Camphor Wood Burl Tenor An Attack on the Senses Ukulele
I’m thinking that by the time this commentary hits the air that this instrument will be in the hands of its new owner. The Camphor Wood Burl Tenor An Attack on the Senses Ukulele is appropriately named. I’m not sure if you want to play it, listen to it, look at it or just smell it! All my shop visitors during this build had wildly different comments about this unusual wood.
Camphor Wood comes from Southeast Asia and is not restricted for export but is rarely seen in the United States. I came across this wood via Allied Lutherie in NorCal over a year ago and when Dr. Dale asked for something a bit on the wild side, I showed him pictures of this wood and it was a go. He also requested curly Redwood and fortunately I had this lovely piece of old growth curly in stock.
I apologize for my photography–my photos and my brain eye just didn’t get the coloring right. The two woods looked like they might clash in color at the start but kinda grew on me as the project progressed. I was supposed to add a peg head inlay but substituted the red accented Paua Abalone instead. This definitely works on this instrument with its multitude of reddish and warm tones.
The wood is challenging to work with. The odor of fresh cut Camphor Wood is overwhelming and I understand can be toxic. Additionally, the wood has very little stability so all my parts were made thicker in order to provide more stability. It tears easily and cracks. There were no extra pieces for back-up. Now that the wood has mellowed a bit it does have a nice pungent and cinnamony smell that will present itself every time the case is opened.
I used some of my new Asian Satin Wood Burl to accent the build and used India Rosewood for binding. The dark Honduran Mahogany neck worked as well. The radiused fret board is Ebony species with gold frets and gold Gotoh UPT tuners. We decided to go with the standard GHS fluorocarbon strings with low “G”.
I anticipated a warm and rich sound from this low density wood and was pleased to get exactly that from the finished product. I think the redwood top helped add a bit of note clarity and note definition with its own crisp tap tone. Would I make another if I could? Even with all my complaining, I think the answer would be yes. That is, providing there is more of this rare wood available. I’m thinking, though, that the Camphor Wood Burl Tenor An Attack on the Senses Ukulele may be the only one of its kind in the world of ukes. Hmm, I wonder what it tastes like?