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View Full Version : Is there much of a difference between select wood and regular wood??



RawrGazzawrs
07-21-2011, 04:18 PM
So I was on the Luna site the other day, and was comparing ukes to my current tattoo concert. Then I realized, its made from select mahogany. So is there really any difference in grain or sound between select wood or regular wood? Just wondering...

iDavid
07-21-2011, 06:34 PM
From what I have read, straight grain produces better sound, in general. I think usually, it is a matter of looks.

mm stan
07-21-2011, 06:59 PM
Select means just that...it's a higher quality.. I guess who selects it too and their company standards could mean anything..yes definetely a difference in sound and asthetics...sounds
like just a slick marketing ploy to me..

buddhuu
07-22-2011, 12:55 AM
Check this link: http://www.timbretone.com/GradingSpruce.html

I wouldn't say that the definitions are universally accepted throughout the industry - I'm not aware of any formally agreed standards, but this is pretty much how I've understood tonewood grading. Select is not as good as AAA or AA, for example.

The use of the word "select" does not guarantee solid wood. I've seen veneered and laminate tops described as select spruce in ads.

ichadwick
07-22-2011, 01:01 AM
What Buddhuu said...

Look for wood graded according to industry standards. Select may suggest hand-picked, from which you infer a quality standard is used, but the word can be misleading. After all, if you really consider it, all wood is selected for use, even the low-grade stuff. Or ask the company to formally define what they mean by "select".

harpdog cc
07-22-2011, 01:26 AM
Normally when looking at instrument specs and I see "select" wood, the term is applied to a laminated wood.
Not a guarantee.
Usually, solid wood will be specified as solid wood.

PhilUSAFRet
07-22-2011, 02:18 AM
Since some of the fanciest wood on earth produces some of the greatest sounding ukes on earth (i.e. Moore Bettah, etc.), that pretty much shoots the argument in the foot that straight grain produces better sound! I have seen some ukes for sale that for some nearly undetectable flaw, have "select" wood for a "standard" price. Have seen a few Kanile'as on HMS for example. A great way to save a a few hundred dollars if you are lucky enough to find one.

Ron98GT
07-22-2011, 05:13 AM
With koa, the lowest grade instrument quality wood is 1A or select and I'm sure someone might call it regular.

It's my understanding that when you look at other woods such as Mahogany, the is no standard.

Ron98GT
07-22-2011, 05:24 AM
From what I have read, straight grain produces better sound, in general. I think usually, it is a matter of looks.

And from what I've read, your correct. You want tight grained none figured wood for the best sound - so the experts say. Curly koa is not figured (although it could be, the curls are not part of the figuring), so that you can have a tight grained wood (vertical) and highly curled (horizontal) and have great looking and sounding uke/guitar.

Personally, I like the looks of the figured wood (my Les Paul has soom nice figures). So if it looks good and sounds good, I'm happy - regardless what the experts say.

mds725
07-22-2011, 05:38 AM
What's the difference between figured wood and non-figured wood?

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
07-22-2011, 05:58 AM
Ron is correct. Here on the Big Island "select" grade koa can be just about anything, even including knots.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
07-22-2011, 06:06 AM
Since some of the fanciest wood on earth produces some of the greatest sounding ukes on earth (i.e. Moore Bettah, etc.), that pretty much shoots the argument in the foot that straight grain produces better sound! I have seen some ukes for sale that for some nearly undetectable flaw, have "select" wood for a "standard" price. Have seen a few Kanile'as on HMS for example. A great way to save a a few hundred dollars if you are lucky enough to find one.

While you can build a very good ukulele from extremely curly koa, generally the straighter grain usually produces a better sounding instrument. We're talking in terms of very small degrees of difference though. When a customer's priority is sound I always try to steer them away from the very curly stuff.

Rick Turner
07-22-2011, 06:06 AM
"Select" is meaningless. And I would not define curly koa as not being figured. To me, figured wood means any grain variations that make for interesting visual appeal. I do happen to believe that straighter grained wood...boring if you will...makes for better sounding tops. Most uke (and guitar) builders I know do not favor figured wood for tops for tone.

If players would listen with their ears instead of their eyes, subjective quality assessments of ukes and guitars would be a pretty different thing than they are. But it's often easier to trust your eyes than ears.

All that said, my #1 uke has an outrageously curly and figured koa top. But my next two will be boring spruce, cedar, or redwood. As a luthier, I depend on eye candy appeal for the "wow" factor. As a musician, I want the best sounding uke I can build. Luckily, I can have it both ways with multiple ukes.

hobblecreek
07-22-2011, 06:36 AM
For a great reference point about wood and tone have a look at: http://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/features/woods/Tone/

The box on the upper right-hand side provides specific info about body and top woods, etc.

Obviously, Taylor is primarily focused on guitar production, but their website provides tremendous descriptions of the various tonewoods used to make acoustic instruments, most which should be applicable to the manufacture of and the resulting sound produced in ukuleles. If nothing else, after fully reviewing the material they present, you’ll know a ton about wood and tone.

joejeweler
07-22-2011, 07:41 AM
I guess "select" wood means different things to most folks. But in the end whatever is selected ends up as part of
a total package,....putting a luthier's talents to the test. For some the selection is mostly visual in deciding to
purchase a particular guitar or ukulele. We all prefer a beautiful piece of work,.....of course.

But in the end the tone and other sound attributes is what we really have to be satisfied with, for otherwise no
lasting enjoyment comes from owning or playing a particular instrument.

I bought a 2004 Thomas Humphrey "Millenium" classical guitar used 3 or 4 years ago. In the pictures i inquired
about what appreared to be a defect, or possibly some damage to a very small area in the spruce top. I was assured
the small darker area was indeed a natural part of the grain structure in the spruce,.....and it is.

(sadly Thomas Humphrey passed away a few years ago much too young,....only 59)

I was also informed by the seller that he had previously been in contact earlier with the builder to garner some info
about this specific guitar. Tom told him that this classical is actually a little smaller than his standard Milleniums, but
that he had found the sound traits of this spruce top warrented a build anyway. Not sure if that meant the tap tone,
stiffness/weight ratio, or any other specifics that makes a builder go out of the norm for a build.

Bare in mind Tom's classical guitars were selling in the $20,000 range, and to make one up a bit smaller might be
hard to market. It also created some extra work for sure, as most builders have a body "mold" they use to assemble
their guitars to a specific shape and size. Not sure if Tom built a new mold,....but probably just padded key areas
to fill the slight spaces while he put the body together for this one off. This slightly smaller classical also required a
new case,....and it resides in a wonderfully light (and super strong!) Karura carbon fiber flight case. (they alone run
around $1500 as i recall)

Anyway, the guitar truly sounds wonderful. Tom commented that it was a special guitar, and that he
would buy it back if offered. I once took it to a local luthier a few years ago, and there happened to be a talented
player in the store at the time. He seemed interested in the instrument, and i offered to allow him to play with it a bit.
(never got his name but he COULD PLAY)

......about 45 minutes later i put her back in the case, but not before being awestruck to the wonderful tone shadeings
he was able to garner from the guitar. It was all there,.... volumn, sustain,....and TONE! Thomas Humphrey was SO
RIGHT to have made the extra effort to use the bit of an ugly duckling runt of a piece of spruce! lol

The player hated to part with it, btw!

Here's a few pics....

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Thomas%20Humphrey%20Millenium/HumphreyMilleniumTopDefectClose.jpg

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Thomas%20Humphrey%20Millenium/HumphreyMilleniumTopDefect3.jpg

Here's one of the rosette he used in most of his later guitars:

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Thomas%20Humphrey%20Millenium/HumphreyMilleniumSoundhole.jpg

Thomas Humphrey's elevated fingerboard came to him in a dream, and was the basis of his new "Mellinum"
classical guitars. (along with a latice braced soundboard). The raised fretboard allowed easier access to the upper frets
without the smaller soundbox a cutaway creates, and the angled soundboard offers some technical benefits
with the bridge/string relationship. (boosting energy transfer to the soundboard

I predict they'll be a top ukulele maker using this design someday!

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb200/joejeweler/Thomas%20Humphrey%20Millenium/HumphreyMilleniumraisedfretboard.jpg

fabioponta
07-22-2011, 08:47 AM
If "selected" to mean "old" (older trees, and dried for longer), you have an instrument with more mature tone, and with more wood stability.
If "selected" mean "more beautiful", the only difference is the appearance. It's my knowledge with cavaquinhos made with brazilian rosewood here in Brazil , and the best tones come from bodys made of jacarandás dried since 1940, 1950, from Bahia.

I also have a question for the luthiers friends: Curly wood appears only from older trees? That all depends on the cut made in the wood?

hobblecreek
07-22-2011, 09:09 AM
It was all there,.... volumn, sustain,....and TONE! Thomas Humphrey was SO
RIGHT to have made the extra effort to use the bit of an ugly duckling runt of a piece of spruce!

joejewler – great example thread. I too have special guitar that is graced by a less-than-beautiful red spruce top, but the sound it produces is so clear, rich, harmonic and loud that it would have been a true shame to have not used the wood for this purpose, simply because it lacked the perfect tight, straight gain that seems to be so desired today.

joejeweler
07-22-2011, 10:27 AM
joejewler – great example thread. I too have special guitar that is graced by a less-than-beautiful red spruce top, but the sound it produces is so clear, rich, harmonic and loud that it would have been a true shame to have not used the wood for this purpose, simply because it lacked the perfect tight, straight gain that seems to be so desired today.

Thanks,.....but i must say that i've grown to respect Tom Humphrey much more since i purchased this guitar and the
story behind it. A luthier that builds from his/her heart is worthy of that i think.