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UKISOCIETY
09-24-2009, 08:03 AM
I did a search, and Dave G referred to hickory as being too thick a wood to use as a body top. Is this true? There's a luthier in my town who is interested in making me a uke and said that he's used hickory in his mandolins.

I'd like a wood that's hard and would generate a bright, sharp sound.

Opinions? Advice?

Thank you!

DaveVisi
09-24-2009, 08:12 AM
Thickness is determined by you, not the type of wood. I agree that Hickory might be too hard to resonate properly. It would be better suited for back or sides where a hard reflective surface is desired.

Matt Clara
09-24-2009, 08:17 AM
The brightest sounds are usually associated with spruce tops, which are pretty soft.

Spooner
09-24-2009, 09:27 AM
This is without a doubt the loudest top of all:

http://www.themoviemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/carrottop-normal.jpg

Pete Howlett
09-24-2009, 09:32 AM
Ummm - spruce can be very hard - you try planing it and see what it does to your edge tools!

This is all a bit confusing isn't it. As a champion of alternative woods I'd give most things a try except for stuff like horse chestnut, ash and utility woods like hickory which is great for axe handles and cart wheel hubs and things that need to absorb shock but musical instruments - the best of luck to you :eek:

RonS
09-24-2009, 09:49 AM
I'd like a wood that's hard and would generate a bright, sharp sound.
Thank you!


Try maple

Pete Howlett
09-24-2009, 10:09 AM
Koa works surprisingly enough...

RonS
09-24-2009, 10:28 AM
Here's are some good links about tonewood

http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/features/woods/Tone/

http://web.archive.org/web/20050308152013/www.bourgeoisguitars.com/tapping_tonewoods.htm

Pete Howlett
09-24-2009, 10:54 AM
Ah those guitar makers... they know a thing or two don't they? Pity precious few can make a good ukulele...

Matt Clara
09-24-2009, 11:03 AM
Ah those guitar makers... they know a thing or two don't they? Pity precious few can make a good ukulele...

Pete, wasn't it you who said, in essence, anyone can make a decent uke, all it takes is lots of patience? Now that I think about it, it probably was not you who said that...hmmm. Whoever said it, it's one of the reasons I've decided to give it a go.

RonS
09-24-2009, 11:17 AM
Ah those guitar makers... they know a thing or two don't they? Pity precious few can make a good ukulele...

Always lookin' to cause trouble

Matt Clara
09-24-2009, 11:41 AM
Ummm - spruce can be very hard - you try planing it and see what it does to your edge tools!

This is all a bit confusing isn't it. As a champion of alternative woods I'd give most things a try except for stuff like horse chestnut, ash and utility woods like hickory which is great for axe handles and cart wheel hubs and things that need to absorb shock but musical instruments - the best of luck to you :eek:

I again show my ignorance--further reading reveals that while the hardest of hard woods are much harder than the hardest of softwoods, not all hardwoods are hard, nor softwoods soft.

Pete Howlett
09-24-2009, 12:12 PM
No Ron - just trying to put a proper perspective on the matter. We're talking ukulele here and guitar building principles are largely redundant with ukulele building; trust me, I'm a former guitar maker who made regular, repro and weird instruments and none of it, for me, particularly bracing theory means very little in ukulele building.

Believe it or not balsawood is a hardwood. Ebony is great to plane, Brazilian rosewood is terrible to sand but great to bend. Wood is an organic material, infinitely variable and often quite surprising.

RonS
09-24-2009, 12:36 PM
No Ron - just trying to put a proper perspective on the matter. We're talking ukulele here and guitar building principles are largely redundant with ukulele building; trust me, I'm a former guitar maker who made regular, repro and weird instruments and none of it, for me, particularly bracing theory means very little in ukulele building.

Believe it or not balsawood is a hardwood. Ebony is great to plane, Brazilian rosewood is terrible to sand but great to bend. Wood is an organic material, infinitely variable and often quite surprising.

I was showing links about tonewood buddy.

Are you saying that information does not apply to ukuleles?
It seems to back up your statement that Koa is great for this application.
Maybe you didn't bother reading it before shooting off your post.

Remember, we've seen your work and you apply many guitar techniques to your ukes. You are even copying techniques from electric guitars on your latest ukes.

You really think the world of building stringed instruments started when you first decided to build a uke?

Do you really expect us to throw out centuries of studies that great luthiers developed because you say so?

Geesh!

Uncle-Taco
09-24-2009, 01:39 PM
This is without a doubt the loudest top of all:

http://www.themoviemind.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/carrottop-normal.jpg

I respectfully beg to differ, my friend.
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3127/2626217929_106369e95c.jpg

Pete Howlett
09-25-2009, 03:08 AM
Oh dear - when I was at college all those many years ago I submitted my Bachelor's thesis on the construction of the tops of classical guitars. There was a huge amount of information available at the time with that young turk, Kasha publishing his work and a whole flurry of activity to challenge it etc. I read a lot of it and based my theoretical work on it. So you could say I have an empirical background in research and testing. Over time, we have had the radial bracing, asymetric stuff, composite tops, carbon fibre (only yesterday on BBC radio 4 'The Material World' we had a carbon fibre violin pitted against an Amatti) you name it, it's been done and curiously there is still the standard Torres pattern that is being used over and over again! And the conclusion - in a blind test, most people, including emminent 'experts' cannot tell the difference between luthier and factory built instruments with varying top configurations etc - there is a gnats whisker in it.

So just so you know; apart from my academic credentials, I curated a collection of ukulele (more than you could shake a stick at), made drawings and researched such obscure pieces from that collection like the rarely seen 'Shriner' ukes, a Super Deluxe Lyon and Healy, Turturrio peanut, countelss Martin and Ditson models as well as all of the Gibson line; I have recently gone through a historic collection of 120 pre 1930 Hawaiian built ukulele(mainly Kumulae under his various brand names) including historic Nunes both father and son models and I have come to my conclusions by research and experience.

As someone who has neither heard or seen my ukulele, who doesn't seem to understand the conceit behind my uklectic, you really are not best placed to criticise my work Ron- of course my comments are up for challenge at any point but until you get one of my ukes in your hands, kindly refrain from making any assumptions about them - even those YouTube clips are a fruad since the fidelity on my camera is risible. To quote Thom Humphrey of Akron Ohio whose collection I curated in 1998 when I presented him with a simple kao soprano - 'This is the bench mark of my collection'. I don't know how I managed it but it took me nearl 12 years to duplicate that sound which the great ukulele collector Stan Werbin of Elderly Instruments similarly praised. It proved to me that I really don't know all the answers but my long experience tells me that building a ukulele is so very different from building a guitar that it needs to be pointed out, strongly and authoritatively.

Sadly Ron, you are yet to prove to be an authority on instrument building and you are often misguided in recommending guitar sites as authoritive sources of information. They are very useful but are limited in what they have to offer the ukulele builder. Yes point us to them but they do not provide the answers, no where near it IMHO and I will continue to offer that voice of warning.

I do, nevertheless, look forward to the day when you can stand with your luthier peers and with equal authority backed by experience whole heartedly refute my work by producing something of such superior quality that I want to give up and go back to building guitars :deadhorse:

UKISOCIETY
09-25-2009, 03:26 AM
How about a Walnut top and Rosewood side and back?

/getting back, sort of, on topic :rolleyes:

dave g
09-25-2009, 03:36 AM
How about a Walnut top and Rosewood side and back?

/getting back, sort of, on topic :rolleyes:

That would be better :)

Perhaps the "hardwood" / "softwood" comparison is not the best way to put it; has more to do with weight (I think). Hickory is super heavy stuff - two or three times heavier than spruce or walnut, I'll betcha. The more weight to be vibrated by the strings, the less sound they will be able to produce.

Pete Howlett
09-25-2009, 03:43 AM
You are right dave - hickory is a great 'shock absorber' hence it use for tool handles etc. The idea that any wood will do is a bit spurious and it would be possible to use hickory - however you would be starting from a problematic base...

RonS
09-25-2009, 04:32 AM
Pete

The unlimited bounds of your arrogance truly amazes me.

One day you will stumble over the reality of this and you will pick yourself up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

I never refuted your work and find that it is obnoxious of you to put false words in my mouth. But I laugh at you when you feel you can pick and choose what should be taken from the guitar world and what can not. I posted a link on tonewoods and you pull a typical Pete

Ah those guitar makers... they know a thing or two don't they? Pity precious few can make a good ukulele...

You love bragging about your degree. When my daughters entered college (one for engineering the other to become a doctor) I gave them this advice and now I offer it to you "Higher education is just a foundation to build on. Your education starts the day you graduate college."

BTW, I have multiple college degrees and never let that hold me back.

thistle3585
09-25-2009, 05:11 AM
Can you two not ignore each other? You guys seem to derail too many discussions with your constant bickering.

Whether a wood is hard or soft is not dictated by its hardness or density. Hardwoods lose their leaves in the winter and softwoods don't.

RevWill
09-25-2009, 05:17 AM
Can you two not ignore each other? You guys seem to derail too many discussions with your constant bickering.


:agree:

From everything I've read and heard, craftsmanship trumps materials every time.

UKISOCIETY
09-25-2009, 05:19 AM
Perhaps Hickory would make a good back and sides.

Opinions?

Sven
09-25-2009, 05:23 AM
I don't know what I keep missing around here. Ron, there was nothing arrogant in Pete's answer. Ok it was short, but do you really fail to see he was just making a point about ukes being different from guitars?

I read a lot of books on guitar construction, but mostly for the jigs and tricks. I am slowly building my experience with each ukulele I build. To compare woods, my best trick so far has been to build instruments from them, and so far I've covered mahogany, cherry, walnut, cedar and spruce. Am busy with wenge and ash at the moment.

My all walnut sop is the least favourite so far.

I would try hickory if I had some. Light bracing, heavy strings - why not?

All the best / Sven

UKISOCIETY
09-25-2009, 05:37 AM
I interviewed guitarist Sharon Isbin and the first question I asked was what her principle guitar was made of. Maple top and rosewood sides and back.

Pete Howlett
09-25-2009, 05:40 AM
There you go... I would never have thought a maple top would work and one of the nicest sounding ukes I made was from walnut. Just goes to show how little we all know doesn't it? I'm persuaded - try hickory and tell us about it!