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Olive Incense

I like this combination of woods for a tenor ukulele. To my ear the olive lends a similar tonal response as that of ebony, smooth, glassy and sophisticated. And the incense cedar adds warmth with clarity. What's not to like? 

I've now made three ukuleles from this same olive board. One was a tenor for a local artisan olive oil producer. Olive is a dense wood that's easy to work because of its fine, tight pores. There's a low rumble to the tap tone. And the grain patterns can be beautifully unique as you can see. Some might think that this is zebrawood but it's really not much like zebrawood in most respects.

The incense cedar top is very light and open. It appears to be torrefied or at least very old. Maybe it just laid out in the forest for a while before it was milled. Regardless, the sound jumps out at you, especially with the PHD strings I used.  There's lot of note to note separation for fingerstyle play with plenty of headroom to hang with the group.


The rosette features birch, mahogany, ziricote and ebony. The headplate and backplate are olive. The neck is California cottonwood which is light and stiff. The bindings, fretboard and bridge are macassar ebony. Side fret markers are aluminum and brass dots. There are two bolt on inserts to securely hold the neck. One of them also includes a brass strap button. There's a matching brass strap button on the tail. Tuners are 4:1 Gotoh UPTLs with custom olive buttons that I fabricate. Linings are carved solid-laminated maple rather than kerfed.

The fretboard has a compound 16 to 20 inch radius. I've always used compound radiused fretboards on my guitars but because of the relatively short fretboard on ukuleles I didn't feel it was necessary. Now that I've felt the effect on this ukulele, maybe I should have used them sooner. It's a little more trouble but the string path from the bone nut to the bone saddle is better.


The frets are Evo Gold which is a disappearing luxury. The ends are rounded and polished. The top has a polyurethane film finish with a clear pickguard. The neck, back and sides are a penetrating oil varnish. This olive incense tenor comes with a stlylish molded hard case. $4200 at The Ukulele Site.

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