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Message started by bkunio on Jan 10th, 2006 at 7:00am

Title: From tree to tonewood
Post by bkunio on Jan 10th, 2006 at 7:00am
Hi all.  I'm new to this forum and excited to take part (learn).  I'm a woodworker of sorts and have been more than interested in making ukuleles for fun (for me, friends and family).  I'm on the Big Island so have access to quite a bit of wood for my needs (mango, koa, pines, etc.).

My question has to do with how large, in diameter, does the heartwood have to be in order to make a soundboard or back of say, a tenor ukulele?  I'm reading in MIMForum (http://www.mimf.com) that most soundboards or backs are quartersawn.  If the back or front is made of two 6-inch wide pieces, does that mean the heartwood should be at least 12 inches?

Or, can I use flatsawn wood?  Also, how thick/thin should I resaw for drying?

Is there anything out there that shows a diagram of a log section of whatever diameter and how it could be efficiently cut for building ukes?



Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by konacat on Jan 11th, 2006 at 9:13am
Quatersawn is the way to go. Most of the builder’s books match their tops and backs. That means you make two cuts resulting in two halves of a back or top. Take the two pieces in the same orientation as they were cut and then open one side or the other and lay them flat. The result is close to a mirror image on both halves. That is book matched. Using your figures, you would only need a six inch slab to cut from unless you wanted a one piece top and then of course your cut would be 12 inches. As far as the thickness for drying, I would think you would want at least 3/16ths maybe a tad more to allow for drying and sanding to appropriate working thickness. I am sure the more experienced forum members will help out here.

Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by Murray on Jan 16th, 2007 at 6:35pm
I tried to cut a 2 X 6 piece of koa over the weekend on my bandsaw, to make bookmatched plates.  The blade wandered all over the place.  I tried to change the speed but I couldn't tell if it cut better going slow or fast.  Can anyone give me some tips on the best way to cut this?


Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by bkunio on Jan 17th, 2007 at 6:18am
Murray, are you using a fence and is it aligned with your blade drift?  The blade tension should be checked too.  I've read that there should be no more than a 1/4" deflection on a 6" blade span.

There are several resources out there.  Here's some:


I didn't read them so you'll have to sort through them.

Good luck,


Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by Ukeman on Jan 18th, 2007 at 7:24am
aloha murray...here a bit of resawing info:

most guys resaw starting with cants of quartersawn lumber 2 inches or more thick....or 8 quarters in millwork speak.

Ergo cants would be no less than 5 and 1/2 " wide, 2" thick and lenghts enough to make the desired uke plate dimensions..example tenor 14" is a good rough length

Side cants can be matched from the same stock and can be about no less than 3 and 1/4" wide by 2" thick by what ever length of side uke type you are making....example tenors...side lengths about 20"..no less

To resaw...tune your bandsaw...make sure blade is tracking perpendicular, wheels are balanced, blade is appropriate for resawing....3 to 6 teeth per inch nuff, lubricated and tensioned!

Adjust your fence to accomodate the drift of your bandsaw...feed stock at a steady rate so saw is not laboring. Buy or borrow any book on Bandsaw maintenance....book will teach you saw set-up...blade selection and most importantly how to compensate for drift and one or two ways to use a fence for resawing.
This will help you bigtime...try a few ways...yes you will screw up lumber in learning so start with scraps. Choose the best fence method for your needs. Resaw to about 1/4 " rough and as you get more comfortable and the pieces you resaw become consistant at 1/4" you can try for 3/16ths.....sticker all slices and air dry till stable or moisture content around or under 12 percent.

ho kay    laters and good luck...ukeman

Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by Murray on Jan 21st, 2007 at 10:50am

Mahalo for the tips!  I'll let you know how this turns out.  I've never used a band saw for this kind of stuff before but I'm sure that I can do it.

Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by Treetop on Feb 28th, 2007 at 10:04pm
I was curious about using lumber that is not quartersawn for backs, sides, as well.

I realize quartersawn has the least amount of movement with humidity changes, but are there other considerations for preferring quartersawn?

By the way, here is a good book on setting up the bandsaw and resawing:


Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by Treetop on Mar 1st, 2007 at 10:13pm
Here is some free info on resawing:


Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by Murray on Mar 3rd, 2007 at 6:23pm
;D That is some great info Treetop!  I've replaced the tires, tensioned the blade and made sure everything's straight on my bandsaw.  I split some guitar neck blanks with it and it cut fairly straight.  I think that with a little practice, I'll be able to cut my own bookmatched backs and sides.

Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by Treetop on Mar 4th, 2007 at 3:03am
Glad you liked it Murray.

I do have one of the blades he speaks of in the article, a Timber Wolf, it is very nice and not very expensive, low tension, and rustproof.  I think a 1/2" for the Delta w/o a riser is about $20, with the riser, $21.

The nice thing is they will make blades to fit our strange sized bandsaws as well.  8)



Title: Re: From tree to tonewood
Post by sailor tim on Feb 5th, 2011 at 7:44pm
you do not want to use flat sawn lumber for sides and backs.  With sides as you bend them the "cathedral" grain will seperate at the points and crack the sides. the back will cup even with bracing.  I have used flat sawn black walnut for necks and have to this date, 2 years later, not had any problems with movement and it gives my necks some grain character, walnut is a very stable wood though.  Also i have milled quite a few trees, you are better to leave the wood thick, 1 to 2 inches to dry.  it will help with checking and twisting with the larger mass.  expect 1 year of air dry for every 1 inch of wood and seal the ends and cover the grain ends of the slabs.  to cut qurtersawn wood the grain needs to be within 20 degrees of vertical across the width of the board.  I have jsut recently resawed a juniper tree i milled 5 years ago and am trying it on a tenn=or sound board, Juniper is closely related to western red cedar and it grows like a weed around here, hope it works!

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