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View Full Version : Legality of building with banned wood's / Ivory.



wearymicrobe
05-21-2012, 06:08 AM
So looking for some advice here, I have bought another bellow piano yesterday, markings show a build date of 1832 or 1882. More then likely its 1832.

I bought the thing for parts, I needed the tops of the keys for some restoration work. The bellows and gone and the keys are beyond repair and the reeds are damaged. Effectively it has no monetary value.

So now I have this piano with ~3sqf of African Ivory in it that I have saved, enough ebony to make bridges till I die, and enough old growth Amazon mahogany to make two Les Paul's and maybe 3 tenors and 10 soprano's. Might get two tenor necks as well out of the top. Also has some Brazilian rosewood for the covor, enough to make a soprano or two.

What can I do with the stuff, the ivory is straight up banned, the woods are illegal to import. Can I break this thing down and save the wood, is there a form or some sort of process to document where I got all the stuff.

If I can use it or sell it I can get tons more pianos like this one, beyond repair and with little monetary value to break down to make wood sets.

Doc_J
05-21-2012, 06:41 AM
All that old material is probably grandfathered as OK for use in the USA. As long as you keep appropriate records of the sources, use it and sell it inside the USA, you should be fine. But I'm no lawyer.

Can the ivory be used for nuts and saddles?

wearymicrobe
05-21-2012, 06:59 AM
Its not thick enough for nuts or saddles unless I layer it up with some bone glue. I was thinking more about having a 355 built using the sides of the piano and using the ivory for the fret markers.

stevepetergal
05-21-2012, 08:11 AM
Reuse is great. Are you sure of the woods? Pianos are mostly veneered lumber (perhaps not at that vintage). The ebony keys are also pretty small for bridges. Would you be gluing them together?

hoosierhiver
05-21-2012, 08:18 AM
I'm thinking as long as it stays in the country, you won't have any problem. It's typically the customs agents that nab stuff in transit. As a precaution, you might want to document the demolition and re-use with some photos in case you ever have any isues.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-21-2012, 08:21 AM
Reuse is great. Are you sure of the woods? Pianos are mostly veneered lumber (perhaps not at that vintage). The ebony keys are also pretty small for bridges. Would you be gluing them together?

The only possible use for old piano keys may be in inlay work. Even then you are inviting a whole lot of nightmares to proves it's pre-CITIES legality. For me, working with either antique, estate or modern (elephant) ivories is not worth the hassle. There are other ivories to choose from that are legal, fossil walrus and mastodon, primarily.

thistle3585
05-21-2012, 08:33 AM
I wouldn't count on anyone here to give me an authoritative answer on that question. There are people in the Fish and Wildlife Service that can adequately answer those questions. My personal philosophy on these things is "If you're willing to play then you have to be willing to pay."

wearymicrobe
05-21-2012, 09:05 AM
Reuse is great. Are you sure of the woods? Pianos are mostly veneered lumber (perhaps not at that vintage). The ebony keys are also pretty small for bridges. Would you be gluing them together?

Its not veneered lumber, even to the late 1910's most pianos were solid. My K52 1904 Steinway is definitely solid all the way through. 90% certain on the lumber, and I have seen a few metions of this piano maker using these woods as well.

I only really expected to get inlay out of the Ivory. Its a little dirty but I can clean it pretty easily. I like using the Nuebone(SP) stuff for nuts,

The Ebony I would have to glue into larger pieces unless I wanted to do a traditional tie bridge. Two of them together and turned on the lathe would make three or so tuning pegheads.


I am going to tear it down tonight after taking some pictures and I can find some time I will post them up.

Chris_H
05-21-2012, 09:15 AM
I was looking at a Brazilian Rosewood Grand piano about a year ago, for repair. It was made in the 1890s. It was definitely veneered. The only solid rosewood was trim, Legs, a few small pieces. The lid was definitely veneered. I do not remember the brand, but I believe Steinway. It was one of the biggies, I recognized the name, just cannot remember it now. It was gorgeous.. I regret now, not picking it up for the pittance it was offered to me for.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
05-21-2012, 09:19 AM
I was looking at a Brazilian Rosewood Grand piano about a year ago, for repair. It was made in the 1890s. It was definitely veneered. The only solid rosewood was trim, Legs, a few small pieces. The lid was definitely veneered. I do not remember the brand, but I believe Steinway. It was one of the biggies, I recognized the name, just cannot remember it now. It was gorgeous.. I regret now, not picking it up for the pittance it was offered to me for.

Cool, a Brazilian rosewood piano with elephant ivory keys. Please tell me it had whale's teeth for foot pedals! ;)

Chris_H
05-21-2012, 09:26 AM
oddly enough, the pedals were straight off a penny farthing..

wearymicrobe
05-21-2012, 09:37 AM
I was looking at a Brazilian Rosewood Grand piano about a year ago, for repair. It was made in the 1890s. It was definitely veneered. The only solid rosewood was trim, Legs, a few small pieces. The lid was definitely veneered. I do not remember the brand, but I believe Steinway. It was one of the biggies, I recognized the name, just cannot remember it now. It was gorgeous.. I regret now, not picking it up for the pittance it was offered to me for.

1890's meas the sound board is shot, and the harp needs work, and complete action rebuild. Trust me you did better by leaving it. Piano's just seem to die after 100 years or so.

I will have an offical answer for you guys hopefully within the week. I contacted the guys at fish and wildlife.

The Big Kahuna
05-21-2012, 09:55 AM
If I can offer a slightly different viewpoint, the Ivory trade is illegal for a reason. It is/was a cruel, despicable and utterly immoral trade, and by reusing Ivory, a person is still profiting from the original act. If you discovered an old Tiger Fur coat in a junk shop, I can't imagine for one minute that you'd consider using it to line a case for a Uke, using it's second-hand nature as justification.

As recently as last year, a particular species of Rhino has been declared officially extinct, and another "probably" extinct. Just stop and try to imagine the importance of that for one minute: an entire species has been wiped from the face of the earth by man, one that existed for thousands of years before we appeared on this planet, for no other reason than to make someone money.

You've probably guessed by now that I'm somewhat passionate on the subject of animal welfare, and I mean no offence to you personally, but I'd appreciate it if you'd at least consider what I've said before you decide what to do.

mzuch
05-21-2012, 10:03 AM
To add to what The Big Kahuna has wisely pointed out, the following is from the folks at the World Wildlife Fund (emphasis mine):

"Here are the facts. African elephants declined in massive numbers in the 1970s and 1980s because of poaching for the illegal ivory trade. So the international trade was banned by CITES in 1989. Some elephant populations have begun to recover, but poaching continues to be a problem in many areas. CITES allowed a limited export of ivory stocks to Japan in 1999, but only from certain African countries (Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe) where elephants are relatively numerous. It is still illegal to bring ivory back to the United States.

"Unsuspecting tourists often come across ivory and think it is legal. And some say if the elephant's already dead, why not buy the item, right? Wrong. If people keep buying these products the illegal trade will continue, and poachers will keep killing for more."

DeVineGuitars
05-21-2012, 10:21 AM
To throw another point in, from what I've heard/read if you reconstitute an item it counts as a "new" product. For example, if you take a brazilian rosewood piano from 1902 and cut it up to make ukes, the old paperwork that said it was a legal product is no longer aplicable. I am not a 100% on that, but that is what I have read.

Nixon
05-21-2012, 10:42 AM
To throw another point in, from what I've heard/read if you reconstitute an item it counts as a "new" product. For example, if you take a brazilian rosewood piano from 1902 and cut it up to make ukes, the old paperwork that said it was a legal product is no longer aplicable. I am not a 100% on that, but that is what I have read.

Read up about it as part of my ecology degree, and from what I can remember you're correct. The legality of export is from when it was last worked with, otherwise it'd be impossible to track where the materials come from. Means one of my ukes can't leave the country on 3 counts of "iffy" materials.

Chris_H
05-21-2012, 12:41 PM
1890's meas the sound board is shot, and the harp needs work, and complete action rebuild. Trust me you did better by leaving it. Piano's just seem to die after 100 years or so.

I will have an offical answer for you guys hopefully within the week. I contacted the guys at fish and wildlife.

Yes, it needed the action completely reworked, still played OK, but sloppy. That piano had a somewhat famous history, in at least a couple of high profile venues, and was a workhorse, not someones pet. The wood was gorgeous, lots of that black line 'landscape' grain patterns.

The Rhinos are being killed, often just the horn hacked off and the animal left to die, so rich Asians can snort the powdered horn. I wish the people who indulge in this could just have the entire horn applied as a quick suppository for all to see. Come on people WTF?... And I don't even support PETA....

Michael Smith
05-21-2012, 01:33 PM
I sometimes use ivory piano keys but would never use them if shipping outside US. I don't see any virtue in seeing the ivory keys ending up in land fill. As far as pianos not being veneer before 1910 that isn't the case. I have seen many pianos built in the 1800s that are primarily veneer. I have also seen solid walnut pianos from the 1930s. The amount of work and exposure to lead based finishes isn't worth it to me to wreck pianos. I was all hot on the idea until I stopped by a guys house who had been wrecking them. There were piano parts everywhere, tops with veneer peeling off in large piles, boxes full of keys, terrible to look at. It cured me of the idea of taking them apart for ukuleles in a big hurry. They can be had for free all day long on the Bay Area Craigs List but it just isn't worth it.

pepamahina
05-21-2012, 02:19 PM
If I can offer a slightly different viewpoint, the Ivory trade is illegal for a reason....

I would like to second these thoughts. I support a group in Africa that is currently fostering all of the baby elephants that are orphaned literally on a daily basis because their mothers are being slaughtered right this minute for their ivory:
http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/html/raiseorphan.htm It is the veiwpoint of this group that restrictions on ivory are not strong enough. I absolutely agree. I don't give a darn how hard it is to ship our fancy ukes around. We can, and should, deal with it.

wearymicrobe
05-22-2012, 09:51 AM
OK going to respond to the ivory thing first. The animal is dead and long gone, it was harvested at a time when humans were for lack of a better term less evolved in our understanding of how we effect the planet. At the same time, using them or selling, instead of destroying them on principal seems the better option. If I sell them to people restoring vintage pianos there is less chance that they would get them from some other more barbaric illegal modern source inadvertently.

I am big into reclaiming material, heck my house is made with reclaimed and refinished material that would have ended up in the dump, in my eyes still better then say my wooden floors at the bottom of some trash heap. The wood given its history again it seems better to use properly then just turn into kindling or toss in the dump.

I guess I just wanted to cover my bases here, this seemed like a good case of reusing materials, piano's make there way to the dump every day, some of them have value in the wood that is no longer available though traditional means. All around it seemed like a win, less material in the dump, less tree's cut down for exotic woods, and the ability to say or restore instruments that really require preservation.

Will let you guys know what F and W say when they get in contact with me.