

06-25-2009, 10:47 AM
Mine is not a popular opinion, and contradicts what passes for "common wisdom" on the subject. I will further pre-qualify it by saying that if there are pro-luthiers on here who disagree with me, I will defer to their professional opinion. They do this stuff for a living, I don’t.

That said, in my opinion, and when speaking of modern finishes and satin vs. gloss only - there is no discernable acoustic difference. None. Thick vs. thin application can make an acoustic difference, as can a simple oil rub vs. a poly-coat, but if all things are equal, and the only difference is shine - it does not affect sound whatsoever.

My theory is that it’s the usual variances in individual instruments that accounts for those who think they hear a difference.

One note – some “satin” finishes are not satin at all – but an oil finish as opposed to a poly coat with a flat satin element added – this is a different subject, and not usually what you’ll find on production ukes.