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PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2018 9:19 pm 
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Geoffrey Ellis wrote:
Bamboo is a great material to cultivate in lieu of wood, if it has the necessary properties (I've never made a bamboo instrument).


I think plain old bamboo is a bit light for making our instruments. I see figures like 0.54 to 0.78 g/cm3. Blackwood is 1.2, and Delrin 1.4 on the same scale.

But bamboo scrimber (or indeed scrimbers of other timbers) could prove interesting:

"The bamboo scrimber product is comprised of Phyllostachys pubescens (Moso) with a phenol formaldehyde resin. The final product is a 140 × 140 mm section available in varying lengths. As shown in Fig. 2 and discussed in the previous section, the process of manufacturing bamboo scrimber uses the bamboo culm with minimal processing. The resulting commercial product is tested as a final product with no additional modifications. The average density of the bamboo scrimber is 1160 kg/m3 with a moisture content of 7%. In comparison, Moso as a raw material has a relative density of approximately 0.5–1.0."

Image

Scrimbers (invented by CSIRO researcher John Coleman) bring massive improvements in terms of reduced waste, as well as improved technical behaviours.

Who knows, one day we might rename Corney is Coming to The Merry Bits of Scrimber.

(Also known as Cheese It, Cornie Is Coming, Knit The Pocky, Merry Bits Of Timber, The Spinning Wheel.)


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 5:13 am 
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I apologize for asking ignorant questions, but why can't non-tropical, non exotic hardwoods be used? Here in North America maple is common and has great working properties and can have stunning figure. Walnut and cherry are common in furniture and can also be very lovely. There are other common woods, like black locust, that are hard and moisture resistant. There are woods that aren't good for timber but great for turning, like Osage Orange or Persimmon, which is a kind of ebony. Ironwood (Carpinus Carolinia). Ironwood grows like a weed around here.

In my own hobby woodworking I increasingly avoid tropical hardwoods or non-native wood. That stuff is beautiful, but....

I can see where you would want a certain amount of density to avoid air leakage, and hardness to avoid wear. Is there a reason you can't make an "Irish flute" out of black Cherry?

Edit: I don't mean this in a critical way: I'm actually wondering if it's just tradition, which of course is not something to be taken lightly, or if there are structural reasons


Last edited by PB+J on Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 9:41 am 
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PB+J wrote:
I apologize for asking ignorant questions, but why can't non-tropical, non exotic hardwoods be used? Here in North America maple is common and has great working properties and can have stunning figure. Walnut and cherry are common in furniture and can also be very lovely. There are other common woods, like black locust, that are hard and moisture resistant. There are woods that aren't good for timber but great for turning, like Osage Orange or Persimmon, which is a kind of ebony. Ironwood (Carpinus Carolinia). Ironwood grows like a weed around here.

In my own hobby woodworking I increasingly avoid tropical hardwoods or non-native wood. That stuff is beautiful, but....

I can see where you would want a certain amount of density to avoid air leakage, and hardness to avoid wear. Is there a reason you can't make an "Irish flute" out of black Cherry?

Edit: I don't mean this in a critical way: Im actually wondering if it's just tradition, which of course it not something to be taken lightly, or if there are structural reasons


A great question, actually, and one that I asked myself at one point. It led to me using many of these woods for flutes of all kinds, including my Pratten flutes.

I use cherry, maple, black walnut (both plain and figured varieties of each), and I do have some black locust that I have not yet cut into. I've also used osage orange, hawthorne, dogwood and pear wood. I believe that there are a great many non-threatened domestic (non-tropical) woods that make excellent instruments. The first three that I mentioned really benefit from stabilization or other techniques to seal the wood a bit. And they don't bore and ream with glass-like smoothness the way some oily tropical woods do. But I've found ways to overcome those shortcomings and have made it work. I'm always on the lookout for orchard woods (fruit and nut trees) that might be available.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 10:44 am 
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Terry McGee wrote:
Geoffrey Ellis wrote:
getting set up for plastic molding is expensive and very involved


I imagine. But maybe the "maker" could outsource the actual moulding work to a factory, but then tidy up the received casting, fit it with keys, slides, rings etc. When you think about it, we already outsource our timber getting, and poly rod manufacture. It might come as a shock for some to find out I don't even mine my own silver. I get it from a company who removes it as an impurity in lead!

One of the (several) aspects I don't like about working in Delrin is what to do with the stuff we turn off and bore out. If the recycling industry were going as well as it should be by now, this should be ideal stuff to recycle. But when China decided recently to stop being the world's garbage bin, it exposed massive weaknesses in the recycling industry here in New South Wales. Probably similar deficiencies showed up elsewhere, or would show up if anyone investigated.


I'm sure that a solo maker or small shop would have to outsource such a project (injection molding). I don't think it's feasible to do such a thing affordably in house, nor do I think the expert knowledge required is something that can be gathered quickly. It's expensive to make molds. I did a lot of mold making a couple of years ago (had to teach myself from the ground up) and it is a whole other art form. It had a steep learning curve, was expensive and took a lot of my time. And that was just getting the basics dialed in (I was making silicone molds for my cast-bore xiao project). And this was very much a DIY, home-shop level project and it was still brutal (but fun). I spent a small fortune trying to create accurate bore models, buying casting silicone (shockingly expensive stuff) and then putting in about 100 hours of labor and experimentation.

Plastic molding on any scale is going to cost a bit. I'm not saying it would not be worth it--I actually think it would be a worthy thing to try--but it's going to need a maker who a) doesn't mind making plastic flutes, b)is willing to throw some money at the project and c) can find a market for said flutes. The marketing should be easy if the flute is really good. If you can make a plastic flute that sounds as good as a top level wooden flute and sell it for a quarter of the price...

Here is an interesting article on the subject: https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/manufacturing-processing/manufacturing-the-cheap and here is a quote from the same article:

Erickson has scared off a number of inexperienced entrepreneurs who assume that a cheap product can be made cheaply. “Even with the least sophisticated approach, and the least cost approach, they don’t understand just how much it costs or what it takes to have a molded part,” he says. It’s $10,000 just for the mold, for instance. “There’s a naivety with people who have a wonderful idea. We often have to open their eyes.”

I hear you about the Delrin waste as well. I have to throw it in the garbage and that rankles for sure. Having a clean way to recycle it would be awesome, but since China stopped taking everyone's plastic refuse, I think only about a tenth of recycled plastic ends up actually being recycled. The rest goes in the landfill. This is a factoid that I read somewhere but I've not checked it's accuracy--I might be way off (I hope so!).

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 12:48 pm 
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I'd like to thank Geoffery Ellis and Terry McGee for their posts and for their very informative websites. I've learned a lot


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 4:25 pm 
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PB+J wrote:
I apologize for asking ignorant questions, but why can't non-tropical, non exotic hardwoods be used?

They can, and we do. African Blackwood isn't actually tropical, although it is becoming exotic. We have a similar timber in Australia - a hard, dense acacia called Gidgee, and I've used that quite a bit to good effect. I have used some lighter acacias - Brigalow and Lancewood, but I feel they are lacking in density for the best results. They are about boxwood in density. If you're going to all that trouble to make a flute, you're not going to skimp on materials.

Many of the other timbers mentioned are also on the light side (although cabinet makers mightn't agree!). That's not to say they can't be bulked out by impregnation (think of maple recorders).

I'ts hard to be absolutely sure, but I reckon you can tell when the density drops as low as boxwood (0.95 to 1.1 on the scale where water is 1.0). Gidgee around 1.15, Blackwood 1.2-1.27, Delrin 1.4.

Interestingly I have used Lignum Vitae (1.23) but wasn't convinced by it. I thought it seemed coarser in grain structure, so we're probably looking at more than just density. Intuitively, the finish achievable inside the bore and embouchure hole would seem important.

And of course we have the propensity-to-split issue to take into account.

Interesting to ponder this list: https://www.wood-database.com/wood-arti ... est-woods/


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 7:21 pm 
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We talk a lot about density being an important property of a flute material, but I'm not really convinced that it is. I think there are other properties that
are more important, such as how fine-grained the material is, how fine a surface polish it will take, how easy it is to machine, how well it holds fine-details,
and finally, how dimensionally stable it is. Some of these properties have impact on how the flute will sound, while others make the flute maker's life easier.

None of the above properties are as easy to quantify as density, of course, but I don't think density, in and of itself, is really a desirable property. Many people
prefer a flute that is light in the hand, but of course, they also want it to sound good. We use some very dense woods that have desirable properties, but there
are also many dense woods that are too coarse grained, difficult to work, and unstable. If we constrain our search for new flute materials based on density
as a primary factor, I think we may miss a lot of opportunities.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 9:13 pm 
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Quote: "I think there are other properties that
are more important, such as how fine-grained the material is, how fine a surface polish it will take, how easy it is to machine, how well it holds fine-details,"
Thought I'd toss a few thoughts into this stew. Thirty odd years ago I took my turn at making flutes. I was unemployed, trained in general machining, and had a small machine shop. I made wooden whistles, and cylindrical bore 'folk flutes', for I presumed 'hippies'. I was just barely aware of ITM.
In a strange turn of circumstance, I was able to buy suitable sized stock of Koa Wood from the City of Honolulu for next to nothing. Turning sticks over thirty inches for just over two dollars a board foot. The wood was considered waste since the trees were getting up into
the power lines and city crews were cutting them back. My how the world, and CITES!, turns.
The flutes I made were astonishingly resonant (real honkers) and extremely light. . .almost as though made of balsa wood. Koa is rather porous, and has millions of pores. The tubes were rather roughly bored with bell-hanger bits and with no finishing. I never could wrap my head around how such a light and seemingly porous wood could be so resonant. I tried walnut. . .and it was worthless. Brazilian Cherry was barely acceptable. Cocobolo, which I could get cheaply at that time was excellent but made my hands develope a rash!
Koa is now quite expensive and CITES restricted. But was prized by luthiers.

Bob

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 9:48 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:

Interesting list. Windward offers Kingwood and Verawood on that list as options for their flutes, along with Canadian Maple (heat treated), Mopane, African Olive, and Pink Ivory (whatever that is).

I applaud the initiative in offering alternatives to Blackwood, but since this is an inherently conservative market, I wonder how easy it is to sell these different options?

People have a tendency to want to play the same musical instruments their role models play. Most of the Irish flute stars are still playing Blackwood flutes, or the occasional Cocus antique. That may just be a reflection of these other hardwoods coming onto the market only in recent years, but I think there may also be a "link with history and tradition" element, in wanting to play flutes that at least look like the ones played 100-150 years ago. I wonder if this could put a brake on the market for alternative woods? Like Bluegrass mandolin players who don't want anything but a spruce top over maple back and sides.

I'm all for expanding the selection of woods used in "Irish" flutes. It won't be a choice, moving into the future with ravaged tropical forests. But I still think there will be a conservative brake on moving too far away from the look and feel of 19th Century flutes these modern versions are modeled on.

As for plastics... I think the entry level for flutes of all kinds will eventually be 3D printed flutes from downloaded files, made on the ubiquitous 3D printers we'll all have in our kitchens soon. It will be the new Microwave Oven. High-end flute makers won't have to worry, but it might undercut the low cost market.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2018 11:53 pm 
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Pink Ivory is pretty stuff.
https://www.wood-database.com/pink-ivory/

Tom McElvogue plays a Holmes-McNaughton pink ivory flute throughout his duet CD w/Karen Tweed "Luckpenny".

Norman Holmes also plays it on this audio clip:
https://app.box.com/s/oh3givl2xfuhe74fnutp

We can see Francois Baubet making a pink ivory flute on this page:
http://www.francoisbaubet.com/p/making-keyed-flute.html

Even the Boehm & Native American flute makers have gotten in on the act. It's also seen some use in guitars & other stringed instruments (acoustic & electric).

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 2:07 am 
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I guess it's hard to prove the "density matters" assertion without making a range of flutes from materials with a range of densities. But then of course you get into all the other variables Paddler mentions above. Plus all the other variables like embouchure cut we inadvertently inject in to confuse ourselves.

I did make the celebrated Pine Prattens years back to prove to my satisfaction that materials do matter. I've just pulled it out and played it. It still plays, but it's really woolly and unconvincing by comparison to my regular blackwood playing flute. You wouldn't buy it. But that was an exercise in reducto ad absurdum. Pinus Radiata is our cheap construction material, and with the exception of balsa it would be hard to come up with a less likely flute timber.

I think it is very significant that flute makers over the centuries have always used the hardest, densest, finest timbers they could find and work. Fruit woods back in the renaissance, giving away to boxwood in the baroque, ebony once the Indian subcontinent was colonised, cocus once the Caribbean was colonised, Blackwood later from the African colonies. No turning back there. I've tried lighter timbers and was not satisfied. Although some like boxwood have a sweetness that offsets its slightly lower efficiency.

I think if we were to conduct some serious experiments on this topic, we'd want to record not just efficiency (or volume level if you can manage to "standardise" your input effort), but also tone colour (ie do a spectral analysis). I've played lightweight flutes that had a lot of volume, but not great tone.

If we could find a lightweight timber that satisfied all our requirements, it would beg the question "why has it taken so long?"!


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 8:25 am 
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And we have to always remember the inner bore surface as a factor. When I drill and ream woods like blackwood, cocobolo, verawood, and other very dense, close-grained timbers, the surface inside is naturally very smooth. Add a bit of oil and you're good to go. I've talked before about experiments I've done with flutes made from truly horrible woods (much like Terry's pine flute experiment), such as curly redwood. It's a nice looking wood, but when you bore it out, the inner surface tears up something awful. If this surface is not finished somehow, you can barely get a sound out of the flute. But when I do multiple layers of clear epoxy in the bore, giving it a glassier surface, that changes dramatically. And that's true even when the finishing does not do away with the pitted, irregular inner surface. It doesn't fill in the tears and pits, really, it just coats them and makes them smooth, and it still has a profound effect.

I've done similar experiments with woods like maple, walnut, cherry, etc.. Some of them I put through the resin-stabilization process, but that's not really a fair example because that does add density, especially in the case of maple. But even leaving these woods natural but simply focusing on the inner bore surface I can get radical results. I've used plain maple, bored it, reamed the body for a Pratten flute, then sealed the inner bore with thinned epoxy. When cured, I re-reamed it (to clean up any shrinkage and/or raised grain caused by the alcohol thinner in the epoxy) then coated it again. Sometimes I'll do a third round of this. It does not change the density of the overall flute, but it does change the density of the wood a couple of thousandths of an inch deep on the inside. And it gives a glassy bore surface. The result is a highly responsive flute.

Is the tone the same as a denser wood? Good question. I think Terry's notion of doing some sort of spectrum analysis would be needed.

And it's been discussed and shared before, but I've always found Tom Ridenour's article about Grenadilla to be very interesting and illuminating. Anyone who has not read it might find it quite worthwhile. http://ridenourclarinetproducts.com/the-grenadilla-myth.html Another view on how the most popular of woodwind making timbers came to be so popular.

Another interesting thing to note: I make Boehm headjoints out of various materials, including blackwood, stabilized maple, ironwood, boxwood, ebonite, and some others, and so far the material that is most often chosen as being a favorite is boxwood.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 9:38 am 
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Bore epoxy? You’re catching up to the recorder makers now Geoffrey :wink:

Yeah, bore reflectivity is huge - the smoother and harder, generally the better. (Ok peanut gallery, let’s keep it clean out there)

Most woods seem to bore well, but yes, some really don’t ream so well, depends somewhat on how you ream as well.

On the topic of non-Standard woods, I always cringe when I see newer makers offering all sorts alternative non-stabilized wood flutes (or whistles), because I know they are going to crack, or warp, or oval, or swell to the pointwhere you can’t disassemble, or shink so much over time as to affect the bore dimensions negatively, or the grain in the bore is going to raise quite a bit over time affecting the tone, or......

How do I know? Because most of these woods have been tried before, many of them at the shop where I worked, and most were proven unfit. But everyone wants to reinvent the wheel. I read an article with either Branson or Bezos regarding their commercial space flight projects. He was saying that initially one of the big priorities was to find a different rocket fuel than what has been used to date, the thinking being that there has GOT to be a better alternative in this day and age. Well, after years of research and testing, they ended up coming to the conclusion that current rocket fuels are indeed the best option, and I think the quote after that statement was “What we learned is that anything you can think of, has already been tried by some Russian.” That actually made me laugh out loud.

I’m all for trying new things, but I’m all for learning from the failures of others as well. At one point early in my time at VH I spied a partially completed instrument from an interesting looking wood and asked about it. The reply “That’s lignum vitae. We thought it might make good recorders, but every instrument we made from the stuff eventually cracked after being played.” Ok, no need for me to experiment with that I thought to myself. Funny thing is, new makers mostly don’t want to hear it, IME, they seem to just want to make what they want to make and to hell with the end user. Which goes back to that other topic and the “P” word, which I won’t harp again, but there it is.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 10:25 am 
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Loren wrote:
Bore epoxy? You’re catching up to the recorder makers now Geoffrey :wink:

Yeah, bore reflectivity is huge - the smoother and harder, generally the better. (Ok peanut gallery, let’s keep it clean out there)

Most woods seem to bore well, but yes, some really don’t ream so well, depends somewhat on how you ream as well.

On the topic of non-Standard woods, I always cringe when I see newer makers offering all sorts alternative non-stabilized wood flutes (or whistles), because I know they are going to crack, or warp, or oval, or swell to the pointwhere you can’t disassemble, or shink so much over time as to affect the bore dimensions negatively, or the grain in the bore is going to raise quite a bit over time affecting the tone, or......

How do I know? Because most of these woods have been tried before, many of them at the shop where I worked, and most were proven unfit. But everyone wants to reinvent the wheel. I read an article with either Branson or Bezos regarding their commercial space flight projects. He was saying that initially one of the big priorities was to find a different rocket fuel than what has been used to date, the thinking being that there has GOT to be a better alternative in this day and age. Well, after years of research and testing, they ended up coming to the conclusion that current rocket fuels are indeed the best option, and I think the quote after that statement was “What we learned is that anything you can think of, has already been tried by some Russian.” That actually made me laugh out loud.

I’m all for trying new things, but I’m all for learning from the failures of others as well. At one point early in my time at VH I spied a partially completed instrument from an interesting looking wood and asked about it. The reply “That’s lignum vitae. We thought it might make good recorders, but every instrument we made from the stuff eventually cracked after being played.” Ok, no need for me to experiment with that I thought to myself. Funny thing is, new makers mostly don’t want to hear it, IME, they seem to just want to make what they want to make and to hell with the end user. Which goes back to that other topic and the “P” word, which I won’t harp again, but there it is.


Yes, I first heard about recorder makers soaking the wood in oil (or wax?) to permeate it when I watched a cool video on the subject (shared by paddler) about five or six years ago. Great video--I'd like to find it again if I can. I thought the soaking was a cool idea. I'm tempted to try it myself, just as an alternative to epoxy.

I got onto using the epoxy about 18 years ago, and it was initially just for waterproofing and sealing, but I immediately realized that if I utilized it more deliberately (re-coating, polishing, re-boring, etc.) that it brought this other dimension of improved tone and response. But it makes me understand why some of these domestic woods are not widely used because without some type of intervention they just don't make good flutes. Untreated maple, for example, is porous enough to leak air. And while resin stabilization is very helpful, it has widely varying levels of effectiveness, depending upon the wood. I think cast bore flutes are a great idea that allow for a wider pallet of wood choices and I'm looking into trying a bit more of that.

But you are so right about the "no new ideas" aspect of flute making. I've run into this time and again where I've come up with some brilliant "original" idea only to discover that about twenty-seven other makers had the same great idea about a hundred years ago :-) . Being a good flute maker means being an intelligent "copyist". I find flutes that I think are great, I copy them and make tweaks that help them (in my view) be just a little bit better, more consistent, more attractive, etc., but it's usually just nuance. Nothing earth shattering.

I do think your use of the "P" word is quite appropriate when it comes to the attitude of makers regarding the longevity of their instruments. Personally I think it would be a PR disaster for a maker to be self-indulgent (or willfully ignorant) about using materials that are likely to have problems down the line. That sort of thing can blast a reputation. On a couple of occasions I've gotten pretty near the edge with some experiment and then worried that I'm setting myself up for a problem down the road. This happened on a few flutes where I decided to use a delrin liner on a flute made from stabilized curly redwood--despite the stabilization there was enough of the "dissimilar materials" behavior to cause fissures in the wood over time. I really didn't think this would happen after all my precautions and I thanked my stars that I only made a couple of them! So I've developed a lot more caution about such experiments, waiting longer to see how they behave over time.

I doubt we are going to find any woods that are more suitable for flute making (that have not already been tried), unless they are things like the bamboo composites, stabilized woods or some version that comes from fusion with modern technology.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 10:56 am 
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Wax is lousy, it won’t stay put, particularly in the heat: I’ve worked on enough wax impregnated recorders to see the mess that this makes.

Same with oil, you can soak or force in via pressure or vacuum, but most of it is going to come right back out, unless you add drying agents, which does work.

The epoxy bore sealing you describe is exactly what some recorder makers have been doing for decades. As you have found it works very well, although I never found the process to be particularly fun. Worth the effort though.


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