Laminate vs. Solid Wood Ukulele
Laminate vs Solid Woods
Aloha! One major decision that can impact what ukulele you choose, whether to get an ukulele made of solid or laminate wood. In this post, we will look at the pros and cons of both and explore what makes them different.
Laminate wood is two thin pieces of wood glued onto a layer of fiberwood. Let’s say you are looking at an ukulele made with a top of ‘laminate mahogany.’ The top piece of wood would be composed of two thin pieces of mahogany with a layer of fiberwood in-between. This allows the ukulele to have the tone qualities of mahogany, though at a fraction of the price. By being composed largely of engineered wood products, the wood is more porous and less impacted by changes in weather and climate. Laminate wood is what you will find on lower priced ukulele as the processed wood is easier to handle and uses less of expensive tone woods.
Laminate wood still possesses some of the qualities of the tonewood, but are generally less loud and less resonate than solid tops. While laminate woods are less sensitive to changes in climate than solid tops, they are prone to deteriorate over time as they are composed mostly of wood fibers rather than a solid piece of wood. However, due to their price and relative ease when it comes to caring for laminate woods, laminate ukulele are perfect models for beginner and intermediate ukulele players as well as perfect for traveling.
Solid Wood is just as it sounds; it’s a solid piece of wood. Solid wood can be used for the top, back, and sides of ukulele, though lower priced models may just have a solid top with laminate back and sides. This is because the top has the greatest impact on tone quality. Solid ukulele models are generally more expensive than laminate wood ukulele as more craftsmanship skill is generally needed when handling solid pieces of wood.
Climate control is much more important when caring for solid wood ukulele as the woods are very sensitive. If the climate is drier than what the species is used to, there is a risk of the wood drying out and cracking. If the climate is too humid, the wood has a risk of warping. For example, Hawaiian Koa requires a humidity of about 40-60%. This is relatively high, so to care of a solid Hawaiian Koa ukulele, it is recommended to have a humidifier that prevents the wood from drying out. However if the wood is cared for, solid wood ukulele can virtually be played forever without deteriorating and as the wood ages, the sound of the ukulele can actually improve and mature. If you are looking for a high quality ukulele that gives you a full, rich sound and can last a lifetime, solid wood ukulele are the best way to go.