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Hi Folks, starting this new thread as discussion warrants it, and the other thread where this topic originated is locked for some reason.

There has been a bit of a debate concerning certain species of Tabla wood common to India. Here are my personal findings after identifying some of the shells I have. They are ranked in commonality from my personal inventory so the sample size may not be accurate in the scheme of things:

1. Sheesham - (Dalbergia Sissoo), aka "Indian Rosewood", "Rosewood", "Sissoo". Semi closed grain, polishes nicely, but difficult to cut, mildly aromatic, 2nd heaviest to East Indian Rosewood. Most of the Sheesham I've seen has some of the sapwood on it making for nice contrast. It's also rather knotty wood, and has beautiful figure.

2. Shirish - (Albizia Saman), aka "Monkeypod", "Raintree". Rather open grain, polishes with difficulty, easy to cut, not aromatic, lighter than Sheesham. Most of the Shirish I've seen also has sapwood mixed in, and usually has large beautiful knots.

3. Mangowood - (Mangifera Indica). Rather open grain, polishes with difficulty, easy to cut, not aromatic, lighter than Shirish. Wild figure that varies greatly from boring to beautiul. Seems like the larger trees have more character in their wood than the smaller varieties, or maybe the sapwood is more interesting than the heartwood. I haven't cut enough to tell. Very light and makes for great shells in larger diameters as it's easy to travel with.

4. East Indian Rosewood - (Dalbergia Latifolia) aka "Blackwood". Semi closed grain, polishes well, relatively easy to cut, aromatic, heaviest among Tabla shells I've felt. Tends to crack easily and has very brittle knots. Beautiful but subtle figure. Known to be a more expensive wood, some shops paint or stain Sheesham black and try to pass it off as East Indian Rosewood, and insist on calling Sheesham by "Rosewood" when buyers are after East Indian Rosewood. The weight of these shells makes the larger drums difficult to travel with.

5. Neem - (Azadirachta Indica) aka Indian Lilac. Closed grain, polishes beautifully, easy to cut, very aromatic (smells amazing!), similar weight to Sheesham. Cracks like crazy and tends to warp easily. Amazing figure and hard to come across without cracks.

6. Vijayasar - (Pterocarpus Marsupium) aka "Indian Kino". Semi closed grain, polishes well, relatively easy to cut but hard wood, mildly aromatic, heavier than Shirish but lighter than Sheesham. Not prone to cracking, lovely striped and wavy figure. Rare as it's now used primarily for Ayurvedic remedies. Apparently one of the best sounding woods to have a Tabla made from according to Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri.

7. Unknown - I have two of these shells. (See picture) Can anyone identify this? Has figure and color similar to Vijayasar and Sheesham but is clearly neither. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/102945218/5.25-Smoothed.jpg

Please add to this list! It would be great to have a reference of woods used in Tabla making.

Cheers, -David

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el presidente

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Reply with quote  #6 
Hi,
It's been a while since I've posted on this forum. But I check every day what's happening here.

I find this topic very interesting!
I must admid, that besides being a player, I'm also very much into tabla making. Actually I think to some point every player should be. I've found it amazing how much with small tricks you can affect the sound and the feel of your tablas!

Anyways, this topic might help me to identify the wood species on my dayans. Let's see... I own 5 dayans. Only maybe 2 of them I know 100% sure of what wood they're made of. So at least I'm open to gain more information (pictures also).

I know there's some passionate people here, but let's try to keep it positive and informative.

-M
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el presidente

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...I would like to know more about these:
"the Mahongany", "the Red Sheeshum", "the Khair" and "the Light/Orange/Yellow Sheeshum".
How common, rare or expensive is this "Vijayasar"? And how do I recognice it?

Thank you!

-M
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evening84

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Reply with quote  #8 
It is an interesting topic, for sure. I am just curious if somebody has experimented with the woods from the temperate climes - pine, maple, etc.
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@el presidente

I don't have any experience with Khair you mentioned. And with regards to Sheesham and have not see too much variance except between the heartwood and sapwood. Perhaps the "Yellow Sheesham" is what people are calling a full sapwood outer shell. The sapwood is rather boring figurewise, and quite a bit softer than the heartwood. Sheesham has always seemed rather red to me, so maybe some are redder than others, or it's what people call a full heartwood shell.

I will post some pictures of a Vijayasar shell and maybe it will help you identify!

@evening84, pine would be very soft and I don't think it would hold up well. Maple would be a better bet. I want to make shells out of all kinds of hardwoods like Oak, Black Acacia and Mahogany and see how they look and perform.

Best Regards,
-David

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S.Cutshall

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Reply with quote  #10 
Somewhat related, but far afield from wood, I wonder if anyone has ever tried crafting a tabla shell from glass or acrylic or carbon fibre?

Hand blown, very thick, glass would seem possible to withstand the great pressure while drum shells have already been made from acrylic & CF -- and both have withstood the torque of traditional Western drum construction rather well.

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Hi Scott,

I just returned a glass shell to one of my gurubhai's who had one made a while back. I intended to do some friction testing on the rim, but didn't get around to it and will borrow it again when the opportunity is more present for proper testing. I've heard the sound is so-so and rather strange. I want to make one out of brass eventually. I've also seen the plastic ones on the TransTabla knockoff that was making rounds some time ago. Wasn't impressed with the sound or the aesthetics. Carbon fiber would be ridiculously expensive, but I think would sound good. Acrylic would be dangerous under that much tension as it's very brittle. If you dropped your drum it could be disasterous. Polycarbonate might be better, but again you're back in plastics for resonance which thay are never good at.

Great discussions, if anyone has pictures of shells made out of woods I didn't list above, I'd love to see them!

Cheers,
-David

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S.Cutshall

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Reply with quote  #12 
Another wood I would strongly suggest, very difficult to source on the west coast but almost considered "garbage wood" on the east coast -because of its abundance and aggressive growth nature, would be Black Locust.

My dad and grandfather were wood addicts... furniture crafting, building, you name it they loved it if it involved wood. My grandfather made his living by it (along with being a 1st class crafter of saws and saw blades for lumber companies) whereas my dad did it strictly as a hobby.
That said, one of their favorite wood varieties was Black Locust--abundant, hard as nails, not easy to work with but they loved it.
It's also considered one of the best, if not the best, firewood (along with hickory).

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evening84

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Reply with quote  #13 
how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood
would chuck all day would chuck all night would find one that sounds good


By the way, this composition can be developed along the lines of a kaida :

(how much wood would a woodchuck chuck)*3 if a woodchuck could chuck wood
+ theme

(how much wood)*3 (how much)*2
how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood
+ theme

and so on.

Tihaiis are left as an exercise for the woodchucks.

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VNO Design

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Reply with quote  #14 
Here is a picture of a shell I have out of Vijayasar. Beautiful wood.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/102945218/6%22%20Vijayasar%20-%20Pterocarpus%20marsupium1.jpg

Cheers,
-David

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S.Cutshall

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Reply with quote  #15 
Whoa, that IS beautiful, David!

I wonder if it would be possible to source shells within the States from a small artisan wood smith?

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