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Looking for a large piece of lesser quality pernambuco


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I'm now looking for a large piece of pernambuco, which should not be of bowmaking quality.

By large, I mean a minimum length of 26 inches (30 would be ideal) and a width of 3 inches,

or close to it, and a thickness of 2 to 3 inches.

I'm sure that it's not easy to find bigger pieces of GOOD quality pernambuco which are suitable

for violin bows, but frankly I'm looking for wood that has been rejected by bow makers as not

good enough for that job.

I would also consider similarly sized pieces of brazilwood.

You're wondering what I'm up to, aren't you?

Well, though I have a great interest in stringed instruments, my roots are as a guitar maker,

and right now I'm gearing up to build a few guitars. If I can get the pernambuco, or brazilwood

at least, then I intend to make the neck of one of these guitars out of that wood.

Different neck woods give different characteristics to the guitar. Pernambuco has been used

experimentally before, and it gives the guitar great sustain and a distinctive tonality. I want

to try this for myself.

An example of the use of Pernambuco in a guitar neck is the Paul Reed Smith Private Stock Violin model,

which is an electric guitar that probably costs about 10,000 dollars. Only a few were made. (50, I think.)

The same characteristics that make it the wood of choice for bows (high modulus of elasticity, high rate of

transfer of vibrations through it, low rate of vibration absorption) will help contribute to the sustain

of the guitar made with it.

So, if you know of anyone who might have some pernambuco or brazilwood, as described, please let me know.



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There is a hardwood supplier here in Southern California that had a lot of pernambuco a few years ago when I went. They might still have some.


Another species that is in the same family as pernambuco with similar coloring is Chakte Viga. It is more widely available. Hope this helps.

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Though it will not look even similar, Ipé is similar enough in mechanical/acoustic properties that it is being used (by Lynn Hannings, among others) to make good bows, as is bloodwood...so they may be reasonable alternatives to the Pernambuco, if you can't find what you want. Ipé is plentiful, and not too expensive. Bloodwood is at least available, though, as I recall, it is a little more costly. Both make decent bows.

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You will have to find someone with an existing stock of old Pernambuco. Since Pernambuco was placed on the endangered species list (2007?) it has been illegal to export the unfinished wood from Brasil. The Brasilian bowmakers can still use it to make bows, and sell/export them, but there won't be any more raw wood coming out of Brasil.

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Gilmer has none. I checked them first.

I could go with any wood mentioned. I'm prepping a nice piece of East Indian Rosewood for a neck right now,

but what I really want is to follow the violin neck experiment as closely as possible. Cocobolo may be good

but the objective is Pernambuco if I can find it.

I'll check into any leads. I've got several inquiry emails out there already.


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Which 'ironwood'? There are dozens.

Anyway I second the Bloodwood idea, although Pernambuco has rather unique features as far as damping from what I understand.

Sorry for not being more specific. Wood from the trees of the gender Guaiacum (A.K.A. Lignum vitae) is beautiful, strong and dense. Also very nice, and smells very good) is the ironwood from Ceylan (Hopea Odorata) AKA Malabar.

Regards from the sunny Spain

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I was a guitar maker for many years before making pegs for a living. I think that I know what you are trying to achieve with your pernambuco idea. You want the transmission qualities that it seems to impart and the stiffness that it gives relative to it's weight. It really is amazing material, so perfect in nature for it's role as a playing bow. I've often wondered what it would be like to make a shaft of it for a golf club instead of hickory. I wouldn't give up on your idea, it won't be impossible to find some wood that is not dense enough for a the time involved to make a good bow and sill in the size you need. You just have to network to find it.

One problem that you will encounter is that even a piece of rejected bow wood that has not been cut for bow blanks (therefore making it too thin for your purpose) can still be used for tailpieces and pegs. This used to be a novelty but has become much more prevalent. A piece of wood your size would produce ten or so blanks and that makes it worth some money so even a rejected bow billet is going to cost you.

Here are some suggestions:

You may want to find a bass bow maker for thicker blanks

You may want to consider a laminate of thinner pieces--why not?

At least a head joint instead of a head cut out of one piece as in classic guitar construction will give you more options in wood piece thickness and grain direction and strengthen the neck to boot.

You can PM me with your location-- I may have some resources you can try. It's a good idea, just a bit extravagant and would be a heavy sucker.

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Ipé is so widely available it is being sold for use as decking planks. I buy it at Crosscut Hardwoods in Portland, OR. I have used it for tailpiece and fingerboard, but have not tried pegs, yet. I am in the (slow) process of making my first viola bow, and using a piece of Ipé I got from Lynn Hannings, while attending her workshop in California one year. Very nice smell, and nice to work with, but not as pretty as Pernambuco, nor, I am told, does it have quite the same mechanical properties. Still....it is good enough for bows, and quite plentiful and cheap. Kind of a medium dark brown, like coffee, with just a little creamer in it, perhaps. It makes a startlingly yellow dust when you rasp or sand it, that looks nothing like the color of the wood.

BTW, Ipé has alternately been called "Greenheart" and, yes, "Ironwood".

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This has been highly productive and given me several good possibilities,

including possibilities with woods I hadn't considered.

While my objective has not changed, to use Pernambuco if I can get it, I am also interested in

trying out some of the other woods mentioned. There's no reason I can't make more instruments,

and after all, making instruments, of any kind, is very enjoyable. So I might as well see how

different woods affect the outcome.

I find it particularly interesting that Ipe is being recommended. How strange, that a wood that is

finding use as patio decking, of all things, arguably the "lowest" use of wood, is also found to

be suitable for bowmaking, which is arguably the "highest" use of wood.

I'm very interested in trying out different woods, but I believe in conservation efforts which will

help ensure a sustainable supply of the woods we want to use. Brazilian Rosewood is a long-time

favorite in the guitar making world, but the only stuff coming in these days is from recovered stumps

from trees cut many years ago. It'll be some time before the species recovers enough that new harvesting

is likely to be allowed.

Pernambuco, fortunately, seems to lend itself well to cultivation and apparently grows rather rapidly.

I think it won't be so many years before it's once again available without enormous hassles.

What's concerning me is the availability of quilted and curly maple. This hasn't been addressed by

anyone, so far as I know, but it is known that whatever causes the quilted or curled figure is not

genetic, it's a reaction to specific environmental stresses, the nature of which is not yet clearly

understood. That makes it hard to reproduce at will. Seedlings from trees that exhibited dramatic

curl or quilt do not exhibit those figures when planted and grown on a tree farm.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I have acquired a nice piece, quite large enough for a one-piece neck blank with some good, usable sized remnants left over.

And, I have a deal for a second piece as well.

The sustained ring you get out of a piece of Pernambuco like this is really amazing. I have never encountered such a tonal

character in a piece of wood before.


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