I use a variety of different timbers when making smallpipes. The choices of wood and mounts are nearly endless, and each wood has different qualities of sound and suitability for pipemaking. I will try and describe some of the more common timbers I use and their different qualities below.
African Blackwood (Dalbergia Melanoxylon)
Very dense and oily, 1.10 - 1.20 specific gravity, Dark brown- purple - black color, white or greenish sapwood
This rosewood is an excellent for smallpipes because of its hardness and rich complex bright tone. African Blackwood has been the timber of choice for Highland Bagpipe makers and clarinet makers for over 100 years because of its characteristics. Recently, acoustic guitar makers have discovered that excellent sounding guitars can be made from it.
Mopane (Colophosperum Mopane)
Dense, 0.87 - 1.0 specific gravity, Rich brownish red color
Mopane grows in the southern part of Africa and it has recently become a poplar choice of wind instrument makers because of its warm rich tonal properties, similar to Cocuswood. This is my favorite exotic wood to make smallpipes from.
Gaboon Ebony (Diospyros crassiflora)
Very Dense and fine grained, 0.93 - 1.0 specific gravity, Mostly dark black with possible brown streaking
Excellent tone wood and a good choice for bellows blown smallpipes.
Honduras Rosewood (Dalbergia Stevensonii)
Perhaps a lesser known rosewood to bagpipe players, this Central American timber is the first choice of Marimba makers. Warm smooth sound.
Cocobolo (Dalbergia Retusa)
Dense rosewood from Central America. Cocobolo can vary in color and grain pattern from orange and brown to red and purple. This is becoming a popular choice for many pipemakers due to its tonal qualities and the fact that it is readily available.
Palo Santo (Bulnesia Sarmientoi)
Also known as Argentine Lignum Vitae
Apple has a warm buzzy sound with a lower volume than the denser tropical woods. This is a very sustainable wood choice as it grows in many orchards and backyards. All of my Apple wood comes from local sources or from our family farm.
Pear is one of my favorite woods to work with. The color varies from a light creamy pink to red. I'd describe the sound as buttery.
One of the denser fruitwoods. Plum works excellently and produces a brighter, louder tone than Apple or Pear, while still maintaining a warm fruitwood timbre.
I've been lucky enough to make a couple of drone sets from Apricot. It is a very good turning wood and had a fragrant aroma when cut that leaves my shop smelling like Apricots. Good warm tone similar to Apple.
Mount or Decorative Material Choices:
Box Elder Burl - natural
Box Elder Burl - green
Box Elder Burl - wine