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Thread: Why walnut bridges and fretboards?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Worcester, MA
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    Default Why walnut bridges and fretboards?

    Hi all,

    A couple of days ago, I went to my local music store and they had one of those beautiful (laminate) ziricote Kala with the "newer" walnut bridge/fingerboard. It just looks so odd. Walnut is so light compared to rosewood that it makes it look too contrasting.

    I know about the export regulations that are limiting the use of rosewood for bridges and fret board. But I wonder why are manufacturers going towards walnut instead of ebony (too expensive?) or something else (Martin uses something else, morano?). After several years with ukes and guitar with dark bridges/fret boards, it looks very odd to see these newer ukes using this lighter walnut pieces.

    This is a link to Kala's website showing the newer models with walnut components:
    https://kalabrand.com/collections/zi...ducts/ka-zct-s

    I guess we just have to get used to it. :-(
    Last edited by emarcano; 08-02-2018 at 04:18 AM. Reason: added link to Kala website

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
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    SE Connecticut, USA
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    Default

    I think the main reason the walnut looks so light in that photo is because the rest of the uke is so dark. If it was a spruce top uke, you might not think.twice about it. Walnut may be all that is available in lower end imports pretty soon, especially if ebony ends up on the CITES list.
    Last edited by Swamp Yankee; 08-02-2018 at 04:37 AM.
    Sopranos: aNueNue Khaya Mahogany 1, Bruko No. 6; Kiwaya KS-1; Kiwaya KTS-4; Kiwaya KTS-4K; Martin S-O
    Concerts:Cahaya CY-0112; Kiwaya KTC-1; Martin C-1 (ca. 1947-1955); Musicguymic's Kolohe
    Tenors: Cordoba 24T; Kiwaya KTT-2K
    Baritones: Cordoba 24B

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    520

    Default

    I have an Ovation Adamas guitar that has a walnut neck and fretboard ... and this is by far the best and easiest playing configuration that I have EVER encountered on a guitar. Walnut is also used for guitar bodies, including the tops and while I have never played a walnut instrument I only have heard very positive reviews. I think that MyaMoe had a lot of walnut options too, and if I had a chance for a custom instrument that's the way I would go. I think it's a very smart move by Kala to include local woods and loosen the dependency on endangered and expensive imports.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    390

    Default

    As for lighter fretboards, the Fender electric basses and guitars originally all started out with maple fretboards.

    Walnut is much more sustainable than ebony (on CITES) and rosewood (actually an umbrella term for very different woods, but with most of them on CITES). So it can travel freely, before being built into an instrument. Compared to the darker non-CITES 'very hard woods' used for fretboards, bridges, sometimes backs and sides, it's also more sustainable because it mostly comes from walnut plantations, not forests. And it's usually cheaper as well.

    It has a high density (higher than most rosewoods) and stiffness, and is still OK to work with (without constantly dulling your tools, or giving off poisonous dust). Drawbacks are the multiple knots, the very big ring of sapwood and the striking colour difference between the white-yellow sapwood and the purple-brown heartwood. Steaming eases out the colour difference, but makes it all a bit dull-grey.

    Maple is an alternative, but it's even lighter than walnut. Dying it with a darker colour is another solution, but for fretboards it's not a very durable one. Getting used to it, is a third option indeed.
    Last edited by ukulelekarcsi; 12-03-2018 at 11:20 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default

    Fred Shields in San Diego uses jarrah for bridges and fretboards. It is a sustainable eucalyptus hardwood from Australia that is used for flooring, furniture, decking, etc. It almost has a rosewood type appearance as far as color; at least the ones I have do. Janka hardness is around 1800, which is less than rosewood but greater than walnut.

    John

  6. #6
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    Aug 2017
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    SE Connecticut, USA
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    I wonder why jatoba doesn't seem to make its way into too many instruments. It has an appearance not unlike mahogany but it's wicked hard, 2350 on the Janka scale. I found some a few years ago in the remains of a shipping pallet for jatoba flooring boards. It was all I could do to pull simple nails from it and by the time I got them out they were hot to the touch. I could imagine it as fretboard/ bridge material.
    Sopranos: aNueNue Khaya Mahogany 1, Bruko No. 6; Kiwaya KS-1; Kiwaya KTS-4; Kiwaya KTS-4K; Martin S-O
    Concerts:Cahaya CY-0112; Kiwaya KTC-1; Martin C-1 (ca. 1947-1955); Musicguymic's Kolohe
    Tenors: Cordoba 24T; Kiwaya KTT-2K
    Baritones: Cordoba 24B

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Catskill Mountains, NY
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    I like the look, but I bet different ukes will look slightly different. If there's resistance to the contrast, Kala can easily darken the wood.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Finland
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    My Kala concert uke has walnut fingerboard and bridge. It is just nice because of the CITES restriction against rosewood to Europe. Same time wish too had them from rosewood.

    About maple fretboard, I have my electric guitar 40 years ago with it because it looked so good then and all seemed to have them. I have since decided that I prefer some darker wood for my fingerboard. It looks easily ugly and shows all the dirty finger marks. Of course cleaning is a must anyways.

  9. #9
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    Apr 2009
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    New Zealand
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    I think its a refreshing change.
    Kind Regards
    Dennis

    dponeil@xtra.co.nz
    Southern Cross Banjo Ukes & Ukuleles
    Proudly Hand Crafted in
    New Zealand.

  10. #10
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    Nov 2015
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    Upper Hale, Surrey/Hants border, UK.
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    5,978

    Default

    Gotta use something!
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

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