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Thread: How To Choose Tonewood

  1. #1
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    Default How To Choose Tonewood

    Don't look at me, I'm a noob. So what do you look for in a tone wood? I like poplar (tulip?), but where can I find quartersawn poplar? I'm sure I'll think of more questions to ask as the thread progresses.

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    About two years ago I had the good fortune to tour the Santa Cruz Guitar Co. here in town. We came upon an area where they were selecting tops from a stack of sticked blanks. Richard picked up one of the blanks and proceeded to rap it with his knuckle, listening to the tone of the wood. He went through several and I was amazed at the different tones even though they were all the same species. When I came home that day I sliced up some Douglas Fur to recreate the phenomena. Amazing. Doug Fur sounds pretty good.
    Over the past few weeks I've cut blanks for uke tops out of Mahogany, Sapele and Western Red Cedar. The WRC blows me away. Interestingly again, of the eight or so WRC blanks, two or three sound really phenomenal. Cut a thin slice of Walnut the other day and it to has a very nice ring or chime with nice harmonics and sustain. Will they make good ukuleles? I don't know but some wood is definitely more musical than others. Today I tapped a piece of Wenge I had cut for another project. It's about 4"x10"x .250". It has a ring that sounds just like the Brazilian Rosewood in the video (link attached). I think the bottom line is that you have to look at what is being used successfully (sounds good) and listen to the wood you build with and how it turns out sound wise. So, use the first part of that statement as a guide and the second part as your own development and conviction.
    First video from Brad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY5Fd...os=KuQCCpcmLfM
    This one from Kim Walker.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3JhauyBQ8Y
    So Vic; What's it sound like when you tap tulip?

  3. #3
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    It ( the poplar I've used so far ) has a nice ring to it when thick but not like say walnut... but at the right thickness it's more like a bassy wood block. The one uke I've built from it didn't dissapoint me either... combined with a one piece spruce top I got a nice bassy warm tone with good sustain. Redwood did fool me though, it was much brighter than I expected. Of course it could have been the particular piece of redwood. The stuff was supposed to be air dried for like 50 years or something. Some folks like bright though.
    I say I've built one from poplar but I'm in the dungeon now looking at a stack of 6 of them. Gluing blocks and hopefully closing some of them up tommorow.
    Last edited by Vic D; 05-27-2010 at 06:20 PM. Reason: hopefulling?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vic D View Post
    It ( the poplar I've used so far ) has a nice ring to it when thick but not like say walnut... but at the right thickness it's more like a bassy wood block. The one uke I've built from it didn't dissapoint me either... combined with a one piece spruce top I got a nice bassy warm tone with good sustain. Redwood did fool me though, it was much brighter than I expected. Of course it could have been the particular piece of redwood. The stuff was supposed to be air dried for like 50 years or something. Some folks like bright though.
    So many variables. Would think Redwood would sound great. Assume you've tried different strings?
    I just went through the shop tapping several pieces of plywood. No surprise there; they all sounded pretty dead.
    Wonder what Keefs B&S sounds like when he taps it. Probably pretty good.

    Edit; In all fairness to plywood, I've not tapped any of the good stuff like 5 ply shop grade nor the HPL.
    Which reminds me of an article from a few years back where a guy made his own archtop guitar tops by laminating three thin pieces of wood, placing it in a male/female mold and parking one wheel of his pick-up camper over the mold while the glue dried. Claimed they sounded pretty good acoustically.
    Last edited by fahrner; 05-27-2010 at 05:50 PM.

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    From what I hear, the strings did make a big difference. I bet Keef's B&S sounds like a bell.
    There's a book on tap tuning I'ma haff to pick up one of these days... along with Cumpiano's and a couple others. I've watched some videos on the tap tuning deal and I'm convinced.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fahrner View Post
    Cut a thin slice of Walnut the other day and it to has a very nice ring or chime with nice harmonics and sustain.
    I don't understand this whole tone tapping thing. I've read a bit about it but still don't understand it in order to use it to my advantage. How does one hold a piece of wood and tap it and determine whether it has nice harmonics? I have not searched Youtube but I would like to see a video demonstration of this tap tone stuff. Anybody know of any existing videos?
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    This is an excellent video, the one that got me interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3JhauyBQ8Y
    He uses all the usual suspects in his demonstration, I'd like to hear him talk about... wait for it... wait for it... poplar... and other less used woods.
    And then there's this video on top tuning featuring this Benno Streu dude... I found this one very interesting. I'ma watch it again. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ajn0T...eature=related
    Caution! There are guitars in these videos! Ukuleles are not guitars.
    Last edited by Vic D; 05-27-2010 at 06:46 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vic D View Post
    I've watched some videos on the tap tuning deal and I'm convinced.
    Hey Vic, we must have been typing at the same time. Got any links for those vids?
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dominator View Post
    Hey Vic, we must have been typing at the same time. Got any links for those vids?
    Synchronicity... we did it again... see the links in my previous post. Of course you've probably done that by now. ""It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards". The White Queen - Through The Looking Glass

    Melatonin, take me away...
    Last edited by Vic D; 05-27-2010 at 07:11 PM.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the link Vic. Interesting. I had never thought to search YT for info on tap tone.
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