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Old 02-12-2020, 09:25 PM   #11
EquusRacer
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

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Originally Posted by Rooklidge View Post
Usually spot grain difference on wood that looks like small end pores on ebony. Tough to differentiate by color, although old ebony can be deep black. If you want to see the natural grain, Mike, drive to north Portland by old Monkey Park to Gilmer Woods and ask to see some pieces of each. It won't take long for you to learn to spot the grain difference. See Mark for a chat.
Thanks, Steve. I've been to Gilmer Woods in the past, and bought some raw wood for a table and other things. Great place! Thanks for the suggestion, and I'll do that. Bummer that Portland Brewing, close by there, closed for dining.
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:33 AM   #12
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

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Originally Posted by EquusRacer View Post
For the wood and pipe experts, how do you tell ABW pipes from those made of Ebony, particularly if the ABW set is very uniformly black? Someone in our band was talking about differences in 'gloss' or something, which made little sense to me (given the different types of finishes out there).
I've owned quite a few pipes in ebony, and of course newer ones in ABW, and once you've actually handled them the difference is obvious if you have the pipes in your hands. From photos it can be nearly impossible, and it's difficult to put into words in an unequivocal way.

The vintage Ebony pipes (and flutes) I've had have been a dead dull black with a dry look, while ABW has more oil and usually is a deep brown rather than a dead black. The vintage pipes I've owned and handled didn't have varnish on them, nor evidence of ever having been varnished (none down in the grooves of the combing). For sure if a modern "restorer" slaps thick varnish on old pipes you can't tell as much about the wood.

Most pipers who play old ebony and cocus pipes think they're ABW, which leads to them continuing to confuse the woods, and pass the confusion to the next generation of pipers.

Most GHB makers only used cocus and ebony until around 1900 when they began introducing ABW as a third choice. Still in the 1930s some makers were using only cocus and ebony.

Yet, nearly all of those old cocus and ebony sets will confidently be identified as being ABW by most modern pipers.
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Old 02-21-2020, 03:43 AM   #13
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

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Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
I've owned quite a few pipes in ebony, and of course newer ones in ABW, and once you've actually handled them the difference is obvious if you have the pipes in your hands.
But you are comparing apples to oranges here- old ebony to new ABW. I would have said the same thing until I got a set of 130 year old ABW pipes. They were sold to be as ebony and I was sure they were. However I have three different experts who have told me they are ABW, each independently without knowing someone else told me the same. ABW can get very dark with age- so dark that it looks black as old ebony to me, and without discernible brownish grain like you see with new ABW. It must not be too difficult for an expert pipe maker to tell the difference, but it isn't obvious to a somewhat knowledgeable but far from expert piper like me.

You are right though about many pipers simply assuming old ebony is ABW. In fact I thought that was the reason why the first expert labeled it as ABW. However, I then sent them to an expert pipe maker for a repair and told him the were ebony. After getting them, he informed me that they are not ebony but are ABW. 130 years ago ebony was by far the more common wood used for bagpipes, but ABW was still sometimes used.
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Old 02-21-2020, 11:08 AM   #14
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

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But you are comparing apples to oranges here- old ebony to new ABW. I would have said the same thing until I got a set of 130 year old ABW pipes. They were sold to be as ebony and I was sure they were. However I have three different experts who have told me they are ABW, each independently without knowing someone else told me the same. ABW can get very dark with age- so dark that it looks black as old ebony to me, and without discernible brownish grain like you see with new ABW. It must not be too difficult for an expert pipe maker to tell the difference, but it isn't obvious to a somewhat knowledgeable but far from expert piper like me.
Thanks, gatormac. I was trying to convey how very black my drones are (and I know they're ABW). Even in sunlight, they appear very black. And holding them next to a set claimed to be ebony, I could not tell. However, as some suggested, I do see, in one or two very small spots (near some of the combing) a hint of brown. I do fit that "somewhat knowledgeable but far from expert" label!
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Old 02-22-2020, 06:55 AM   #15
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

I don't find colour to be an effective way of telling ebony from ivory. Knowing ebony from ivory is especially difficult if there is a lacquer finish on the pipes. For me it's two things: one is the very open grain which can sometimes leave little fissures on the surface. The other is a pattern of very minor chipping in the combing. Ebony is much more brittle than blackwood, and the combing in places will get peppered with tiny chips. The photo below is kind of an extreme example but you get the idea.

Ebony Lawries

Ebony was really going out of fashion by the 1920s. Most pipes I see made after 1910 or 1915 are blackwood. Cocuswood hung on longer than ebony. Makers were happy to leave ebony behind. The billets crack on the shop floor and it's hard on tools.


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Old 02-22-2020, 11:34 AM   #16
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

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Originally Posted by Jim McGillivray View Post
I don't find colour to be an effective way of telling ebony from ivory.
JM

Hey Jim,



I've got a good tip for you for telling ebony from ivory, one's black and the other's white.



Colin (strictly tongue in cheek....)
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Old 02-22-2020, 02:00 PM   #17
el gaitero
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

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Hey Jim,



I've got a good tip for you for telling ebony from ivory, one's black and the other's white.



Colin (strictly tongue in cheek....)
..well,...then there’s pink ivory...and pink Blackwood.
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Old 02-22-2020, 04:08 PM   #18
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

Aw, let up on Jim. I'm sure he had the song in his head when he was writing!
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Old 02-23-2020, 10:27 AM   #19
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

Doh -- I meant the difference between ebony and blackwood. Much harder than telling ebony from ivory!


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Old 02-24-2020, 02:34 PM   #20
gatormac
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Default Re: ABW-Ebony Distinction

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Originally Posted by Jim McGillivray View Post
Doh -- I meant the difference between ebony and blackwood. Much harder than telling ebony from ivory!


JM
Ha! The first time you wrote it I thought it was a typo, second time I thought you were taking the piss. :-) Thanks for those pictures- that explains a lot. Mine are just as dark but without all those little fissures.

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