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Elephant ivory piano keys


Todd Gdula

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About four years ago my wife and I bought an 1874 Sommers grand piano. She plays, and the price was right, so we thought it sounded like a good idea. Well it turns out the piano would need about $7000-8000 of restoration to make it worth $5000, and I can't give it away - literally.

 

I'm going to end up scrapping the piano, but I decided to see what the keys are made of before doing the deed. Well, kids, the keys are definitely ivory; they are each made from two scales - one long and narrow and one shorter and wider. They are all slightly chipped at the forward edge, have a nice even yellowing, and have amazing grain that looks a lot like random pattern damascus.

 

They aren't big enough to make slab handles out of, but I think they'll work out fine for scales on smaller pieces and inlays and overlays. What I can't find any info on is how can I use it on knives and sell them legally. It is legal to sell pre-ban elephant ivory in the USA (I know you can't export it), and this is over a hundred years old, so I know it's good, BUT, how can I document it's age so I don't get jammed up?

 

Anyone have a clue? :huh:

 

-Todd

www.toddblades.com

 

"Geometry says how sharp, steel says how long." - Roman Landes, Ashokan 2009

 

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

 

- George Orwell

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I have to admit that I am not up to speed on the exact international legislation regarding the use, export and import of Ivory, but what I do know is that there IS such a thing as "legal" ivory. The new ivory, I'm told, is from Elephant kulling in the Game Reserves.

 

I have seen a number of South African makers using it on new pieces so it does exist. There must be some kind of organisation that you can register your Ivory with to make it "legal."

 

If you think about it, there are many Pianos around with genuine ivory keys and as far as I know, no one has banned the import, export and sale of them yet.

 

If you wish I can do some snooping around I'm sure one of the local makers who uses ivory will be able to help us.

 

Regards

Wayne Viola

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you

We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

 

Nelson Mandela – 1994 Inaugural Speech.

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Don't take my word for this; i'm hardly an expert, but i think that because it's been dead for a long time, you can do whatever you want with it. If i'd been part of a piano for almost 150 years, i'd want a change too.

Check with someone who knows first, though...

I had a strange thought the other day.

If I were locked in a room with a copy of myself, i wouldn't like me very much.

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Wayne, thanks for the offer, but the US laws are very specific and I don't think anything you find in South Africa will apply to me here. One of the things I was able to find is that there IS a ban on importing pianos with ivory keys into the US. The ones that are already here are fine, but we can't bring more in.

 

Nick, that's definitely true - it is old enough to be legal, no doubt. My quandry is once it's off the piano how do I prove it's pre-ban.

 

Bob, I think that's a winner! It mostly deals with international trade but it looks like I can follow it to what I need.

 

Thank you all!

 

-Todd

www.toddblades.com

 

"Geometry says how sharp, steel says how long." - Roman Landes, Ashokan 2009

 

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

 

- George Orwell

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take some piccers of it on the piano, then document the process from musical instrument to cutting instrument on this site, almost a tutorial sort of thig. If anyone asks, send them here, there's 2000 people who'll back you up.

I had a strange thought the other day.

If I were locked in a room with a copy of myself, i wouldn't like me very much.

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I think I you may have misunderstood what I was trying to say.

 

What I meant was that there are some really good South African makers who's primary market is the USA. I know of at least two of them who use Ivory on a regular basis. I am not sure however, if the Ivory furnitured stuff is finding it's way into the USA. From what you say, I assume they are not.

 

Ah well. How about you start making a whole bunch of er ....... "High Quality Stabalized Bone" handles?

 

If your laws are that strict, I'm not sure if documenting all of this on an international forum is such a good idea! Although we promise to send you cakes with some damn fine saw blades hidden in them, I can't promise to visit. It's a bit far.

 

Regards

Wayne

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you

We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

 

Nelson Mandela – 1994 Inaugural Speech.

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btw, the black keys SHOULD be fine grade ebony.... very useful for repousse tools on gold....

 

its pretty standard on ivory keyed pianos

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Isn't piano wire carbon steel?

And the wooden body of the piano should be a hardwood....

How about makng a knife entirely from the piano?

I had a strange thought the other day.

If I were locked in a room with a copy of myself, i wouldn't like me very much.

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Where people run into problems with Ivory is importing it into the United States. Customs has a tendency to confiscate anything of ivory they can find that does not have the correct paperwork. The bottom line is if you have Ivory inside the United States go ahead and use it but just keep it there.

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Go to Boone Trading Company. They supply various types of ivory for crafts. They have a page on their site that explains the legal ins and outs of material that fall under the CITES treaties, such as elephant ivory.

 

Doug Lester

Edited by Doug Lester

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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