Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet the Bourne Marimbas Employee of the Month: Mr. Van Agon

Van Agon, on the job at Scatter Creek Rest Stop

- Head of Shipping and Employee Relations
- AKA, Boxful o' Memories
- Veteran of dozens of Seattle/Portland deliveries and lumber hauls
- 158,000 miles @ 20mpg, with no major repairs
- AKA, Getaway Van
- Veteran of dozens of rest-stop snoozes
- Beloved by smiling children everywhere
- Veteran of dozens of Snoqualmie Pass ascents (at 40 mph)
- AKA, Lil' Woody
- Congratulations, Van!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome to Walnut

Due to a current shortage of padauk I am switching to walnut as the tone wood for my soprano instruments. Whatever the long term availability of padauk may be, my goal is to replace tone woods harvested from the shrinking rain forests with tone wood harvested domestically.

Does walnut sound as good as good ol' padauk? Let me share with you this sound recording of Patricia Bourne's school marimba group performing on marimbas outfitted with, firstly, padauk bars and, secondly, walnut bars. Have a listen and tell me what you think. Also available, with more readable text, at:

Of course sound recordings never quite capture the live experience but I would be very interested to learn what reaction registers in that space between your two finely attuned ears.

FYI this tune is a choral accompaniment that Patty Bourne arranged for her elementary school kids.

Any impressions of Walnut vs. Padauk?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walnut Lowrider

Just finished 4 Walnut Lowriders, destined for a school in Brush Prairie, WA.

Walnut may indeed be my replacement for Padauk, we'll see. Recordings of these Walnut Lowriders forthcoming!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perils of Padauk II

Here's a picture of a padauk log being milled, somewhere in central/western Africa. Note the orange dust, which permeates every nook of my shop and stains clothing permanently pink.
I am almost out of padauk now, with only a small batch reserved for replacement bars. My next four soprano marimbas will have bars of walnut. From Oregon, USA.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Perils of Padauk

Construction has slowed a bit as I approach the bottom of my padauk (tone wood used for bars) inventory. I've spent several many hours in the past weeks scrambling for a source of padauk, and experimenting with a possible replacement wood. Fact is, in the 15 or so years I have been building marimbas for schoolkids, no other wood competes with padauk in terms of ringiness and availability of large quantities in preferable grain patterns. But the recession has dwindled our local supplies considerably and a variety of issues prevents me from obtaining a usable supply of padauk from other regions.

My dream has always been to replace padauk, which arrives stateside with a murky and questionable environmental pedigree, with some American tone wood. Along with the eco concern, in these tough times I would love to be able to claim "made and grown in America".

So, as the photo here documents, I am making Lowrider bars from a veritable rainbow coalition of wood types, in a renewed quest for some suitable padauk substitute. Can you name these wood types?

p.s. If you are getting hungry looking at this photo, it may be the resemblance to a certain perennially favorite flavor of ice cream!