Wood Used in Ukuleles

by Pete · 2 comments

The type of wood used in construction of a ukulele will drastically impact the sound it makes. Choose the right wood for your taste and budget carefully and you will love it all that much more.

Laminate – Commonly known as ply wood, is used in entry level ukuleles. It is very cheap to use/make and also buy. You get what you pay for, they sound tinny, and aren’t as loud. Kala have an archtop F hole uke that uses laminate, but it has a pickup and if used with an amp, the does not make that much of an impact to the sound.
Spruce – This type of wood is often used in guitars, and now commonly used for ukulele tops. You will find lots of ukes with the stuff on the tops and they look great. Like mini guitars. Just be careful as they are used in cheap ukes as well as the top quality ukuleles too.
Ebony – A rare and prized wood used in lots of applications, but for ukuleles, it is too dense/hard to be used on tops or backs. Ebony is really only used for decorative purposes for things like heads and necks. That being said, a budget uke would not use any ebony even if it makes little or no difference to the sound.
Mahogany – A common wood used to make ukuleles. Bang for buck, I’d think this would be the go. I have a kala solid mahogany soprano and it’s my favorite, if you’re out to get your first “real” ukulele, get one of these.
Arcacia – Koa’s cousin, to my untrained ear, the sound was similar to a mahogany unit so I went for the mahogany number. The grain in the wood does look better
Koa – Used in the finest ukuleles, I have only had the chance to play the one koa ukulele and it was unreal, loud and rich sound comes out of it. Music stores where I’m from don’t seem to stock many of them, I’ve been told the wait for them around here is around about a year. Apparently the Koa supply is limited, so production is limited too. I might have to go to Hawaii myself to get one.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna May 5, 2011 at 12:32 am

Hey there!
Thanks for that – it was really helpful to know a bit more about the woods and their impact on sound. You won’t believe this (I’m still very sceptical…) but there’s a Taiwanese shop on Ebay that sells LOTS of koa ukuleles at UNBELIEVABLE prices: http://stores.ebay.com.au/Taisamlu-Musical.

I’m watching a few at the moment but I’m hesitant about buying. What do you think?

tony February 2, 2012 at 12:50 am

Thanks for your information, I no nothing about ukuleles but I am traveling through Bangkok and I just bought a Soprano made of Koa with a pickup installed, it looks great and I like the sound. I paid about $300 so I was hoping it was worth it. At least I know the wood is the best.

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