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Query re: Identifying good quality Ebony


PhilipKT
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41 minutes ago, Guido said:

To put another twist on this: when I look into my supply catalog I find fingerboard banks listed at a number of quality grades. This is also reflected in huge price differences.

The supplier is obviously grading the quality of the ebony… what are characteristics one can expect from a low grade fingerboard blank vs. a high grade blank? What are the criteria?

Maybe this brings the question more to the wood rather than the art and history of bow making.

If you go to Möhrendorf (near Bubenreuth) and visit Mr. Klier’s fingerboard factory, where the good fingerboards of almost all suppliers come from, you can quiz Mr Klier yourself. He actually goes to Cameron, or wherever else and chooses himself whole tree trunks, which one sees, sawn up to season 10 years or so in his garden. The quality grading seems to be density of growth, and if there are any greyish stripes or not. The A1 grade is obviously the best, although even th III grade is perfectly ok, if you don’t mind any greyish stripes.

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In most applications ebony is used because it’s black and because it doesn’t show staining from handling. There are plenty of equally hard woods, but they aren’t black.

So blackness would seem to be the primary desirable property.

… but I would not judge the value of a bow by the blackness of the ebony …

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14 minutes ago, Jedidjah de Vries said:

Are the greyish stripes anything other than an aesthetic judgement though? Because if not we have a bit of circulatory here. Supplier thinks customers like all black ebony so makes those the top grade. Customer sees that the top grade is all black so assumes that must mean better wood.

You should buy the III grade then, you will need to buy a black Edding marker though, if you want to give Philip a hard-on

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When one asks about the quality of the material, one must also state the specific purposes for which it will be used. This is missing in your questions.

A frog has structural purposes: hold the strings securely, slide easily along the stick without wobble, withstand the forces, sweat and oils from the fingers without significant wear. An argument can be made that both frogs you pictured perform all these purposes. The ebony used in one is not superior to the other in this regard. They are equivalent despite the differences in appearance.

 At this time, and perhaps not so much at the time they were made, appearance is also a purpose. Then the term "superior" becomes a matter of cultural taste and personal preference. Personally, I prefer the look of the frog with the whitish grain pattern. It is infinitely more interesting to me than the second, smooth frog. That second frog looks like a piece of worn, molded plastic in the picture, although it might be more interesting to look at in-person.

Now if you are talking about fingerboards, I would have the opposite opinion about appearance. A board with dramatic color variations in grain, or even obvious grain or color variations, is very distracting to me when I play. Yet such ebony may be perfectly fine for strength and wear purposes.

 

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22 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

That’s exactly the reason for my question, wasn’t that obvious? I showed a picture of an Ebony frog and asked if it was good quality wood. 

Well, my point is that you're asking whether the appearance of your ebony somehow indicates whether it's good quality without defining what you mean by good quality.  That's a technique used by philosophers who want to make a living on the 'Does God exist?' lecture circuit.  Let's say I'm a customer of Martin's who won't touch a bow with ebony that isn't a nearly poreless matt black.  Then to him/her your ebony would likely be bad.  Let's say I'm a bowmaker who's primary concern is whether the block is in a certain range of density.  How could he tell that quality from your photo?  Another bowmaker likes wood with the appearance of your frog, so to him/her your ebony might be good.   Let's say I'm a dealer who is only interested in the maker, provenance, and condition of the bow.  Then your question is irrelevant.  And no-one here can answer for any of them.  You get the picture - they're all using different criteria.  What criteria do you want to use?

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4 minutes ago, Dr. Mark said:

Well, my point is that you're asking whether the appearance of your ebony somehow indicates whether it's good quality without defining what you mean by good quality.  That's a technique used by philosophers who want to make a living on the 'Does God exist?' lecture circuit.  Let's say I'm a customer of Martin's who won't touch a bow with ebony that isn't a nearly poreless matt black.  Then to him/her your ebony would likely be bad.  Let's say I'm a bowmaker who's primary concern is whether the block is in a certain range of density.  How could he tell that quality from your photo?  Another bowmaker likes wood with the appearance of your frog, so to him/her your ebony might be good.   Let's say I'm a dealer who is only interested in the maker, provenance, and condition of the bow.  Then your question is irrelevant.  And no-one here can answer for any of them.  You get the picture - they're all using different criteria.  What criteria do you want to use?

You’re making a distinction between personal preference and quality. Structurally, I do not know whether one kind of Ebony is better than any other, which is one reason I asked. Aesthetically, I don’t know whether a particular appearance is considered to be more attractive than another, although I prefer an unbroken black, But that’s just me. And, based on the examples I see for sale that’s not just me, but most. I did not think to clarify the question because I thought the specific question would be obvious.
The frog that I shared was made for my stick by a bow maker who bought a bunch of ebony from the late Paul Martin Siefried. My friend was delighted to get this Ebony because he said it was very high-quality, and he has made four or five frogs for sticks of mine, they have all been plain frogs and they have all been beautiful.

He was happy to get that Ebony because it met certain parameters, and he told me that he has so little left that he’s going to save it for his own bows. I just assumed when I asked the question that those parameters were pretty universal. Of course a good maker can make a good Product with less than best quality material, that was irrelevant to my question. But again that brings up the question of why the term “best quality”exists at all, if not because some material is not.

 

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7 hours ago, martin swan said:

PhilipKT have you really never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ...?

 

No, I didn’t read any of the Zen books… David probably has, given that he lived on a motorcycle for a time.

do you recommend them to a mechanically ungifted musician?

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7 hours ago, martin swan said:

PhilipKT have you really never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ...?

 

It’s amazing how people have responded to a simple question. I posted a photograph of an Ebony frog and asked if it was good quality Ebony.

You responded that it didn’t matter because the great Bowmakers made great bows with imperfect material. i Never questioned That and it was irrelevant to my question.

Several people suggested that the question was subjective: that if I liked one piece it was good and if I didn’t like one piece it was bad. What mattered was what I preferred aesthetically.

I gave two examples, and Jacob, God bless him, also gave one, of wood being judged more or less desirable, by the experts who prepare it, the makers who seek it, and the evaluators who judge it.

I fail to see why there is any confusion in my question and why there were so many irrelevant replies.

If there is no structural difference between one chunk of Ebony and another, and then that is an answer to my question, but at least one reply indicates that that is not the case.

Anyway, it was a reasonable question and the replies have been interesting.

 

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

No, I didn’t read any of the Zen books… David probably has, given that he lived on a motorcycle for a time.

do you recommend them to a mechanically ungifted musician?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a seminal American novel which approaches the philosophical question of "quality", amongst other issues.

 

52 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I fail to see why there is any confusion in my question and why there were so many irrelevant replies.

Your question was whether a particular substance was "good quality" or not. This is a philosophical question - you can't be surprised if people choose to answer it philosophically.

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15 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

The frog that I shared was made for my stick by a bow maker who bought a bunch of ebony from the late Paul Martin Siefried. My friend was delighted to get this Ebony because he said it was very high-quality, and he has made four or five frogs for sticks of mine, they have all been plain frogs and they have all been beautiful.

That ebony probably came from Robichec (spelling?), the person who also supplied Siefried with his boxcar-loads of pernambuco. On the recommendation of Jerry Pasewicz,  I purchased a bunch of cello fingerboards from this guy. They were amazing! Unfortunately, those I purchased have all been used up now, so I am dipping into my inventory of the cello fingerboards I purchased from  Larry Kass (also now deceased),

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17 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a seminal American novel which approaches the philosophical question of "quality", amongst other issues.

 

Your question was whether a particular substance was "good quality" or not. This is a philosophical question - you can't be surprised if people choose to answer it philosophically.

It’s not really a philosophical question and my examples illustrate that. It certainly CAN be philosophical, but it’s clear from the question that I was asking something specific.

My friend was happy to get ebony from Paul Siefried because it was excellent quality. Paul Childs said my Gillet was superior wood, even though he thought my other Gillet was a better bow.

“Good” and “better” and “best” mean something. Sometimes they can be used subjective,y, but as often they are objective.

Thats what I was asking.

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I am familiar with the Robecheck ebony that Paul obtained. He took me to the place where he was storing it. It came from Vietnam and Thailand and evidentially was very dangerous to obtain due to local armed militias. He was thrilled with it. It was black as coal and hard as a rock. He split it by hand instead of sawing it to keep the grain straight since the grain was so hard to see. As a matter of fact Paul sold me a couple of boards of the ebony that he was using before he got the new wood. I carried them back to Portland on the train. It's extremely fine ebony and frog quality. At least for him the midnight blackness and pore less finish was highly desirable. I know that bowmakers such as Paul will use the wood like the second example if they can get it.

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22 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

 

“Good” and “better” and “best” mean something. Sometimes they can be used subjective,y, but as often they are objective.

 

These are value judgments not objective criteria ...

Ebony - good for carving, good for looks, good as an aid to identification, good for not showing stains, good for durability, good for resisting wear?

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3 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

It’s amazing how people have responded to a simple question. I posted a photograph of an Ebony frog and asked if it was good quality Ebony.

You responded that it didn’t matter because the great Bowmakers made great bows with imperfect material. i Never questioned That and it was irrelevant to my question.

Several people suggested that the question was subjective: that if I liked one piece it was good and if I didn’t like one piece it was bad. What mattered was what I preferred aesthetically.

I gave two examples, and Jacob, God bless him, also gave one, of wood being judged more or less desirable, by the experts who prepare it, the makers who seek it, and the evaluators who judge it.

I fail to see why there is any confusion in my question and why there were so many irrelevant replies.

If there is no structural difference between one chunk of Ebony and another, and then that is an answer to my question, but at least one reply indicates that that is not the case.

Anyway, it was a reasonable question and the replies have been interesting.

 

In my eyes your problem is, please excuse the directness, that you obviously can’t accept any opinions being contrary to yours.
The open pores ebony frog you posted can be very good quality, also the old French bow makers used high quality woods, but it’s your opinion that these aren’t good enough according to your ideas.

Are these ideas only basing on sticks and frogs which are your personal property?

Many posters here tried to explain criterias and different aspects of quality, which aren’t irrelevant for those who are willing to listen. 

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Thats what I was asking.

To the extent that your question was "to what extent do various characteristics of ebony corelate with what I perceive as aesthetic deficiencies in this example?" I think it has been well answered: there isn't much of a correlation.

To the extent that your question was "where does this example fit on the Grand Objective Ebony Scale of Quality?" it has been answered as well: no such scale exists.

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48 minutes ago, Blank face said:

In my eyes your problem is, please excuse the directness, that you obviously can’t accept any opinions being contrary to yours.
The open pores ebony frog you posted can be very good quality, also the old French bow makers used high quality woods, but it’s your opinion that these aren’t good enough according to your ideas.

Are these ideas only basing on sticks and frogs which are your personal property?

Many posters here tried to explain criterias and different aspects of quality, which aren’t irrelevant for those who are willing to listen. 

I appreciate your comment, but I haven’t gotten an answer. Now your Second paragraph is an answer, and if you had mentioned that in your first comment That would’ve been sufficient. However it is obvious from reading the comments that no one answered the question. I’m not being obstinate in the slightest nor am I Unwilling to except a clear answer, I’m kind of insulted that you suggest that I am.

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45 minutes ago, Jedidjah de Vries said:

To the extent that your question was "to what extent do various characteristics of ebony corelate with what I perceive as aesthetic deficiencies in this example?" I think it has been well answered: there isn't much of a correlation.

To the extent that your question was "where does this example fit on the Grand Objective Ebony Scale of Quality?" it has been answered as well: no such scale exists.

Go back and read the comments.

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3 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I appreciate your comment, but I haven’t gotten an answer. Now your Second paragraph is an answer, and if you had mentioned that in your first comment That would’ve been sufficient. However it is obvious from reading the comments that no one answered the question. I’m not being obstinate in the slightest nor am I Unwilling to except a clear answer, I’m kind of insulted that you suggest that I am.

I gave you exactly this answer before, that the frog must be of good quality because it lasted a very long period without damage, and explained my experiences with different sorts of ebony. Maybe you didn’t read carefully? So maybe I should be offended for being ignored so rudely.:rolleyes:

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