What is the point of plastic ukes?

chris667

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Depends on the wooden uke. The inside of the body is not finished. It's raw wood. As are most fretboards and bridges. The thin soundboard is the most vulnerable part of a ukulele. If it gets a little damp on the outside and you wipe it off quickly, most lkely there won't be a problem. If it gets "wet" Most likely it will. Wood swells as it gains moisture, and shrinks as it dries. Water can cause the wood to warp. Your top can belly and cause the bridge to tilt or lift. The braces will absorb and dry at a different rate than the top. Plus, the water can affect the glues holding it together. Especially hide glues. A poly finish will be more water resistant than a thin lacquer. But it's only on the outside. Laminates resist moisture better than solid woods. Still, you don't want to get them wet.
Please show me an example of a ukulele being permanently damaged by being left in the rain then drying out.
 
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Tim E

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Please show me an example of a ukulele being permanently damaged by being left in the rain then drying out.
You should leave one out in the rain, and show us how durable it is.

I've seen wooden picnic tables and furniture left out in the rain to become notably damaged. Warpage, delamination, cracking, etc. There's no reason that a far more delicately made object under tension, like a wooden uke, would survive any better.
 

chris667

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I've seen wooden picnic tables and furniture left out in the rain to become notably damaged. Warpage, delamination, cracking, etc. There's no reason that a far more delicately made object under tension, like a wooden uke, would survive any better.
That's not the same as what I said in the page above. I don't doubt that a uke left permanently left outdoors would be damaged.

I am not convinced that an instrument that gets wet on a single hike would be damaged by getting wet then drying out again though.

Actually, I have a plywood uke at my dad's. Next time I visit him, I will do that and then we'll have an answer.
 

richntacoma

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That's not the same as what I said in the page above. I don't doubt that a uke left permanently left outdoors would be damaged.

I am not convinced that an instrument that gets wet on a single hike would be damaged by getting wet then drying out again though.

Actually, I have a plywood uke at my dad's. Next time I visit him, I will do that and then we'll have an answer.
And you will check the intonation up and down the fretboard before and after in this little experiment of yours? The issue might not be as simple as yes ruined/no ruined, but how much impact leaving it out in the rain even once would have.
 

Voran

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And you will check the intonation up and down the fretboard before and after in this little experiment of yours? The issue might not be as simple as yes ruined/no ruined, but how much impact leaving it out in the rain even once would have.
I'd rather just not risk it. Perhaps I'm being a bit too anxious about nothing, but 'Zuleika' is rather precious to me.
 

chris667

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And you will check the intonation up and down the fretboard before and after in this little experiment of yours? The issue might not be as simple as yes ruined/no ruined, but how much impact leaving it out in the rain even once would have.
Yes, OK.

FWIW, my ukes have been soaked in various liquids (beer, rain, coffee and one time when my dad's dog peed on one). They've never been any the worse for wear after cleaning.

I am not trying to convert anyone, of course. Buy the uke you want!
 

Voran

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Yes, OK.

FWIW, my ukes have been soaked in various liquids (beer, rain, coffee and one time when my dad's dog peed on one). They've never been any the worse for wear after cleaning.

I am not trying to convert anyone, of course. Buy the uke you want!
Oh man. I thought my cats were badly behaved, but at least nobody in this house has peed on my ukulele...
 

kkimura

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For what it's worth, I wouldn't leave a plastic ukulele out in the rain either. But that's just me being respectful of any instrument.
 

Mfturner

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Enough people experience fret sprout without soaking their instrument that maybe a plastic fretboard gets most of the durability benefit? I would expect the plywood tone board of my TUS to eventually delaminate with enough water exposure, but maybe that takes a lot of exposure to make it a problem? I like the TUS for camping and while I won't try to get it wet, I won't worry too much if it does, it's cheap enough to replace anyhow.
 

Mivo

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Do the Blackbird ukuleles count as "plastic ukuleles"?

I live in a moderate climate, but low humidity (in the winter) has always been an issue for my wooden instruments. Floor heating doesn't help. We don't typically use room/house-wide humidifiers here, so every winter I babysit my ukuleles and the guitar. A few years ago I got a Kiwaya/Famous laminated uke, which I can usually leave out. The fretboard still seems to shrink a bit.

A plastic ukulele would completely remove any worries, but I've only actually tried two of them in person: the Kala Waterman and the Blackbird Farallon. The Waterman was really bad. It wasn't just the dull, lifeless "strings over a bucket" sound, which was expected, but the intonation was off already in the third fret. That should not happen with a molded instrument. That was my first and last experience with Kala, probably unfairly so!

The Farallon had a very different price point and a lot of people really like it. I unfortunately did not and returned it to the dealer. Flaws in the material and globs of glue inside the instrument aside, the tone didn't do it for me. It also sounded bucket-y. I was actually really surprised by this, but I've had wooden ukes that cost a quarter of the Farallon's price that sounded far better to me. Playability was great, though, so this is probably just a matter of preference (amplified by the fact that I generally never really warmed up to tenors and prefer either baritone or the smaller sizes). I'd still like to try out a Blackbird Clara at some point.

As for "Isn't there enough plastic already?", I think yes, plastic should be avoided when possible, but I don't believe a single plastic instrument that may well be used for many years is a big concern when compared to how much daily plastic trash everyone is responsible for (from yogurt containers to string packaging). A single plastic ukulele also probably has a lower negative environmental impact than owning 5 or 10 wooden ukuleles (energy to make and transport them, chemicals in the finish, plastic trash from shipping packaging, etc).
 

richntacoma

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Welly, my Synergy Carbon Fiber soprano comes by December 1, so I will be able to add to this. The more I play my Outdoor soprano, the more I am glad I bought it. It most certainly does not have a "sweet" sound and is not very loud, but the intonation is solid, it plays really well, and is comfortable. Last night, I played it for about two hours in very light mist by the Sound--a happy time.
 

Graham Greenbag

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... The more I play my Outdoor soprano, the more I am glad I bought it. It most certainly does not have a "sweet" sound and is not very loud, but the intonation is solid, it plays really well, and is comfortable. Last night, I played it for about two hours in very light mist by the Sound--a happy time.

That’s an interesting example of use and probably an accurate appraisal of the OU Soprano, I think that they’re about 120 USD now whereas a second hand painted laminate can be had for 20 USD (well that’s what I pay for them and delivered too). After I’ve set them up they intonate well and sound pretty reasonable - I’ve paid more for Ukes that sound worse. Now the question is: have you actually tried an old painted Uke and found it not suitable for your needs (eg. did it break?).

Repeatedly playing for a couple of hours in the sea mist might challenge a Uke, I don’t know for sure ‘cause I’m not at the Sound with you. However Musicians have been playing solid wood instruments on Cruise ships and Liners for the last century and more so were their instruments always breaking and leaving them without the tools with which to do their job? I’d have thought not but again I wasn’t there with them, so I’m just wondering.

I think that the nice things about the OU is that it’s locally (to you) made, that it’s at least playable, it’s not ridiculously expensive - they were once better priced though - and that you have no concerns about its durability. It’s great that you had that time playing too, may you have many more happy evenings like that.
 
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Voran

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That’s an interesting example of use and probably an accurate appraisal of the OU Soprano, I think that they’re about 120 USD now whereas a second hand painted laminate can be had for 20 USD (well that’s what I pay for them and delivered too). After I’ve set them up they intonate well and sound pretty reasonable - I’ve paid more for Ukes that sound worse. Now the question is: have you actually tried an old painted Uke and found it not suitable for your needs (eg. did it break?).

Repeatedly playing for a couple of hours in the sea mist might challenge a Uke, I don’t know for sure ‘cause I’m not at the Sound with you. However Musicians have been playing solid wood instruments on Cruise ships and Liners for the last century and more so were their instruments always breaking and leaving them without the tools with which to do their job? I’d have thought not but again I wasn’t there with them, so I’m just wondering.

I think that the nice things about the OU is that it’s locally (to you) made, that it’s at least playable, it’s not ridiculously expensive - they were once better priced though - and that you have no concerns about its durability. It’s great that you had that time playing too, may you happy many more happy evenings like that.
I would absolutely play my uke at sea, assuming I wasn't busy projectile vomiting. Wish I'd had one the few times I've been on ferry journeys.
 

richntacoma

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That’s an interesting example of use and probably an accurate appraisal of the OU Soprano, I think that they’re about 120 USD now whereas a second hand painted laminate can be had for 20 USD (well that’s what I pay for them and delivered too). After I’ve set them up they intonate well and sound pretty reasonable - I’ve paid more for Ukes that sound worse. Now the question is: have you actually tried an old painted Uke and found it not suitable for your needs (eg. did it break?).

Repeatedly playing for a couple of hours in the sea mist might challenge a Uke, I don’t know for sure ‘cause I’m not at the Sound with you. However Musicians have been playing solid wood instruments on Cruise ships and Liners for the last century and more so were their instruments always breaking and leaving them without the tools with which to do their job? I’d have thought not but again I wasn’t there with them, so I’m just wondering.

I think that the nice things about the OU is that it’s locally (to you) made, that it’s at least playable, it’s not ridiculously expensive - they were once better priced though - and that you have no concerns about its durability. It’s great that you had that time playing too, may you have many more happy evenings like that.

Nope, I have not. But then again, you also spent time setting it up, and I value my time dearly--more so than money.
 

Graham Greenbag

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Nope, I have not. But then again, you also spent time setting it up, and I value my time dearly--more so than money.
I think that a fair answer and a good illustration of differing priorities. Being retired I have some free time and am more cautious than I once was about what money I spend: pensions are smaller than wages. Set-up time (taken) is quite variable and, if you do a good job, never particularly quick. The OU probably plays straight out of the box and that’s fine so long as the particular Uke that you receive has no manufacturing defects - I suspect that defects are rare - and that the set-up supplied is to your tastes.
 
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richntacoma

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I think that a fair answer and a good illustration of differing priorities. Being retired I have some free time and am more cautious than I once was about what money I spend: pensions are smaller than wages. Set-up time (taken) is quite variable and, if you do a good job, never particularly quick. The OU probably plays straight out of the box and that’s fine so long as the particular Uke that you receive has no manufacturing defects - I suspect that defects are rare - and that the set-up supplied is to your tastes.
You nailed it--different priorities, none "right" but one better for you, and one for me. I do think I want to test out the durability of a cheap laminate. You mentioned $20--which ones do you find playable for that price? A kimise is playable enough for $40 with tax, but it would be fun to find something super cheap that is not a total piece of crap. Pl.us, I want to take a super cheap one on my next trip (to Colombia and Peru) so I can play with a buddy of mine, and then give it away.
 

FourthString

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From the reviews on Amazon, a lot of people love their Enya Nova concert ukuleles (4.8 out of 5 on 1409 ratings and 394 reviews). Out of nine people in my local ukulele group, I was surprised to discover after a two-month absence because of surgery that five now are playing plastic composite ukes--two Enya Nova concerts, two Lava tenors, and I am now usually playing an Enya Nova tenor. Why? People enjoy them. And that's the whole point of playing the ukulele.

I appreciate not having to worry about low humidity, etc. I also appreciate how companies are experimenting with new materials, shapes, and sounds. For me, I enjoy the thin body and feel of the Nova tenor. After changing the strings and lowering the action, it is a joy for me to play. Just the right volume for singing and mellow enough for my ears. My Enya tenor is always out on the sofa and readily available for picking up and playing a few bars.
 
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