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Is it pernambuco or brazilwood


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If you see long grain lines, I'd say brazilwood. If you bought it on e-bay out of NY in the last year and it looks in new(almost new) condition, it's probably something other that pernambuco.

There are some real wood authorities on the forum though that can be more specific.

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The problem is that the common name 'brazilwood" can refer to a number of species. It can refer to many of the Caesalpinia species, among them Caesalpinia echinata. C. echinata is also known as Pernambuco. Complicating the situation is that generally only the best wood is called pernambuco, even though the tree right next to it (or maybe even other wood from the same tree) is identified only as brazilwood.

Caesalpinia melanocarpa, Haematoxylum brasiletto, and Haematoxylum campechianum are other species called "brazilwood".

Maybe Bruce or some of the bowmakers can talk more about how to identify pernambuco 'on the hoof', so to speak -- I only know that the terminology is a mess, and I understand that even some experts have difficulty distinguishing some 'brazilwood' bows (ie, other Caesalpinia sp) from 'pernambuco' ones.

In my experience, good pernambuco has a sheen to it that I don't see in brazilwood, but I don't know if that is a species difference or a sample quality difference.


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A common wood used for cheap bows and sometimes mistaken for `Brasilwood`(very diverse name) is beefwood also known by the french as Abeille and proper name manikara,the French made thousands of cheap bows from this wood and i also see it in cheap german bows also.It always look untidy as if it doesn`t take polish or stain well and its not very attractive looking.

I also see hundreds of them on ebay.

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Has anyone seen the close up photos in Strobel's book that shows a type of wood figure that he claims is diagnostic of pernambuco? It's a very fine cross grain figure almost like scales--actually I can't even describe it, but I do see that figure in bows that appear to me to be made of good wood.

I was wondering if others are familiar with this...it's very hard to see, but it is there, and it's not there in cheaper bows.

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I haven't seen those pictures but my method is to use a x10 lens and look at the cheeks of the bow.

Like all wood, pernambuco has capillaries running in the direction of the stick but pernambuco alone, has little cross flecks running at right angles to the capillaries and they occur in groups of 3,4 or 5.

It is these small cross structures that bind the grain together and give it strength.

Brazilwood does not show these marks but, to complicate matters, I have been told that the Chinese have found a wood that is 'indistinguishable' from pernambuco and that is what they are using to make their bows.

For me, if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

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Quote: "to complicate matters, I have been told that the Chinese have found a wood that is 'indistinguishable' from pernambuco and that is what they are using to make their bows."

If that translates to "indistinguishable performance", then I want some at Chineese bow prices. If it just visual, then I think that I already have a couple.

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This Chinese wood that you are all referring to is called "Manilkara Kauki". A common "weed", it grows throughout the region of southeast asia and Australia. A fruit-bearing tree, a tasty plum, it is more commonly harvested for its fruit than its wood.

Many Chinese companies are still buying wood through less than above board contacts in Brazil. I cannot nor will not mention names or point fingers, but I can say that they have found sources within the country that are willing and able to supply them with enough "brazilwood" to meet the burgeoning demand for inexpensive bows.

At SMI, we refuse to buy bows made in China with brazilwood or "pernambuco" without papers. The bows we sell, brand-named TwoTree, are made with this other wood primarily, as well as other hardwoods already mentioned here in this thread. Personally, I do not want to contribute to the deforestation in Brazil at this time, no matter how in demand inexpensive "pernambuco" bows may be.

No. I'd rather concentrate on alternative woods and carbon fiber or other materials until the day that Brazil can legitimately provide the world market with legal bow wood.

But I realize I am a tiny fish in an ocean of sharks...but perhaps other bow makers and companies that sell bows will get behind me and require papers for the "pernambuco" bows they sell?

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This is the kind of specialist information and informed opinion that makes these forums worthwhile.

We probably both know more about the pernambuco trade than we wish to discuss publicly (you from the China side and me from the Brazilian end). It's a business rife with 'irregularities' and even the Brazilian bowmakers have a tough time acquiring good material.

You may be in a sea of sharks but you are not such a small fish. There is a real, and growing, will to defend biodiversity and create sustainable resources, and this includes the Brazilian Government but the organizations that control the illegal logging and private airstrips in northern Amazonas are difficult to control.

I think the battle over ivory was easier to engage public opinion because people can picture an elephant and empathize with it's pain when shot for tusks, but a tree (it's more of a bush) that we cannot picture, is harder to get excited about.

The tone of this thread indicates that even the average user of violin bows has very little knowledge of the material they handle daily - it's exotic history in the European dye trade, it's use for indigenous weapons and last but not least, bows for musical instruments.

Full support to your program requiring correct certification and let's hope the search for alternatives bears rapid fruit. Some would say it already has but there is no concensus about this.

Where do you think we stand, currently, regarding alternatives in terms of price and performance?

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Oh, and yes, you do only see them in certain places depending on the grain orientation. I usually find that the tip cheeks is a good place to look as is the side of the stick round about the middle of its length but you will not find them on the top of the stick.

Once you have found them your eyes will quickly be able to home in on them and after that you will not reveal their presence to anyone but simply tell them that you have years of experience and that, alone, is what guides your judgment.

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OK, I think we're talking about the same thing. Micro-silk perhaps. I looked at a decent bow that I'm pretty sure is pernambuco with a 16 power loupe last night. The "scratch" lines seem to be in a group against a block of lighter-colored background.

The scratch lines are most visible when the grain is perpendicular to the surface, that is quartersawn. It's still visible elsewhere but the cross-grain extent isn't as great.

Thanks for passing on the secret!


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Yes, and when I see the next batch in the cheap Chinese bows I have, I'll be sure to shoot a photo so you can see how they look. That's one of the charactristics I meant when I said "I have some Chinese bows that show some of the commonly-believed attributes of pernambuco, and could fool someone who doesn't really "know" the wood, but is only looking for easily described characteristics. But it isn't a fooler for people who are familiar with the real thing."

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