Brace yourself...

Ukecaster

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Just a thread regarding high end uke construction and bracing. I'm no builder, but find the different bracing patterns interesting.

Koaloha has their unibrace, which reportedly allows them to use very thin tops, with thicker sides, no kerfing, resulting in a very strong design (they actually stand on them in the factory tour). This design reportedly also provides great volume.
https://www.uke-fan.com/blog/koaloha-ukulele-shop-tour-pictures/

Koaloha unibrace
Koaloha bracing.JPG

Not sure on the other K-brands bracing designs (fan vs x-bracing, etc), but Kanilea has their TRU bracing, where the top braces have either holes drilled in them, or the newer TRU-R design, where much of the brace doesn't even touch the top.

Kanilea TRU-R bracing
TRU-R bracing.JPG

Anyone know the bracing design (fan vs X, or other) of Kamaka, Koolau or other high end ukes? Kala Elite also switched from fan to X, to what benefit I'm not sure.

I've heard that X bracing provides a stronger top, with less chance of a wavy top, or bellying. Yes, I know that bracing is only one part of the equation, but in general, what's your take on different bracing designs bracing in relation to volume, tone and long term durability/integrity?
 
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I also like to occasionally run down this rabbit hole. I thought I read that Pepe Romero puts a second top or skin in lieu of bracing, etc. also I heard some luthiers instead of making a top with braces first (tapping as they go) and then attaching to a pre built back and sides, attach the top to the slides and shave braces down before gluing on the back.

Really interesting differences and philosophies and I’m really interested in the science of it. I’m told the sound mainly comes from the top/ like 90%.

And then there’s Kanile’a’s new platinum with all kinds of innovation and bracing. They recently posted a pic on Facebook. Wow, really interesting 45 degree angles and everything. 49241FE7-BFD5-47B3-BAE6-37123E30FE67.jpg
 
I know nothing about it, and I love Kanilea ukes, but I sometimes think that their “innovative” bracing changes are just a way to get us to buy new ukes. You finally get a Kanilea and the next year they make one that “sounds even better” and you are vaguely disappointed in your out-of-date ukulele. I wonder whether they sound better, or just slightly different. As far as I know, which isn’t very far, Martin has been bracing theirs the same for over a hundred years, though admittedly, their sound is nothing like a Kanilea. Ukuleles are kind of like guns. They don’t really wear out and they all do pretty much the same thing, so to generate sales you have to appeal to the part of our brain that loves novelty. Thank goodness I have no desire to own a gun.
 
I didn't know that KoAlohas had some additional bracing on the lower bout as well, although judging from that photo the unibrace is still doing most of the job.

Fascinating subject for sure. Ultimately, I don't really care that much what kind of bracing a uke has as long as it sounds good but learning about the Kanile'a TRU-R and also previous types of bracing is still really interesting, particularly because I'm guessing that's part of the reason for their distinct sound. Same thing with the higher-end aNueNues, and KoAloha of course as mentioned earlier. I wouldn't buy a uke based on its bracing however. It's the sound that counts.
 
Thank you for the thread and the photos. Having them side by side (or up and down) is fun to see and the Tru-R not touching over much of it is a cool design.

I do think the comments that they change designs to sell more is off base. The three K's are all family operations. In touring the Kamaka and KoAloha factories, it is obvious that they take great pride in what they do. And neither sells from their factory so as not to undersell their dealers. They likely constantly explore innovations and production changes that might improve the sound and put out a small number of "premium" ukes to their sponsored players or for the higher end market. It is an unfounded accusation that they change to sell more, especially since demand exceeds their supply/production.
 
I would assume that Kamaka is sticking with their traditional bracing that has worked well for decades, and would love to see diagrams for the various sizes. Also I am curious if Martin is still using the same bracing as they did in their golden age. My luthier once told me that soprano sized ukes historically were not braced and that bracing on ukes was introduced as they started building larger sizes, so was basically a Martin driven concept.
 
Thank you for the thread and the photos. Having them side by side (or up and down) is fun to see and the Tru-R not touching over much of it is a cool design.

I do think the comments that they change designs to sell more is off base. The three K's are all family operations. In touring the Kamaka and KoAloha factories, it is obvious that they take great pride in what they do. And neither sells from their factory so as not to undersell their dealers. They likely constantly explore innovations and production changes that might improve the sound and put out a small number of "premium" ukes to their sponsored players or for the higher end market. It is an unfounded accusation that they change to sell more, especially since demand exceeds their supply/production.

Actually KoAloha is selling plenty from their showroom, though as of last week this is by appointment only. Kanile'a also has retail operations. With Kamaka I don't think that they sell out of the factory, and it takes months for dealers to receive their orders.
 
Actually KoAloha is selling plenty from their showroom, though as of last week this is by appointment only. Kanile'a also has retail operations. With Kamaka I don't think that they sell out of the factory, and it takes months for dealers to receive their orders.

KoAloha sells "B stock" or seconds out of their showrooms. They are marked and priced accordingly.
 
I would be interested in seeing how the bracing differs for each size (if it does)
 
Saw a very rare Falcate style bracing pattern being started by LFdM

39416E78-AD58-4846-9103-307FDF39251D.jpg
 
Ko'Aloha has reduced the thickness and enlarged the opening of their unibrace, and the visible standard back brace that's about where the bridge is, over the years. (I don't have measurements.)

From the photos, it looks as though they moved the positioning of the braces. Can't tell if they are any thinner. But that may be due to the neck and bridge changes.
 
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I can really nerd out to this thread! I believe the bracing style is the 2nd most important feature that produces the sound of a uke (1st being the top wood).

Here is the bracing to my Jupiter ukulele. As an owner of this instrument, as well as a couple AnueNue Birds with X bracing, I can attest to to open sound it produces.
 

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Subscribed. I've also wondered just how bracing compares and contrasts between different models and brands - even within the same brand and model over years - so this is a great thread!
 
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Lattice bracing alowing most area of the top being active.
(LFdM) ukuleles.
 
Ukecaster, on the contrary, these braces are very light and stiffen the whole area equally making it possible to reduce the thickness of the top. It resists the strings tension distributing it over the entire area, in order to allow all of the top to respond. You should check the results for yourself.
 
Here's David Hanson's bracing for his Boat Paddle top.
 

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I'm guessing that these mass production ukes don't have their sound boards voiced like a small scale luthier would?

One of the most fascinating videos I've seen is watching Tomy Hovington tap tune a mandolin top. There are a few videos that go into "voicing" guitar tops. It's something I never knew happened and shows there is a lot more that goes into it that just gluing a few bits of wood together!

 
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