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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 5:05 pm 
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awildman wrote:
C'mon, Terry. You know the old saying: One man's trash is another man's treasure.


Neatly done, there, awildman! Mortally wounded, I retire.... (tee hee...)


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 5:24 pm 
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Narzog wrote:
I'm not a master flute craftsman but from my experience and tests material has a small effect on tone. So I'd think birch would work fine, although may not be the ideal wood.


I'd advance a small amendment for your consideration, Narzog. "Within the range of generally suitable materials, material has a small effect on tone." I've actually put the matter to the test at http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/pine_prattens.htm

Putting pine into the picture, we get:

Pine 0.4
Pear 0.65
Birch 0.67
Boxwood, 0.95

Water 1.0

Blackwood 1.27,
Mopane 1.3,
Gidgee 1.35
Delrin 1.356

It is probably instructive to note that flute makers have always used the heaviest, hardest, finest timbers we had access to, and could work. So fruit woods back in medieval and renaissance times, ramping up to boxwood in the baroque, cocuswood once the West Indies were taken over, and African timbers subsequently. Given all the work that goes into a flute, skimping on the materials doesn't seem sound economics. (Pun alert....)


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2021 6:36 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:
It would really need impregnating I think Ben to get up to the kind of density we lust after. EG:

Water 1.0
Pear 0.65
Birch 0.67
Boxwood, 0.95
Blackwood 1.27,
Mopane 1.3,
Gidgee 1.35
Delrin 1.356




Terry ~ I thought that Blackwood is slightly denser that Mopane. According to wood data base Blackwood is Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): 1.08, 1.27. Mopane is Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .88, 1.08. Not that it matters a lot, but it's one of those things that I'd read on the forum ~

Another matter ~. Jonathan Walpole has been using English hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) to make flutes. He says they are very similar to Boxwood. They look great! http://jonathanwalpole.com/keyless-d-flutes


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2021 9:47 pm 
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I think I've seen various figures for both woods (all woods?). You can imagine regional variations being an issue here. So it's really only a rough guide.

Yes, that hawthorn looks nice doesn't it. I wonder if Jonathon does anything to bulk it - I see figures like 0.78 for it.

I feel we probably would benefit from looking into a lot of other technical aspects of our materials. Does the Janka Hardness Test tell us anything? What about the radial and tangential shrinkage? Arggghhhh, life is so short....*

(*I'm probably waxing a little philosophical as we are farewelling our local bodhran player next Thursday, a victim of cancer. Makes you aware of your age. And here's me just ordering 30 more tuning slides to go with all the keys and ring wire I'd recently ordered. The chap that makes the tuning slides for me is 86, 13 years my senior. I'll hitch my boat to his star.)


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:11 pm 
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Even within the same tree you can have different densities(and hardness). Any numbers you see will be typical, but wont necessarily be an average, and definitely will not be definitive.

Lots of good info from the Wood Database man himself. https://youtu.be/IfXW9Tw-3O0


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2021 9:02 am 
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Reminds me of an old wood-chopping trick. When chopping a piece of wood -- the core of the wood is almost never exactly in the middle -- so always turn it away from you. At the side where the growth rings are further apart, the wood is less dense and easier to chop.


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:32 am 
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awildman wrote:
Even within the same tree you can have different densities(and hardness). Any numbers you see will be typical, but wont necessarily be an average, and definitely will not be definitive.

True, but I would think the variation should be small in finished musical instruments, because there are expectations from both makers and customers about what "the good stuff" is for every species of wood used. Anything less is filtered out somewhere along the supply chain, or tossed by the flute maker if it's flawed in some respect.

So I would imagine the specs for hardness, density etc. for wood wouldn't be exactly the same in finished flutes by different makers, but it should be within a very narrow range. Enough to talk about as an average, anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2021 4:07 pm 
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Yeah, I don't think we need to concern ourselves about relatively small differences within a species, the big difference is between timbers that are suitable for flutes and those that are too light or coarse or both. And what tricks makers can use to convert those inadequate timbers into something that does meet our needs.

Not all such tricks have proven successful. Some might remember the early cheap lines of wooden recorders that were bulked up with ethylene glycol (from memory). These were OK until left in a hot car, whereupon the stuff melted, flowed down the middle of the instrument and then rehardened overnight! I've had to scrape a few out for players over the years. And of course the body of the instrument is now rendered lighter and more porous.

In our dangerously unsustainable world, we can expect more pressure to find alternative materials and processes. I've seen some papers on topics such as compressing and impregnating bamboo fibre to make sustainable and dense materials. Bamboo has the merit of being very fast growing and strong. Can we deploy it to convert some of our excess atmospheric carbon dioxide into Irish flutes?


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2021 4:49 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:
In our dangerously unsustainable world, we can expect more pressure to find alternative materials and processes. I've seen some papers on topics such as compressing and impregnating bamboo fibre to make sustainable and dense materials. Bamboo has the merit of being very fast growing and strong. Can we deploy it to convert some of our excess atmospheric carbon dioxide into Irish flutes?

For me the question is: How far can we afford to stray from the natural? I think that if we are to pursue the use of polymers, it would be a darned good idea to revisit natural lacquer. I don't know anything about Chinese or other East Asian iterations of bamboo-made flutes, but with rare exception the Japanese will lacquer most of their bamboo flutes' interiors, and I think we can all agree that it makes sense given something like bamboo as a flute material. Not only is lacquer an effective moisture barrier, they mix it with clay to make bore perturbations. Lacquer could similarly be applied to birch flutes, too: bore, tone hole and embouchure chimneys; hell, maybe even the whole flute. I don't have enough knowledge to say for sure whether natural lacquer could be used as a binder in compressed-fiber constructions - but if it can, it strikes me as an unnecessary step too far. Apart from requiring some expertise, the main drawback with lacquer (compared to modern convenience) is that it's a time-consuming process, but is that such a big deal? We need to slow down anyway, so ...

Raw urushi lacquer is very expensive and getting harder to come by, so cashew lacquer is a common substitute when the need for traditional prestige materials is less of an issue. While cashew lacquer is somewhat less toxic than urushi when raw, both require some care when using it in the shop. I see that cashew lacquer is now widely available in an air-curing form that eliminates the need for the usual humidified, heated curing rooms, so that's a plus.

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"I remain not entirely convinced of it." - Nano


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 3:16 am 
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It probably depends on whether you are just seeking to make the tube more smooth and water resistant, or also trying to bulk up a timber that is too light and porous. Lacquers usually go on things, rather than soak into things. I think if I were trying to bulk up a softer timber, I'd be looking at vacuum impregnation using something thin that can be sucked in, but that then polymerises inside. But it's not an area I've looked into.

I am drawn to natural-looking materials. Delrin is great for low maintenance situations, but I reckon loses on romance. I like a bit of romance....


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 4:15 am 
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A German Shakuhachi maker prefers using shellac for his bamboo instruments. But you probably couldn't leave those lying in a car in the sun either.


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 Post subject: Re: Birch Flutes?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 6:07 am 
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I just started taking down a Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia. The Wood database lists gives it a specific gravity of ".55, .71"


It's grown all over the place around here as an ornamental--you see crepe myrtles everywhere. I don't know if the wood would be any good for a flute or not.


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