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Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment

Bat Goddess 03 Dec 07 - 12:35 PM
lefthanded guitar 03 Dec 07 - 12:54 PM
GUEST,highlandman 03 Dec 07 - 12:55 PM
MikeRebec 03 Dec 07 - 02:22 PM
McGrath of Harlow 03 Dec 07 - 02:29 PM
greg stephens 03 Dec 07 - 02:52 PM
Leadfingers 03 Dec 07 - 03:01 PM
Bert 03 Dec 07 - 03:02 PM
open mike 03 Dec 07 - 03:18 PM
GUEST,highlandman 03 Dec 07 - 04:37 PM
Jack Campin 03 Dec 07 - 05:04 PM
Bonecruncher 03 Dec 07 - 11:03 PM
GUEST,JohnB 04 Dec 07 - 12:02 AM
The Fooles Troupe 04 Dec 07 - 12:49 AM
oggie 04 Dec 07 - 02:57 AM
GUEST,Jim Carroll 04 Dec 07 - 03:04 AM
Les in Chorlton 04 Dec 07 - 07:37 AM
GUEST,highlandman 04 Dec 07 - 09:23 AM
Bert 04 Dec 07 - 11:57 AM
Wolfhound person 04 Dec 07 - 12:20 PM
Bert 04 Dec 07 - 12:43 PM
MikeRebec 04 Dec 07 - 12:53 PM
Les in Chorlton 04 Dec 07 - 12:55 PM
MikeRebec 04 Dec 07 - 01:05 PM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 04 Dec 07 - 01:07 PM
Les in Chorlton 04 Dec 07 - 01:09 PM
Wolfhound person 04 Dec 07 - 02:09 PM
MikeRebec 04 Dec 07 - 03:36 PM
Rowan 04 Dec 07 - 07:49 PM
Effsee 04 Dec 07 - 10:03 PM
The Fooles Troupe 05 Dec 07 - 03:20 AM
Les in Chorlton 05 Dec 07 - 04:50 AM
JohnInKansas 05 Dec 07 - 07:10 AM
Wolfhound person 05 Dec 07 - 08:58 AM
GUEST,Mpingo Conservation Project 05 Dec 07 - 10:26 AM
harrisonpj 05 Dec 07 - 10:53 AM
GUEST,Barry 07 Dec 07 - 01:11 PM
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Subject: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 12:35 PM

A friend just sent this link from Scotland On Sunday -- http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=188350200

Bagpipes a threat to the environment (and we're not talking noise pollution)
MARC HORNE

THEY were once outlawed for being used as seditious weapons of war. Now, bagpipes have been blasted as an environmental menace.

Over-intensive logging means that the African wood used to make Scotland's national instrument faces being wiped out.

Conservation groups are letting out skirls of protest, urging musicians and instrument manufacturers to make sure their pipes come from eco-friendly sources.

As part of the campaign, Scots are being asked to fund the planting of "bagpipe trees" in a bid to atone for the environmental damage.   


(More to the article, of course.)

Some interesting commentary there, too, on the article.

Linn


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 12:54 PM

I didn't know there were actually that many bagpipes still being made. ;-)

But I know that Brazilian rosewood, once used decades ago on wonderfully resonant Martin D28's, was banned from being harvested for the instrument, and I'm not sure those guitars ever sounded quite so fine again.

However, I am an environmentalist and a tree hugger, and would happily forsake harvesting those trees even for fine instruments.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,highlandman
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 12:55 PM

Interesting point.
I've used a polypropylene chanter for years, gone to synthetic drone reeds, and will get a Goretex bag when this one wears out. I hear there are plastic chanter reeds available but I haven't seen one in person yet.
I suppose purists could tell some subtle difference in tone, but let's face it, a Highland bagpipe is not meant to be listened to in a tea room. For a player at my very modest level, the added stability under different weather conditions is much more important than niceties of timbre.
I suppose if builders are forced to go away from blackwood there will be much outrage, but probably no long lasting harm to the industry. And maybe even improvement.
Now on the other hand the enviro-activists are probably rather stretching their case. How many sets of bagpipes actually get built in a year? I've never seen one built, but I don't think the old cartoon method of lathing down a whole tree to get one drone pipe is the way they do it.
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: MikeRebec
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 02:22 PM

Not too sure about how many are manufactured a year but it's not only Highland pipes that are made from the hard black woods. Oboes, clarinets and some recorders (my soprano, alto and tenor recorders are made from African blackwood)are also "environmentally unfriendly" according to this Scotland on Sunday article.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 02:29 PM

I didn't know there were actually that many bagpipes still being made.

I very much suspect that the number of bagpipes of various sorts being made today is far higher than ever.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: greg stephens
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 02:52 PM

But it would take an awful lot of bagpipes to wipe out even a small rain forest. It can't be that much of a threat can it?


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 03:01 PM

Any tree cut down and not replaced is a loss to the environment !!


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Bert
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 03:02 PM

When you consider all of the woodwind instruments in marching bands the numbers mount up.

I am sure that the black wood is only used because it looks good. The difference in sound from different colored woods must be minimal and it is quite possible that other woods might even have an inherently superior tone but just don't look so COOOOOL.

The same can be said for ebony fingerboards on stringed instruments. There are many species of ironwood that might even have a better performance than ebony in that application.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: open mike
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 03:18 PM

are bagpipes made of Ebony? oh, i see blackwood is different...

and oh, the plactic ones..pity the poor dinosaur
who died to make the petroleum...and they are not
around to defend themselves...

i see lots of entries on the net regarding Cocus Wood.


HERE is a comparison...from a flute maker.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,highlandman
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 04:37 PM

On checking closer I find that my plastic chanter is not polypropylene but rather acetal, just in case any one is a stickler for that kind of detail.
Open Mike, that flutemaker's site claims exactly the opposite about blackwood: that it is being responsibly managed, quotas and licenses required and all, and is not endangered.
So could it be that something less than true has made it onto the 'Net? Good God, what next?!
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 05:04 PM

It takes a much larger log to make a woodwind instrument than you'd think.

One way forward is what Buffet do with some of their high-end clarinets - they are made of a composite of blackwood dust in a resin matrix. This is far more economical with the timber, and both sound and appearance are much the same as a solid wood instrument.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Bonecruncher
Date: 03 Dec 07 - 11:03 PM

Open Mike.
Ebony (Diospyros crassiflora) and Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) are obviously different species so your cynicism has rather rebounded on you.
Jack Campion.
While Buffet might be recycling their waste by mixing it with resin and then re-machining it into useable parts for instruments, this is most likely to be for economic reasons rather than environmental. Any producer would rather turn his waste into cash rather than throw it away.
Another thought is that the dust from rosewoods, of which African Blackwood is a species, and Ebony has been shown to cause conjunctivitis, dermatitis and respiratory problems. So, if the waste can be rendered inert by mixing with another substance and then sold, both the disposal and the health problems are resolved together. The Health and Safety requirements of woodworking shops have to be seen to be believed!
As a matter of interest, African Blackwood which grows to about 4.5 to 6 metres, with a trunk of 0.3 metres, is more rare than Ebony, which grows to 15-18m. with a diameter of 0.6m. However, many people would call any black wood "Ebony", not recognising that Blackwood exists.
Most of the carvings seen in shops are Ebony and are from managed plantations.
Any timber used as a tonewood for musical instruments is specially selected and is far less common than the rest of the timber of the same species. Similar applies to figured woods used for veneer.
Colyn.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 12:02 AM

I have a Blackwood whistle in D, which has a C body also, SORRY.
It sounds so good though and it's really too late to do anything about it now, so I will keep it and promise not to do it again.
My low D is Alluminium, hope that's OK.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 12:49 AM

"I am sure that the black wood is only used because it looks good"

Not true.

Highly DENSE woods are neeeded for quality wood winds (where the side wall characteristics are important for good tone production). High density plastic also works, so they say.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: oggie
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 02:57 AM

Increasingly manufacturers who use exotic woods are turning to woods from certified and audited forests which come with certification from the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) or similar body. The rules for the FSC are complex and involve chains of custody etc and add a little to the price of the wood.

If, as is happening, makers of kitchen woodware (for example) are moving to FSC woods (and using it as a marketing tool) I don't see why instrument makers shouldn't do the same. On an expensive instrument it will add very little to the cost.

When I use exotics for puzzles I now use FSC woods and indeed my local timber yard (John Boddy's at Boroughbridge) is moving to a system where ALL woods they offer will be certified.

ALl the best

Steve


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 03:04 AM

Brendan Behan once claimed that the only thing to be said in favour of the Scots bagpipes was that they didn't smell.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 07:37 AM

Steady Jim, you know how these things get misunderstood.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,highlandman
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 09:23 AM

"...the only thing to be said in favour of the Scots bagpipes was that they didn't smell."
Obviously spoken by someone who never got up close to a tin of bag seasoning.
:-)
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Bert
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 11:57 AM

Highly DENSE woods are neeeded for quality wood winds... so why don't they use lignum vitae?


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 12:20 PM

Bert - "real" Lignum vitae is officially extinct. There are substitute ones sold as lignum, but they're not the same species, and they are not nearly as suitable.

I make Northumbrian smallpipes for a living. We use much much smaller pieces of whatever wood than GHB makers or for clarinets etc etc. We import blackwood directly from Tanzania, where it's production, and sawing into suitable sizes keeps a number of workers in employment - this being a condition of its export.

The density of the wood used has to be sufficient that it sinks in water. This is more critical for chanters than drones, which can be made of (for instance) laburnum, sycamore, cherry and other fruitwoods. The "best" woods - tonewise - for chanters are as mentioned above Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) and ebony, though modern ebony is not nearly as good quality as the old stuff that was used for policeman's truncheons up till the 1960s (UK). (Anyone got any??)
We can also use box, but it has to be imported, cocobolo (nasty stuff to work), snakewood and a variety of other getting hard to obtain mostly tropical woods.

Wood not only needs to be very dense but it has to be even grained and not fibrous.

And of course (deep breath) there is ivory, which has the best tone of all, and is spectacular as a finished instrument.
I would happily import fossilised mammoth ivory from Siberia or wherever if I could do it legally; and if it were permitted, the tusks from the areas where elephants are being culled anyway. I consider that making a beautiful musical instrument which will last for generations is just as valid a use of an existing resource as having bits of it carved and sold to tourists (as the Japanes now have permission to do, under limited arrangements).

I'll get back to my lathe......

Paws


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Bert
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 12:43 PM

Thanks Paws, nice to get info straight from he maker.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: MikeRebec
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 12:53 PM

Very interseting Wolfhound. I was about to reply to the comment from Bert re the wood looking good and nothing else but this has been answered. Yes it looks lovely but is also tonally superior to the more open grained softer woods.
As a highland piper, oboist and recorder player I have quit a bit of the stuff in my possession. I can only reinforce previous comments that as a performer of over 30 years experience as a performer that my African Blackwood recorders sound much better and are, more to the point, easier to play than my soft wood recorders.
Mike.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 12:55 PM

Do hard woods absorb less moisture and so give more reliable music?


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: MikeRebec
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 01:05 PM

In essence yes. I'm a performer and not an expert on these matters. However, as I understand it the smoother the bore the better the sound due to the sound waves bouncing around within the instruments bore. If you look down, say, a cheap Adler wooden recorder with the end towards the light and then down a Moeck or a Von Huene for instance you would see the difference. The latter are very smooth and the former is very rough, so much so that you can se the openness of the grain. You can't actually see splinters but not far off!!! I'll show you when I'm next around. Get the Guinness in!


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 01:07 PM

Does this give the WWI phrase "The Ladies From Hell" a whole new meaning?


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 01:09 PM

Mike,

Excellent Guiness at the Beech!

Les


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 02:09 PM

Indeed, Mike, the smoother, and even shinier the better. Lignum was a very oily wood, which was partly why it was used - it was also available as offcuts in the Tyneside shipyards where it was used for ships' propeller bearings so makers could get it cheaply or free.
BTW, official extinction in this case is a CITES classification - it means there may be still live specimens around, but not for trade or use or anything.

Less oily woods can be assisted by immersing a bored chanter in a suitable oil (we use linseed) in a bath which is then put under vacuum.
This drives out (or sucks out) the residual water and air in the wood, and impregnates it with an oil which "solidifies" (polymerises, gets absorbed by the wood, whatever is your preferred explanation) and keeps the sounds where you want them - inside the bore until they come out of the finger holes. It looks like a sort of bubble bath when it's going, but calms down after an hour or so.

Doing this with a less dense or rather fibrous wood can bring it up to scratch as far as tone / pitch is concerned, but it can also be quite a dramatic process.

Once this is complete, any remaining roughness of the bore (as in the cheap recorders mentioned above) can be filed off, and even a coat of French polish applied to make all smooth. These last two aren't usually necessary with blackwood, but cheaper grainier woods can benefit.

The only real test of a previously untried wood species is to make a keyless chanter, and if that behaves, try a keyed one. Sometimes one can get away with more on the simpler style of instrument.

Hope this is of interest.

Paws


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: MikeRebec
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 03:36 PM

Yes indeed. As a woodwind musician this is of great interest. As a maker of pipes then you are, of course, at one with the wood so to speak and the above explanation was very informative. Thanks.
I also play Gaita Gallicia and Bulgarian bagpipes and would like to get some Hungarian pipes also. Daniel Hamar of the Hungarian band Muszikas is looking out for a set over there for me. I toyed with the idea of the Northumbrian Smallpipes and even had a set on order from Burleigh many years ago but couldn't afford them in the end. The fingering I think may have been a problem for me with the closed fingering system which is different from that employed on the highland and many other pipes.
All this has reminded me that my recorders are long overdue a good oiling!
You will, no doubt, be aware of flutes once made from glass. I don't suppose the bores could come out any smoother. How about a set of glass bagpipes?!!!
Mike.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Rowan
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 07:49 PM

Linsey Pollack has made various bass and baritone "woodwinds" from glass tubing, as the glass can be bent in ways that let the finger holes be placed conveniently for the fingers. The timbre is wonderful.

When Geoff Wooff made his first set of uilleann pipes the timber he used for the large bit (I forget its technical name), where all the regulators and the inlet from the bellows and the outlet for the chanter must be plumbed, was a piece of (rather dense) eucalypt (red gum? ie E. camaldulensis?)that had been sitting on someone's hearth for yonks. It worked perfectly.

And for those of you with an interest in how so many antiques are made from ebony, immersing any timber in a concentrated solution of potassium permanganate will convert it into "ebony"; the longer it's left in the solution the darker it gets, from serious oxidisation of the organic components of the timber. Trying it on a piece of pine works but the grain gives the game away. STill, if you wanted an "ebony" finger board for a stringed instrument, get a piece of seriously dense hardwood (most eucalypts) and give them the KMNO4 trick. Just make sure you expose all the sawn ends or the game is, again, given away.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Effsee
Date: 04 Dec 07 - 10:03 PM

From what I have gleaned about the use of African Blackwood, it seems the main attraction is the resistance to splitting, not the cosmetic value.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 03:20 AM

For the Simple Minded:

Cheap and Nasty instrument built to a price - sacrifice tonality, timbre, volume and playability for Looks!

Quality Instrument - built to perform, not a price -The fact that such instruments often look good because of the quality materials is serendipitious - and also the craftsman, working with the highest quality materials would be ashamed to not put the highest quality of his work into the item!

:-)


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 04:50 AM

Would the Potassium Permanganate treatment also prevent or cure the player of worts?


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 07:10 AM

Somewhere up above:

But it would take an awful lot of bagpipes to wipe out even a small rain forest. It can't be that much of a threat can it?

An article in one or the other of my magazines, perhaps Smithsonian a few months ago, related the actions of a band of luthiers, together with a couple of governments, to prevent the extinction of the Pernambuko (spelling varies?) used mainly for making fiddle bows. Those are really tiny little things, aren't they?

There were legitimate fears that the species would be completely wiped out very soon; but cooperation between governments, conservators, and the luthiers who used and needed it have resulted in a remarkably stable preservation of remaining stocks, and even some increases in harvestable trees.

It can be done without destroying an industry, but the industry has to cooperate. The book is open on whether bagpipers can cooperate? (I'll leave that question to others who are on speaking terms with one.)

John


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: Wolfhound person
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 08:58 AM

The problem - if problem there is - is not being on speaking terms with one, but being on speaking terms with sufficient of them to facilitate cooperation ....


Paws


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,Mpingo Conservation Project
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 10:26 AM

Pipers heralding a new dawn for blackwood

MCP were delighted to see our work featured in the article by Marc Horne on 02/12/07. However far from lambasting a symbol of Scottish tradition and blaming bagpipe manufacturers, we are enthusiastic to highlight the part pipers can play in protecting African heritage. Stocks of blackwood have declined due to wide-scale illegal logging, the amount of wood used to make pipes makes up a small but significant part of this. The Mpingo Conservation Project, supported by UK partners Fauna & Flora International and the Environment Africa Trust, is a professional organisation that enables communities to take control of their local forests and manage them sustainably. Although certified timber will not be available until 2010 we will be embarking on an awareness raising campaign over the next year. There were unfortunately a few minor factual errors which slipped in, for instance blackwood takes around 80 years to achieve a 40cm diameter trunk suitable for logging (not height as was suggested in the article). For more enquiries please go to www.mpingoconservation.org The Good Gifts Company that supports tree-planting northern Tanzania is linked to another organisation, the African Blackwood Conservation Project, their web-site is www.blackwoodconservation.org.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: harrisonpj
Date: 05 Dec 07 - 10:53 AM

Mpingo, as the African Blackwood tree is known in the language of Swahili, is one of the rarest and most valuable timbers in the world. Dark, lustrous heartwood makes it the medium of choice for local wood carvers and strong international demand comes from producers of musical instruments including clarinets, oboes and bagpipes.

Extensive demand and poor forest management has already led to its commercial extinction in much of East Africa. But if properly managed, mpingo has the potential to generate sustainable livelihoods and raise living standards for forest based communities in Tanzania.

The Environment Trust Africa (EAT) -www.environmentafricatrust.org.uk - has secured funding for a feasibility study on the market for certified mpingo in the UK, working with the Mpingo Conservation Project in Tanzania.

We are currently carrying out two studies:
1. A RETAIL SURVEY – musical instrument shop owners and managers
2. A MUSICIANS SURVEY - teachers, owners, players of musical instruments

Do you run a music shop? Would you like to fill in our retail questionnaire?
OR are you a woodwind instrument player? Would you like to fill in our musician's questionnaire?

Please email to be sent a questionnaire: enquiries@environmentafricatrust.org.uk. With the subject RETAILER or MUSICIAN depending on what you would like to be sent. It would be great to have your contributions. The more the merrier. Jokers need not apply; we would like to see sustainably managed blackwood traded in the UK and need to know what people in the industry think.

Deadline for us sending these out is 10th December, and deadline for receiving them from you in completed form is 17th December 2007.

NOTE: Information gathered will only be used for research purposes and will not be used to identify individuals unless those individuals themselves request to be identified. Research is being carried out for Environment Africa Trust (EAT). The work is in support of activities being developed by EAT and their partners the Mpingo Conservation Project in Tanzania to develop ecologically and economically sustainable trade in African blackwood (mpingo). The aim is to benefit all users from rural African communities to musical instrument retailers and players without threatening the sustainability of African blackwood species and habitats.

EAT, 5th December 2007.


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Subject: RE: Bagpipes a Threat to the Environment
From: GUEST,Barry
Date: 07 Dec 07 - 01:11 PM

I came across this thread while looking for links to African Blackwood. I'll give a different perspective on it. I am a conservationist and wildlife consultant (ecologist) with a strong interest and belief in the sustainable use of indigenous products. Since African wildlife achieved a market value in South Africa the benefits to conservation have been enormous, with many people converting previously badly run stock farms into game farms. Many species such as the white rhino have been saved from extinction and the range of species such as lion, elephant and many others have increased to areas that they haven't been for 100 years.

I hav always had an interest in wood and have a passion for trees, so about 18 months ago I started a small company specialising in African hardwoods (www.redivorytrading.co.za - under construction). My goal is to see these hardwoods be appreciated for their true value and replanted, cultivated and carefully harvested to the benefit of current and future generations. The bottom line is - if you use it wisely it stays. If the local African communities see no commercial value in these species and are not taught to manage them properly, they will end up using them for firewood anyway.


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