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monkeywrenchukuleles
06-28-2010, 07:46 AM
Chasing Sound

I started building ukuleles to chase sound. I have played a lot of different ukuleles and most of them sounded different; except for the mass produced plywood crap. Those are just like MacDonald hamburgers in that they all look the same and sound the same no matter where you buy it. I can understand the need for a lower priced ukulele, but those I have played don’t have that good unique sound that I have found in solid wood ukuleles. Many of my guitar playing friends have experienced the same with guitars. From my experiences I have found that solid wood instruments sound better than plywood ones.

Time Takes Time

From experimenting with different woods with different thicknesses, I have come up with combinations that I like. What I also have found is that they get better over time. The Uke that I play today I built three years ago. When I first strummed it, I did not really like the sound so I put in the closet for 6 months. When I got it out to show someone I strummed it again. It was one of my best sounding ukuleles. In fact it is almost the only one I have played for the last 3 years. I play it so much that am starting to wear a hole in it. On the other hand I built a Uke for a friend that when I was done I almost did not give it to her because it was the most beautiful sounding ukulele right off the bench. Since I mill my own wood (some from green logs some from billet stock) I can keep sets that match and can work with combinations that I know sound well together. I am finding that it takes time for most solid wood Ukuleles to relax and move to reach their full sound. A laminated plywood instrument will never achieve this.

The Metamorphosis of an Uke

A solid ukulele starts with a piece of wood that has taken many decades to grow. Much of that wood has been at the bottom of the tree and has had enormous weight and pressure put on it . It may have been a branch that stretched out again with weight and stresses on it for years. In my opinion (or theory) this puts enormous stress and pressure on the wood cells and molecules. We as luthiers start to relive the stresses... but...we put it under other stresses such as steaming and bending sides, molding slight arches in
the tops, and larger arches in the back. These bends may have been in the complete opposite direction that the tree had grown. So when taken out of the mold these instruments begin to relax. Slowly they take their new shape and then we combine these stresses with the vibrations of the music we play, and the wood begins to relax and move to accept the shape that we have given it. As the vibrations start to warm up the wood, so does the tone and over time each instrument becomes truly and completely individual. No two can ever be the same. Each will have it own unique sound that cannot ever be completely duplicated. I believe that this can never be achieved out of a plywood or plastic box.



So I continue my quest for great sounding Ukes. Each time a brand new instrument leaves the mold, it has the potential of becoming the “perfect” Uke. You never can tell. The only thing for certain is that it will not be a cookie-cutter duplicate of the thousands of other Ukes on the market. So if you are truly looking for something that is a one of a kind instrument that can compliment the music you are playing there are many great U.S. luthiers that can help you achieve this goal. Go look!

James Hellar
Maker of Monkey Wrench Ukuleles- lives, works and plays on
Orcas Island WA.
Reach him at www.monkeywrenchmusic.com )

fahrner
06-28-2010, 08:45 AM
Pretty disappointing to read through this only to find out it's just spam.

Skottoman
06-28-2010, 08:54 AM
I think in general he's promoting local luthiers as opposed to china made ukes.
But still...

Cheers,
Skottoman

JT_Ukes
06-28-2010, 08:58 AM
Pretty disappointing to read through this only to find out it's just spam.

:agree: :agree:

ukulelearp
06-28-2010, 09:46 AM
I didn't read it as spam, I actually found it pretty interesting.

Tudorp
06-28-2010, 09:48 AM
Well, I agree, but still a pretty interesting read, and theory.

Tudorp
06-28-2010, 10:06 AM
As much as I admire a good luthier, and their art. Many "Arts" of craftmanship is dying today because people want quality, but not willing to pay for it. Especially the work and skills and craftsmanship that goes into anything that is made one at a time with real hands. Kudos for any and all trying to keep that skill/art alive. I will agree with you 100% about the laminates, vs wood for the same reasons you stated, even if I didn't know exactly why they were true.

That said, and you being a Luthier, what is your opinion on a quality assembly line instrument, even at your own arts expense? I have two Ohanas. China factory made Ukes. They are very well built, especially for the money. Are they the same craftsmanship as a hand made uke from a quality craftsman? Hell no, and I don't expect them to be. I have a Uke that I enjoy, even though there are hundreds, if not thousands of players out there that have one just like mine. It is a solid wood instrument, and I agree, the plastic and lams just don't and can not compete. But, my Ohana sounds awesome, and I can't wait for several years when it sounds even better. I wish I could afford $400-$1000 for a good Luthier to make me one. I would love nothing more than to have the bragging rights to say, "Mine was hand made, and there isn't another one like it..". But, being disabled, and on a fixed income, I can't. So, for that reason, I am thankful that I can still get a decent, solid wood Uke to play that I can afford. What is your opinion on factory made solid wood instruments?

that said, if you are able, and can afford to do so, by all means, support the good Luthiers out there to help keep that art alive.. I would..

fahrner
06-28-2010, 11:31 AM
Wasn't intended to be spammy. It is just what I have found to be true. I own some laminate ukes and they don't change at all. My intention was to give my experience of building many ukuleles and playing many good Hawiian, old Martins, and other U.S. made intstuments that have, in my opinion,a better sound that changes over time. I was hoping to support local luthiers and to give my perspective on the topic. I hope I can get a receptive response. I encourage critique and debate that is why I posted here.
We all self-promote. As soon as someone asks for an opinion, we are more than happy to give them our thinking.
Where was your invitation to participate in a discussion? I never got the impression you were asking for any other opinion.
There are many luthiers active on this forum. They generously share their knowledge and insight freely and are a tremendous asset to this community.
There are lots of threads here discussing tone woods, stressing tops and backs and even how wood starts from trees. Would welcome your participation in these discussions.
But please, no monologues that simply point to your web site.

casarole45
06-28-2010, 12:17 PM
Chill dudes. Read enjoy, and take the time to check out another luthiers work, there is some really nice work on the site.

The problem with text based talking is it's easy to over analyse or misinturprit peoples meaning (I'm sure we've all been caught out by that at least once).

Bring back the friendly UU welcome and good Karma! :o

GrumpyCoyote
06-28-2010, 12:35 PM
No reason to attack the OP folks. It's a valid post from a new member and well known luthier.

If you have a problem with it - take it up in PM, or let me know. Or better yet, feel free to ignore the thread altogether.

Otherwise, welcome our new friend and participate in the discussion with respect.


As for you Monkey -

I fundamentally agree. Although, I do think laminates and factory builds play a huge part in making sure "real" art has a value. In short... although they do drive prices down, they do make your potential customer base bigger in the long run.

Personally, I chase sound and "connection" with an instrument... so it's a combination of emotion and audio. One of my "worst" sounding guitars is a factory made 50's Harmony tenor with spray-on figuring... but it's got heart and mojo to spare. So I play it every chance I get. The perfect axe for me, has both.

Tudorp
06-28-2010, 12:40 PM
Personally, I didn't see anything wrong with your post. I thought it was interesting and thought provoking. You didn't specifically solicit business to yourself, other than making comment to support Luthiers. Nothing wrong with that. You just happen to be a Luthier, but did not say "buy my ukes". I thought it was a well written brain dump and profesional observation from your perspective. Some may take it a spam coming from a lutheir, but I really do not think that was your intensions. Maybe a first post or two it is expected you simply introduce yourself to the community, and maybe not even mention you are a luthier at first. Just jump in and contribute. Believe me, it will come up in Luthier type discussions that that is what ya do. Again, I saw nothing wrong with your post, but Im not as sensitive as some I guess.. Just like to see things from all perspectives. Stay with it, contribute your knowlege within the comunity. You will gain traffic to your site from here, and if you are a craftsman, your work will spread and thrive in this comunity..

Welcome to the site..




Fahrner,
I wasn't aware that it was necessary to get an invitation in order to post a point of discussion or view on this site. Frankly, I had just written this comment and was looking for a place to post my ideas where other Ukulele enthusiastis would read it and respond. I thought that this was the place, but maybe I was wrong? Can you give me your "rules" that govern what can be posted? Since it seems you are the resident expert, please advise me. I don't want to offend anyone.

fahrner
06-28-2010, 01:27 PM
Fahrner,
I wasn't aware that it was necessary to get an invitation in order to post a point of discussion or view on this site. Frankly, I had just written this comment and was looking for a place to post my ideas where other Ukulele enthusiastis would read it and respond. I thought that this was the place, but maybe I was wrong? Can you give me your "rules" that govern what can be posted? Since it seems you are the resident expert, please advise me. I don't want to offend anyone.
Monkey, it's not necessary to get an invitation to post. Was not what I meant so bad choice of phrase on my part.
No rules from me Monkey. I'm just a member like everyone else. And no, I'm not a resident expert nor was I offended. Just expressing an opinion. My apologies that you were offended and that we got off on the wrong foot.

monkeywrenchukuleles
06-28-2010, 05:04 PM
As much as I admire a good luthier, and their art. Many "Arts" of craftmanship is dying today because people want quality, but not willing to pay for it. Especially the work and skills and craftsmanship that goes into anything that is made one at a time with real hands. Kudos for any and all trying to keep that skill/art alive. I will agree with you 100% about the laminates, vs wood for the same reasons you stated, even if I didn't know exactly why they were true.

That said, and you being a Luthier, what is your opinion on a quality assembly line instrument, even at your own arts expense? I have two Ohanas. China factory made Ukes. They are very well built, especially for the money. Are they the same craftsmanship as a hand made uke from a quality craftsman? Hell no, and I don't expect them to be. I have a Uke that I enjoy, even though there are hundreds, if not thousands of players out there that have one just like mine. It is a solid wood instrument, and I agree, the plastic and lams just don't and can not compete. But, my Ohana sounds awesome, and I can't wait for several years when it sounds even better. I wish I could afford $400-$1000 for a good Luthier to make me one. I would love nothing more than to have the bragging rights to say, "Mine was hand made, and there isn't another one like it..". But, being disabled, and on a fixed income, I can't. So, for that reason, I am thankful that I can still get a decent, solid wood Uke to play that I can afford. What is your opinion on factory made solid wood instruments?

that said, if you are able, and can afford to do so, by all means, support the good Luthiers out there to help keep that art alive.. I would..
Tudorp.
I have owned both an Ohana and a Bushman and standing them side by side they looked almost exactly the same except the price was different. As far as I know they could have come from the same factory with the same production techniques. Both had a nice sound and where very shinny. One developed an internal buzz that myself and some other luthiers could not locate so it now sits. I think mass produced solid wood ukuleles are fine and, if they make ya happy... then so much the better. They are an affordable way to have nice ukulele.
As far as expense is concerned , many handcrafted Ukes can fit into any aray of price ranges. As far as I'm concerned, the more people playing Ukes, whether they be made in China or Timbuktu, means that more people will be turned on by the instrument and the world will be a better place.

monkeywrenchukuleles
06-28-2010, 05:08 PM
Monkey, it's not necessary to get an invitation to post. Was not what I meant so bad choice of phrase on my part.
No rules from me Monkey. I'm just a member like everyone else. And no, I'm not a resident expert nor was I offended. Just expressing an opinion. My apologies that you were offended and that we got off on the wrong foot.

Fahrner,
Next time I will leave my ego at the door.