Currently in progress, 3 tenor ukuleles and one parlor guitar, all with redwood tops.
The parlor guitar and two of the ukuleles have an experimental bracing system, called “falcate” bracing, which utilizes curved braces which are built up from laminations of thinner wood. These braces are very stiff, which means they can be made lighter than standard straight wood braces. This allows the top to be just as stiff, but there is less wood mass that the string vibrations need to move, which means more energy can go into moving the top, hence more volume. Tap tones of the bodies in progress are very promising.
One ukulele is walnut, and two are local sycamore, which I really like for the grain pattern. The wood has to be sawn just right to revel the medulary rays which make the pattern. Even a couple of degrees off of absolutely quarter sawn and the grain figure turns into just flecks.
I have recently found a source for some really magnificent old-growth redwood. It is perfectly quarter-sawn and very fined grained, with up to 50 grain lines to the inch. That means it took 450 years to grow a board 9 inches across. The source? A wood tank company that has taken down old tanks that used to be on top of apartment building in New York City. Yes – they still use wooden water tanks.
It looks kind of rough on the outside, but 1/2 an inch into the plank it becomes lovely stuff.
Since the water in the wood tank is forever seeping outward through the wood, and the wood dries from the outside, and there are iron bands around the tank, the redwood near the inside of the tank is evenly pink, but about halfway through the plank the wood gets dark and streaky from water and mineral deposits. There are some people who reclaim old growth wood from the bottom of lakes and rivers where it sunk during logging operations. They call this ‘sinker’ wood. The wood is darkened and stained from long exposure underwater and waterborne minerals. This ‘tank’ redwood is kind of ‘sinker’ redwood from up in the sky.
Redwood is known to produce very nice instruments, with a particularly ‘warm’ sound as the redwood is softer and not as stiff as something like sitka spruce. The next ukuleles and parlor guitars are going to be made with redwood tops.