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Thread: Help needed for custom ukulele combination.

  1. #1

    Default Help needed for custom ukulele combination.

    Aloha everybody. I am just a normal, friendly neighbourhood uker ready to get a custom ukulele built just for myself. For all the great luthiers out there in the world and etc, I happen to live in Vietnam, and don't get me wrong, Vietnamese luthiers are among one of the most skilled instrument builders around the world and many are renowned. However, informations aren't available that much here in Vietnam about wood types and wood combinations, so I hope you guys can help me with it.

    So after talking to 4-5 luthiers, the available woods I am able to get are: Maple, rosewood, Koa, Vietnamese Koa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peltophorum_pterocarpum), spruce and cedar. What are all the combinations can you get from this bunch, what kind of sound does it make for each combinations, ups and downs, and what should go well with each other (like different top and B/S) than a full solid and otherwise? All opinions are greatly appreciated.

    Here are some of the combinations that I can come up with so far: Cedar top - Rosewood B/S; Full Koa; Cedar/Koa; Cedar/Vietnamese Koa; Spruce/Maple; Spruce/Rosewood; Spruce/Koa. Still, I really need insights on how each of these combination sounds like because I have not too much of an idea. And if anyone knows more about Vietnamese Koa (for those who are Vietnamese, can understand Vietnamese or just want the Vietnamese name, the luthier called it: gỗ điệp), please help me out about the sound and the quality of it please.

    Thank you everyone and have a nice day!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Kekaha, Kauai
    Posts
    120

    Default

    Aloha Dangkhoahue, I will chime in as best I can, but be advised that this is only my opinion. First of all the selection of the luthier is going to have more effect on the sound of the ukulele than the woods used. If possible I strongly suggest that you play some instruments made by anyone you are considering. Also any reputable builder should offer you a full refund for a short period if you ultimately are not satisfied with it. Generally speaking, the biggest difference in sound is going to be whether you choose a softwood or hardwood top. The softwood tops tend to be punchier and more focused, while hardwoods are softer, but warmer and richer sounding. But again this is my experience after 400+ instruments.
    Bradford
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  3. #3

    Default

    Aloha BuzzBD, thank you. So with all the woods above, which would you prefer as a top?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Marin County, CA
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    563

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    I’m really partial to the sound of cedar top/rosewood back and sides. Rich and full sound with a good “punch” as Bradford was mentioning.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, near the Beverly Center.
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    Aside from the wood, the strings will make a difference in sound as well. I've had ukes custom made by Bruce Wei Arts in Vietnam. They're all solid, top and body. One is all acacia koa, which I would think is the Vietnam koa you mention, also all mahogany, another is a flame maple top and Indian rosewood body, another spalted mango top with body and sides flame mango and spalted mango binding, a beauty if I do say so myself.

    The acacia koa has a good full warm sound, it's a paddle style. The mahogany is a mandolele painted gloss black, a little sharper sound. The flame maple/rosewood is more subdued volume, but a very sweet tone. The spalted mango is brighter because it has sound holes all the way around the bouts and I put on fluorocarbon strings.


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  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Kekaha, Kauai
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    My favorite tops are spruce, for softwood and koa for a hardwood. A suggestion if you can, Alaska yellow cedar and Port Orford cedar are two of the most stable woods known are far as humidity changes are concerned. They are actually members of the cypress family, but move very little with changes in humidity. Either one would be an excellent choice for a top where climate control during the building process may be an issue.
    Bradford
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  7. #7

    Default

    I have a Zachary Taylor uke made in Vietnam with spruce top and rosewood for the rest. Sounds and looks great but different than my Martin T1k all koa. Not better, just different.

  8. #8

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    I spose the one you prefer would still be the all Koa right?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    1,480

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    While woods matter, I have had a number of luthiers tell me that it is more about the craft of the builder. Do any of these luthiers have instruments available (or local clients) where you might be able to try their work? Perhaps describe what type of sound you are looking for and get their thoughts. Good luck and let us know as it progresses.

  10. #10

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    Thank you! I live in a pretty remote area, and I can't really get my hands on the wanted instruments, but I know for a fact that the luthiers I contacted are all known for making amazing wooden instruments and has a long tradition and history of making them. My local area doesn't have any luthiers so I can't. I'm thinking of hooking up with Bruce Wei to customize my own, but is $410 a bit too much for Cedar top/Rosewood back and side?

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