The Quest for Mountain Mahogany: Part 2

Mountain Mahogany

Mountain Mahogany

With my recent interest in making uilleann bagpipes, I have become aware of the importance of rainforest wood conservation.  I have been searching for a North American wood that is a suitable alternative to woods like ebony, cocobolo and lignum vitae.  In my research, I determined the wood I seek must be very dense, suitable for turning, and in such abundance where harvesting would have a negligible impact.  Mountain mahogany interests me greatly because the density is very comparable to ebony, has a wonderful color and figure, turns well, and is an abundant shrub.

The aim of my research is to find specific locations where the shrub could be found of sufficient diameters for my purpose.  Failing this, I hope to find a commercial source, but usually these options wind up being a little pricey.  I have made phone calls to Forest Service offices and the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming, and was able to determine a few areas to look.  I spoke with a field officer at the BLM Field Office in Casper, WY, and had a very nice conversation.  The field officer was helpful and indicated there were specific stands that she could personally show me if I ever came out in that direction, though the shrubs were small and may or may not suit my purposes, but she hasn’t personally measured them.

Regarding specific locations, I am redacting the information discussed to avoid the potential problem of people going out into the countryside and harvesting this shrub which is critical to the survival of deer, elk and other fauna in the area.  It literally is the number one food source for these animals during the winter months.  My hope is to find stuff that requires management, such as the mahogany that is burned in control burns to avoid problems of forest fires, or “high line” situations such as described by this biologist:

I am publishing specific locations in a private entry for my own documentation.


The Quest for Mountain Mahogany

Mountain Mahogany

Mountain Mahogany

In recent months, I have been gifted with a lathe by a family member.  It was a very nice blessing, and I will be posting on that restoration project shortly.  This post is mostly for myself, to document my search for mountain mahogany.  Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) is a shrub of the Rosaceae family that is extremely dense–denser, in fact than ebony.  It grows in large part in the western part of the United States, generally in high altitude regions and chaparral.

I have been searching for North American wood alternatives for bagpipes.  When I found out that mountain mahogany grows in abundance in my home state, Wyoming, I got excited.  I called my dad up and asked if he knew anything about it, which he didn’t but said he would sniff around and ask.  He called a little bit later and said he talked to a guy that looks for different kinds of woods, who said it grows all over the place like sagebrush.

So, a plan is pending to get out there and look for some.  In the meantime, I’ve been doing some footwork to find locations to harvest, how to harvest legally–and failing that, to find suppliers.  This elusive shrub is rarely found at lumber suppliers, and I have only been able to locate two of them.  It’s generally not sold, hence the hard work I have been doing to find it.  I have spoken with some folks at the Sheridan, WY U.S. Forest Service office and discovered little more than I know of it.  I am currently trying to reach out to the Bureau of Land Management to see what they know of it.

Today, I found out how to identify locations using Google Maps, so I am going to direct attention to this map:

This is a location where a BLM controlled burn of sagebrush and mountain mahogany took place, and if you switch to street view, you can see what the shrubs look like:

Studio update and a preview

Things are plugging along with some major hiccups; your prayers are coveted.  I’ve had quite a few system crashes related to my soundcard which I am presently working with M-Audio on resolving.  I did manage to get the general structure of most of my songs completed, guitar recorded, and today got some uilleann pipes in the mix!  Awesome!  You get to hear a snippet of things as they are being released!

Where Music Imitates Nature

Gotta love this hilarious bit by Felix Doran playing The Fox Hunt:

Blasket Islands music

A video I found outlining some of the folk music from the Blasket Islands.  It’s neat to hear where some music comes from, giving a rich perspective to Irish music.

Uilleann reed gouger and profiler machines

Found something that I’ve been hoping for, but egads! way too much money:

Looks like they are fixing to develop gougers and profilers for uilleann pipe application, viewing the comments.  Here’s a vid of the profiler:

It would be nice if these guys actually do something for uilleann pipe reeds.  The setup seems to be very compatible to different measurements, just change the head or bed, and you’re ready to roll in seconds!  This would be a major time-saver for the reedmaking process.

Reedmaking: Oboe 2

cool little machines.  would be useful if someone could devise these for an uilleann pipe application.

Reedmaking: Oboe

something I found that shows good scraping technique.


Engraving away

Found a handy little editor for Lilypond for my music engraving . . .

Evertjan ‘t Hart playing in the corner

Working on transcribing Port na bPúcaí, analyzing the structure a little deeper, writing down some thoughts.  More to come . . .