seasoning elder?

Does anybody here know how long it takes to season elder for making flutes? Or if it needs to be seasoned at all?
There is an old tradition around Europe of making folk flutes from green elder in the spring - just hollow the pith out with a sharp stick and carve it with a pocket knife. These weren't intended to last very long, sometimes only a matter of weeks. But I've got a couple of elder flutes (a Transylvanian whistle and a Moldavian kaval) which have obviously been made with a lifespan of decades in mind - the Transylvanian whistle was made 18 years ago and still sounds fine. Anyone know how the wood might have been handled before it was made into a flute?
==== j a c k at c a m p i n . m e . u k === <http://www.campin.me.uk ===Jack Campin, 11 Third St, Newtongrange EH22 4PU, Scotland == mob 07800 739 557 CD-ROMs and free stuff: Scottish music, food intolerance, and Mac logic fonts
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On Oct 3, 10:32�am, Jack Campin - bogus address

I am reading this believing you are referring to a species of g. Sambucus, such as we get elderberries from, not Box Elder (Acer negundo) or any of the Alders.
First, I really don't know, I am guessing.
Second, the "general rule of thumb" for drying logs has been to figure one year for each inch in diameter.
Third, I would think hollowing out the pith would help a lot in the drying process. I am visualizing a flute made from a straight piece of limb, with the pith in the center surrounded in turn by the xylem, cambrium, and phloem and such. Removing the pith would relieve much of the tension that ensues from the drying process. I would probably also at least debark the limb and seal the ends with wax to even things out.
What sized piece of wood are you starting with?
This is my best guess at things, and I suspect you could have a flute sized piece suitably dried after about a year. I wish I had a reference at hand that described the structural anatomy of the wood for g. Sambucus, but I can't find one at hand. You have gotten me curious about the size and nature of the pith, et al, that might lend this shrubby tree to making folk flutes.
Besides air drying, I have heard of hobbiests who have "cured" wood by oven drying or by boiling. I keep meaning to experiement with a few of these techniques, but other things battle for my time.
I will be interested to learn how you make out with this.
Best wishes,
Dr. Jim Lowther
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ampin.me.uk> ====

For boiling green wood, see:
http://www.woodturningvideosplus.com/boiling-green-wood.html
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That's right.

That sounds feasible. These are folk instruments from materially simple cultures where there are few full-time specialist craftsmen, so dedicated wood-seasoning facilities for this sort of thing are not going to exist.

The usual Moldavian kaval in A is in one piece 30 inches long and about 1-1/8 inches thick when finished. A whistle in A from the same area is 14 inches long and 3/4 inch diameter at the thicker end. There are variants of both a bit bigger and smaller, but A is the usual pitch.

Interesting exercise thinking how to adapt that to flute-shaped pieces. I could try a plant trough heated by electric immersion coils.
I can't see an image or video of a traditionally-made elder kaval on the web. YouTube has a few good videos of people playing more upmarket versions: Adam Torok has one in B which is some dark wood (plum?), and Andras Hodorog has a very sophisticated two-piece one in A - he told me what it was made of but I forget, some kind of light-coloured hardwood. Here's a picture I took this summer, of the 85-year-old Csango (Moldavian-Hungarian) whistle player Balint Illes from Csik near Bacau, with his instruments:
http://www.campin.me.uk/Travel/Romania2008/BalintIlles.jpg
The largest instrument is a kaval. the next-largest is a tilinko (harmonic flute with no fingerholes). I think they're all made of elder and some of them are probably older than I am.
I doubt if elder is anywhere near as temperamental as sycamore and there's a lot more of it to choose from around here.
==== j a c k at c a m p i n . m e . u k === <http://www.campin.me.uk ===Jack Campin, 11 Third St, Newtongrange EH22 4PU, Scotland == mob 07800 739 557 CD-ROMs and free stuff: Scottish music, food intolerance, and Mac logic fonts
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Jack
I'm no expert on kaval (I play gajda) but I know a few things about elder wood which is used for reeds in various bagpipes. First off, you want the blue berried elders not the red. The wood is much harder and drys with less warping. Traditionally they recommend wood from the south side of a valley (i.e. shaded from the south) probably because it is slower growing. For reeds and panpipes (as in Romanian, not Inca) they cut it roughly to length and let it dry at least 2 years (YMMV - dunno if this is tradition or real). Then ream and turn (look up cone centers, they're great for getting things concentric).
All that said, it's pretty marginal stuff. Even the Macedonian Kavals, that are made from willow, are more stable. It's no accident that Bulgarian kavals and Turkish Neys are made from Dren (Cornellian Cherry - a member of the Dogwood family), Boxwood or Pear. They are all more stable than elder. But you use what you have, and in Moldavia, elder is the most stable wood that is commonly available. In Sweden they used Ash to make Sacpipas - talk about an inappropriate wood, but it's better than pine, fir, or alder, which were the other choices. That's why sacpipas are so clunky. You needed those 1 cm walls to keep them from warping and splitting.
Don't take tradition to be correct. As soon as Ebony and Blackwood became available in Scotland, they dropped bog oak and laburnum. It wasn't the color, it was the stability that pipe makers went for. In fact, contemporary comments were quite negative about the blackness of the new pipes vs the warm brown of the old instruments. These days you see the exact same comments about Delrin or plexi vs Blackwood. Long term, what's stable wins.
Jim
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