Parkwood LE061

parkwood_pw_le061_body

This might just be the most beautiful commercially built blackwood acoustic guitar ever made.

Only 150 of the 2007 Parkwood Limited Edition LE061 models were built.

With Master Grade solid fiddleback blackwood back, sides and soundboard and abalone trim, this guitar is definite eye candy. The chatoyance of the fiddleback is extraordinary.

In a plush red velvet with faux crocodile skin case this guitar was designed for the collectors market.

The full page add in Guitar World magazine in 2007 was clearly designed to impress.

parkwoodxtra8811

Parkwood is the premium brand name for the Cort Guitar company based in South Korea.

http://www.parkwoodguitars.co.kr/

These days Parkwood guitars are hard to find with limited distribution. That’s unfortunate given their quality and price.

parkwood_pw_le061_headstock

I especially like the matching blackwood on the headstock.

Fiddleback blackwood tonewood of this quality is very rare. A Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative could potentially supply tonewood like this under two scenarios:

  1. Occasional arising from the active management of the remnant native blackwood forest that exists on farmland across northern Tasmania;
  2. Research is needed to determine the extent to which fiddleback blackwood can be cloned. Cloned fiddleback blackwood would then only have value within the context of a commercial blackwood plantation program.

The question remains is anyone in the tonewood market prepared to support such an opportunity?

And why am I writing about this 9 year old guitar?

Because I finally got my hands on one that’s why!

Extraordinary!!

In 2013 Parkwood released an updated version of the LE061 called the LE081CE. This model has a cut out and onboard electronics, again with limited production (only 60) and distribution. Check this out!

Beautiful!!

Here’s one currently for sale on Ebay:

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Parkwood-LE081CE-Grand-Auditorium-Acoustic-Electric-Guitar-Number-2-of-60-/252548250225?hash=item3acd0c7a71:g:rRYAAOSwzaJX2Jcz

Blackwood Timber Price Rises by 15%

One retailer has recently increased the price of their blackwood timber by 15% or $1100 per cubic metre!!

Here’s a chart showing the old and new prices:

abpl0916

There’s no explanation given by the retailer for the price rise.

Is it due to declining supply, rising demand, or increasing costs of production? Or is it a combination of these factors?

Is the price increase likely to affect existing or potential growers?

If forestry operated under normal market conditions then a timber price increase of 15% would cause a significant response in the marketplace.

Under normal markets farmers would be doing their calculations and deciding if and how much to invest in growing commercial blackwood.

A 15% price increase should be stimulating new blackwood planting.

But forestry in Australia does not operate under normal market conditions. In fact forestry avoids “normal markets”. Using market forces to generate new investment is fundamental to any business.

Without my detective work these price increases would be largely unknown.

By way of comparison here’s a chart showing the price list for imported American Black Walnut offered by the same retailer:

abwpl0916

Black Walnut is regarded as one of America’s premium appearance grade timbers. Most supply of this timber comes from private native forest owners in the eastern and mid-west United States, although some Americans are growing this species in plantations.

So this retailer at least regards blackwood as being on par with the finest hardwoods in the world.

So why isn’t that message (and the price) making its way back through the marketplace to help stimulate supportive policy and investment?

Private Forests Tasmania

pft

A dedicated Government agency fostering the private forestry sector seems like a great idea at face value.

Private Forests Tasmania (PFT) is the only government-funded authority established in Australia to specifically promote, foster and assist the private forestry sector on forestry matters. We provide strategic and policy advice to Government on private forestry issues and represent Tasmanian private forest owners’ interests nationally.

http://www.pft.tas.gov.au/

But as soon as you start thinking about it the idea doesn’t look so good, especially when the Government is itself a major player in the industry in terms of wood production, market domination and control, and industry policy.

What happens when Government policy is in direct conflict with the interests of private forest growers as it often is? PFT cannot come out and oppose Government policy. They are Government employees after all.

And as for providing policy advice to Government that must present quite a challenge within a policy vacuum. The PFT website has no policies so what it says to Government remains a complete mystery.

Where’s the policy for the Radiata industry?

Where’s the policy for the pulpwood industry?

And where’s the policy for the high-value appearance grade timbers industry, including blackwood?

And where are the policies around the changes that are needed to the Forest Practice Code around plantation establishment and management?

And how about some policies about greater competition, price and market transparency?

I could go on….

And what about a PFT business plan?

You know a plan with goals and objectives and performance benchmarks and criteria, and a regular review process.

At least they have Vision and Mission statements.

But that seems to be about as far as it goes.

 

Our Vision

Sustainable private forestry in Tasmania as an integral and crucial part of our social fabric, economic well-being and a healthy environment in which soil, water and biodiversity are valued and widely used.

 

Our Mission

To facilitate the sustainable management of native and plantation forestry on private land in Tasmania. This mission includes:

  • encouraging commercial wood production;
  • encouraging the use of trees in land management;
  • promoting the environmental benefits of trees and forests;
  • promoting opportunities for competitive markets; and
  • optimising returns for all parties.

 

That mission statement should be clearly divided into a Commercial Wood Production and Other sections.

Regular community forums wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

And a plan of action for implementing the 2005 National Action Statement on Farm Forestry wouldn’t hurt either.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/02/25/two-significant-forest-industry-reports-that-went-nowhere/

Don’t get me wrong. PFT could be a really great organisation but it remains fundamentally conflicted whilst the Government dominates the forest industry.

The objectives of the Government as a grower, price manipulator and policy maker, are not the same as those of private forest growers.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growers. The PFT website doesn’t seem to mention them.

Guitaronomics: The Rising Cost of Tonewood

guitaronomics.jpg

Here is another article about the international tonewood market and the coming tonewood famine.

https://reverb.com/au/news/guitaronomics-the-rising-cost-of-tonewood

“Guitar enthusiasts love to talk about tonewood….. Rarely do the words sustainability or scarcity come up.

These terms, however, are now central to the lexicon of the guitar industry.”

The article features comments from three people in the tonewood market:

Chris Herrod of Luthiers Mercantile International [LMI], a major American tonewood retailer, which is seeing major changes in the tonewood market.

“LMI aims to provide as many “new” varieties [of tonewoods] they can find to offer alternatives to the classics while educating the customer base along the way.”

Perry Ormsby a small Perth [Australia]-based luthier provides us with this great quote:

“Using Tasmanian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) as a substitution [for Honduran mahogany] has been a game changer.”

“A close cousin to Hawaiian Koa, it is heavier than mahogany and difficult to work with, but it sounds great. It looks cool, and it’s Aussie,” Ormsby says.

“When his customers are educated about the wide range of wood possibilities he is using and and see the results, it makes them rethink everything they wanted out of their dream guitar.”

And finally Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars features prominently in the article.

“When the wood is in rare supply, the price goes up. Nearly all our woods have probably increased in price about 15% over the last few years. I don’t blame this on regulation. I blame it on supply. But since the supply is so low, it’s also become highly regulated to the point of illegality.”

In addition to its ebony partnership in Cameroon in west Africa, Taylor have also started a company called Paniolo Tonewoods, a partnership with Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Together they are undertaking a massive planting of Koa (Acacia koa) timber in Hawaii.

Tasmanian blackwood also gets a mention within the discussion about Taylor Guitars as a growing alternative sustainable tonewood.

But I’m not sure the article finishes on the right note.

There’s a strong emphasis on nostalgia and traditional tonewoods. There is not a strong message about the future and sustainable tonewoods.

In that regard it tends to reflect where the general tonewood market is at right now – caught between the traditional buying habits of its customers and lacking the commitment and leadership to move to a sustainable future.

But the time of the profitable sustainable tonewood will come; perhaps in the next few years.

Ultimately if the tonewood market wants to continue to access quality wood then it will have to start paying farmers to plant trees. There is no other option.

Will Tasmania be ready when the time comes?

The forests behind the label – Why standards are not enough

Here’s a great Ted Talk about going beyond Forest Certification with the focus on small scale forest growers like existing and potential Tasmanian blackwood growers.

And when I think about the synergies between their connect-with-the grower model and a Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative I get excited.

This is just what Tasmanian blackwood growers need to get the support and recognition.

It’s about connecting consumers and manufacturers with forest growers.

What a great idea!

The Ted Talk is by Constance McDermott who is a James Martin Senior Fellow and Chair of the Forest Governance Group at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford.

http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/people/cmcdermott.html

This is a 12 minute talk well worth watching.

Hydrowood blackwood prices at Uptons

HWs.jpg

It’s time for another blackwood timber market price review, this time courtesy of Hydrowood and Uptons.

http://hydrowood.com.au/news/hydrowood-now-available-at-uptons/

http://uptons.net.au/

My previous price list reviews have generally not named the suppliers, but in this instance I think I need too since Hydrowood is likely to be the major supplier of premium grade blackwood timber for the next 5 to 10+ years. Hydrowood will therefore set the price ceiling for quite some time.

Go here to read my reviews of other blackwood (and other species) timber price lists:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/category/price-lists/

Here are the current prices are for Hydrowood blackwood from Uptons:

HydrowoodBWD

These prices are for rough-sawn, kiln-dried blackwood timber.

It’s a curious price list for a number of reasons.

Firstly there are only two grades of Hydrowood blackwood – fiddleback and everything else! The price for select (clear) grade is the same as for natural (knotty& defective)!!

The other curious feature (and I’ve discussed this in relation to other timber price lists) is the lack of price increase (per cubic metre) with increasing piece size. Whilst you can cut large trees into small pieces of wood the reverse is not true. You can only cut large dimension timber from bigger, older trees. And bigger, older trees cost more time and money to grow. Therefore larger dimension timber should attract a higher per cubic metre price to reflect the higher cost to the grower.

Of course there isn’t a “grower” in this case, but given that the owner of this resource (the Tasmanian Government) isn’t charging any royalties, and Hydrowood are a dominant supplier in the blackwood market, this creates significant pricing distortions in the marketplace.

But there’s the thing. These prices bear no relationship to the cost of growing the wood. This is salvage timber from the bottom of hydro lakes. No forest management costs, no roading costs, no expensive forest practices plans, no royalties paid to the Government!

This is low cost blackwood.

In that regard it shares much with Forestry Tasmania the other major producer of blackwood. Forestry Tasmania produces blackwood at below cost and receives a direct taxpayer subsidy for doing so.

If we want to encourage and develop a profitable sustainable forest industry then this isn’t the way to do it!

This blackwood is even cheaper than Select grade Tas Oak at Bunnings!!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/07/01/bunnings-timber-price-lists/

The other interesting feature of the Hydrowood price list is that there are only three pricing structures for all of their species/products, of which two are shown in the above chart.

The Natural/Select Blackwood pricing is shared with plain Myrtle, or what Hydrowood calls Western Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii), and Tas Oak (Eucalyptus sp.)!! The fiddleback blackwood pricing structure is shared with Black Heart Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum), Huon pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii), Marine-grade Celery Top Pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius), and flame-grain Myrtle/Western Beech. An intermediate pricing of $5,900 per cubic metre is applied to all Knotty Celery Top pine and plain coloured Sassafras.

Of course the impact of these pricing structures on the future of the other (non-blackwood) species is irrelevant. These other slow-growing species do not provide any investment opportunities. But farmers can invest in growing commercial blackwood provided that markets are working properly, and Government and industry policy is supportive.

No chance of that here in Tasmania.

This is the fourth blackwood timber price list I have reviewed and what these price lists show is a blackwood marketplace in disarray. Blackwood prices are all over the place, from cheaper than radiata pine, to prices that rival the most expensive premium timbers in the world!

If you were wondering whether to invest in growing commercial blackwood then this marketplace would not provide you with any confidence. I wish I could say that these prices clearly demonstrate the viability of growing commercial blackwood but I can’t.

These blackwood timber price lists do not reflect the cost of growing the wood. Nor do they reflect an industry that has a vision for its future. Instead they remind me more of a closing down sale!

They reflect an industry that has lost hope, and is now in a desperate race to the bottom.

Without a solid commercial foundation the forest industry doesn’t have a future.

So now you know where to get your cheap premium blackwood timber.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

 

Cort Guitars expanding use of blackwood

CortAS06

Giant Korean-based guitar manufacturer Cort continues to expand its range of guitars featuring Australian blackwood.

http://www.cortguitars.net/en/

Cort produce guitars for other well known brands under license but also have their own brand.

In addition to limited edition models for the Australian market, Cort is now expanding the use of blackwood in its international models.

Here are a few examples:

Frank Gambale Signature (FGS) model

I previewed this new model back in February:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/02/29/cort-frank-gambale-signature-model/

AS 06 Orchestra Model (OM)

http://www.cortguitars.net/en/product/product_view.asp?qCate=00002&qSeries=0&qProdTag=&qPack=&qNew=&qKey=all&qWord=&idx=168

The AS series is Cort’s flagship series of premium acoustic guitars. The other models in the series feature Indian Rosewood and Mahogany. The AS06 is the first AS model to feature an “exotic” non-traditional tonewood.

Both the AS06 and the FGS models are top-of-the-line acoustic guitars featuring solid blackwood back and sides. Both retail for about $AU1,500 but neither is currently available in Australia.

But if you want something really special from Cort check out their 1200 series models. To date only three 1200 models have been produced the Earth 1200 dreadnought, the L1200P parlor and the MR1200FX dreadnought. All of these models feature solid rosewood, but I do have concerns about the legality and sustainability of rosewood timber. Now if a 1200 blackwood model should ever come along I’ll be down the shop in no time, and ringing bells on this website!!

Grand Regal GA5F-BW

Another recent addition to Cort’s international range. A Grand Auditorium body in a mid-priced guitar.

http://www.cortguitars.net/en/product/product_view.asp?qCate=00002&qSeries=0&qProdTag=&qPack=&qNew=&qKey=all&qWord=&idx=203

This model is available in Australia and retails for around $650.

MR710F –BW

A mid-priced Dreadnought workhorse featuring blackwood that retails for around $600.

http://www.cortguitars.com/uk/product/mr710f-bw

Ukeleles

Cort_Ukulele

Cort’s answer to the ukulele craze that has gripped the planet for the past 10 years is a series of solid quality blackwood ukes.

http://www.cortguitars.net/en/product/series_view.asp?qCate=00002&idx=154

Cort SJB Blackwood

And for the bass players the Cort SJB Blackwood. This model is currently only available in Australia.

http://www.basscentre.com.au/collections/acoustic-basses/products/cort-sjb5-blackwood

Cort-sjb-blackwood

Cort’s ability to gain exposure for blackwood tonewood by catering to the mass guitar market can only be a good thing. Blackwood may be highly regarded in the domestic Australian guitar market but it is still largely unknown overseas.

With a production capacity of over 1,000,000 guitars per year (I read somewhere that this represents 30% of total world production!) even if 1% of that production included blackwood it would provide a significant boost to local demand for blackwood timber. All of these guitars use plain-grain blackwood which is another bonus to growers.

It would be fantastic if Cort joined the growing trend for guitar companies to demonstrate greater environmental and social awareness and engagement as a good global corporate citizen.