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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I'm new here, so I hope it's ok that I'm jumping right in with a question, and also hope that it's in the correct category. (I trust someone will let me know if it isn't!)

I'm looking for a few species of wood milled into turning blanks, that I so far haven't had much luck finding. I make replicas of 17th and 18th century woodwind instruments, which were at the time made mostly from European Boxwood (buxus sempervirens) and genuine Ebony, both rare and of dubious quality most of time these days. I'd love to find a domestic alternative.

Flowering Dogwood (cornus florida)
Mountain Laurel (kalmia latifolia)
Mountain Mahogany (cercocarpus)
Plum Wood (prunus domestica)

I know that some of these grow quite commonly, yet I haven't been able to find anyone milling any of these particular species.

Also, if anyone else has any suggestions for similar timbers, I'd love to hear it! The crucial thing is to get something that is quite hard and relatively heavy, but with a very closed grain structure. (Maple, for instance works reasonably well, but is really too lightweight)

Thanks!
 

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Sorry - but your kind of question is a good example of why folks should introduce themselves in a forum. Go to my profile or intro post way back when and you will learn that I live in NH (USA). Mountain laurel is common here in New Hampshire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sorry - but your kind of question is a good example of why folks should introduce themselves in a forum. Go to my profile or intro post way back when and you will learn that I live in NH (USA). Mountain laurel is common here in New Hampshire.
Hi Bernie. Sorry about that...

I'm Jeff. Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, and spending a great deal of my free time making historical woodwinds in the entryway of my apartment. I got into it as a musician wanting to make my own instruments.

Do you suppose there are any dealers in NH willing to mill and ship mountain laurel to my area?
 

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Sorry - but your kind of question is a good example of why folks should introduce themselves in a forum. Go to my profile or intro post way back when and you will learn that I live in NH (USA). Mountain laurel is common here in New Hampshire.
Why would he ever of thought to look at your profile?

The introduction he made was not bad.

George
 

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I was in Dallas last weekend and went to Woodcraft and Wood World and they both had a wood labeled 'Texas Ebony'. It almost had a Macassar Ebony look to it and it was dense, hard, and heavy. You might call them and learn more about it for origin, cost, and shipping to Brooklyn.
 

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There are a number of hard dense woods that are popular as turning blanks - cocobolo and rosewood come to mind - none of them are cheap. I know of a source of Gabon ebony blanks, 1.5" x 1.5" x 15" @ $42.95 ea. and that's considered to be cheap.

BTW Mountain Laurel is the state flower here in CT. It doesn't grow large enough to be viable as a source of wood. Just as well though - it's very toxic. I wouldn't want to put any in my mouth...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
There are a number of hard dense woods that are popular as turning blanks - cocobolo and rosewood come to mind - none of them are cheap. I know of a source of Gabon ebony blanks, 1.5" x 1.5" x 15" @ $42.95 ea. and that's considered to be cheap.

BTW Mountain Laurel is the state flower here in CT. It doesn't grow large enough to be viable as a source of wood. Just as well though - it's very toxic. I wouldn't want to put any in my mouth...
I've worked quite a lot with the rosewoods. Cocobolo and kingwood work well, but the trouble with most of the tropical hardwoods is that they have open pores which cause problems with the tiny little ornate turnings present on a baroque oboe, and also cause the instrument to leak around the finger holes and not play as well unless filled. (on modern instruments made from the rosewoods, each hole usually has a rubber liner installed to prevent leaks.) It works, but it's not ideal. As I said, the magic combination is hard, somewhat heavy, and extremely closed-grained. Unfortunately that means mostly very slow-growing trees and shrubs that aren't worth the trouble of harvesting for wood on a regular basis.

BTW, I've heard that Mountain laurel is toxic, however you don't actually put any part of an oboe in your mouth. Do you think it would be toxic simply to handle? Might have to cross it off my list.

There are actually quite a few of these trees in my own neighborhood. I'm hoping for a storm...
 

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A couple of weeks ago while looking for turning blanks at my go-to lumber yard, http://www.exoticlumberinc.com, I got introduced to African Blackwood. It seemed to be nearly as black as ebony, nearly as dense as ebony and nearly as tight grained as ebony. Heck, it's nearly ebony. They had a pretty big variety and I'm pretty sure they'll ship. I also buy turning blanks on eBay. I've had mixed results, but mostly good.
 

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Hi GeorgeC and Jreinhardt5 and everyone. George... I wasn't asking the op to look at my personal info - I was using my personal info as an example of how personal info can help ansewring questions. Now that I know the OP is from NY I can tell him mountain laurel is found all along the East Coast - even in his own backyard.

JReinhardt5 - Sounds like you've discovered what I know about mountain laurel. It grows all along the Eastern coast but has a thin trunk. Folks in my neck of the woods have used it to make rustic furniture by weaving it. I did call a few mills and they told me they don't harvest it because of its' thin trunks. Seems you have access to thicker stalks then we do here in NH - but we do have lots of it!

How wide and thickness do you need to have your desired pieces? I have milling machines in my small shop and I'm willing to try and meet your specks at no cost to you if I can. I'm simply a very enthused woodworker and I love helping folks.

As for the toxicity of mtn laurel, that may be a bit of a myth based on facts. It is toxic for goats and makes people sick, but it is not fatal to people. Do research it and make your own conclusions.
 

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I think it's cool that you don't let living in an apartment stop you from woodworking, I knew this one guy that used to turn pens in his bathroom while sitting on his toilet. He said that the tiled floor made it easy to clean up!! Anyway, since you'd like something domestic how about mesquite? I haven't had the chance to work with it yet but I believe that it's dense enough.
 

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For local grown wood that is not normally harvested you may want to reach out to landscaping and tree trimming services and ask for their help. Quite often they either chip it up or sell it as firewood. One species you did not mention is Persimmon. At one time a company was exporting it to Japan where it was dyed black and resold as ebony fingerboard material. You can find turning blanks of persimmon on Ebay from time to time.
 

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Another possibility is "Lumber Liquidators". Since your looking for small pieces, their flooring boards might be a solution for you. They stock all kinds of species.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I think it's cool that you don't let living in an apartment stop you from woodworking, I knew this one guy that used to turn pens in his bathroom while sitting on his toilet. He said that the tiled floor made it easy to clean up!! Anyway, since you'd like something domestic how about mesquite? I haven't had the chance to work with it yet but I believe that it's dense enough.
Thanks! It's certainly not the easiest NYC apartment hobby, but the fact that I have a wide entryway and that these instruments are all relatively small means I can get away with two mini-lathes (one metal, one wood) and quite a lot of hand tools. No drill press, even.

Mesquite looks quite promising. It's about the right weight and though it's slightly on the grainy side, it should work fine.

To Woodenhorse, thanks for the tip on Persimmon. Reading about it I understand it's actually a true ebony, and though a bit less dense than gabon ebony, it should work quite well. Thanks!

To BernieL, very kind of you to offer free milling service! It seems, unfortunately, that a mountain laurel shrub that has grown wide enough for my purposes might be a rare thing, especially since quartersawn blanks are ideal. A set would consist of two ea. 1.5x1.5x10 and one 2.5x2.5x6. The wider blank only has to be 2.5 inches at one end, and can taper down to 2 inches at the other end.

The more I read, the more I find that dogwood might be my best bet for a domestic wood, as it's hard, brittle, smooth-grained, and grows all over the eastern US. It's just a matter of actually finding someone with some of the wood, since it's not sold commercially.
 

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You may want to try North American Osage Orange, I believe Native Americans used to use it to make woodwind instruments because of its tonal values, it's semi popular out west, and farmers started using it as fence posts because of how resilient to weathering it is.
Elm wood and chestnut would be great as well to find since those woods are available as reclaimed and not so much for harvesting. Post some pictures of your work!
 
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