PDA

View Full Version : Wood advice sought for custom ukulele



mds725
06-21-2013, 08:19 AM
The wonderful Toni of Anakoneke Ukuleles (http://anakoneke.com/index.html) is building me a custom tenor. I'd asked for an ukulele with hardwood back and sides and a softwood soundboard, and we found a great set of Paduak for the back and sides. Now it's time for o match a soundboard to the Paduak wood set, and Toni has picked out some Engelmann Spruce, Western Red Cedar, and Douglas Fir from which I'm going to choose. She says they all have great tap tones and similar properties as soundboards, and she thinks that for me, the choice is primarily aesthetic. So here's your chance to weigh in! Please let me know which of the soundboard woods you like the most with the Paduak set we've picked. Also, if you have any thoughts about any differences in the three softwoods as soundboard tonewoods, please let me know that too. Thanks in advance!


Left to right: Paduak, Engelmann Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54828&d=1371838358

Engelmann Spruce
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54826&d=1371838357

Western Red Cedar
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54830&d=1371838359

Douglas Fir
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54829&d=1371838359

hawaii 50
06-21-2013, 08:23 AM
Mark I like the Cedar...
btw make sure you get onto the Milo bandwagon before they don't have any more nice sets...

kvehe
06-21-2013, 08:37 AM
I'm sure there is no bad choice, but my order of preference would be cedar, spruce, fir.

jwieties
06-21-2013, 08:58 AM
That piece of fir looks amazing. The medullary rays would look incredible under finish and would be my first choice. I also really like the contrast of the engleman and feel that would also be a stunning combo. They all look great and no doubt will result in a cool uke.

PhilUSAFRet
06-21-2013, 10:01 AM
Hmmm, I wonder how sinker redwood would have worked.

UkeKiddinMe
06-21-2013, 10:05 AM
Fir fir the win.

Raygf
06-21-2013, 10:07 AM
Fir fir the win.

+1 ..........Fir sure!

BlackBearUkes
06-21-2013, 10:12 AM
It is my opinion that the back and sides of any wood will work OK. As for tap tones, that really doesn't mean much. Choose the wood that is the lightest in weight, stiffest, best quarter sawn, and oldest and well cured. If you want looks, go for what you like, if you want sound....what I said.


The wonderful Toni of Anakoneke Ukuleles (http://anakoneke.com/index.html) is building me a custom tenor. I'd asked for an ukulele with hardwood back and sides and a softwood soundboard, and we found a great set of Paduak for the back and sides. Now it's time for o match a soundboard to the Paduak wood set, and Toni has picked out some Engelmann Spruce, Western Red Cedar, and Douglas Fir from which I'm going to choose. She says they all have great tap tones and similar properties as soundboards, and she thinks that for me, the choice is primarily aesthetic. So here's your chance to weigh in! Please let me know which of the soundboard woods you like the most with the Paduak set we've picked. Also, if you have any thoughts about any differences in the three softwoods as soundboard tonewoods, please let me know that too. Thanks in advance!


Left to right: Paduak, Engelmann Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54828&d=1371838358

Engelmann Spruce
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54826&d=1371838357

Western Red Cedar
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54830&d=1371838359

Douglas Fir
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=54829&d=1371838359

BlueLatitude
06-21-2013, 10:16 AM
Purely on looks, the Douglas fir has a nice warm red tone that should look wonderful with the padauk. I think it's also the most interesting looking as far as grain.

Sparkle
06-21-2013, 10:21 AM
+1 fir-eveh. (since puns seem to be the theme)

BIGDB
06-21-2013, 10:24 AM
The Douglas fir does looks cool but I've always liked how spruce tops look. Very clean looking to me

Doc_J
06-21-2013, 10:37 AM
Do you want warmer (cedar) or brighter (spruce)?

I'm not sure about how Fir would sound (but it is stronger, heavier, and stiffer than the other two), it is the best looking of the tops.

I'd probably go with the Fir.

Kanaka916
06-21-2013, 10:39 AM
Toss up between the Fir and Spruce, but I'll have to give the nod to the Spruce.

gyosh
06-21-2013, 12:50 PM
I would pick the best sounding top and then to resolve the fact that it looks too plain . . . Spray it a different color and bling it out:)

UkeKiddinMe
06-21-2013, 01:24 PM
+1 fir-eveh. (since puns seem to be the theme)

;)

Niiiiiiiice.

ukegirl13
06-21-2013, 01:49 PM
That piece of fir looks amazing. The medullary rays would look incredible under finish and would be my first choice. I also really like the contrast of the engleman and feel that would also be a stunning combo. They all look great and no doubt will result in a cool uke.

Yes, yes, and yes! The Doug Fir is really nice. Here's an uke made for my carpenter friend that loves DF and requested it for a top. Incredible tap tone and I love the rich warm color! Thank you jwieties, you're right, any of these tops will make an incredible uke. I can't wait! ;)54840

ukegirl13
06-21-2013, 01:51 PM
Hmmm, I wonder how sinker redwood would have worked.

I have some sinker Redwood but we decided it was tooooooo dark. I do like it though.

didgeridoo2
06-21-2013, 02:02 PM
Hi Mark,

I like the look of the spruce. It would make that Paduak pop. And the engelmann spruce won't darken over time.

AKuker
06-21-2013, 03:01 PM
Hey Mark, gotta love the spruce. Looks good and should sound bright.

BlackBearUkes
06-21-2013, 04:14 PM
Fir is usually the heaviest because there is more pitch in the wood. There is a reason we don't use it very often, it is not the best tone. If you build for looks alone, you will be disappointed down the road because the sound just won't be there, and you may grow tired of a pretty but poor sounding uke. Spruce in the strongest as long as it is well seasoned, light, stiff and little or no run out in the grain, although Engelman would be my last choice for a spruce to use. Cedar will be the most brittle as would redwood.

Nickie
06-21-2013, 04:42 PM
As far as appearance, I like the way the Douglas Fir goes with the paduck....can't go wrong!

mds725
06-21-2013, 05:04 PM
Thanks to everyone for your input. Please keep your opinions coming. I'm very excited about this build!


Fir is usually the heaviest because there is more pitch in the wood. There is a reason we don't use it very often, it is not the best tone. If you build for looks alone, you will be disappointed down the road because the sound just won't be there, and you may grow tired of a pretty but poor sounding uke. Spruce in the strongest as long as it is well seasoned, light, stiff and little or no run out in the grain, although Engelman would be my last choice for a spruce to use. Cedar will be the most brittle as would redwood.

Thanks for your thoughtful responses and for the information about different types of wood. I'm curious, knowing as little about wood as I do and always looking for more informed brains than my own to pick, as to why Engelmann would be your last choice among the spruces. I've read in various places that spruces are similar to each other and that how a given piece of spruce is likely to perform as a soundboard is less about its genetics and more about its age, environment, how it was cut and handled, the nutrients it got as the tree was growing, etc. Thanks for any additional insight!

Johnny GDS
06-21-2013, 05:20 PM
Man I really like the Red Cedar, I think that would be cool! Can't wait to see what you choose.

ukegirl13
06-21-2013, 06:08 PM
Fir is usually the heaviest because there is more pitch in the wood. There is a reason we don't use it very often, it is not the best tone. If you build for looks alone, you will be disappointed down the road because the sound just won't be there, and you may grow tired of a pretty but poor sounding uke. Spruce in the strongest as long as it is well seasoned, light, stiff and little or no run out in the grain, although Engelman would be my last choice for a spruce to use. Cedar will be the most brittle as would redwood.

I'm sorry to dispute with you but this is the most incredible sounding Doug Fir. I kid you not! I've already built with it and love the sound so......there! ;)

mm stan
06-21-2013, 06:19 PM
((((((SPRUCE)))))))) Nice contrast in looks and tone.....:) I am sure Toni is more familiar with the woods as she has worked with them....

coolkayaker1
06-21-2013, 07:04 PM
Man I really like the Red Cedar, I think that would be cool! Can't wait to see what you choose.

BlackBearUkes
06-21-2013, 07:21 PM
Thanks to everyone for your input. Please keep your opinions coming. I'm very excited about this build!



Thanks for your thoughtful responses and for the information about different types of wood. I'm curious, knowing as little about wood as I do and always looking for more informed brains than my own to pick, as to why Engelmann would be your last choice among the spruces. I've read in various places that spruces are similar to each other and that how a given piece of spruce is likely to perform as a soundboard is less about its genetics and more about its age, environment, how it was cut and handled, the nutrients it got as the tree was growing, etc. Thanks for any additional insight!

I have worked with 5 or 6 different spruces. IMO, Engelman is the softest and I didn't care for the results I was getting in those instruments. It could be the wood I was working with, but it was suppose to be top grade stuff, and while it was pretty, I was not impressed. I much prefer Adirondack, Sitka and European. I do however like Engelman for violins, but that is a whole different animal.

I am very familiar with Doug fir, it grows with great abundance in my state of Washington. I just don't run across any that I would build an instrument with, but if you have some that works for you, go for it. In my younger days I use to cut it up for firewood along with other forest wood, the fir was heavy and full of pitch like Western larch. It did burn great though.

pulelehua
06-21-2013, 09:43 PM
It seems strange that a luthier would say that spruce and cedar will sound pretty much the same. I'm not a luthier (I could not overstate that more) but everything I've ever read says that cedar and spruce are opposite ends of the scale.

I know the build makes a huge difference, but still.... Am I missing something? I must be.

Hippie Dribble
06-21-2013, 10:52 PM
It seems strange that a luthier would say that spruce and cedar will sound pretty much the same. I'm not a luthier (I could not overstate that more) but everything I've ever read says that cedar and spruce are opposite ends of the scale.

I know the build makes a huge difference, but still.... Am I missing something? I must be.
Yeah John, I was wondering the same thing. Cedar if you want a fuller and warmer sound, spruce if you want it brighter? Hmm...

The only thing I would add is that most builders tend to develop a distinctive tone that is uniquely theirs, irrespective of the woods used. This suggests that the builder and his or her design elements and build process have a more significant impact on tone than ultimately, the wood does. Perhaps that's what Toni is getting at here.

guitharsis
06-22-2013, 12:53 AM
The spruce would be a wonderful contrast and would sound bright with clear note separation. The cedar would be warmer and richer and also would look great. Don't know about fir but it definitely looks good with the Paduck. I would choose either the spruce or the cedar for the top.

UkeKiddinMe
06-22-2013, 05:50 AM
I'm not a luthier and don't know what I'm talking about. :)

But - is the Paduak out of the question for a top? It's so beautiful.

coolkayaker1
06-22-2013, 06:42 AM
Spruce and cedar are both softwoods, but cedar is the most "dingable" of the two. Just one other consideration.

BlackBearUkes
06-22-2013, 08:09 AM
You can get Cedar to behave more like spruce by making the soundboard thicker, thus making it brighter. Beefing up the bracing can also help.