View Full Version : Getting more flexibility in the soundboard

06-11-2010, 08:17 AM
I have a Kala Acacia concert. It's a lovely little ukulele for the cost, but its soundboard is a bit on the thick side. I had considered a possible fix by etching in a design with a laser cutter on the lower bout, as a way of thinning out part of the soundboard, and hopefully bringing out a bit more brightness. Anyone tried anything remotely like this. I believe the laser etched G-string ukuleles resonate a bit better than their consistently thick surfaces.

I work at a school where we have a laser cutter, so this is fairly practical. When I spoke to the old head of DT (Americans, read "Shop") he suggested possibly drilling shallow guide divets and using a rotary sander over the whole soundboard. As a not very experienced woodworker, this instinctively scared me.

So, over to you, the wise and worldly.

Thanks in advance.

Pete Howlett
06-11-2010, 10:10 AM
Don't bother - you will not enjoy the results and any improvement you make will compromise the structural integrity of the instrument. Just be satisfied with what you've got...

Matt Clara
06-11-2010, 11:05 AM
Don't bother - you will not enjoy the results and any improvement you make will compromise the structural integrity of the instrument. Just be satisfied with what you've got...

Or, do like the rest of us, succumb to UAS and get another!

06-11-2010, 11:15 AM
reminds me of the Simpsons where Homer is in the driveway using a pickaxe on the hood of his car giving it "speed holes" to make it go faster... :)

Matt Clara
06-11-2010, 01:02 PM
It occurs to me there's a luthier selling guitars on ebay under the name Blueberry Guitars (http://www.blueberryguitars.com/en/index.html). His tops are all carved up. You should write and get his opinion. Let us know what he says, if you do, please!

You can see an image of one of his guitars here: http://tinyurl.com/2czqvdu

06-11-2010, 03:16 PM
I once read a thread somewhere about using a gun stock checkering tool on a uke top and after checkering they just sanded it smooth. The checkering controlled the depth. Of course it looked pretty cool with the checkered top too, kind of like a Pineapple Sundae taken to the extreme.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
06-11-2010, 04:09 PM
And in a pinch, you can use it as a wash board. Thank you, no.

06-11-2010, 10:28 PM
I don't feel that laxer etcing is going to do anything other than perhaps making a nice picture or engraving. It's far to crude of a way to tackle this sort of task.

If you want to tackle this a way that a luthier would then it really depends on your skill, and willingness to refinish the existing top, as thinning it will certain be destructive to what finish is on it.

A more sure fired way of defining how much material you are wanting to remove is to build a scratch tool to abrade the surface. This is much like your shop guy said to do with a drill. but far more accurate.

You use a small exacto/razor blade holder that you make and can set the blade to a very shallow depth. Adjustable is good, but you could make it fixed. Set to a depth of 0.1 mm or less and scratch the perimeter of the lower bout in from the bindings 25 - 35 mm. Then sand the perimeter with a sanding block just until the scratches disappear. Blend in to the rest of the top.

Play it for a while and assess if it's improved or not. If happy, then refinish, if not try another session.

My advice is to go a very little bit each time. Use hand tools, not random orbit sanders as they will remove a hell of a lot of material in seconds. And good luck. Let us know how you go if you decide to go ahead with this.

06-11-2010, 11:16 PM
Don't bother - you will not enjoy the results and any improvement you make will compromise the structural integrity of the instrument. Just be satisfied with what you've got...

Great to read honest answers. Considering that not a few actually ruin the tone IMO of modest priced ukes by "improving the action"...how much more...

There's a harsh saying used in guitarland; "You can't polish a turd." The Kala acacia concert is by no means a turd but a very decent uke for the money. The next step after an at the most a saddle swap or string option is another ukulele.

Modest priced ukuleles are invariably somewhat overbuilt...for which I am oddly grateful. The next step is really a matter of a meaningful price point...in my case, the next "L" brand for me will be probably a LoPrinzi...

06-12-2010, 01:41 AM
Thanks, everyone. I didn't mention at the top that I am looking to get ukulele number two in the not too distant future, a longneck soprano. I'm looking at the moment at a Koaloha or a Mya Moe, but am happy to take suggestions. Basically, I want very little decoration, a pickup, probably a strap button. And just the sort of playability and sound you get out of a serious instrument. And it has to be under $1000. A fair bit under, preferably.

Hence the interest in attacking my poor Kala. I have a tusq saddle which I'm going to sand down and install, as the current saddle is a bad fit. I know some people say it doesn't do anything, but I've read enough people that say it does to convince me to give it a try for the whopping 10 it's going to cost me.

Interesting idea about the exacto, Allen. The thing I like about the laser cutter is that if it doesn't work, at least my ukulele is prettier for the effort.

I'm always a bit wary of people who say no, don't. It's not always clear if it's from experience (i.e. they've tried it themselves), or just from professional habits (i.e. just get it right in the first place). As I say, I'll have a nicer ukulele soon, and if I can get a bit more brightness out of my Kala, why not try?

06-12-2010, 05:53 AM
My Hora soprano has a very thick spruce top. I considered all sorts of things to bring out a better sound. So far, the best solution I have found is tuning it in D6.