Pier Piling Super Tenor Ukulele

Walt always comes up with some combination of woods that I’ve never used.  Here’s his Pier Piling Super Tenor Ukulele.

pier piling super tenor ukulele

100 year old pier piling douglas fir sound board.


The Sound Board

According to Walt, the sound board for this instrument used to be pier pilings for a navy fuel dock in San Diego bay.  The pier was constructed around 1920 so we’re talking 100 years ago at least.  The pilings were encased in cement, he said, which accounts for the fact that there is no teredo worm or barnacle damage. When the pier was dismantled Walt was instructed (he’s Navy) to get rid of the wood.  Some went to a local wood wood business, some went to parking barriers and some went to Walt’s garage where it has been drying for the past 3 years.   It’s not salty?

Douglas fir usually has lots of pitch pockets that show up during finishing–none here.  Stiff and difficult to work this wood is totally stable and dry.  There is only one look in this wood–dark brown with light sapwood center.  It has very good tap tone but I didn’t have a clue how it would sound as an instrument.

Not stained, this is what happens when douglas fir has been soaking in salt water for 100 years.

The Back and Sides

Walt wanted black and white ebony for the back and sides.  Fortunately, I became the recipient of this somewhat rare and expensive wood earlier this year so I was able to comply with the request.  Originally I was going to use curly koa for the binding but settled on blond, paisley bubinga instead.

pier piling super tenor ukulele

Asian black and white ebony back and sides.

The Rest of the Story

Starflower head stock inlay (I am still trying to figure out how to get a good picture of mother-of-pearl).

Starflower head stock inlay.

Walt would have liked something wild and crazy for the neck but I kept it traditional with Honduran mahogany and added some amboyna burl accents for good measure.  We upped the appearance with Mexican bacote for the fret board and bridge.  The bacote will darken with oxidation but the colors and appearance work well for this instrument.

Mexican bacote finger board and bridge.

The Sound

Go figure.  This one sounded real good.  Walt says very bright and full bodied.  He definitely has a few ukes to compare with so I’ll take his word.  I thought it was close to the best I’ve made yet.

Asian amboyna burl accents.

So there you go!  The Pier Piling Super Tenor Ukulele.  Another one-of-a-kind.