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Old 01-20-2020, 03:37 PM   #1
Steve Bliven
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Default Lignum vitae

Anyone have any experience with Lignum vitae used on mouthblown (aka "wet") pipes?


Thanks and best wishes.


Steve
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Old 01-22-2020, 09:53 AM   #2
Barry Shears
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Default Re: Lignum vitae

Steve,
I haven't seen a set personally but apparently there was a set made from lignum vitae made in Cape Breton in the late 19th early 20th century by one of the Gillis pipe makers, one of my sources said it it had soft, mellow tone, good for indoors playing. Not sure whatever happened to this set. The maker used bits and pieces left over from the ship building industry where is was quite common material for pulleys and dead eyes in boat making.
Barry
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Old 01-23-2020, 10:15 AM   #3
Steve Bliven
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Default Re: Lignum vitae

Thanks Barry. I know Hamish Moore made some SSP in Lignum years back (Chris Layer played a set), but I hear mixed comments for its use in mouthblown instruments like flutes, recorders, etc. Just wondering if others had experience with any mouthblown pipes of Lignum.

There seem to be lots of instances where the wood was used in marine applications, blocks as you mention, or even bearings. Some of those might experience constant immersion, but others must have alternated wet and dry conditions, presumably without splitting.


Best wishes.


Steve
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Old 01-24-2020, 06:37 PM   #4
Glenurquhart
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Default Re: Lignum vitae

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry Shears View Post
Steve,
I haven't seen a set personally but apparently there was a set made from lignum vitae made in Cape Breton in the late 19th early 20th century by one of the Gillis pipe makers, one of my sources said it it had soft, mellow tone, good for indoors playing. Not sure whatever happened to this set. The maker used bits and pieces left over from the ship building industry where is was quite common material for pulleys and dead eyes in boat making.
Barry
The earliest surviving chanter, the "Iain Dall", is made of Lignum Vitae and Julian Goodacre makes a reproduction of this chanter in Lignum, quite successfully.

I have a very early set, ca. 1800, made of Lignum Vitae and mounted with ivory, bone and horn. The wood is beautiful, milk-chocolate brown with a very pretty grain. Very heavy, good smooth sound, not actually mellow by the way (reeded with cane). The problem is that the grain is somewhat "tormented", not straight throughout and that there are quite a few old cracks, in every single part, which are not straight either and quite unusual, since they don't necessarily go all the way through to the end of the joint. I believe that this was the reason why Lignum was not used anymore from the early 19th century onwards, at least not as far as I know for mouth-blown large pipes. Several parts of my set were missing and, like Gillis in Cape Breton, I purchased antique cylindrical Lignum logs that had been used for manufacturing lead pipes in the 19th century for their replacement by Pierre Blanchet. Though very old and very dry this wood had cracks too that were invisible from the outside and much of the logs was useless. Also, there was a lot of sapwood. The acid-stained replacements match the original wood perfectly, the restored set looks great.

I would not discourage anyone from making pipes from Lignum Vitae. After all, Snakewood is prone to cracking in a similar way too but used for (bellows-blown) pipes nonetheless. I even have a GHB made from snakewood and it behaves well. I suppose that the bores would require sealing with a resin coating in order to prevent any contact of the wood with moisture.
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Old 01-29-2020, 11:14 AM   #5
TwitchyFingers
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Default Re: Lignum vitae

One difficulty is what was historically known as lignum vitae is no longer harvested or sold (at least legally). The replacement wood, vera wood, is considered a very good substitute. It can be as heavy as blackwood, with an average specific gravity of 1.0+ and has a lot of natural oil. Smells beautiful when turning. I've turned a couple of border pipe chanters out of it and the results were good. I'd say it holds up as well as most woods recommended for mouthblown instruments.
https://www.wood-database.com/verawood/
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