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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 7:11 am 
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Hi all

Just thought I'd pass on an interesting heads-up from my African timber supplier, given the recent concern over CITES listing of blackwood. His words exactly:

"By the way, many of our regular customers for clarinets, bass clarinets, oboes and English horns sets have converted their orders to Mopane!"

So, next years's designer fashion colours have shifted to a reddish brown? This is not unprecedented.

Remember (perhaps when you were somewhat younger), mediaeval and renaissance woodwinds used fruitwoods. (Browns, sometimes died darker.) It was probably all we could work back then.

We came up to the baroque and finally could work boxwood. (Straw yellow, sometimes died brown)

In the early 19th century we ruthlessly colonised the Indian subcontinent, and could get ebony (black).

Then we colonised the West Indies, and plundered their cocus to near extinction (reddish brown, sometimes died darker).

Finally mpingo (african blackwood, grenadilla) from eastern Africa became available. (black)

So, we've always been dedicated followers of fashion.

Perhaps time to spin the old line? "I'm looking for a flute that will match my eyes. Red."


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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 8:39 am 
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I'm still waiting for someone to realise the marketability of flutes (including Böhm) in marbled Ebonite........
http://www.ebonite-arts.de/upload/36226 ... KB.JPG.jpg
Imagine the beauty of a keyless flute in one of those.

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Last edited by jemtheflute on Sun May 21, 2017 11:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:23 am 
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Do you have a source on Marbled Ebonite?

Ah Mopane! One of my favorite woods. But the Chinese went through Africa and cut most of the big trees down for Parquet Flooring to the point that there were no Mopane worms which are a common food item. People asked "Where are the Mopane Worms?" followed by "Where are the Mopane Trees?" Fortunately these are like Black Locust and repropogate from the stump. There are a few suppliers in the US that still carry it. My wood supplier is in Africa now and is looking for a source (his other source dried up years ago).

Am eagerly awaiting some acrylic impregnated curly maple. According to Michael Hubbert who has worked with the same outfit the wood comes back with a density similar to East Indian Ebony - so above Boxwood and below Blackwood. Right at about the same range as Mopane. This and similar woods derived locally and then treated with Acrylic might end up being the woods of the future.

I have more news on the CITES process. Its actually okay and eventually I will have a fact sheet, once all the import requirements are sorted out. More of this on the CITES discussion.

Casey

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 12:30 pm 
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You've just reminded me of the offer I received, a couple of years back, from the German manufacturer of that ebonite. He offered to send me some sample pieces from which I could make a couple of flutes but I was too busy to take up the offer and then let it slip. He sent me the price list and told me not to "fall off my chair", after he had done a price comparison with the polyacetal/delrin I usually use.

It's certainly a handsome material, in its various mottled and marbled effects. He quoted Rockstro's opinion on the use of ebonite for flutes:

".....a flute made of ebonite possesses great endurance combined with capabilities for producing power, softness, volume, brilliancy, sweetness, clearness, flexibility, and the general variety of tone, in a greater degree than one of any other material.....ebonite must be pronounced the veritable beau idéal of the material for the tube of a flute." - p146 'The Flute' by R. S. Rockstro


The supplier's website is here:

http://www.ebonite-arts.de/en/usage.php

Jem's image above is in there as well. There is a German flutemaker using it but I think he uses it more for heads for modern Boehm flutes.

I probably will give it a try, now that I've been reminded! I suppose the Turkish boxwood will now also become hard to get hold of and more expensive.

Garry

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 2:18 pm 
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Turkish Boxwood is very easy to get. Muzaffer Yeltekin in Turkey:

http://store.octopus.com.tr

He's great to deal with, very quick on delivery and the wood quality is stunning usually!

Casey

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 2:58 pm 
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Garry, do you have a copy of that pricelist you could send me? His website isn't too clear on that other than I think this stuff seems really expensive.

The Acrylic impregnation is actually very reasonably priced.

Casey

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 6:27 pm 
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The pricelist he sent me in 2014 is a .pdf and I don't think it would retain a legible format if I posted it here. It's kind of a complicated list because there are several different prices for a metre of the material, depending on whether it's plain, or mottled/marbled and whether the finish is 'raw' or 'smooth' and so on.

We would only need the raw of course, but for example, you can get "...Unicoloured – BLACK classic or Black 1920 (a new development, revival of 1920 Hard rubber)"

So for example, a metre of the usual 30mm diameter I use of that cheapest raw black classic was €75.50 in 2014, dropping to €65.00 for 11 or more. Not including tax or postage.

The nice marbled stuff was around €140.00 per metre in that diameter. That's euros not dollars.

The person I exchanged emails with there is called, Meike Huijssen, General Manager, Schoenberger Ebonite Manufaktur GmbH. I probably shouldn't post his email address here because of the spambots. I could PM you that if you wanted.

He said the production of ebonite is very expensive.

I seem to have some memory of Hammy saying he'd used it but I could be wrong.

Garry

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 7:23 pm 
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I have no idea what you guys' timber costs are, but I'd have thought that the Ebonite, without the risks of failures part-way through working a joint and other such issues which arise with wood, might not prove as much more expensive to use as might at first seem to be the case.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 8:17 pm 
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I've looked into ebonite in the past and I'm looking at it again currently. The colored stuff is really cool. I want it for Boehm head joints, so I would need a piece that is about 30mm in diameter x 250mm long. A piece of the colored stuff of that size is about $60 or more. I recently got a whole bunch of those African blackwood clarinet sections in that size for about $2.50 each :-) Even paying top dollar for something like blackwood, the same size piece is going to run about less than $20. Ebonite is far, far more expensive than the most expensive wood I've ever seen in the equivalent size. But as Jem says, you are likely getting something totally stable, predictable and that isn't going to shift, shrink or misbehave (hopefully).

Resin stabilized woods behave very well and are more reasonable, cost-wise. I don't actually remember what it costs to have it done commercially. I do it myself and there is certainly a pain-in-the-neck factor and the resin costs money (and have I mentioned what a mess you can make?). But there are not many woods that are suitable for resin stabilizing so it limits the aesthetic options. The ebonite brings a lot of color and variety, but obviously you have to pay a premium for it.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 8:56 pm 
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He offered me a couple of free samples at the time, enough to make two flutes and they would indeed look nice in photos on a flutemaker's website, with a link to the ebonite manufacturer and those nice clarinet barrels and saxophone mouthpieces. I suppose if a few makers did that, it could regenerate some interest in the material for flutemaking. One issue to bear in mind with ebonite is its more brittle nature.

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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 9:06 pm 
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Ridenour clarinets are made with hard rubber/ebonite. Judging by their instrument prices, they must be paying reasonable material costs. I know the clarinets aren't fancily marbled, but perhaps it is worth contacting them about their supplier.


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 4:05 am 
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So, if as Geoffrey says, a piece of the coloured Ebonite suitable to turn a Böhm headjoint from costs about $60...... But if the resulting product is being sold at professional headjoint prices of anything from $500 upwards, that seems to me a very affordable materials element to the overheads, even if it is way more costly than timber.

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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 6:47 am 
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jemtheflute wrote:
So, if as Geoffrey says, a piece of the coloured Ebonite suitable to turn a Böhm headjoint from costs about $60...... But if the resulting product is being sold at professional headjoint prices of anything from $500 upwards, that seems to me a very affordable materials element to the overheads, even if it is way more costly than timber.


Agreed. And most of the Boehm head joints I've seen from well known makers range from about $1000 at the low end up to as much as $2400, which makes that $60 even less of an investment! I just ordered a piece last night to try out. I'm a little concerned about it's being "brittle" as it is often described, because one has to take great care reaming it so that it does not crack (or you have to buy a piece with tons of extra girth that you later remove, which is a bit wasteful).

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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 8:25 am 
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If I don't get around to using it to make whole flutes, I might just enquire about the possibility of buying a selection of short rods with different marbling effects and use those to make nice inlays for the end-facings of end-caps.

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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 8:37 am 
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Making an entire flute from it would definitely be costly! Maybe $150 for materials? Not certain. I bought some from Vermont Freehand (http://vermontfreehand.com/rods/), who stocks ebonite by SEM as well as another supplier called NYH. The gentleman I spoke with said that the NYH ebonite is on par with the SEM in terms of quality but it is less expensive. They sell black ebonite, both German and Japanese made. He says the Japanese stuff is softer (I asked why the Japanese-made ebonite was about half the cost of the German ebonite).

If you haven't seen "The Story of Ebonite" on the SEM website it is pretty cool. http://www.ebonite-arts.de/story-of-ebonite.php

It explains why it is so costly. Just looking at the many stages of the process it is obvious that there is a lot involved in creating ebonite. I suppose if a maker chooses to do an entire flute from ebonite they can simply add the materials cost to the flute price. That isn't the part that would make me hesitate to use it. Any hesitation would come from the possibility of something going wrong in production (yes, it does happen from time to time) and loosing some seriously expensive pieces of material! I accidentally cracked a couple of pieces of boxwood recently and there was some cursing involved. A piece of ebonite at ten times the cost might even sting a bit more :-)

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Last edited by Geoffrey Ellis on Mon May 22, 2017 1:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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