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PhilipKT

Piano ivory as frog material

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I remember reading, I think in the Retford book, that tortoiseshell frogs were made by laminating slices of tortoiseshell. I don’t know how that’s done, and I don’t know how many slices are involved nor were they were stacked vertically or horizontally, but I have an entire pianos worth of old piano key ivory.

Would be a shame to waste it, So I’m wondering if it’s possible to laminate that ivory into a workable cello bow frog? I have no plans to take it out of the country so it shouldn’t be a problem but it’s an interesting question and I’d love to give it a try if possible.

 

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I would think the glue lines between the layers would show once you began shaping the frog, as bow frogs are anything but two dimensional. Take a piece of laminated wood, shape it or turn it on a lathe and you'll see what I mean. 

If you want to try your hand at scrimshaw, old piano keys are great for that. If you're ever looking to dispose of your ivory, just make sure that you're aware your state's ivory restrictions. They're changing faster than many people can keep up with them, and a number of states have completely banned the trade in ALL types of ivory, elephant, mammoth or otherwise.

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1 hour ago, Woodland said:

I would think the glue lines between the layers would show once you began shaping the frog, as bow frogs are anything but two dimensional. Take a piece of laminated wood, shape it or turn it on a lathe and you'll see what I mean. 

If you want to try your hand at scrimshaw, old piano keys are great for that. If you're ever looking to dispose of your ivory, just make sure that you're aware your state's ivory restrictions. They're changing faster than many people can keep up with them, and a number of states have completely banned the trade in ALL types of ivory, elephant, mammoth or otherwise.

I appreciate that there is a lot of regulations to deal with, but I’ve had this for years. I think it was originally on a piano made about 1840, and the age is obvious, but it would be for my own use and not for sale.

As far as the lines, that was my concern too, but when I found out the tortoiseshell was made through laminating slices of shell And they figured out a way to do it, so I was wondering if it would work with ivory.

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You could always try it. The lamination stripes might be an interesting effect, or maybe it could be enhanced somehow  - like when they embed an acrylic piece in wood.

I think it's good to recycle and not add to the regrettable waste.

Ivory and shells need to be left to their owners.

p.s. always best to let sleeping tortoises sleep...

 

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

...when I found out the tortoiseshell was made through laminating slices of shell... I was wondering if it would work with ivory.

I don't think it would work for ivory in the same way as it does with tortoise shell.  I think that the shell layers fuse together under the correct conditions of moisture, heat and pressure.  No glue or adhesive of any sort is required, so there are no distinct glue lines at the laminar boundaries.  With ivory piano key facings you would have to glue the layers together, and there would be glue lines.

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Tortoise is keratin, like hair or fingernails. I can't recall how it was originally bonded, but I believe it involved using a solvent to soften the surfaces before pressing them together to cure. 

Ivory is dentin, more or less, which is largely calcium. Clean gluing surfaces and water thin cyanoacrylate might do it pretty invisibly, but I'm not sure. 

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The kunh regh art of bow making book (I’ve sold it, no affiliation) is the best description of bonding tortoiseshell I’ve found in recent print.

limited experience with ivory, but it doesn’t act like shell

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2 minutes ago, Carl Johnson said:

The kunh regh art of bow making book (I’ve sold it, no affiliation) is the best description of bonding tortoiseshell I’ve found in recent print.

limited experience with ivory, but it doesn’t act like shell

I don't have it, but I am curious what it suggests. I definitely wouldn't expect shell and ivory to behave anything alike, being such radically different materials. 

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Philip, you could glue the ivory with epoxy (after sanding the surface of the ivory to ensure a good bond), tinting the epoxy to match the color of the ivory to make the joints less conspicuous.

You could also tint the epoxy to a contrasting color if you think that would look interesting.....

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Although a bit off topic, I would still like to disagree that one could only glue ivory with epoxy, since violin makers have glued ivory way back into the 18th C. and they didn’t have epoxy then. I recently had a Michael Klotz with ivory/ebony zebra edge work. Just about all the sweaty bits had dropped off, and it would seem that they had been stuck on with shellac or similar. I glued the replacement bits on with glue, and they are still all there. It took me about two months glueing one square a day,’cos I would have gone cross-eyed doing more than one at a time

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45 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

Although a bit off topic, I would still like to disagree that one could only glue ivory with epoxy, since violin makers have glued ivory way back into the 18th C. and they didn’t have epoxy then.

It's not that only epoxy would work, but that I'd expect the increased moisture resistance to be advantageous on a frog.

Perhaps Jerry P. has experience using his moisture-resistant hide glue on ivory?

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18 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

It's not that only epoxy would work, but that I'd expect the increased moisture resistance to be advantageous on a frog.

Perhaps Jerry P. has experience using his moisture-resistant hide glue on ivory?

Would it be a bit tricky cutting a mortise in a lamination of ivory and epoxy ....?

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50 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Would it be a bit tricky cutting a mortise in a lamination of ivory and epoxy ....?

I wouldn't think so, as long as it wasn't an epoxy containing abrasive fillers or colorants, such as silica. But putting together a sample first for test purposes would seem like a good idea.

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11 hours ago, Carl Johnson said:

The kunh regh art of bow making book...[contains] the best description of bonding tortoiseshell I’ve found in recent print...

The book says that five or six layers are typically required for a solid frog.  The shell pieces are cleaned and pressed together in a custom-made fixture that is heated in a pressure cooker.  No adhesive is used.

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Does anybody want to try?

I have a bunch of ivory from a I think a Firth and Hall piano made in 1840. Not 88 keys, but enough and I could certainly spare some for experimentation if anybody wants to make a try.

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17 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

I don‘t think you understood. You won‘t be able to melt them together, rather you could perhaps glue them together (with luck)

If you are talking to me, yes, I did understand that, and I know the result would not be a solid piece of ivory, but rather a piece of lamination, but it might look OK after all, who is an artist as well as a craftsman might be able to turn in something quite attractive. If the keys are stacked vertically and then cut to width, the stripes would be vertical. If stacked horizontally, they would not be tall enough for a cello frog so they’d have to be interleaved, but that might be doable as well. Either way the result might look good even if it doesn’t look like a solid block of ivory. And because the ivory is so old and age has affected each piece slightly differently, the uneven appearance might also be appealing.

If it isn’t feasible at all, well, that’s why I asked the question.

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I assume only the larger portion of the keys can be used for forming a block to carve. Have you thought about experimenting with the narrow part of the key by stacking them horizontally? Even if they looked a bit striped, it would possible result in a unique frog.

My Hill Tortoise cello frog is very dark and it appears to show many, thin laminations. A friend is borrowing it but if I remember correctly, the sides of the frog appear as if the surface is rippled. Will try to get an image.   

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1 hour ago, GoPractice said:

I assume only the larger portion of the keys can be used for forming a block to carve. Have you thought about experimenting with the narrow part of the key by stacking them horizontally? Even if they looked a bit striped, it would possible result in a unique frog.

My Hill Tortoise cello frog is very dark and it appears to show many, thin laminations. A friend is borrowing it but if I remember correctly, the sides of the frog appear as if the surface is rippled. Will try to get an image.   

Your first paragraph is exactly what I described as an option a couple comments ago.

stacking vertically,(stacking them flat on top of flat) would result in 6-7 horizontal lines.

Standing them together would require interleaving them, and because the keys aren’t tall enough, there would be at least one line somewhere.

but that wouldn’t necessarily be unattractive.

And while I’ve been pondering the solution, it occurred to me that the ivory from a single key could easily be used as a slide on the frog, and that might look good.

again, happy to offer a few keys to someone who wants to experiment.

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Sounds like all this could create a problem for CITES rules and possibly even some state laws (once ivory is altered it loses it's "antique" status so, it's not a way around the ban) and possibly stability... Maybe use something besides ivory.

 

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