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View Full Version : Any noticeable difference in Tone & Sustain between a Mahogany and Maple Uke Neck?



loondoo
08-28-2010, 06:04 PM
Hey all,

Am working on building my first tenor ukulele, with some parts from Hanalima'ia, including an Englemann Spruce top and Mahogany back, blocks for a Mahogany neck and Ebony fingerboard and bridge.

Am considering going with the "Spanish Style" neck/body connection suggested by Hanalima'ia, but have several questions:

1. I'm considering going with a Maple neck instead of the Mahogany neck from the Hanalima'ia kit. Do you feel there is any noticeable difference in Tone & Sustain between a Mahogany and Maple Uke Neck?

From my rudimentary understanding about necks and the differences between Mahogany and Maple, I believe that Mahogany is softer and will thus absorb more vibration, resulting in a neck that sustains less than a harder Maple neck might.

Since the ukulele generally has less sustain than say a guitar, I wouldn't mind a little extra sustain so that I can play more complex chords and get some nice sustaining overtones. Do you think a Maple neck would help me achieve that result better than a Mahogany neck would?

2. Neck to Body attachment: Do you believe either of the various neck to body attachments affect the sustain/tone of a ukulele enough to be noticeable, or should I just go for the simplest attachment, since I'm pretty much a novice at this?!

I believe Pete Howlett uses his own version of a bolt-type of attachment, that Kathy Matsushita is also emplying, so I'm definitely intrigued with using a different attachment other than the Spanish style which will involve a bit of tricky fitting.

But is there any noticeable difference in sustain/tone with a Spanish style neck to body attachment, since the neck block and the neck are connected in one piece to the body?

Sorry for the long post and multiple questions, but I'm hoping to get the right combination before I get too far along into the process. Thanks for any thoughts, help and suggestions!!

Bradford
08-28-2010, 07:17 PM
Please understand that there are big differences between different maples and different mahoganys. European maple is much softer and lighter than American rock maple. When you mention mahogany do you mean Honduran, or one of the African varieties. My big concern with neck material is weight, I want the lightest wood that is going to stay straight. For that, I prefer Honduran mahogany or Spanish cedar. There are those that advocate putting in carbon fiber rods to stiffen the neck and possibly add sustain, but with your experience my advice is to keep it simple and use proven woods for the task. Any subtle differences in sound caused by various neck construction schemes, are likely to be greatly eclipsed by the body construction details.

Brad

loondoo
08-28-2010, 08:12 PM
Thanks for the sound advice, Brad. For sure, most of the tonal properties will be a result of my ability to put the body together properly, much more than merely the materials that I choose to use.

I believe the Mahogany neck material that Hanalima'ia provided is Honduran Mahogany, and it has a nice hard tone to it when I tap it.

Not totally sure what kind of Maple I'll be using yet, but I did find a nice hard piece of maple at Lowe's that actually has a little "curl"/"flame" to it that I was thinking of using for the neck. I assume it is American Rock Maple, but not 100% sure.

Thanks again for the constructive advice!

erich@muttcrew.net
08-28-2010, 10:23 PM
1. I'm considering going with a Maple neck instead of the Mahogany neck from the Hanalima'ia kit. Do you feel there is any noticeable difference in Tone & Sustain between a Mahogany and Maple Uke Neck?

A: Yes

Since the ukulele generally has less sustain than say a guitar, I wouldn't mind a little extra sustain so that I can play more complex chords and get some nice sustaining overtones. Do you think a Maple neck would help me achieve that result better than a Mahogany neck would?

A: No

2. Neck to Body attachment: Do you believe either of the various neck to body attachments affect the sustain/tone of a ukulele enough to be noticeable...

A: No


Why don't you just build the kit with the mahogany neck that came with it. If you don't like the sustain you can still pull the neck off and make a custom neck out of rock maple or whatever. Or better yet, you could get another kit and customize your second build. :) Then you can compare the two side by side.

If there's one thing I've learned from the masters that offer their valuable time here, it is to start out by copying an instrument that you like the sound of. Check out the sound of a maple-neck uke (by Brueko, for example) and the sound of a mahogany-neck uke and then do what you have to.

I don't want to get into a long discussion about the tonal and structural qualities of different kinds of mahogany and maple. Both are already being used for necks on different instruments with honduran mahogany as well as spanish cedar (another kind of mahogany) being the favorites among uke builders. All these people making ukes for a living are all wrong? I don't think so.....

Ukulele Friend
08-29-2010, 12:23 AM
I agree with Bradford on this one. Honduran mahogany or Spanish cedar are the two preferred woods for uke necks. Spanish cedar seems to be the lighter wood of the two but a very stable wood nonetheless, provided it's quartersawn (be sure that whatever you choose that it is quartersawn though). The tones of Spanish cedar necks tend to be a bit brighter than what Honduran mahogany would produce in my experience.

best,
Shawn

http://ukulelefriend.com

loondoo
08-29-2010, 03:42 AM
Thanks for the response, Shawn. I pretty much have the Mahogany neck constructed, and I may go with that after the sound advice given thus far. But I was hoping that the maple neck would get a few more votes for increased sustain and possibly snappiness than Mahogany, but I understand that with a ukulele, the sustain in relatively short so that any increase in sustain might be negligible.

Thanks again! Terry

Sven
08-29-2010, 06:28 AM
In addition, maple is hard to carve.

Sven

camface
08-29-2010, 06:41 AM
Hard to carve means it is not as easy to go over the line with carving like I have done with Spanish cedar so often. I love maple for necks. Such beautiful wood.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
08-29-2010, 07:28 AM
Hard to carve means it is not as easy to go over the line with carving like I have done with Spanish cedar so often..

Exactly. What "easy to carve" means is that you can destroy a Spanish cedar neck a lot more quickly.

Kekani
08-29-2010, 10:45 AM
Mike has been doing this for a LONG time, and there's a reason why he sets up his kits the way he does. Why would you want to change what has been established on your very first build? Get the build down correct, then move on to the next.

Personally, I don't like maple bodies with Mahogany or Sp. Cedar necks, but only from a visual perspective. The opposite is also true - Mahogany or Koa body with a maple neck, unless you're talking electric guitar or bass.

Add to this you're considering swapping a very good Hondo neck with Maple of questionable birth from a lumberyard?

If you really want sustain, try building a Tiple. . .

mvinsel
08-31-2010, 09:12 AM
I agree with the others as to sticking with the kit, at least as a reference point, and if you don't like it make another with maple and see.

I had an interesting somewhat related occurance last week with my electric steel string solid body with the one piece maple neck/fretboard through the body construction. I was on a three day trip and my little mini fender amp got turned on in my luggage and burned out the battery. I was playing without the amp and accidentally nudged the edge of a cheap wooden table in the hotel with the end of the headstock, and it resounded almost like an acoustic body . I played it like that and it was almost as loud as my buddy's soprano acoustic.

-Vinnie in Juneau