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View Full Version : UK tonewood - using guitar sets for ukes



Stompfrog
09-13-2013, 09:49 PM
When I made my guitar a couple of years ago I got my wood from David Dyke. His workshop was amazing and he was a really nice guy but its a bit of a drive for me to get there (a return visit is tempting tho). :D

Do you guys (UK-based) ever buy your wood online. A lot of the websites I've found have either no photos or bad photos and seem quite expensive. There also seems to be very little specifically for ukuleles, although I guess wood is wood right?

From my calculations it seems that I could buy guitar sets and trim it down for ukes:

One set of dreadnaught back and sides seems to potentially be enough for 4 soprano ukuleles. One bass guitar fretboard is enough for many uke fingerboards. Is there any good reason not to do this?

jcalkin
09-14-2013, 02:11 AM
When I made my guitar a couple of years ago I got my wood from David Dyke. His workshop was amazing and he was a really nice guy but its a bit of a drive for me to get there (a return visit is tempting tho). :D

Do you guys (UK-based) ever buy your wood online. A lot of the websites I've found have either no photos or bad photos and seem quite expensive. There also seems to be very little specifically for ukuleles, although I guess wood is wood right?

From my calculations it seems that I could buy guitar sets and trim it down for ukes:

One set of dreadnaught back and sides seems to potentially be enough for 4 soprano ukuleles. One bass guitar fretboard is enough for many uke fingerboards. Is there any good reason not to do this?

No. it makes good sense, especially since the variety of guitar woods is so much greater.

David Newton
09-14-2013, 04:18 AM
Shhh, don't tell the secret.
Often guitar sets yield multiple ukulele sets at a lower price "per set" than buying uke specific wood.
Sellers may have premium "orphan" guitar sides at a very low price that are perfect for ukes.

Stompfrog
09-14-2013, 07:20 AM
Shhh, don't tell the secret.

Haha, when I speak to the wood merchant do I have to pretend that I am making a guitar and not mention the "U" word :D

Are you guys generally comfortable buying wood blind online or do you always go to the place in person?

David Newton
09-14-2013, 08:00 AM
I don't mind buying wood blind if I'm buying from a trusted dealer.
Often I find they will cherry-pick for me, if I DON'T ask for cherry-picking, especially if I'm ordering any quantity.

Don't be afraid to buy from a new seller, if they have at least some good feedback. They will always pick out something nice for a new buyer, in hopes of return business.

Rob-C
09-14-2013, 11:01 AM
The trouble with cutting down guitar sets is, you're paying for expensive re-sawn wood that's too thick for ukuleles, so you end up reducing most of what you've bought into dust. That's OK if it's low-priced wood to start with, but it makes no sense if you're buying costly exotic or figured woods. Also if you're going to make a mix of different sized ukes, then you need to plan carefully or you'll find that much of your guitar back+side set ends up cut into pieces that are annoyingly just too small for your needs.

Having said that, Madinter have decent stock - their exotic woods are legitimately sourced and are cost-effective if you purchase enough to justify the shipping fees. They post decent pics of their high-end sets, but the generic stuff just has a "sample" pic. Buy violin fingerboard blanks for a couple of pounds and slice them up to yield three tenor-sized ebony fretboards.

Do you know what you're after? I have loads of interesting stuff in stock. I may be able to help you out...

Best wishes,
Rob.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
09-14-2013, 04:55 PM
"Ukulele" is to some wood sellers what "Wedding" is to hair dressers

Stompfrog
09-14-2013, 10:22 PM
Do you know what you're after? I have loads of interesting stuff in stock. I may be able to help you out...

That is a very good question and the short answer is that I'm not entirely sure.

This is my first attempt at an acoustic instrument so i'm open to suggestions. The plan is to make 4 or 5 soprano ukes. One for myself and the others as gifts for some musical friends. Hopefully by the end of this process I will have a much better idea of what I am doing and I may try making some to sell.

I'd like to try and make some of them a bit different so that I learn more. I think it would be really interesting to learn first hand the differences in tone/volume/bendability/cutability of rosewood vs ebony fingerboard or spruce vs mahogany top. However... I have no intention of jumping straight into a set of curly koa or attempting a PRS-esque dragon inlay up the neck (yet).

Im using the Grellier plans which suggest mahogany and rosewood which certainly seems reasonable. I think I'd like to try at least one ebony fingerboard and at least one spruce top as well.

Does that sound like a good starting point?


"Ukulele" is to some wood sellers what "Wedding" is to hair dressers

Haha, love it, wise words indeed! :D

Stompfrog
09-15-2013, 08:31 AM
Having said that, Madinter have decent stock

I just googled Madinter, I had never heard of them. Excellent website, this is just what I was looking for! Thank you so much :D

I have now been on quite the shopping spree :drool:

I take it you have ordered from them before, do you remember how long shipping took?

Stompfrog
09-20-2013, 08:43 AM
The wood is on it's way from Madinter, its got as far as Stanstead airport so far :D

What is the best way to make use of the guitar top? One piece tops? Or lots of mini-bookmatched sets?

Is this purely a cosmetic decision or would the bookmatched top more stable?

http://stompfrog.co.uk/img/guitar-top-for-uke.png

Hms
09-20-2013, 10:55 AM
You probably have thought of this already, but can you not rotate one of the pair of tops to give you more cutting room at the lower bout?
H

Stompfrog
09-21-2013, 12:49 AM
Good idea.. but the sketch is purely illustrative, I haven't worked out the actual dimensions yet.

I was just wondering if its a good/bad idea to make a one piece top and save me having to join two pieces.

Rob-C
09-23-2013, 11:04 AM
My soprano soundboard blank is approx 175 x 250mm.

An acoustic guitar soundboard blank from Madinter is 2 off 220 x 560mm bookmatched.

So one acoustic top in theory will yield 4 soprano tops plus some useful spare wood for bridge plates, back seam reinforcement etc. There is not enough unused wood to create an extra top by clever bookmatching however you slice it!

But.

Because this wood was supplied for use as a guitar top, it is considered acceptable for there to be some defects eg knots which lie well outside the normal outline of an acoustic guitar. Unfortunately for us, this can result in a fair amount of waste when cutting up a set for ukulele use.

jcalkin
09-23-2013, 02:16 PM
Don't worry about center-joining plates. Its just one of the things you'll have to work out, and then you'll never think about it again. I finally developed the touch for making the joint for uke plates on the belt sander. It takes only seconds. And after hundreds of plates on various instruments I don't believe the stuff about sanded joints being inferior to planed joints. If they never come apart, who cares about a theoretic better/worse.

Stompfrog
09-23-2013, 09:41 PM
Thanks for the additional comments guys, bookmatched mini pairs it is then.

The wood arrived last night, very exciting!

As was previously mentioned by someone the wood is fairly thick (5mm?).

Is it insane to consider trying to cut it in half down its length or should I just jump whole-hearedly into the drum sander and kick off my exotic sawdust collection with gusto?

Rob-C
09-24-2013, 12:56 AM
The thinnest stock I'd be confident of resawing for uke bodies is 8mm.

Stompfrog
09-24-2013, 01:26 AM
Is that because of the bendiness of the piece or because of the small thickness of the slice you are cutting off?

Bendiness could potentially be solved if you temporarily stuck a 5mm piece of mahogany onto an inch thick plank and then cut a thin slice off.

I'm guessing someone must have already tried and failed to do this, I can't be the first to think of it. :D

Rob-C
09-24-2013, 07:33 AM
Resawing 5mm thick wood on a general - purpose bandsaw is going to be a nightmare.

Even if your saw is set up perfectly, you're going to be losing what? 1.5mm of your 5mm thickness as sawdust. That only leaves 3.5mm shared between your two bookmatched leaves. Even assuming you manage to set the fence up dead centre on the 5mm thick stock, you'll only be left with 1.75mm per leaf.

You'd have pretty much no scope to sand the saw marks out of those without making them too thin to use. The chances of ruining your expensive wood are very high.

Stompfrog
09-24-2013, 08:44 AM
You've convinced me, thanks Rob. :D

Michael N.
09-24-2013, 12:25 PM
I have loads of Lutz Spruce going spare. Most of it was bought as guitar sized soundboards but with the odd defect. I'm pretty sure that you can get 2 Sopranos out of a 'set' without touching those defects. I'll have to check.