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Thread: Why don't they tell what's the wood underneath laminates?

  1. #1
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    Default Why don't they tell what's the wood underneath laminates?

    I collect solid wood ukes. I like everything made of wood and musical instruments are just something special. Ukuleles are specially attractive as they're not that expensive and they're fun to play, so they fit my wood obsession very well.

    Without going into the discussion of laminate vs solids (I do have a couple of laminates which I like), I wonder why manufacturers don't tell buyers what kind of wood is under the fine veneer used on most laminates. They will say a "ziricote" uke, beautiful indeed, but what's the wood below the nice ziricote? Wouldn't that wood has influence in sound production? even more than the veneer?

    I did inquire with a couple of manufacturers about two specific ukes, and they did tell me what the laminate part was made of. I appreciated their willingness to share that info.

    I just wish they were clearer in their description of the type of wood used.

    Thanks

    Eugenio
    Last edited by emarcano; 02-05-2020 at 07:05 AM.

  2. #2
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    Whilst anything in a ukulele construction will affect tone, I don’t believe the inner laminate wood will impart tonal properties that you could call a ‘signature’ - the process of laminating is too variable.

    Sure. There are some musical grade laminates out there, laminates of all the same wood etc, but you are overlaying grain structures and, of course, introducing glues.

    I suspect it would be endless and one ‘ziricote laminate’ could be quite different in the laminate than another.

    Laminates do differ in tone of course, but I just think it would be confusing to suggest the inner sandwich has a tonal signature that can be replicated.
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  3. #3

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    I'll chip in a small bit: as I have seen it, laminate ukes are lesser price and so the quality of construction may vary; the item may not get as much attention to detail in the mfg. process.

    I've heard good sounding laminates and bad sounding laminates of the same uke model!
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  4. #4
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    Laminates vary from a backing wood such as ash, with a veneer of a pretty wood; to a multi-layered laminate with a veneer for looks; to a custom-made carefully prepared laminate of tone woods.
    About the only things they have in common is a thin veneer of attractive woods that serves as eye-candy.

    Some use laminate for the whole body, some have solid tone wood tops usually of Spruce, Cedar or Redwood.

    David Ingalls of Ono Ukuleles has started making his own laminates made of tone woods because he feels that the rigidity and mass affects the sound waves and improves the sound.

    Some manufactures have laminates made to their proprietary specifications. With carefully developed resin adhesives. Others pretty much buy the laminates off the shelf from the mills. There are different grades and qualities of the veneer woods.

    Then there is Bonanza Ukulele and others who make some of their laminates from HPL a Formica-like product. With a printed image on the veneer.

    The glues, construction woods, veneer, heat and pressure, thickness and forming combined with body design, bracing and quality of construction all contribute to the final sound.

    Kiwaya has shown for years that laminate ukuleles can hold their own with solid-wood ones.

    So, some processes and "ingredients" are proprietary; some use ready made materials. Some are formed into a slight "bowl" or bent back. All are bent to form the sides. Some will want to explain what they are made of and how they are designed and constructed. Others won't want to divulge their secrets.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Laminates vary from a backing wood such as ash, with a veneer of a pretty wood; to a multi-layered laminate with a veneer for looks; to a custom-made carefully prepared laminate of tone woods.
    About the only things they have in common is a thin veneer of attractive woods that serves as eye-candy.

    Some use laminate for the whole body, some have solid tone wood tops usually of Spruce, Cedar or Redwood.

    David Ingalls of Ono Ukuleles has started making his own laminates made of tone woods because he feels that the rigidity and mass affects the sound waves and improves the sound.

    Some manufactures have laminates made to their proprietary specifications. With carefully developed resin adhesives. Others pretty much buy the laminates off the shelf from the mills. There are different grades and qualities of the veneer woods.

    Then there is Bonanza Ukulele and others who make some of their laminates from HPL a Formica-like product. With a printed image on the veneer.

    The glues, construction woods, veneer, heat and pressure, thickness and forming combined with body design, bracing and quality of construction all contribute to the final sound.

    Kiwaya has shown for years that laminate ukuleles can hold their own with solid-wood ones.

    So, some processes and "ingredients" are proprietary; some use ready made materials. Some are formed into a slight "bowl" or bent back. All are bent to form the sides. Some will want to explain what they are made of and how they are designed and constructed. Others won't want to divulge their secrets.
    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.

    —Lou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  6. #6

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    Great points (and I've been around Sparta, fwiw); I think this is an area that could really be explored: the use of adjustable laminate structure in a tone wood context. Some possibilities there.

    Might be tough charging more, though. But if the science is there, and the sound is there, then, yeah.
    ----------------------------------
    Mainland mahogany soprano
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    the Dominican Order: to praise, to bless, to preach

  7. #7
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    Default Why don't they tell what's the wood underneath laminates?

    "Why don't they tell what's the wood underneath laminates?"

    The simple answer is that the ziricote (or whatever) part is what they want you to concentrate on. They might be playing fair and mentioning that it is a laminate uke, but they don't want to emphasize the fact that it is not solid wood.

    Having said that, I must add that the variation in sound of ukes from the same production run can be shockingly high. A better than average laminate uke, can be much better than an inferior example of a solid uke.

    Always choose with your ears, if at all possible.

    If anybody doubts this, try playing several identical ukes from the same manufacturer, in the same place, at the same time. If possible, you should also get someone else to play them, while you stand in front and listen. They can sound very different to an observer from the way they do to the player.

    John Colter

  8. #8
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    It's quite likely that they just use what they can get for the lowest price, which can change from one month to the other. Important hardwood species grown for timber in China (and many other countries) include poplar, birch, oak, and basswood that combined make up about 2/3 of timber harvest. They are all suitable for ukes and can be used interchangeably. The marketing features and specs of most ukes are about decoration, and not function.

  9. #9

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    Tree wood laminate

  10. #10

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    I listened/watched the YouTube Podcast from HMS with David Ingalls of Ono Ukulele. He builds high end custom ukuleles and builds some with laminate construction. For him use of the laminate is to improve the quality of the construction. I'll have to listen again to find the parts where David discusses the laminate construction. Enjoy the video.

    https://youtu.be/prACYDtxpwc

    At 36.33 David mentioned the inner layer is Adirondack Spruce and the outer layer is Ziracote - not too shabby.

    On David's website http://onoukes.com/ he has a blog and has an entry about the laminate construction
    http://onoukes.com/blog/2020/1/5/how-is-lamination-done
    Last edited by keenonuke; 02-05-2020 at 03:37 PM.
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