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Thread: HPLs: What Do We Know About Them?

  1. #1
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    Default HPLs: What Do We Know About Them?

    With more and more laminates entering the ukulele market, do we know much about their manufacture and how their "quality" is determined. Is it possible, that like fluorocarbon strings, there are only a few manufacturers that make HPLs that are of a quality that works well for ukes? Can they be quantified by process, thickness, glue, materials used?

    Google has a lot of listings of companies wanting to sell laminates, but not of companies making them. Wikipedia under Decorative Laminates (which is where one ends up when searching HPLs) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decora...ssure_Laminate lists seven companies that have trade names for the product.

  2. #2
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    I have the Martin OXK and Enya HPL Camp Uke.

    The Martin is extremely well made with the same inner bracing as their other products - in fact better than my Martin S-O which has no bracing - and sounds wonderful. I hope there will be plans by Martin to begin offering the HPL models again. There are still some new ones out there.

    The Enya has features found on more expensive models such as a radius fretboard and a truss rod, yet was under $100. While bought for grandkids, I still pick it up and play. Tuner quality is not as good, but still acceptable. It is a fun little uke.

    I would certainly consider a Bonanza HPL ukulele as well. I think all three brands are very good quality.
    Last edited by actadh; 03-12-2020 at 04:49 AM.
    - Laura

    Martin, KoAloha, Brueko, Mele, Mainland, Outdoor, Kala, Enya, Harmony, Tempo, Globe, Vega, Silvertone, Kay, Luna, Vorson, Zither Heaven, First Act

  3. #3
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    I love them and have reviewed HPL ukes from Martin, Enya and Bonanza. All great ukes, and in some cases sound remarkably close to wood, if not better (for the price).

    I don't know who makes the HPL for Martin and Enya, but I DO know who makes the HPL for Bonanza - it's this company https://www.wilsonart.com
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  4. #4
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    I think I read some time ago that Martin has HPL custom made to their specifications. Whatever that means regarding manufacturing materials and production techniques.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

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  5. #5
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    I love it! I fact, we just ate some High Pressure Linguini tonight! But seriously, it can sound great. I'd love to see Martin offer some concerts and tenors in HPL.
    John

  6. #6
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    I wonder if the Ekoa - a biobased linen composite - Blackbird Clara would be considered an HPL. It's not a solid, and I'm sure high pressure is involved.
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  7. #7
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    Other than both being composites I don’t think Ekoa and HPL are related.

    My understanding is that Ekoa construction is basically the same as traditional carbon fiber, Kevlar, or fiberglass weave construction. The fabric is laid up into shape, infused with resin in a vacuum under relatively low pressure (2-3 atmospheres at the high end), and then cured.

    HPL is made is sheets with several layers of paper infused into a sheet under high pressure (minimum 1000PSI). The laminate sheets are then cut to size and post-formed with fairly standard luthiery techniques.


    The major HPL vendors (Formica, WilsonArt, etc) list the spec for their products. They’re close to the same materials with some minor thickness differences. I expect the raw material to sound essentially the same with major differences coming from the instrument design and build. If I build a uke with the same WilsonArt sheet as Bonanza Pete does it’ll probably sound more different than if Pete makes one out of Formica instead of WilsonArt

  8. #8
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    I own one of the first (maybe even THE first) Markin OXK ukes.
    My story goes back many years and I have several Martin Ukes including customs. One time when visiting Nazareth I spoke with Mike Dickinson about the possibility of Martin producing a uke made of HPL. That raised an eyebrow at first, but my argument was that a uke is a carry around, do anything type instrument. My vintage ukes and the customs were too valuable to be out and about in "rough" environments. Camping, on the beach, away with me on vacations, etc. HPL is bomb proof!

    Subsequently Martin produced the OXK. It even had the bomb proof laminated neck material.
    Tone-wise I was astonished. It turned out to be extremely good!
    My collection of Martin Ukes has increased and decreased since then. But there is no way that I would part with my Martin OXK uke!

    Rod

  9. #9
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    I agree that the Martin HPL instruments sound amazingly good. They are also extremely well built. They beat out some laminate or solid wood instruments in tone and playability.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bazmaz View Post
    I love them and have reviewed HPL ukes from Martin, Enya and Bonanza. All great ukes, and in some cases sound remarkably close to wood, if not better (for the price).

    I don't know who makes the HPL for Martin and Enya, but I DO know who makes the HPL for Bonanza - it's this company https://www.wilsonart.com
    The Wilsonart web site was my starting point to learn something about HPL - - - and my end point! Their technical data shows three basic types of laminates with many,many finishes, and then many, many other types of non-basic HPLs with many, many variations on each type. And then near the end of my searching, I came across a phrase something like "Call us for any custom HPL you desire." That's just one HPL manufacturer.

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