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 Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Bill 
Date:   2001-04-11 23:22

Why do some makers of professional clarinets, e.g., Festival and Opus, choose not to stain the wood?

I haven't seen a real unstained wood clarinet, but pictures look dark like a stained clarinet. Is the wood grain more apparent on the unstained clarinet. If so, is the wood selected due to the attractiveness of it's grain, and/or to show the high quality of the wood.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Bob Arney 
Date:   2001-04-11 23:40

IMHO, all of the above. Beauty is as beauty does
Bob A

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2001-04-11 23:54

What you see is what you get with unstained grenadilla wood. Filling and then staining defects in grenadilla wood is one reason that some clarinet wood is stained. It is also more difficult to detect obvious defects in the grain of the wood if it is stained. Ususally a better quality of wood is used in the unstained grenadilla wood clarinets - which also commands a premium price. There are so many variables that is hard to say that the clarinets in unstained wood have a better sound, but the other quality features as well as better wood make the clarinet a pro grade horn. When new these clarinets are a rich chocolate brown color but this changes over time in most horns to a dark, dark brown which is pretty close to black - like the stained wood horns.
The Doctor

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Irwin 
Date:   2001-04-12 00:32

As the owner of a new Opus, I can comment. The unstained grenadilla is gorgeous. It's a chocolate brown with beautiful wood grain flowing in very even lines. And The Doctor's previous post makes good sense to me. The wood used in the Opus deserves to not be stained so that its beauty can be seen and appreciated.

Incidentally, I disagree with someone who posted a statement yesterday that, based on his conversation with Tom Ridenour "all of LeBlancs pro line clarinets come basically from the same wood pile (qualitywise)". Based on personal experience from recently comparing a Concerto with an Opus, I observed that the look and texture of the unfinished grenadilla on the Opus is much more refined than that of the Concerto.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: jan 
Date:   2001-04-12 01:22

can stained wood clarinets be unstained? my clarinet is fairly new and very black. not as pretty as my old clarinet that is lighter and actually looks nice with the grain coming thru.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2001-04-12 02:26

The answer Jan is yes - but! This is not a DYI job and should be left to a professional. There are different formulations of stain and filler used by different manufacturers and the solvents used to remove the stain are different and must be used with care by experienced people. I spent many years refinishing museum quality antiques (I also spent summers in college unloading cement from railroad cars - I do not know what that qualifies me as -- except that it was smarter to return to college) and a good part of the time it was redoing a botched job done by the owner. You may find that the stain covers up wood of distinctly different colors or textures and the check marks which have been filled will stand out like a sore thumb. As noted earlier, the grain may show defects and not be as straight or pretty as the unstained pro horns. It is of course your choice and your horn to do with as you please.
The Doctor

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Willie 
Date:   2001-04-12 04:17

Last year I met a man out at the community college that after visiting a clarinet factory in France, had them build him a clarinet with unstained rosewood. Its got to be the most beautiful clarinet I've ever seen. When I get caught up with some of my projects and "honey doos", I plan to take one of my old clunkers and unstain it.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2001-04-12 15:09

Leblanc's Opus, as mentioned by Irwin, has the most beautiful unstained grenadilla wood I've ever seen. Part of a joy of owning a fine wood instrument is the natural beauty of the wood.

The grenadilla is a magnificent wood because it's made from the Acacia tree, or as it's sometime called, the African Blackwood tree. Acacia is considered "incorruptible" wood and a similar wood was specified for building Noah's ark, and later--the Ark of the Covenant. So, spit away for 40 days and 40 nights and you won't "drown" your clarinet.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2001-04-12 16:10

If you remove the stain you may expose some yellow patches. I have seen these on some instruments. For more enlightenment click the headings under "the Wood" of:

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   2001-04-12 17:12

There was an excellent special several years ago on public tv on the mpingo (grenadilla) tree. The wood often has sections that are off-white. This would look funny on an instrument and lead people to think it was a flaw, so the wood is routinely dyed black, which is fairly close to the original color of the heart-wood.

I've never found any difference between dyed and undyed wood, so I think the difference is purely esthetic. About 30 years ago, a fellow I knew special-ordered a full-Boehm R-13 from Buffet in Paris and asked that the wood be left undyed. He thought he would get a finish that looked like rosewood or tulipwood (like a Selmer contra-alto), but it came as a muddy, mottled dark brown. I'm sure Buffet, Leblanc and Selmer select the wood to be left undyed to make sure it has an even color and nice looking grain. I would be very surprised if they didn't also treat the surface to bring out the grain, perhaps with a bit of highlighting or a touch of bleach.

Old instruments (say, 75 years old or more) were made from larger trees, and the grain is so dense that you can barely see it. Also, according to a former Moennig apprentice, at that time, Buffet applied a special polish that gave the bore a mirror finish. See

Newer instruments are made from younger trees with more open grain. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I can't find the reference, but at least one well-known clarinet tweaker said a few years ago on the Klarinet board that barrels with an open grain in the bore give a better sound than those that are sealed or mirror-smooth. Lately I've been using a boxwood barrel made by Kalmen Opperman, which is very light and has an open grain in the bore, and it plays better than anything else I've tried.

Tom Ridenour has told me the same thing he told William -- that the Leblanc Concerto and Opus are acoustically identical and made from the same quality wood. He told me this while he was working for Leblanc, just after these models were introduced, so he would have every reason to try to justify the higher price of the Opus, but he didn't. I accept the statements by Brenda Siewert and Irwin that they sense a different and better quality in the Opus. All I can say is that I've played a fair number of both and never been able to tell any difference. Certainly any difference between the models is submerged by the sample-to-sample variation between individual instruments. I can accept that billets of wood with the best looking grain are made into Opus instruments, but that's far from saying there's a difference in playing quality.

Steak houses market the sizzle as much as the steak. At least in my opinion, Leblanc does the same for the Opus. In the end, you play what works best for you.

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   2001-04-12 19:55

Brenda Siewert wrote:
> The grenadilla is a magnificent wood because it's made from the
> Acacia tree, or as it's sometime called, the African Blackwood
> tree

Are you sure? The African Blackwood tree is Dalbergia melanoxylon, the Acacia specias is Acacia ..., for instance, Acacia melanoxylon (the "Black Acacia").

The Acacia is an evergreen, the Dahlbergia a legume.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Dee 
Date:   2001-04-12 22:41

Actually the term grenadilla has been applied to a wide variety of somewhat related dense hardwoods. In and of itself, the term is not specific enough to which one is really meant.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Roger 
Date:   2001-04-13 11:49

Buffet uses the mapingo tree

In the TV show referred to Buffet stated that the supply of good wood would disappear in about a decade or so unless something was done. (A lot of the wood was cracking) What they did was the green line. Where they ground up the wood into a 'powder" and mixed it with epoxie and (I believe) resin.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2001-04-13 15:17

Just to confuse the issue with a total red herrring, the common name for many varieties of passionfruit (passiflora spcies) is granadilla, with an a.

I believe the lower quality mpingo is not only dyed but its more pronounced grain is sometimes filled to enhance appearance, and possibly produce a better edge for tone holes.

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 RE: Unstained Grenadilla Wood
Author: joseph o'kelly 
Date:   2001-04-16 23:25

Grenidallia instruments in the past did not have stained wood. I feel that staining the wood is horrible. It takes away the beauty of the wood and even turns the lining of the case black. I think the correct question to ask is why do instrument companies stain the wood? Perhaps they are trying to hide the declining quality of the wood in such instruments as the R-13.

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