View Full Version : Ponderosa Pine or Aspen for ukuleles?

06-19-2012, 07:26 AM
Dear Luthiers of UU-

I am wondering if there is a reason why I never see ukes made from pine or aspen?

The reason I ask is because the ponderosa and lodge pole pines forests of the Rocky Mountains are expected to soon be largely destroyed from New Mexico all the way to the Yukon because of the pine beetle (flourishing because of long term and increasing drought). My property on the eastern slope in Colorado where I grew up will soon be standing in the middle of a dead forest (the Western slope in our area is already dead). The enormous fire currently burning in Fort Collins where I went to college is fed by beetle kill. All of that dead timber......can I at least make a uke out of it to strum as I weep for the Rocky Mountains?

For more information about the loss of Colorado's forests if anyone is interested:


06-19-2012, 07:54 AM
I feel for you and the people of Colorado. We deal with the same problems, beetle and fire, that you are dealing with. The worst fire I can remember was in 2002, the McNally fire which ended up 170,000 acres (USFS calls if 150,000 but it was more) started by a lady that wanted to cook a hotdog. The dead, standing trees really take off. The high country will never be the same for generations and maybe never with the brush that is growing up in the burn. Sorry for your loss.
As far as use of the woods in instrument building I have never heard of using pine or aspen for acoustic instruments except for a few solid body electrics (pine) but I am still pretty new to this and it may be possible. I've made a couple F5 mandos with dougfir tops and they sound good. We use cooler pads here that have shaved aspen for the pads. I've used aspen for firewood before and the stuff I cut was harder than a politicians heart. Hard on the saw.

06-19-2012, 08:50 AM
I have seen some tight grained P Pine that looks like it would make good tops. Finding the right wood is what will answer your questions for that wood. I would say yes, if you can find the right stuff.

Aspen is a different story, it is kind of like our local Birch, not super stable, and prone to movement with moisture change. Also the smallish diameter of most Aspen trees will make it more difficult to cut really nice billets from it. I think for a uke for strumming an ode to the Colorado forests, I'd say go for it... Probably would be careful with commercial production of some items from Aspen, as it likes to move. If you find the right piece of Aspen, you would probably have a really pretty instrument.

Keep in mind, I have experience with many woods, but very little experience with building stringed instruments. I still feel like a complete beginner with all of it...

As a side note, last week I was driving through the 4 corners area, through huge tracts of dying Aspen.

06-20-2012, 06:46 AM
Based on your responses and the overall low interest in this thread, it sounds like these woods have properties that make a luthier pass them by. Thank you both for your kind replies, I really appreciate it.