Pommele Sapele

I was speaking to a dealer in guitar wood.  He said that if you ask any guitar maker “What is the most important characteristic of a piece of wood” they will all say “The sound it produces”.  But – they all purchase wood based on the way it looks.

There is some truly spectacular wood available, for not much money, in the form of veneers.  A veneer is also an ethical way to use any piece of wood, particularly a scarce and highly figured piece, since once can cut a great deal of veneer sheets from a piece of wood that would only yield a much smaller number of ‘boards’.

After some thinking and experimentation I have found a way to veneer the outside of a ukulele.  This means that the sound is generated by the base wood, while the ‘look’ is from the veneer.  Here is an experimental (on a number of levels) example.

This ukulele is constructed (sides and back) out of sycamore.  The sycamore is a very nice wood, but the way these pieces were cut the pattern in the wood was more of a fleck, rather than strong medullary ray lines (see the sycamore ukuleles in the gallery).  So I covered the sycamore with a pomele sapele veneer, which has a strong quilted or bubbly pattern.  It worked out really well.

As part of the experiment:  This ukulele has 2 tall thin fan braces under the top, rather than the more traditional shorter three braces.  This seems to have yielded an increase in volume and sustain.  It also uses a synthetic material “Richlite” instead of natural ebony (which is becoming very scarce and expensive) for the fingerboard and bridge.  Richlite is very hard, dense, and being a synthetic material will not warp, expand/contract, or otherwise move around the way that a piece or real wood might.

  • Back and Sides:   Sycamore with pommelle sapele veneer
  • Top:   local spruce
  • Neck: Quilted maple from Oregon
  • Binding:  curly maple
  • Fingerboard, bridge:  black Richlite
  • Nut & saddle:  bone
  • Black-Red-Black purfling, Paua abalone rosette
  • Headstock: book-matched curly maple with “Jupiter” planet inlay in red abalone pearl

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