In your opinion what will be the Stradivarius of ukuleles?

The tree is famous, and aesthetically beautiful but sound wise it is not something out of the normal range of wood tones.

Other than the sound sample I linked in my previous post, I've never heard one of these, and have no stake in it either way, but I was curious after I posted that photo, so I looked a little farther. Here are a few quotes I've seen:

"The sound is warm and beautiful...[with a] bass response that is almost overwhelming." Tom Ribbecke, Santa Cruz Guitars

That's from an article in Guitar Afficianado Magazine, as is this:

Although not normally a fan of mahogany tonewood, The Tree found another admirer in master inlay artist, and guitar maker, Harvey Leach. "I was immediately stunned by its beauty...and it sounded magical," Leach said. Tonally speaking, it was "nothing like mahogany but more like the very best [Brazilian] rosewood, with this astonishing clarity and bass response."​

"I built two OMs at the same time", he recalled, "one with The Tree mahogany and the other with Brazilian rosewood. In the end, they actually sounded quite similar. But the guitar built from The Tree somehow sounded a little more like it was built from Brazilian rosewood than the one that actually was!"​

Now, of course these quotes are from luthiers who are selling guitars made from The Tree, but I was also impressed by the sound sample from the ukulele I linked to in my previous post.

Then in Acoustic Guitar, in an article cheekily called "Welcome to the Jungle", Slash talks about his guitar made from The Tree.

“When I picked it up, I was completely humbled. It was a shock-and-awe moment. It changed everything I’d ever thought about acoustic guitars leading up to that point,” Slash continues, with a boyish wonder that betrays the reverence a head-banging kid might have for Slash himself. “It was the most amazing acoustic guitar I’d ever played or heard.”​
What was it about this particular guitar that made such a powerful difference to the guy who recorded GN’R’s most famous acoustic song, “Patience,” using an old beater he didn’t even own? “It’s perfect,” Slash says. “I was amazed that you can actually make a guitar that’s perfect—perfect intonation, perfect tension on the neck, perfect sound. And it’s beautiful. I was just floored. ”​
The article ends with him saying, “It just has this very smooth, very neat and tidy sound, but it’s also really warm and it resonates beautifully,” the guitarist says. “I have it up in the bedroom and still, every time I pick it up, it just blows my mind.”​
Richard Hoover at Santa Cruz Guitars was among the first to build guitars from The Tree, and while he says that it was the look that drew him to it, I was especially interested to see his observation that not all of The Tree sets are good for tops (some of it is too flexible or unpredictable). Indeed, Slash's guitar is The Tree for back and sides only, as is the ukulele I posted previously.

“It’s the beauty of the wood that’s desirable,” Hoover says. Making a Tree guitar sound good, he explains, is just part of the craft of building a great instrument. “When it comes to Tree wood, not all of it is suitable for a top—some of it is too flexible and too random in density,” Hoover says. “We chose a particular piece that was stiffer than most Tree wood you would find, and made it with proper bracing and thickness.”​
Kevin Hennig, owner of Symphontree Guitars in Vancouver, Canada says that he hadn't been a fan of mahogany guitars in general, or the first 10 or so guitars from The Tree -- until he played one from Santa Cruz Guitars. That one changed his mind, and it was all about the tone.

“Tree mahogany is denser than traditional Honduran mahogany,” he says. “When I think of a traditional ’hog guitar, they tend to have a snappy box with a dry fundamental. Tree ’hog is like traditional ’hog on steroids—thus, you get a very snappy box and thicker, wetter tone.”​

So while there's no question that MORE of the appeal is for the look -- which I've said many times is what I think is driving the interest in curly/spalted/quilted woods, certainly for myself -- maybe there are at least SOME unique tonal qualities to wood at this extreme end of the spectrum. That said, the fact that he didn't much care for the first TEN guitars from The Tree that he tried, and Hoover's observation about the difficulty of working with wood from The Tree, underscores something that we talk about many times here: the BUILDER has more to do with the specifics of how an instrument plays and sounds than the tonewood.

Hoover's observation that there are plenty of cuts from The Tree that aren't suitable for tops because of their wobbliness or unpredictability or whatever makes me wonder about the durability of more figured woods over the very long haul. I mean, at least one vector for "Stradivarius of the future" is that it's got to be playable after 300-400 years, which of course not every Stradivarius turns out to be! In general, I'd think that straighter grained sets are more stable over the very long haul, right? Just a guess of course, but a reasonable one I think.

Anyway, a good third of this article I've been quoting from Acoustic Guitar is a talk with the guy responsible for recovering The Tree, including his amusement to discover, many years later, that anybody was calling it The Tree. :) Definitely an interesting read for anyone who wants to dig into the practicalities of exotic tonewoods. THis guy is the equivalent of a big game hunter for unusual trees, and it's fascinating, if a little depressing. "What a magnificent tree! Let's kill it!" Well, I guess?

As much as it gave me an appreciation of the lengths that people go to for special woods, it also made me appreciate recovered and recycled woods, and Kanile'a's approach of waiting for koa trees to fall on their own before harvesting. Still, an invaluable look at the source of some highly valuable wood!
 
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Well actually, our very own Ken TImms only just built a Ukulele made out of wood from "The Tree".
I won't do any spoilers, so you can read about it here,
 
Well actually, our very own Ken TImms only just built a Ukulele made out of wood from "The Tree".
I won't do any spoilers, so you can read about it here,

Very interesting! I'll be looking forward to it! Thanks!
 
I think that this is a good way to frame it. There are multiple models of K-brand ukuleles that have a handful of luthiers and related craftspeople touching them, not just one, and most of them are built as well-understood, widely-available models -- Kanile'a K1, KoAloha KTM, etc. -- BUT, they ALSO build a meaningful number of one-offs that, whether they're super-blingy or super-specific, are definitely unique.

Needless to say, many of those customizations might limit their appeal to anyone but the person for whom they were built...but I've seen some truly stunning examples of ukes built for one person that absolutely :love:. I remember one that @ukulelemana shared in a NUD post here that you should definitely take a look at if you haven't. Mike's a terrific photographer (he shoots sports for a living) and I'm not gonna repost them all here, but this one tiny detail shot made me gasp:

View attachment 161271


Sure, that might not do anything for YOU, but that's kinda the point. The things that drive up the price for a one-off to appeal to the taste of one specific person might be the exact things that keep another person from even considering it.

Of course, who knows what 400 years of inflation will do to the price of ANYTHING? Maybe SHOELACES will cost $20 million.

Although hey, if Gene Rodenberry's right, there won't be any money at all in the 24th century anyway! :ROFLMAO:
Thanks for sharing this as an example!
 
Thanks for sharing this as an example!

My pleasure, Mike! Seeing that was kind of life-changing for me, honestly. I'd never thought about a custom ukulele, partly because I don't have much of an imagination. I know what I don't like, but there are too many things I DO like for me to think about how to get them onto one instrument...but you pointed in so many directions that I find appealing -- koa neck and fingerboard, the stripes on the back of the neck, the old-school logo, the custom shape and purfling on the side sound port...amazing stuff, Mike!

I know I said when you posted it that I was going to have to start thinking about a custom build, and since then, I've actually started talking to the Souzas about it. I'm very, very slow, and there are things I still need to figure out, but I'd love to get it done in 2024, I think. (Not that I'll be shocked if it takes longer! I really can be very slow to make up my mind when there are too many choices.)

However long it winds up taking for me to land on final choices, I would never have started without your inspiration, Mike! Mahalo nui loa!
 
I would say that any of my ukes would reach unimaginable prices in 300 years, just because they were played by me. :ROFLMAO:
 
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