Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

An on-line forum to discuss uilleann pipes

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WyattKPauls
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Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by WyattKPauls » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:00 am

Hello everyone,

I'm from Oregon, and wanting to learn to play the Uilleann pipes.
Now I am wondering if myrtlewood is a good option for a pipes set.
What defines a wood as either usable or non-useable for a set of uilleann pipes? Could myrtlewood even be used? I have been researching, and would either want to get a set in cocobolo/antler or ebony/some-other-mount, so far as i can tell.
Anyways, I'm new to this and i'm just asking questions out there.
Is anyone else here from Oregon?
I've narrowed it down to about six specific makers that i could like to choose from:
Marc Van Daal (I like his style)
Evertjan t' hart (I like how he plays the pipes and his pipes look well-made, but there's not a lot of info)
Martin Preshaw (I like the fact he has great sound samples on his webpage)
Bill Haneman (he makes good pipes, and i appreciate the research and effort he's put into them)
Alan Burton and Geoff Wyatt (just seem like good solid makers of uilleann pipes)
Tim Benson and Stephanie Cornielius (They like in the USA, unlike the other makers)

Any recomendations or comments or anything really.

Wyatt
Last edited by WyattKPauls on Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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djm
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by djm » Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:25 am

It is wood density that generally determines the tonal qualities of the wood. I'm not familiar with myrtlewood, but if it is of a density similar to cocobolo (rosewood), ebony or African blackwood then you should be okay. I doubt if any pipemaker has a store of suitably dried myrtlewood on hand, so if you want to go ahead with this you will probably have to supply the maker with sufficient material for the set.

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MichaelLoos
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by MichaelLoos » Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:54 am

From notablewoods.com:
"Myrtle is a medium-density hardwood. It has an average specific gravity of .55, oven dry--about like walnut... The pores are open and may require filling when finishing the wood."
Doesn't sound good - the density is only half of that of ebony or blackwood, and open pores are exactly what you don't want.
Most usually, good tonewoods for stringed instruments are not suitable for woodwinds.
I'd strongly advice you to look for a pipemaker as close as possible to where you are, at least on the same continent.
Many pipemakers refuse to experiment with timbers other than what they habitually use, which is well understandable, because it means having to put a lot of work into a project which might well turn out to be useless.

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WyattKPauls
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by WyattKPauls » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:15 am

Thanks,

I'm just now thinking in the extremes. I'm considering all of the possibilities.
So, does a wood have to have a gravity higher than water (1.00) at least to be good for uilleann pipes?
About buying from makers near me: is it really not a good idea to buy from makers in Europe?

I liked the makers I listed above because of what i could tell about them from thier websites and videos.
Most of the other makers that I didn't list, that would also be options, is because, from what i could tell, they didn't
put as much care, thought, or action, into the pipes as could be expected.
I understand that it might be best to buy from someone in the USA, because they're closer, but there has to be more to it than that. I'm just not sure about the other makers, I've looked through the piping lists a lot.
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KM
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by KM » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:11 pm

WyattKPauls wrote: from what i could tell, they didn't
put as much care, thought, or action, into the pipes as could be expected.
I'm sure all of them put far more thought, care and work into their pipes than their websites show

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WyattKPauls
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by WyattKPauls » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:54 pm

I didn't mean it that way, I was saying its hard to tell what the pipes are really like from the website. And i couldn't tell if they were good or not
Last edited by WyattKPauls on Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by PJ » Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:18 pm

Firstly, don't make a decision based on the website of a maker. Some of the best makers don't have websites and some people who shouldn't be left near a lathe have very flash websites.

The main reason for selecting a maker who is nearby is because the pipes are not "plug and play". In the early stages, you'll likely need help maintaining your pipes and keeping them in-tune. If you have to mail your pipes to Europe, that'll take a lot of time. You're also increasing the risk of loss or damage when you ship your pipes (also, pipes don't like cold, like when they're in the cargo hold of a plane at 40,000 feet). It's better to be able to drive to your pipemaker to get the help you need.
PJ

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WyattKPauls
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by WyattKPauls » Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:23 pm

I was thinking of combining the pipes being picked up with a trip to Ireland or the Netherlands.

PJ I already know that, that's why I'm trying to ask everybody if anybody knows any good custom makers or other things that aren't listed. I have searched for most of the makers, that don't have websites, as far as I could, but then again I do live in Oregon.
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Paidin
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by Paidin » Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:20 pm

Ebony, elephant ivory, and sterling silver mined by scabs working for starvation wages produces the best sound, especially when assembled by a pipemaker with a 15 year waiting list :wink:

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WyattKPauls
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by WyattKPauls » Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:35 pm

i
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by WyattKPauls » Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:24 pm

On the Uilleann Obsession website under Koehler and Quinn's page, it shows that they made a set out of maple:

http://www.uilleannobsession.com/extras_k&q.html
Photos (very nice set):
http://www.uilleannobsession.com/photos ... hanter.jpg
http://www.uilleannobsession.com/photos ... mabel1.jpg
http://www.uilleannobsession.com/photos ... g_ends.jpg

Now:
Specific gravity Specie Name Janka Hardness

0.55 Quilted Western Maple 850
0.55 Western Maple Burl 850
0.55 Curly Western Maple 850
0.63 Curly Maple (Red Leaf) 950
0.63 Maple (Red Leaf) 950
0.72 Hard Maple 1450
0.72 Quarter Sawn Maple 1450
0.72 Bark Pocket Maple 1450
0.72 Hard Maple Burl 1450
0.72 Spalted Maple 1450
0.72 Rift Sawn Hard Maple 1450


1.09 Macassar Ebony 3220
1.10 Cocobolo 1136
1.20 African Blackwood 1700
1.20 Kingwood 3340
1.30 Snakewood 3800

0.85 Myrtlewood 1270

According to this it would seem that Myrtlewood would be ok for a set of uilleann pipes.
If it could be made out of maple by a very good maker, wouldn't myrtle be fine?
before i buy i would have to talk to the maker about it of course.
But i'm still worried about what Michaelloos said. The other qualities of myrtle may outwiegh the fine ones:
"From notablewoods.com:
"Myrtle is a medium-density hardwood. It has an average specific gravity of .55, oven dry--about like walnut... The pores are open and may require filling when finishing the wood."
Doesn't sound good - the density is only half of that of ebony or blackwood, and open pores are exactly what you don't want."

MichaelLoos
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by MichaelLoos » Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:45 am

The specific gravity of myrtle according to your list is drastically higher than in the source I found, in fact from my own (and not only my own) experience I found that approx. 0.70 - 0.80 seems to be the point which determines the suitability for woodwind instruments (in general, NOT speaking about uilleann pipes here). I'm not at all familiar with Janka hardness, so there's nothing I can say about that.
Basically, what you want for any woodwind instrument, is a wood that's as dense, hard, uniform in structure and pore-free as possible.
I have made instruments (not uilleann pipes) from American Hard Maple (whatever species that is, that's the name it goes by with German wood traders) and from European Mountain Maple, both I found okay, but I got better results from harder/denser woods. But then, from the pipes I make, I expect a sound which is much different from what uilleann pipes should sound like.
If you REALLY want to, I guess mostly ANY wood can be used - there are possibilities of pressure-impregnating, hardening and stabilizing wood with plastic substances, and things like that, this would probably also cure the problem of the open pores. The question is, can the result still really be called "wood"? Probably not the right way for a naturalist...
One way might be, try to find out if any pipemakers or other woodwind makers have ever used myrtle wood, and to which result.
PJ is absolutely right - problems WILL occur, no matter how well-made the pipes are, and you will have to get back to your pipemaker every now and then.
Whatever your decision will be, it is always advisable to pick up the intrument in person, so changes and adjustments can be made - this is particularly important if you are shorter/taller/skinnier/heavier than average.

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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by hpinson » Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:00 am

For what it's worth, each of the makers you that list, makes a serviceable high-quality hand-made instrument.

Better to let the pipemaker suggest wood that they have on-hand-- a proper drying process takes years.

Some woods, like Ebony, certain fruitwoods, Rosewoods, and Holly, and Boxwood are proven performers, and are used time and again for pipes. Others, like Maple, Mesquite, Purpleheart, have drawbacks, and while you can make an instrument out of them, they may not be the best choice (for a variety of reasons). I'm going to presume Myrtlewood falls into that category, as it is not a commonly used wood in the craft. The pipemaker you choose will have informed suggestions, which you should listen too, rather than imposing something that may become a bit of an experiment and you may really regret later.

A good, working reed is more important than type of wood, and often harder to come by. Often a reed won't survive the trip from climate A to climate B.

Have you considered a David Daye Penny Chanter to get started?

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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by djm » Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:25 am

I guess the point to stress here is that this pushing for myrtlewood is a distraction. I would suggest you get a beginner's practise set to see if you even want to pursue this instrument. It is a difficult, persnickety and unforgiving beast to tame. After a couple of years on a practise set, see how gung ho you are then to still pursue the myrtlewood thing. Otherwise you are just deliberately putting up barriers for yourself to get started into uilleann piping.

Having said that, Brad Angus is a pipemaker near to you with a good reputation.

David Quinn made one set out of rock maple. Only one. He has said he would be willing to make another. His waiting list is several years.

Also, I have seen Joe Kennedy take applewood and fill its many pores with a French or Danish oil. I think it would only be fair that if you find a pipemaker who is willing to experiment with myrtlewood that you should be prepared to pay double or triple what a regular chanter would cost to pay for his time.

djm
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outofthebox
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Re: Uilleann Pipes wood, mounts, and tone

Post by outofthebox » Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:35 am

The important question to consider is how you would like your chanter to sound. A lot of stuff is written about different woods and bagpipe tone - but it really comes down to the density. Ebony has traditionally been favoured because it has this density - that means that the sound waves can bounce around the inside surface of the bore and produce a livelier overall tone than a chanter bore made from a wood which is more porous. These pores can absorb some of the sound like a sponge and so the tone produced within the bore of the chanter will tend to have rather less life.

My own view on this is that the best tone is likely to be produced from chanters made from wood alternatives such as ebonite or the acetyl used, for example, by McCallum for their GHBs.

http://www.mccallumbagpipes.com/product ... ck-acetyl/

The advantages of these materials are that they will give a consistent density throughout the length of the chanter bore and they will not suffer from shrinkage, warping or cracking in the way that even the best hardwoods always will over time. Also it might be a nice idea to consider conservation concerns, such as the destruction of the forest habitat in such places as Madagascar.

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