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Stevelele
03-05-2013, 10:06 AM
I'm in the process of picking out wood for a nice custom tenor. I'd like it to sound rich, articulate, precise and clear, although I do not mind brightness of sound. Sound is most important, but I do care about the appearance of the uke. Here's what I'm considering--how would you rank them

a) quilted maple back/sides (very beautiful) with curly redwood top
b) brazilian rosewood back/sides (fairly plain) with curly redwood top
c) all dark curly koa
d) all cuban mahagony

What do you think?

Hippie Dribble
03-05-2013, 10:10 AM
maple and redwood, it will be nicely balanced and loud!

but they all will sound nice I think

RichM
03-05-2013, 10:13 AM
All good choices. Both of your redwood options are likely to give you a fuller sound with more bass than the koa or mahogany options will. I find koa brighter than mahogany, but koa and mahogany will probably be closer in tone to each other than either of those to the redwood top.

I'm not sure what price point this custom is at, but I'm assuming you're working with a top premium builder. Brazilian rosewood is no doubt a significant upcharge due to rarity, although it might not be as significant as a percentage of the overall price. While Brazilian is the gold standard on guitars, I doubt it makes much of a difference on a uke, and I don't think I'd pay a big premium for Brazillian that didn't have classic figure.

My Moore Bettah is spruce over milo, and I think it has all of the tonal requirement you've listed. I'm a big fan of spruce and redwood tops (many are not), so my tastes would tend towards the redwood/maple option. For me, I would narrow it down to redwood/maple and the all-koa, although realistically, redwood and any hard tonewood is likely to give you similar tone.

Dan Uke
03-05-2013, 10:20 AM
What is your luthier recommending? I personally wouldn't go w/ BR as it sounds likes most BR is not that good compared to the stuff they used in the past...I guess you can say that about lots of wood.

Stevelele
03-05-2013, 10:21 AM
The luthier is saying everything is good--I believe him, but I guess I still have to make a choice!


What is your luthier recommending? I personally wouldn't go w/ BR as it sounds likes most BR is not that good compared to the stuff they used in the past...I guess you can say that about lots of wood.

RichM
03-05-2013, 10:24 AM
What is your luthier recommending? I personally wouldn't go w/ BR as it sounds likes most BR is not that good compared to the stuff they used in the past...I guess you can say that about lots of wood.

While I would trust a luthier to select tonewood, I wouldn't go with BR because you will pay a fortune for a chunk of wood that probably will not make a lot of sonic difference and apparently isn't all that pretty.

Stevelele
03-05-2013, 10:31 AM
I previously owned a brazilian rosewood mya moe, which sounded and looked great. I sold it bc I had to at the time, but it was quite an excellent instrument. I have no idea whether it makes a big difference with the sound though -- the mya moes I played all had similar tonal qualities (not a bad thing!)


While I would trust a luthier to select tonewood, I wouldn't go with BR because you will pay a fortune for a chunk of wood that probably will not make a lot of sonic difference and apparently isn't all that pretty.

Doc_J
03-05-2013, 10:37 AM
I'm in the process of picking out wood for a nice custom tenor. I'd like it to sound rich, articulate, precise and clear, although I do not mind brightness of sound. Sound is most important, but I do care about the appearance of the uke. Here's what I'm considering--how would you rank them

a) quilted maple back/sides (very beautiful) with curly redwood top
b) brazilian rosewood back/sides (fairly plain) with curly redwood top
c) all dark curly koa
d) all cuban mahagony

What do you think?

Hmmm. Of those choices I would pick (a).

Although I'm currently getting a 6-string custom of pheasant wood with a bear claw spruce top.
I really really like my new cedar top Covered Bridge tenor.

Keep us posted. I this going to be DeVine?

mm stan
03-05-2013, 10:41 AM
Rich and I have the same tone wood on our MB's....and it sounds great...MIlo and bearclaw spruce,...while keeping in mind with wood choices...there are other factors too
like the luthier and if they are familiar with that certain wood or certain stock. and just picking names of woods for their beauty or your preference is not a way to guage things..all wood
even if from the same tree from different cuts or parts may react and sound different...even from tree to tree...so you are not just limited on just species selection..
unless the builder is familiar with that wood from the tree and the sets side by side...it's all speculation...like the old saying, looks are just skin deep..good luck...

specialk13
03-05-2013, 11:23 AM
My thought is that the builder and top wood make the biggest difference in the way a uke sounds. I think a good luthier can "color" the sound or make a uke darker or brighter based on customer preference.
Maybe you should pick the wood you like the look of for the back and sides and focus more on the top wood?
I have been all over the map with tonewoods and what I've found is that the builder usually makes the biggest difference no matter what wood you end up going with. Any of those combos would probably sound great when built by the right pair of hands. Just my 2 cents.

dkcrown
03-05-2013, 11:33 AM
If it were me, I would go with either the dark figured koa or the Cuban mahogany. Koa is my favorite wood for ukes and Cuban mahogany is rare and beautiful, although I don't know if it would meet you criteria for sound. I don't know it's sound characteristics.

But who is the luthier? That would significantly influence my choice of wood. I would rely on his(or her) suggestions.

Dan Uke
03-05-2013, 11:41 AM
Dana,

You and I think alike. I would get Cuban Mahogany first if its really curly as you don't see those often and then the dark figured koa...If the luthier has the rare curly white koa, that would trump everything else.

Stevelele
03-05-2013, 11:56 AM
OK, thank you all for your input--I really appreciate it. The luthier just called me and we had a good talk. Based on the features that I find most important, he actually recommended that I go with NONE of my choices--we chose a blonde curly koa, which he said is some of the finest he's ever worked with and his favorite overall. I am happy with that choice and can't wait for it to be built. I will send you guys updates when the time comes. Thanks!

hawaii 50
03-05-2013, 03:57 PM
Dana,

You and I think alike. I would get Cuban Mahogany first if its really curly as you don't see those often and then the dark figured koa...If the luthier has the rare curly white koa, that would trump everything else.



Eric Devine can get some real nice master grade White Koa and beautiful Cuban Mahogany(that grows in Hawaii)

Rubio MHS
03-05-2013, 04:25 PM
Most Brazilian Rosewood instruments are made from old furniture or something like that. I'd be wary about buying koa unless I was assured that it came from downed trees. Mahogany is a very sustainable wood.

Paul December
03-05-2013, 05:41 PM
Who is the luthier?
Odd, that you didn't name him.

RichM
03-05-2013, 06:14 PM
Most Brazilian Rosewood instruments are made from old furniture or something like that. I'd be wary about buying koa unless I was assured that it came from downed trees.

What is the basis for these claims?

hawaii 50
03-05-2013, 06:16 PM
What is the basis for these claims?


I would also like to know what this person is talking about..is he a Koa expert?

Btw Honduran Mahogany almost gone now..

Hippie Dribble
03-05-2013, 07:55 PM
Steve stop being a doity tease.

Briangriffinukuleles
03-05-2013, 07:55 PM
Just this afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing the boxed up tenor that Eric Devine is making for me. I went through the agony of choosing the wood a year ago. I chose some marvelous koa for sides and back and the astounding redwood, straight and unbelievably tight grained, that Eric salvaged from an old Maui water tank. I have had great success with koa sides and backs with cedar tops. I expect that the water tank redwood will provide the same warmth and character. Koa sides and back seem to add another element of tonal quality. I posted some pictures of the boxed up uke on my website just a few minutes ago, google griffin ukuleles if you want to take a look. tomorrow I will be posting some closeups of that redwood hoping to show the tightness of the grain. If my camera was good enough.

hawaii 50
03-05-2013, 08:09 PM
Just this afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing the boxed up tenor that Eric Devine is making for me. I went through the agony of choosing the wood a year ago. I chose some marvelous koa for sides and back and the astounding redwood, straight and unbelievably tight grained, that Eric salvaged from an old Maui water tank. I have had great success with koa sides and backs with cedar tops. I expect that the water tank redwood will provide the same warmth and character. Koa sides and back seem to add another element of tonal quality. I posted some pictures of the boxed up uke on my website just a few minutes ago, google griffin ukuleles if you want to take a look. tomorrow I will be posting some closeups of that redwood hoping to show the tightness of the grain. If my camera was good enough.



congrats on the Devine..mine should be ready next year sometime..I placed the order in April of 2012..but I got Eric to take his time as I am not ready to play his uke yet..still practicing daily..

I know exactly what redwood you are talking about..my Koa set is #152 and I am having his sig fretboard and bridge,curly Koa neck and I think I am going with his new wood purfling..still trying to decide on that..what do you think abalone or the new wood purfling..
anyway I will check your website..I just saw a beautiful Devine Koa baritone with his new purfling..wow but did not get to play it Kimo Hussey had it..

are you a builder? and is this your personal ukulele?

Briangriffinukuleles
03-05-2013, 08:24 PM
Yes "50" I am a builder. I am also getting to be a geezer and you can't take it with you so I decided to buy one of the worlds best ukes, even though mine are plenty good. I saw the new purfling today and got very tempted but I am not much for bling. I will simply have the curly koa neck, white koa binding with black and white purfling.
My advice to the starter of this thread is to select the redwood over the koa. Koa may be traditional but it is not the best of soundboard wood. Cedar, redwood or spruce are the tops, Of the spruces I prefer Englemann, and Eric told me today that he does too. One of the ukes tops in his current build cycle has a lovely piece of Englemann.

hawaii 50
03-05-2013, 08:33 PM
Yes "50" I am a builder. I am also getting to be a geezer and you can't take it with you so I decided to buy one of the worlds best ukes, even though mine are plenty good. I saw the new purfling today and got very tempted but I am not much for bling. I will simply have the curly koa neck, white koa binding with black and white purfling.
My advice to the starter of this thread is to select the redwood over the koa. Koa may be traditional but it is not the best of soundboard wood. Cedar, redwood or spruce are the tops, Of the spruces I prefer Englemann, and Eric told me today that he does too. One of the ukes tops in his current build cycle has a lovely piece of Englemann.



I have a Compass Rose being built now with a Sinker Redwood top and Macassar Ebony back and sides..Rick Turner built me a beautiful master grade Koa tenor last year..and I love it so much I orderd another CR..
I got to meet Rick..that was a real treat!

I also have the white koa binding on my Devine..so you think the new purfling more bling than the abalone? I am getting it fully loaded as I figure I might as well do it right? haha

I lived in Northern Calif but moved back to Oahu..retired and best thing I ever did..

but when it comes to wood choice..I let the builders pick the wood for me..I am sure they enjoy it too..and I am really into nice wood on most of my custom ukes and trust that the builder can make them sound great! so far so good for me..

Briangriffinukuleles
03-05-2013, 08:41 PM
These choices are always tough. I am always tempted by abalone purling. Eric's new purfling is less bling than the abalone, very tasteful I think. He will want to put it around the rosette too I bet. it matches well with his custom neck inlay. What the Hey '50" go for it. Thats the way I felt about the curly koa neck.

hawaii 50
03-05-2013, 08:46 PM
These choices are always tough. I am always tempted by abalone purling. Eric's new purfling is less bling than the abalone, very tasteful I think. He will want to put it around the rosette too I bet. it matches well with his custom neck inlay. What the Hey '50" go for it. Thats the way I felt about the curly koa neck.



Thanks Brian..that is what I was looking for..I am leaning to his new purfling..and a little less bling is what I am looking for thxs..but knowing Eric when mine gets started he will have new stuff to get me more confused(in the good way) haha

I will keep up with your build on your website and keep in touch..

take care
Len

Stevelele
03-06-2013, 02:39 AM
Ha--sorry! It's Eric, as a few people seemed to have guessed


Steve stop being a doity tease.

hawaii 50
03-06-2013, 04:19 AM
Ha--sorry! It's Eric, as a few people seemed to have guessed


if you talk to Eric soon tell him I said hello..
what options did you go for?

keep in touch
Len

Rick Turner
03-06-2013, 04:39 AM
I am personally not wild about curly redwood for acoustic instrument tops. The stuff is fragile as hell when taken down to uke top thinness. Yes, it's beautiful, but I don't consider it appropriate for tops on anything other than solid or semi-hollow instruments. Just my opinion as a builder...

Rubio MHS
03-06-2013, 05:00 AM
What is the basis for these claims?


I would also like to know what this person is talking about..is he a Koa expert?

Btw Honduran Mahogany almost gone now..
It's no secret that 90% of the Koa forests are gone. There are generally two sources of koa in Hawaii: koa farms and fallen trees from preserved koa forests. A third source is also the main source of legal Brazilian Rosewood, salvaged wood. Since it is now illegal to trade in Brazilian Rosewood, most of the musical instruments are made from "reused" sources such as furniture. I own two instruments made from Brazilian Rosewood, a Stetson Mandolin and a Knabe Upright Grand Piano.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_koa#Conservation
http://cites.org/eng/resources/species.html

Stevelele
03-06-2013, 05:00 AM
I am going for the blonde koa--set 151. I haven't decided on the other details yet. Also thinking about the purflex v abalone


if you talk to Eric soon tell him I said hello..
what options did you go for?

keep in touch
Len

hawaii 50
03-06-2013, 05:12 AM
I am going for the blonde koa--set 151. I haven't decided on the other details yet. Also thinking about the purflex v abalone


hey Steve I think I am going with Eric's new purfling too(you know he makes it himself..not by Petros)unless he has something new by build time... I already know what your Koa looks like Nice!

keep in touch..

hawaii 50
03-06-2013, 05:27 AM
It's no secret that 90% of the Koa forests are gone. There are generally two sources of koa in Hawaii: koa farms and fallen trees from preserved koa forests. A third source is also the main source of legal Brazilian Rosewood, salvaged wood. Since it is now illegal to trade in Brazilian Rosewood, most of the musical instruments are made from "reused" sources such as furniture. I own two instruments made from Brazilian Rosewood, a Stetson Mandolin and a Knabe Upright Grand Piano.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacand it is a fast growing ia_koa#Conservation
http://cites.org/eng/resources/species.html




I heard from a highly respected builder from the Big Island of Hawaii and someone from the Kamaka family say that Hawaiian people in the Islands are re-seeding Koa trees..and Koa is a fast growing tree.

I don't know where you got 90% of Koa gone..

I get your point about Brazilian Rosewood..

I could be wrong as I am not an expert or even try to say I know what I am talking about..but I do see Koa trees a lot around here..

just my 2 cents

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
03-06-2013, 05:34 AM
I am personally not wild about curly redwood for acoustic instrument tops. The stuff is fragile as hell when taken down to uke top thinness. Yes, it's beautiful, but I don't consider it appropriate for tops on anything other than solid or semi-hollow instruments. Just my opinion as a builder...

I'm pretty new to using redwood, but that stuff sure does snap, almost shatters when you break it. It is beautiful under finish though

mm stan
03-06-2013, 05:47 AM
I have a older walnut claro/ redwood top super concert...while it has a very nice warm tone...it is not a balanced tone..not much mids and highs...
Chuckies Milo and bearclaw spruce just is in another level of sound ....not even close to this custom...http://i938.photobucket.com/albums/ad222/ukestan/NewAquirements121212026_zpse8b24765.jpg

Dan Uke
03-06-2013, 06:01 AM
I have a older walnut claro/ redwood top super concert...while it has a very nice warm tone...it is not a balanced tone..not much mids and highs...
Chuckies Milo and bearclaw spruce just is in another level of sound ....not even close to this custom...http://i938.photobucket.com/albums/ad222/ukestan/NewAquirements121212026_zpse8b24765.jpg

Stan, Chuck is magical. Glad to hear you enjoying your uke!

Briangriffinukuleles
03-06-2013, 07:07 AM
I'm pretty new to using redwood, but that stuff sure does snap, almost shatters when you break it. It is beautiful under finish though

Eric's redwood is not curly. In fact it is almost unbelievably straight and fine grained. I am trusting it will have fine tone and surely don't intend to give it the "break" test. I would expect that the fine grain will give it some nice highs. I will post a close-up of the grain on my website today. google Griffin Ukuleles

hawaii 50
03-06-2013, 07:11 AM
Eric's redwood is not curly. In fact it is almost unbelievably straight and fine grained. I am trusting it will have fine tone and surely don't intend to give it the "break" test. I would expect that the fine grain will give it some nice highs. I will post a close-up of the grain on my website today. google Griffin Ukuleles


Yeah Brian..I saw the redwood the he is going to use..he might of had it on a beautiful BR Devine a couple months ago all kinds of straight fine grain on it..

Rick Turner
03-06-2013, 08:44 AM
I can pretty much guarantee that any "Brazilian rosewood" piano is Brazilian rosewood veneer over a solid wood core. They just did not make solid rosewood pianos, and I know of several that were ruined by folks thinking they'd get guitar wood out of them.

I'm a fan of straight grained redwood for tops...just not the curly stuff, though I love it for veneering over solid body guitar parts.

Stevelele
03-06-2013, 09:01 AM
That is really good to know--thanks for your input, Rick. It is really beautiful--I originally got the idea from seeing a stunning custom kamaka and also hearing all kinds of things about how good redwood sounds. But I guess curly is different from straight grained.


I am personally not wild about curly redwood for acoustic instrument tops. The stuff is fragile as hell when taken down to uke top thinness. Yes, it's beautiful, but I don't consider it appropriate for tops on anything other than solid or semi-hollow instruments. Just my opinion as a builder...

Newportlocal
03-06-2013, 09:17 AM
Hoping to see mine soon Sinker Redwood and Cocobolo. It was a tough call between that and Macassar. Looking forward to seeing Len's.

jinsk90
03-06-2013, 09:29 AM
I can pretty much guarantee that any "Brazilian rosewood" piano is Brazilian rosewood veneer over a solid wood core. They just did not make solid rosewood pianos, and I know of several that were ruined by folks thinking they'd get guitar wood out of them.

I'm a fan of straight grained redwood for tops...just not the curly stuff, though I love it for veneering over solid body guitar parts.

Sorry to side track, but I have a question for Rick. Do you think there is any tonal advantage over Bearclaw Spruce vs Normal Spruce? or is it all cosmetic.

bkmdano
03-06-2013, 10:31 AM
Aloha ...

I've been checking types of wood and their characteristics the past few months ... waiting for custom built tenor to start. Anyways ... I've selected (in my mind) a mix of dark and curly koa - always subject to change until the build is finalized. Questions top of mind for me that I have not yet found answers for are:

1) Does maturity of wood affect tonal characteristics and sustain ? I use number of grain line per inch to be a measure.
2) What effect does aging of wood have on sound characteristics ?
3) How does book joining versus aligning boards up/down affect sound characteristics or is this purely cosmetic ?

I trust my luthier but I'm also a geek and want to understand how my choices impact the final product.

Appreciate the discussion ... bkmdano

hawaii 50
03-06-2013, 10:41 AM
Sorry to side track, but I have a question for Rick. Do you think there is any tonal advantage over Bearclaw Spruce vs Normal Spruce? or is it all cosmetic.




i am not sure what Rick is going to say but I think all cosmetic..
My New CR straight grained Sinker Redwood..

Stevelele
03-06-2013, 10:56 AM
Hey Rick or anyone else, what do you think of this? It's pretty consistent and the lines appear pretty straight and horizontal--do you still think it'll be a problem?49870


That is really good to know--thanks for your input, Rick. It is really beautiful--I originally got the idea from seeing a stunning custom kamaka and also hearing all kinds of things about how good redwood sounds. But I guess curly is different from straight grained.

Dan Uke
03-06-2013, 11:28 AM
Hey Rick or anyone else, what do you think of this? It's pretty consistent and the lines appear pretty straight and horizontal--do you still think it'll be a problem?49870

Very nice wood...It seems people go with the sinker redwood instead of redwood. Don't know what the difference is.

Briangriffinukuleles
03-06-2013, 01:24 PM
Wow! that is curley wood. I can see what Rick means when he says that it is apt to break At uke top thickness that grain is being sliced off or darned thin at every curve. i think that is an entirely different animal from straight grain. I will try to post a shot of the grain of Eric's water tank redwood so you can see the difference. If I don't succeed in getting it posted I will put it on my website later today, A swim in the ocean is calling at the moment49872

hawaii 50
03-06-2013, 01:26 PM
Wow! that is curley wood. I can see what Rick means when he says that it is apt to break At uke top thickness that grain is being sliced off or darned thin at every curve. i think that is an entirely different animal from straight grain. I will try to post a shot of the grain of Eric's water tank redwood so you can see the difference. If I don't succeed in getting it posted I will put it on my website later today, A swim in the ocean is calling at the moment49872



Nice Brian..

I hope Rick gives his opinion on that Curly Redwood in the picture above(it is Redwood? or Mahogany)..it does have some curly to it..

Stevelele
03-06-2013, 02:33 PM
it is redwood. Originally, I had asked Eric to get some curly redwood for me--the set he got was every bit as curly as the one I depicted above. He was happy to use it, but ultimately he convinced me I would like the blonde koa better based on my sound preferences. But I'm still intrigued by the curly redwood. That piece that griffin has is extremely nice sinker redwood!


Nice Brian..

I hope Rick gives his opinion on that Curly Redwood in the picture above(it is Redwood? or Mahogany)..it does have some curly to it..

Briangriffinukuleles
03-06-2013, 03:38 PM
it is redwood. Originally, I had asked Eric to get some curly redwood for me--the set he got was every bit as curly as the one I depicted above. He was happy to use it, but ultimately he convinced me I would like the blonde koa better based on my sound preferences. But I'm still intrigued by the curly redwood. That piece that griffin has is extremely nice sinker redwood!


Well I guess you might call redwood used as staves of a water tank "sinker" after a fashion, but the term Sinker comes from redwood that has been sunk in a river or a lake for ages and then brought to the surface, sawn and dried. It is reputed to pick up minerals from the bottom and I think it is characteristically darker than normal redwood. Erics water tank redwood would have had 100 years of Maui sun on one side of it, water on the other.
BMKdano brings up the question of maturity and aging of wood and its effect on tone. I can only tell him that I make most of my ukes with Western Red Cedar tops from a log I salvaged fifty years ago. The half log had been used in the log boom of a lumber mill on a fresh water lake. The mill began in 1906 so the tree could have been felled that liong ago. from the width of the log and the grain per inch count I calculate that the wood I am using today is 1,600 years old. I will bet that Eric's redwood was growing when Christ was born. Does that answer your question about maturity and aging?

bluesuke
03-06-2013, 06:01 PM
Hey Rick or anyone else, what do you think of this? It's pretty consistent and the lines appear pretty straight and horizontal--do you still think it'll be a problem?49870

Most of the curly Redwood I have worked with seems really soft compared to straight tight grained wood

Rubio MHS
03-06-2013, 06:35 PM
I don't know where you got 90% of Koa gone..
Sorry, the link I posted got mixed up:

http://www.hawaiianlegacyhardwoods.com/hardwoods.php


When the western world discovered this magnificent wood they applied western methods of harvesting, clearing 90% of the original forest. This resource was all but eliminated from lower elevations and the genetic diversity that once existed has been lost.

I love koa; I think it's a beautiful wood, and I would love to have a koa uke, it being the traditional wood of the ukulele. I'm such a rabid environmentalist that I see the wood used to make one ukulele too much of an impact on that unique environment.

I own 17 wooden instruments (IAS, yes), and 11 of them I bought used or inherited. My four ukes, my violin and one of my guitars were bought new (all of them were presents). I buy broken instruments from pawn shops, yard sales and thrift stores and restore them. Sometimes they sit unused for years on end. I just finally started playing the hammered dulcimer I bought five years ago and slowly restored it (well, technically, I broke it, and I had someone fix it).

DeVineGuitars
03-07-2013, 06:18 AM
Hey Rick or anyone else, what do you think of this? It's pretty consistent and the lines appear pretty straight and horizontal--do you still think it'll be a problem?49870

Curly redwood is a little tricker to work with for sure. The set in the picture I'm sure is waaaaay too soft. The key is to look at the growth rings. That set has probably only got 4 or 5 per inch. I would use anything less than about 30 or so. This top was probably intended for an electric guitar.

Stevelele
03-07-2013, 11:13 AM
I am always reluctant to post questions like this in the luthiers forum bc I feel like that is really their place to talk shop, expert to expert. But I so appreciate it when guys like Eric and Rick take the time to answer questions on the talk forum. Thanks guys... Consider me a huge fan


Curly redwood is a little tricker to work with for sure. The set in the picture I'm sure is waaaaay too soft. The key is to look at the growth rings. That set has probably only got 4 or 5 per inch. I would use anything less than about 30 or so. This top was probably intended for an electric guitar.