Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
lachenal74693

Lignum vitae, ebony buttons?

Recommended Posts

Yesterday, I heard on the radio, a passing reference to lignum vitae, supposedly the hardest known wood.

It set me wondering if such extremely hard woods were ever used to fabricate concertina buttons? You

can add ebony to that list, I suppose.

 

I've found one reference to lignum vitae buttons, and a couple of references to ebony in 'historical' threads

here, but as far as I can see, the lignum vitae usage was a one-off, and no-one has come clean and actually

admitted to using ebony...

 

Any expert out there know if these very hard woods were ever used in any quantity for buttons?

 

Thank you.

 

Roger

Edited by lachenal74693

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A client told me they have a Dipper instrument with ebony buttons. I've made a couple with boxwood buttons (not as hard as LV but it is very dense). Unfortunately true LV is now endangered and difficult to obtain. I have an antique wooden mallet with a LV head, but any time I use it I feel guilty about using such a rare wood to bash things!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, alex_holden said:

A client told me they have a Dipper instrument with ebony buttons. I've made a couple with boxwood buttons (not as hard as LV but it is very dense). 

 

Alex, thank you.

 

I think the mention I found of the use of lignum vitae was for a Dipper.

I never thought of boxwood - a couple of my sets of Shogi (Japanese chess) pieces are boxwood, and they are pretty hard.

Seems like the use of these moderately exotic woods for buttons is not very common...

 

Roger

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe I was told that an associate of the Dippers, Robin Scard, was responsible for turning up LV buttons for them, and for some instruments made by him using more exotic woods than usually found in concertina construction. I've only ever had the pleasure of examining a couple of examples of his instruments, and indeed they are things of great beauty.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/28/2019 at 7:29 AM, alex_holden said:

A client told me they have a Dipper instrument with ebony buttons. I've made a couple with boxwood buttons (not as hard as LV but it is very dense). Unfortunately true LV is now endangered and difficult to obtain. I have an antique wooden mallet with a LV head, but any time I use it I feel guilty about using such a rare wood to bash things!

If you  fancy trying some there is actually a plentiful supply of LV in old abused crown green bowling balls they used to be about a fiver a piece .A challenging recycling project for sure.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Crown-Green-Bowls-pair-Woods/333447314592?hash=item4da3023ca0:g:DQEAAOSw0-5d~sHe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know how it would ship, but in South America the is a tree named Ipe, the wood of which must be pre-drilled even for nails. The wood is known to Ben nails otherwise. A company called Woodworkers Source sells it, but I'm sure other outlets sell Ipe as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, JimR said:

I don't know how it would ship, but in South America there is a tree named Ipe, the wood of which must be pre-drilled even for nails. The wood is known to bend nails otherwise. A company called Woodworkers Source sells it, but I'm sure other outlets sell Ipe as well. A search for Ironwood on Woodworker's source returned Ipe.

 

Edited by JimR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/28/2019 at 12:21 PM, Graham Collicutt said:

 

Beautiful instruments - with or without LV buttons!

 

19 hours ago, DDF said:

...there is actually a plentiful supply of LV in old abused crown green bowling balls...A challenging recycling project for sure.

 

I'm not up for making my own buttons - I have neither the necessary equipment, or the necessary skills. It was just an idle

thought prompted by a passing reference in a radio programme. I did wonder about the possibility of re-cycling ebony from

the edge of abandoned ebony-edged tee-squares - as used in drawing offices (do draughtsmen still use tee-squares?)...

 

Roger

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would feel uncomfortable destroying antiques of which there is a dwindling supply to reclaim a small amount of endangered/restricted material and put it into a new instrument. Particularly as it may prevent a future owner being able to export the instrument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having been involved in the world of Concertinas and Crown Green Bowls maybe a comment from me may be of interest.

Lignum woods are still fairly common, although they do not always conform to the correct modern specifications for the game.

When used in the game of bowls are subject to collisions, some of which can be quite violent.

As a consequence most clubs have several sets of woods that are well past their best for bowling, being chipped of suffering from cracking/surface crazing.

They are really only fit for scrap, so making buttons for concertinas would be a second life of usefulness perhaps.

I do recognise the export/endangered materials problems, but surely re-using existing materials should be encouraged.

TJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, TJPearson said:

Having been involved in the world of Concertinas and Crown Green Bowls maybe a comment from me may be of interest.

Lignum woods are still fairly common, although they do not always conform to the correct modern specifications for the game.

When used in the game of bowls are subject to collisions, some of which can be quite violent.

As a consequence most clubs have several sets of woods that are well past their best for bowling, being chipped of suffering from cracking/surface crazing.

They are really only fit for scrap, so making buttons for concertinas would be a second life of usefulness perhaps.

I do recognise the export/endangered materials problems, but surely re-using existing materials should be encouraged.

 

If the balls were definitely only fit for scrap, and the client accepted the potential for export problems, I'd be willing to use them. It is certainly a lovely wood and would probably make an excellent button material.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ebony suitable for buttons would be easily obtained from old pianos, which are often thrown out these days. It wouldn’t be my choice for buttons because it is heavy. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Chris Ghent said:

Ebony suitable for buttons would be easily obtained from old pianos, which are often thrown out these days. It wouldn’t be my choice for buttons because it is heavy. 

 

I was surprised by how lightweight solid hardwood buttons are. Plastic buttons are often regarded as a lightweight option but I believe acetal/Delrin is around 40% denser than ebony.  Boxwood has a similar density to ebony, and the buttons I made from it felt very light indeed, noticeably lighter than my metal-capped acetal buttons or vintage bone buttons. It's a bit tricky to find a consistent number for the density of bone, but it seems to be approximately double that of ebony. LV is around 25% denser than ebony.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

There is plenty of variation in density and hardness between trees, and from what I've heard, even within the same tree.  The numbers available on the internet are only an average, and many of those averages don't have a large sample size.  I think most of our perception of woods comes from anecdotal evidence.  If you look at this well-informed website and its articles, you will find that ebony doesn't even crack the top 10 hardest or densest woods. https://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/  The author of that website has a great video that explains the variations and expectations of exotic woods.  Also, check out his modest collection of books.  😉

 

 

For those disinclined to dig too deep, the short version is:  There are many smaller and lesser-known species that are harder and denser than Lignum and the other top contenders  There are several species in Australia that are slow growing dry climate trees that are an ironwood variation or similar.  The size and availibility just isn't the same as with ebony or blackwood or lignum of years past, so they don't enter into the conversation for us laypeople.

 

Regarding instrument building, how hard and how dense do you need?  I don't know the answer, but I would guess that any of the common woods used for guitar fingerboards would easily fit the bill, and be relatively easy to work with.  Katalox and granadillo (not to be confused with grenadilla) are plentiful and more budget-friendly, among many others.  Ebony is not restricted in musical instrument form, and most of the rosewoods (Dalbergia) are okay to ship in musical instrument form, as long as they are declared properly.  Messing with ivory, even mammoth, and Bolivian rosewood are not worth it in my opinion.  Avoiding all the dalbergia species if possible is not a bad thing to do.  There are plenty of materials with similar or better mechanical properties that work just fine, and don't carry risk.

Edited by AaronW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...