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Bones Fest XXI
Aug 24 to 27, 2017
San Antonio, Texas
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Whamdiddle Minstrel-style Bones
Whamdiddle Minstrel-style Cocobolo Bones
Historically Accurate Reproduction Minstrel-style Bones.
illustrated instruction pamphlet packed with each shipment:
If you want more pamphlets (for example, 3 pamphlets or no pamphlets), then just enter "3 pamphlets" or "0 pamphlets" in the Order Comments text box during checkout (step #4).
Historically accurate minstrel-style bones.
Design reproduced from vintage instruments.
Ideal for living history minstrel band performers.
Perfect for Civil War reenactors jamming around the camp fire.
Superb design delivers remarkable range of tones.
Fits comfortably in all hands, large or small.
Made by master luthier.
No two are exactly alike.
Thickness and length of each bone might differ slightly.
Your item may vary from photos.
Quantity in Stock:3
The Inside Story...
is a luxurious exotic wood that delivers a remarkably powerful low tone.
Cocobolo ranks high among my favorite musical woods because of the rich full tone they produce. The material is quite hard and dense, and even a large block will produce a clear musical tone when struck. Its fine texture and oily look and feel stand up well to repeated handling.
This beautiful hardwood from Central America is typically orange or reddish-brown in color, often with a figuring of darker irregular traces weaving through the wood.
Only relatively small amounts of this prized wood reach the world market which explains why it is so expensive.
Cocobolo is highly favored for fine inlay work, knife handles, musical instruments, pistol grips, veneers, bowls, jewelry boxes, and other expensive specialty items. It is also used in making luxury pens, and has been used as a ballast wood in ships.
Cocobolo wood has a specific gravity of over 1.0, hence it will sink in water.
Custom Inlaid Text
Figures are approximate (but pretty darn close)--
Length: 7" (18cm)
Width: 1-1/4" (32mm)
Thickness: 5/16" (7.9mm)
Composition: Exotic cocobolo hardwood
Camber (arc): 28 degrees
Weight: 2.5 oz
Color: Reddish brown
Specific Gravity: 1.10
Density: 68 pcf
Hardness: 1136 Janka
Historically Accurate Minstrel-style Bones
These instruments are patterned after a vintage set of three ebony minstrel-style bones I acquired at auction in 2007. The seller says he purchased them from an elderly lady in her 80s in Upstate New York. The bones are said to have been played by a veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The reproduction instruments are handcrafted by Rick Fogel, a luthier with a master's degree in physics.
Was the Original Vintage Set Owned by a Veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg?
Can't say for sure. There is not enough documentation to be certain. But the original set of vintage bones are associated with this old photograph that depicts a 1907 reunion of what looks like GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) veterans at the Little Round Top monument in Gettysburg National Military Park. The monument commemorates the 44th New York Infantry and the fierce fighting which took place there on July 2, 1863. The seller says "The lady told me that one of the men in the picture had played the 'bones' and they came to her along with the photograph."
The fine surface of the original vintage ebony set resembles vintage rosewood and ebony bones I have seen with a characteristic finish that appears scraped - not sanded. The combination of that fine finish plus the provenance data above makes me think the set might indeed date from the Civil War.
In September of 2010 I submitted the story of these bones to the popular PBS tv program,
Below is what I asked them to find out.
1. Do these bones date back to the Civil War?
2. Was the original owner one of the Civil War veterans pictured in the photo? If so, who is he?
3. How can I determine if other vintage musical bones in my personal collection date back to the Civil War?
I have yet to hear from the
This mystery might be too tough even for them to tackle. But no matter what the
might eventually reveal, the reproduction minstrel-style bones for sale on this page are remarkably fine playing instruments and I guarantee you will absolutely love them.
View the Original Vintage Bones in Action
Below is a video playlist that demonstrates the original vintage ebony set rattled in minstrel performances by yours truly.
(5 videos, running time: 10:26)
First up is a bones duet with Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The scene is back stage at the Sheldon Concert Hall in Saint Louis in October 2010. On the banjo off camera is Rhiannon Giddens playing a minstrel medley of
"Briggs' Corn Shucking Jig"
both tunes from the "
Briggs' Banjo Instructor
," published in 1855
"Coon Hunt Walk Around"
with banjoist Carl Anderton at the historic Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop in Olathe, Kansas.
This is followed by
"World Turned Upside Down"
in an onstage performance at Bones Fest XI in Wisconsin using a recording by Martin Liebschner, Jr. from his "
Songs from the Parlor
Fourth is a rousing rendition of
"Jim Along Josey"
during 2011 Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Fest lead by multi-instrumentalist and musical living legend, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton.
The playlist concludes with
"Blue Eagle Jail"
with Carl Anderton at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop.
You can also see the original vintage ebony set in a performance displayed at the Rhythm Bones Society Website with banjo historian Greg Adams
on stage at Bones Fest XIV
in Alexandria, VA.
Great Looks, Solid Design, Superior Tone
Take a close look at the marvelous color and fascinating wood grain of the reproduction minstrel-style bones pictured at the top of this page. The relatively thin oval-face design gives you a solid comfortable grip whether your hands are small, medium or large. Best of all, these minstrel-style bones enable you to produce a remarkably dynamic range of tones when you rattle them.
Crafted From Quartersawn Lumber, the Prime Working Stock for Quality Musical Instruments
Why do these minstrel-style bones reveal spectacular grain patterns, warp less, and generate better tone? "Because," says Rick Fogel who crafts them, "they are made from quartersawn lumber."
Rick described the technique to me but it is a bit complex. So I looked up the term in a technical report from the U.S. Forest Service. They indeed confirm that quartersawn lumber "shrinks and swells less...splits less...and figure patterns and wavy grain are brought out more conspicuously." Another source reports that quartersawn wood "helps prevent warping and also provides the best vibration patterns acoustically." And yet another source tells us "quartersawn wood helps ensure that an instrument's sound remains as invariable as possible."
So yes, minstrel-style bones made from quartersawn lumber are decidedly prime quality instruments. But the ultimate test, of course, is to try a pair and rattle them yourself.
Minstrel Show FAQs...
Historically Accurate Minstrel-style Bones: Perfect for Civil War reenactors.
Authentic Reproduction Instruments: Ideal for living history minstrel bands.
Solid Cocobolo Hardwood: Excellent for musical bones.
Handcrafted by Master Luthier: Quality heirloom product.
Produces Remarkable Dynamic Range: Lets you add more musical color to a tune.
Quarter-sawn Lumber: Creates stable tone, won't warp or crack.
Relatively Thin: Fits comfortable in all hands, large or small.
Hand Rubbed Finish: Non-slip easy grip.
Accessories or Related Products:
Whamdiddle Flat Cocobolo Bones
Whamdiddle Cocobolo Bones, Classic Long: 8" (reg width), Unfinished
Whamdiddle Cocobolo Bones
Bones: His Gags and Stump Speeches
Yes Sir, Mr. Bones! DVD
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