Ebonized Crow Flutes

Posted on September 01, 2015 by Odell Borg

When I decided to give our flutes the names of bird families, the crows and the ravens stood out because of their abundance where I live. Both birds belong to the crow family. Their main difference is that ravens are much larger in size but their behavioral patterns are similar. Man seems to have a conflicted relationship with them; on one hand they are appreciated for their bold beauty and precocious nature, on the other hand they can be considered a nuisance because of their aggressiveness. For me, crows have been valuable teachers since they’ve had me rethink the popular opinion that humans are the only intelligent species on the planet.

My home is located off of a pecan tree-lined, one lane road. In order for the pecan nutmeat to be exposed the especially hard exterior shell of the nut has to be cracked.  I’ve noticed that our local crows deliberately peck at the pecans that are still attached to the tree so that the nuts fall onto the road to be crushed by cars, giving the birds easy access to the exposed nutmeat. What really surprised me was that the crows only peck at the nuts which hang over the road and do not pay attention to the other nuts on the tree.

Observing that level of intelligent awareness lead me to do a bit of research about them, and I found out that crows are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds, as well as one of the most intelligent animals in general. Scientific problem solving tests have shown that crows have superior intelligence when it comes to creating solutions to complex tasks, and that they often use tools in the process.

I have become very fond of the crows and ravens in our Patagonia community and it seemed only natural to create a flute inspired by their image to celebrate their nature.

We rarely change the color of the wood species chosen for crafting our flutes. The most notable exception has been for our Crow and Raven flutes, which are made black through a special ebonizing process. Ebony would be the natural wood choice for creating black flutes. For centuries it has been highly prized for its beauty, for its hardness, durability and density, and its ability to retain its monetary value. Unfortunately using real ebony is not an option for us because, like most rainforest woods, it is becoming a critically endangered species.

The prime demand for ebony began in the early 1900s as its popularity for use in furniture making grew. The beautiful grain patterns and black luster amplified the design styles of Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements. Ebony was already a high-priced wood species so to keep up with popular demand and maintain reasonable prices, furniture makers of the time invented the ebonizing process, which we use in creating our black flutes today. The ebonizing process uses a black aniline dye, which penetrates the wood and gives it an ebony appearance.

When I was first developing the Crow and Raven flute series I chose walnut for the wood (since it is dark-colored, sustainable, and domestic) and paired it with the ebonizing process to create these dramatic black flutes.  When inlaid with decorative turquoise cabochons they become stunning instruments of both sound and style.

- Odell Borg


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