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Paul December
10-31-2011, 05:51 PM
"Master Grade"
I've been in the forum for about 3 years and don't remember seeing the term and now I see it all-the-time :confused:
Is it a real term? Any standardization? ...
...or can anyone use it?

Hippie Dribble
10-31-2011, 05:54 PM
I think that with instrument builders, all wood is instrument grade. Master grade usually refers to wood that has unique or outstanding aesthetic features that are uncommon.

Paul December
10-31-2011, 05:56 PM
I think that with instrument builders, all wood is instrument grade. Master grade usually refers to wood that has unique or outstanding aesthetic features that are uncommon.

Does the wood supplier judge it to be "Master Grade", or the Builder?

Brad Bordessa
10-31-2011, 06:31 PM
A well-respected luthier friend of mine told me something along the lines of: "master grade" and "5A grade" is a crock to make really nice wood more appealing and valuable.

southcoastukes
10-31-2011, 06:32 PM
In reality - a meaningless term. This from the LMI website:



LMI has been using the same grading scale for soundboards (2nd, A, AA, AAA, Master) since we began, and because we have been around for so long, many other suppliers use a similar scale. Unfortunately, this does not mean that all suppliers grade wood the same way we do. What we call a AA soundboard could easily be called a Master grade soundboard by someone else. Itís a frustrating situation for everyone involved and there seems to be little interest in, or method for, coming to a consensus.

Hippie Dribble
10-31-2011, 06:50 PM
in truth, I've bought a few 'master grade' instruments and in retrospect, I've struggled to see how the builder has judged my wood to be master grade when in reality, it's appearance isn't that much different from a standard supplied wood...I think, like anything, the term has become more frequently used as the ukulele itself has grown more popular and builders are looking for ways to make more money in a market where there is high demand. It's very subjective and very shonky...just my 2cents

TCK
10-31-2011, 07:28 PM
Agreed on all points there mate

in truth, I've bought a few 'master grade' instruments and in retrospect, I've struggled to see how the builder has judged my wood to be master grade when in reality, it's appearance isn't that much different from a standard supplied wood...I think, like anything, the term has become more frequently used as the ukulele itself has grown more popular and builders are looking for ways to make more money in a market where there is high demand. It's very subjective and very shonky...just my 2cents

Allen
10-31-2011, 11:05 PM
As far as most serious luthiers are concerned there are 3 grades of wood. A, AA, and AAA. The reputable suppliers and luthiers stick to this grading system. Though truth be told, I don't know too many luthiers who's work I respect that make a big point of what grade the wood in a particular instrument may or may not be. They know that it has very little to do with how the instrument plays and sounds once you get to the mid grade of AA.

Once in a blue moon there will be a set that will come through that will be so exceptional that a supplier may designate it as Master Grade. I've watched over the years the number of sets I see coming onto the market designated at Master (or now 5A) from being virtually non existent to so commonplace that one is left wondering if there is any "plain old tone wood" available any more. You can make your own conclusions here.

The difference in grading varies on wether you are talking softwoods like spruce or cedar. Or hardwoods that are usually used for backs and sides in guitars, but can be a top as well in ukes. With the softwoods it has to do with runout, how well quartered it is, grain spacing, stiffness and colour. Once you get to AA+ the differences pretty much just come down to the aesthetics. With AAA being a homogenous even colouring, but many times no better as far as building a great sounding instrument than the lesser grade AA.

Hard woods have some of the same criterial as well. Depending on the species you get different figure if it's quartered or riff sawn. Free from insect damage. Good colour, but depending on the species grain spacing is much less of a concern. Figure and rarity does come into it, and while really wild curl is nice to look at, it's a rare piece of that wood that will make a great instrument.

So the long and short of it is that the term "Master Grade" or 5A or whatever the next catch phrase is should be taken with a very big dose of salt. It's being bandied about by everyone and their dog as nothing more than a marketing catch phrase in an attempt to part the gullible from their $$$ in my opinion.

I won't even tell you what grade the wood I use in an instrument is as it just doesn't matter. You either like the look, the sound and the playability, or you don't.

Hippie Dribble
10-31-2011, 11:28 PM
As far as most serious luthiers are concerned there are 3 grades of wood. A, AA, and AAA. The reputable suppliers and luthiers stick to this grading system. Though truth be told, I don't know too many luthiers who's work I respect that make a big point of what grade the wood in a particular instrument may or may not be. They know that it has very little to do with how the instrument plays and sounds once you get to the mid grade of AA.

Once in a blue moon there will be a set that will come through that will be so exceptional that a supplier may designate it as Master Grade. I've watched over the years the number of sets I see coming onto the market designated at Master (or now 5A) from being virtually non existent to so commonplace that one is left wondering if there is any "plain old tone wood" available any more. You can make your own conclusions here.

The difference in grading varies on wether you are talking softwoods like spruce or cedar. Or hardwoods that are usually used for backs and sides in guitars, but can be a top as well in ukes. With the softwoods it has to do with runout, how well quartered it is, grain spacing, stiffness and colour. Once you get to AA+ the differences pretty much just come down to the aesthetics. With AAA being a homogenous even colouring, but many times no better as far as building a great sounding instrument than the lesser grade AA.

Hard woods have some of the same criterial as well. Depending on the species you get different figure if it's quartered or riff sawn. Free from insect damage. Good colour, but depending on the species grain spacing is much less of a concern. Figure and rarity does come into it, and while really wild curl is nice to look at, it's a rare piece of that wood that will make a great instrument.

So the long and short of it is that the term "Master Grade" or 5A or whatever the next catch phrase is should be taken with a very big dose of salt. It's being bandied about by everyone and their dog as nothing more than a marketing catch phrase in an attempt to part the gullible from their $$$ in my opinion.

I won't even tell you what grade the wood I use in an instrument is as it just doesn't matter. You either like the look, the sound and the playability, or you don't.
gee, great information Allen, awesome post. Thanks for this...

maclay
11-01-2011, 05:53 AM
As far as most serious luthiers are concerned there are 3 grades of wood. A, AA, and AAA. The reputable suppliers and luthiers stick to this grading system. Though truth be told, I don't know too many luthiers who's work I respect that make a big point of what grade the wood in a particular instrument may or may not be. They know that it has very little to do with how the instrument plays and sounds once you get to the mid grade of AA.

Once in a blue moon there will be a set that will come through that will be so exceptional that a supplier may designate it as Master Grade. I've watched over the years the number of sets I see coming onto the market designated at Master (or now 5A) from being virtually non existent to so commonplace that one is left wondering if there is any "plain old tone wood" available any more. You can make your own conclusions here.

The difference in grading varies on wether you are talking softwoods like spruce or cedar. Or hardwoods that are usually used for backs and sides in guitars, but can be a top as well in ukes. With the softwoods it has to do with runout, how well quartered it is, grain spacing, stiffness and colour. Once you get to AA+ the differences pretty much just come down to the aesthetics. With AAA being a homogenous even colouring, but many times no better as far as building a great sounding instrument than the lesser grade AA.

Hard woods have some of the same criterial as well. Depending on the species you get different figure if it's quartered or riff sawn. Free from insect damage. Good colour, but depending on the species grain spacing is much less of a concern. Figure and rarity does come into it, and while really wild curl is nice to look at, it's a rare piece of that wood that will make a great instrument.

So the long and short of it is that the term "Master Grade" or 5A or whatever the next catch phrase is should be taken with a very big dose of salt. It's being bandied about by everyone and their dog as nothing more than a marketing catch phrase in an attempt to part the gullible from their $$$ in my opinion.

I won't even tell you what grade the wood I use in an instrument is as it just doesn't matter. You either like the look, the sound and the playability, or you don't.

Master Grade simply means that its the best of the best - straight grain, coloring, figure, etc. The problem is that there are a lot of builders calling sets master grade when they aren't even close.....I see this happen all the time. So when Allen says "Master Grade or 5A or whatever the next catch phrase is should be taken with a very big dose of salt" he is absolutely right, buyer beware!

PoiDog
11-01-2011, 05:57 AM
I won't even tell you what grade the wood I use in an instrument is as it just doesn't matter. You either like the look, the sound and the playability, or you don't.

And for this, I applaud you.

Rick Turner
11-01-2011, 06:12 AM
"And tonight I'd like to introduce to you all: Mr. and Mrs. Bates and their son Master ....errrr...."

Best of the best, and I'd say it would be when the appearance matches certain stiffness to weight criteria. Usually applied to top woods like spruce, cedar, and redwood which are 99% judged on appearance, not potential tone. The appearance usually sought is very tight grain, very even color. And that has little to do with the potential for tone...

OldePhart
11-01-2011, 01:07 PM
I'd rather have plain old "A" wood in an instrument from a master luthier than "master grade" wood in an instrument built by someone who thinks the grade of wood he uses makes him a master luthier... :)

John

fabioponta
11-01-2011, 01:27 PM
I use the term sometimes, and I never know what is means :D

For me, master grade is about the wood details. In some cedar or spruce tops, it makes difference in acoustic guitar tones...maybe :D
By the way, is all about wood design and merchandise... hehe

Dan Uke
11-01-2011, 01:37 PM
Is there certain types of wood that are easier to harvest a higher quality or master grade? It seems like all myrtle is master grade? I have two thoughts...first, master grade doesn't mean anything or second, it's a relatively new tonewood and plentiful, so it's easier to get higher, consistent wood. If it is so consistent, then master quality deosn't mean anything as that is the norm and the first thought applies.

Does that makes sense?

southcoastukes
11-01-2011, 04:31 PM
In reality - a meaningless term. This from the LMI website:



LMI has been using the same grading scale for soundboards (2nd, A, AA, AAA, Master) since we began, and because we have been around for so long, many other suppliers use a similar scale. Unfortunately, this does not mean that all suppliers grade wood the same way we do. What we call a AA soundboard could easily be called a Master grade soundboard by someone else. It’s a frustrating situation for everyone involved and there seems to be little interest in, or method for, coming to a consensus.

Let me just add to what I said earlier. Having been in the lumber export business in Central America, there are definite standards for grading of the majority of commercial timber. If anyone is interested, here is a the book almost everyone goes by, the "Rules" book of the National Hardwood Lumber Association:

http://www.nhla.com/assets/1603/2011_rules_book.pdf

Notice it is "hardwood" (and cypress), so they don't even go into most of the softwood material often used for soundboards.

With soundboard materials, lumber suppliers invent their own grading systems - there are no uniform standards. Any terminology is meaningless, unless you wanted to say "LMI (etc., etc.,) Master Grade", and the general public, who don't buy raw wood soundboards, will not have a clue what that means.

In addition, as Rick has pointed out, and others have alluded to, grading systems are based on structural integrity and appearance, not sound quality.

Disregard all soundboard grading terminology.

maclay
11-01-2011, 06:13 PM
[QUOTE=It seems like all myrtle is master grade? [/QUOTE]

I have seen a good bit of myrtle in my day, and i have never seen a set that i would consider to be "master grade." Unfortunately, i see other builders list their myrtle as "Master" all of the time just because the wood is interesting or cool looking......kinda makes you wonder.

I think its important to have a grading system for wood, it gives you a rough idea of what you can expect....its just unfortunate when people misrepresent. I never buy wood unless i see it first. If you cant see it first, you better buy it from someone you know and trust.

Liam Ryan
11-01-2011, 08:01 PM
I'd rather have plain old "A" wood in an instrument from a master luthier than "master grade" wood in an instrument built by someone who thinks the grade of wood he uses makes him a master luthier... :)

John

There have been a number of intelligent responses in this thread but I think this is the most important for the uke buying/playing public. I don't care flash/masterful/amazing/rare/exotic the timber is in your $300 uke, it's not going to sound as good as a uke made from pallet wood by a master builder (what ever that is).