CF Martin & Tasmanian blackwood

OM45TBc

CF Martin is possibly the name in steel string acoustic guitars in the world.

https://www.martinguitar.com/

As a tree grower, to have your product associated with the CF Martin brand is as good as it gets.

But the Tasmanian farmers who grew this wood never got that recognition and support. If they had, they might now be growing more quality tonewood.

Unfortunately the tonewood market and the guitar industry don’t work that way.

Not yet!!

Martin admits their customer base is conservative and fickle; they have a hard time introducing new tonewoods into their product range. Tasmanian blackwood has been a disappointment for them in terms of market acceptance.

Nevertheless here’s a not-so-complete summary of CF Martin’s use of Tasmanian blackwood.

For those unfamiliar with Martin’s product codes, the OM is an Orchestra Model body shape/size and D is for Dreadnought body shape; the 42/45 designates the amount of bling (abalone and other exotica) on the guitar with “45” being bling-max!

Eight months after Taylor Guitars first introduced Tasmanian blackwood into their Limited Editions, CF Martin also introduced blackwood into their Limited Edition models at the 2005 Summer NAMM Show. And whilst Taylor went for a more affordable market, Martin went for the top shelf market.

These are rare premium guitars from a premium builder!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/02/17/2004-fall-limited-editions-when-taylor-guitars-first-introduced-tasmanian-blackwood/

2005 OM-45 Tasmanian Blackwood (The Sounding Board Vol. 19 p. 8)

The OM-45 Tasmanian Blackwood NAMM Show Special is tonally enhanced with an extremely rare flamed Engelmann spruce soundboard, and bookmatched back, sides and headplate of highly flamed Tasmanian blackwood. Special appointments include fossilized ivory bridge pins and endpin, Style 45 abalone trim with a boxed endpiece, Style 45 snowflake fingerboard inlays, gold plated Waverly hand-engraved tuning machines, a modified torch headstock inlay nested beneath the C. F. Martin & Co. logo inlaid in abalone, and a premium Accord case. This NAMM Show Special will be limited to no more than thirty instruments. Dealers may only place orders in person during the 2005 Indianapolis NAMM Show.

Here’s a link with some images of the OM-45 TB:

http://acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=287129

OM45TB

2010 D-42 Tasmanian Blackwood (The Sounding Board Vol. 29 p. 11)

Once again, Martin has produced a NAMM Show Special guitar which truly lives up to its “special” designation – the D-42 Blackwood. Backs and sides of this exquisite instrument are crafted of flamed Tasmanian Blackwood, a close relative of Hawaiian Koa both in looks and tone, and which grows primarily on the island of Tasmania off the southeast coast of Australia. Its tone is clear and bright and highly reflective, a perfect match for the D-42’s Adirondack (Red Spruce) top, prized for its resonance and big, open bass voice. Top braces, also Adirondack, are carefully scalloped and tapered. The small maple bridgeplate is typical of Golden Era 30s Martins. As a special touch, European flamed maple is used for the top binding, fingerboard binding, heelcap and endpiece. The entire top perimeter and fingerboard extension are inlaid with colorful heart abalone pearl as is the style 45 rosette. A polished and beveled Delmar tortoise pickguard accents the pearl binding. Ebony fingerboard (inlaid with Golden Era snowflake, cats eye & concave squares) and bridge (with long bone saddle). “Alternative” flower pot headplate inlay. Only 10 of these unique guitars will be offered. Orders will be taken only at the Summer NAMM Show.

Here’s a link with some images of the D-42 TB:

http://theunofficialmartinguitarforum.yuku.com/topic/103988#.WOHlJtKGNdg

 

2011 OM-42 Tasmanian Blackwood (The Sounding Board Vol. 31 p. 27)

We should have called OM-42 Tasmanian Blackwood NAMM Show Special the “Show Stopper!” This magnificent 14-fret, longscale (25.4″), Orchestra Model exemplifies the very best that Martin has to offer the discriminating collector and player. For starters, back and sides are crafted of rare flamed Tasmanian blackwood from Eastern Australia. Visually, it’s similar to premium figured Hawaiian koa. Tonally, it shares the brightness of koa but with the rich overtones of rosewood, giving it a unique and very balanced voice. With its solid Adirondack spruce top and 1/4″ scalloped “Golden Era” braces, it’s also got a big voice, with plenty of volume when you need it. Finger-picking or rhythm, this is your guitar. In the 42-style, the top, rosette and fingerboard extension are inlaid with colorful Paua pearl. Martin’s early (and rarer) “alternate” pearl torch design is inlaid into a polished ebony headplate. The ebony fingerboard is likewise inlaid with “Golden Era” snowflakes. A vintage 1930s ebony “belly” bridge features long bone saddle, bone bridge pins (and end pin) with pearl dots. European flame maple top binding, heelcap and endpiece. Gold engraved Gotoh tuners. Modified V neck, of course. Only 15 of these beautiful instruments will be offered, each personally signed by C. F. Martin IV and numbered in sequence. Exquisite. Resonant. And oh-so-limited.

Here’s a link with some images of the OM-42 TB:

https://artisanguitars.com/2011-martin-om-42-limited-edition-adirondack-and-tasmanian-blackwood-5-8-id-6647

2011 was the last time Tasmanian blackwood featured on a Martin Limited Edition guitar. Perhaps aiming at the top shelf market wasn’t best way to introduce a new tonewood into the market.

In addition to these limited release NAMM Show Specials Martin continues to produce the occasional custom model featuring Tasmanian blackwood, some of which have featured on this website over the years, including the Martin Custom Shop 018-T-Tasmanian Blackwood and the Martin Custom CEO7 Tasmanian Blackwood.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/category/cf-martin-guitars/

With CF Martin’s focus on FSC as their lifeline to a sustainable future, Tasmanian blackwood will have a hard time staying in Martin’s tonewood catalogue. There is currently no FSC certified Tasmanian blackwood available anywhere, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. The best chance of FSC Blackwood will come from New Zealand as farmers there ramp up production over the coming years.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/03/28/c-f-martin-guitars-sustainable-tonewoods/

Tasmanian blackwood needs lots of market support to reach the stage where it may be possible to achieve FSC certification. It’s up to the market to build a sustainable future for Tasmanian blackwood. The FSC won’t achieve that by itself.

A Strategic Growth Plan for the Tasmanian Forests, Fine Timber and Wood Fibre Industry

MACSGP2017

http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/148855/Strategic_Growth_Plan.PDF (1.3 MB pdf)

The Tasmanian Ministerial Advisory Council on Forestry has finally produced a Strategic Plan for the industry.

Yes another strategic plan for the forest industry!!

Our public library shelves are at breaking point, weighed down by the dozens of these plans, strategies and reviews that have been produced over the past 40 years, all to no avail.

Two issues ensure that the use-by date of this Plan has already expired:

  1. The State Government deliberately excluded non-industry representatives from the Advisory Council. This Plan only represents the interests of a small select group of Tasmanians. It is a 100% political document! This Plan is only as good as the next election if that!
  2. The two most contentious issues of a) public forest management, and b) the future management of Forestry Tasmania, should have been dealt with a separate section within the Plan. Instead these issues are woven through the document, fundamentally compromising the entire Plan. If the forest industry cannot unchain itself from these two issues, and focus on profitable tree growing, then the forest industry is doomed.

If the future of the forest industry is to be based on profitable tree growing then this Plan fails completely!

Reviewing the Plan is therefore an academic/intellectual/painful exercise.

As a forester having read many previous forest industry plans and strategies, reading this Plan is painful and frustrating. Besides the poor structure and legibility, much of the contents are straight out of previous plans I’ve read. There are very few new ideas in this Plan.

The surreality of the Plan is overwhelming, in that the Plan completely ignores the current hostile political, social and economic context of the forest industry.

The Pros

“The future growth potential of private plantations is significant”. This statement on page 6 of the Plan says a lot about the future growth of the forest industry. Unfortunately it is not expanded upon anywhere else in the Plan.

“Government involvement will be as an enabler rather than as a commercial participant.” This statement on page 9 of the Plan is the most curious feature of the Plan. It stands alone with no further detail or explanation of what it might mean. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

“It is recommended the Forest Practices Act and the implementation of its provisions be reviewed in keeping with progressive developments in forest practices and science”. A review of the FPA is certainly needed, especially around plantation development and management. Forest plantations should exist within the same regulatory environment as any other primary industry, just like in New Zealand – a level playing field.

“While the industry comprises a diversity of often competing interests and business models, individual stakeholders also share a range of common interests. Within this context, there is a need for an umbrella organisation to develop and represent the shared interests of the whole of the value chain on matters of common concern”. The Plan calls for the formation of a new industry representative body. Private forest growers are the future of the forest industry. They need strong leadership and a strong voice.

That’s it! Four statements in the Plan that I think have some merit and potential. The rest of the Plan is padding or worse.

The Cons

The main con is the absence of non-industry representation on the Advisory Council, making this Plan a 100% political document;

The Plan assumes indefinite ongoing access to taxpayer subsidised public forest resource;

The complete absence of profitable tree growers and profitable tree-growing as the basis of any successful forest industry;

Log pricing is not discussed nor are transparent competitive markets;

The Plan is not a response to a review of the forest industry. Firstly we need a document that lists the major problems and challenges facing the forest industry. Then we need a strategy that addresses those problems and challenges. The logic needs to be transparent – problem, solution, outcome! By itself this document provides the reader with no context by which to judge the strategy, let alone any possible outcomes. I would classify this as a major flaw.

These Plans are always about what the Government can do for the industry, never about what the industry must do for itself; and

Hence always involve spending large amounts of taxpayer money;

Private Forests Tasmania is not mentioned in the Plan!!

The Plan retains the stupid rhetoric about “resource security”. The forest industry does not need “resource security”! The very successful New Zealand forest industry does not talk about resource security, because the NZ industry is based on a private forest resource. “Resource security” in NZ only comes from profitability; either pay a good market price or go out of business! “Resource security” is a forest industry euphemism for loss-making, taxpayer-subsidised, politically protected industry. “Resource security” is anti-competitive and against the principles of competitive neutrality. Private forest growers should not be subject to “resource security” so neither should the public forest grower. In my opinion the word “sustainable” has come to serve the same purpose within the industry. The Plan uses the word “sustainable” ad nauseum whilst the word “profit” appears only once!

The inability of the Strategy to recognise and address issues of competitive neutrality, such as the proposal that the State Government fund forest road construction and maintenance (p. 20). Government money must then also go to private forest growers for road construction and maintenance in order to achieve competitive neutrality!

The section on Meeting Community Expectations (p. 13) is a complete joke, in fact it is laughable.

The section on Special Species Timbers (p. 17) is a joke;

The section on Private Forests (p. 14) is completely inadequate. The objective of private forest growers is profitability. Improving profitability and competitiveness is not discussed in the Plan at all.

I could go on, but the patient is already in the Terminal Ward.

The weaknesses and omissions in this Plan mean that it has already been consigned to the dust bin of history. In 3 years time the Strategic Plan of 2017 will be long forgotten. Yet another failure by the Tasmanian forest industry to reinvent itself.

Another 3 years wasted. More subsidies, more politics, more community conflict can only follow.

PS. Another significant omission from the Plan is the subject of a budget and funding. Of course we all know that the long suffering taxpayer will be asked once again to throw money at the forest industry by way of this Plan, to the tune of $100s millions of dollars. Given the billions of dollars that have been wasted on the forest industry over the past 30 years, taxpayers should be extremely wary of supporting any forest industry plan that does not include significant forest policy and industry reform. This Plan contains very few recommendations for policy and industry reform.

PPS. If the forest industry and the Tasmanian community are serious about the future of the industry then I recommend these two reports as a good place to begin:

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

These reports contain plenty of great recommendations for reform, none of which have ever been implemented.

PPPS.

Speaking of redundant Forestry Growth Plans does anyone remember this one?

http://www.forestrytas.com.au/uploads/File/pdf/corp_plan_2000.pdf

It’s a complete joke!! By December 2003 ………

Complete cloud cuckoo land stuff. And here we are 14 years later still in cloud cuckoo land. Pathetic!

Market demand for Tasmanian blackwood

logs-on-ship-close-up.jpg

I am getting enquiries from buyers in Asian markets looking to buy blackwood from Tasmanian farmers. Here’s a recent example:

 

Dear Dr. Gordon Bradbury

How are you? I hope you all are very good!

This is Paul ███ from ███ Furniture that is a furniture wholesaler in Victoria, And in Guangdong China have own furniture factory. Our factory produces leather sofas, bed and wooden furniture. 

Recently, we knew that a Chinese company import 20 containers of blackwood logs from Tasmania, we are very interested in this product, I would like to know can you supply the blackwood to us?

Or if you can provide us the supplier for our future’s potential cooperation, that will be grateful!

Looking forward response for you soon

 

Best Regards

Paul ███  

Director

 

I’m happy to put this enquiry up on my website to help improve forest market transparency.

The question is what exactly do these buyers want, what volumes, and at what price?

The next question is what farm blackwood resource is available to meet the demand, and how do we mobilise more of the Tasmanian farm blackwood resource? The farm blackwood resource in Tasmania is generally of average to poor quality because Tasmanian farmers have mostly never considered themselves tree growers, so the existing blackwood is unmanaged.

And finally can market demand for premium Tasmanian blackwood progress to the point where Tasmanian farmers regard growing premium blackwood as a commercial profitable opportunity and begin planting?

Given the Tasmanian political and forest industry context, I suspect this change in the farming community will take more than just normal market forces. It will also require market leadership and support!

I’m happy to pass these enquiries on to any log traders or sawmillers out there, but my objective is to build the blackwood industry. This means using market demand and price to encourage farmers to establish blackwood plantations and actively manage their remnant blackwood forest.

Is anyone up for the challenge?

Please contact me if you want details.

Can premium blackwood timber once again become an iconic quality Tasmanian product?

Special Timbers in Western Australia

FPCSTA

Forest Products Commission (FPC) of Western Australia (the Government forest agency) puts all special timbers that come from Crown land and State forest to public auction. The objective is not for the Forest Products Commission to maximise revenue (unfortunately that is not one of their corporate objectives), but to be impartial in terms of who gets access to the limited resource, and attempt to ensure some kind of fair market price is paid. I’m guessing much of this because the FPC actually tells us very little about their special timbers operations.

http://www.fpc.wa.gov.au/timberauctions

http://www.fpc.wa.gov.au/speciality-timbers-go-under-hammer

There are generally four auctions per year, the first for 2017 is this Saturday the 6th of May. Over 100 lots are to be auctioned this Saturday totalling over 1,000 tonnes of specialty woods.

Here’s the auctioneers website:

https://www.auctions.com.au/auctions/2017/05/06/wa-log-burl-burl-slices-craft-packs-and-slabs-auction.html

Western Australia doesn’t have a Special Timbers Management Plan. Whatever wood is salvaged from other activities on Crown Land and State forest is what special timbers are available and that’s it.

There are no taxpayer subsidies (that I can see anyway) and no logging of parks and reserves just to pander to the wood craft people.

In 2016 FPC auctioned approximately 3000 tonnes (approx. 3,000 cubic metres) of specialty timbers. That’s 150 truckloads of specialty timbers. Compare that with just 200 cubic metres tendered by Island Specialty Timbers/Forestry Tasmania last year.

The FPC is reluctant to talk about their specialty timbers operations, apart from announcing the auction dates. Here is the sum total of what the last FPC Annual Report had to say:

Local buyers bid keenly for a variety of Goldfields timbers for musical instruments, wood turning projects and unique pieces of furniture. Wood from this region is difficult to access, and bidders at the auction were impressed by the bold colours and patterns found in the timber.

Also on offer was a selection of South West native forest specialty feature timbers including marri, blackbutt and sheoak.

That’s it!!

Just some motherhood statements!!

No discussion about sales highlights, market conditions, total volume sold or total revenue.

If the FPC wanted to engage with stakeholders and the general public this would be a great opportunity. Apparently not!!

Like Forestry Tasmania the Forest Products Commission is not run as a commercial business but as a community service to achieve political objectives. Being a profitable tree grower is not the vision of either of these public forest managers.

Remember the only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growers and public auctions are a great way to maximise profitability and create greater market transparency.

Bob Taylor – Searching the World for Sustainable Tonewoods

Bob Taylor, President of Taylor Guitars, and a group of friends are currently on a world tour looking for sustainable tonewoods.

Bob is posting regular updates of his tour on Youtube. You can watch them here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIa-kz_oNaiTYa5ZWKYsKSML5eEAIQKu6

Traditional tonewoods such as rosewood and mahogany are disappearing fast due to overlogging.

Bob Taylor consequently has two enormous challenges if Taylor Guitars is to survive and prosper into the future:

Firstly he needs to find sustainable sources of new tonewoods with which to build quality guitars.

Secondly he needs to convince a guitar-buying public to say goodbye to traditional tonewoods (perhaps a Farewell Party is needed) and welcome the new sustainable alternatives.

Neither of these challenges will be easy.

Trees take a long time (30+ years) to grow so Bob needs to be thinking 30+ years ahead. How many of us have to think 30+ years ahead just so that we have a job tomorrow?

Now that is a rare challenge!

But he also needs tonewoods in the short term. Traditional tonewoods will be gone well before any trees planted today can be harvested. So the tonewood market over the next 30+ years will be a mixed bag, until people start planting tonewoods to produce a regular, managed supply.

Despite my efforts unfortunately Tasmania is not on Bob Taylor’s itinerary.

In terms of forestry opportunity Tasmania has a poor reputation around the world. The rhetoric here may be “world’s best practice” but that is definitely not how the rest of the world sees us.

Bob Taylor may love Tasmanian blackwood as a tonewood, but as yet he is not prepared to commit his time and energy trying to deal with the many challenges facing forestry in Tasmania.

It will be interesting to watch the videos and see what Bob Taylor & Co discover on their journey.

Enjoy!

Taylor 2008 Spring Limited Editions

426ce

In my last spotlight on Taylor Guitars use of Tasmanian blackwood I described the 2008 Spring Limited Edition models as enigmatic.

The reason is it is difficult to find any information on these models.

As far as I understand only 2 Limited Edition models were issued Spring 2008, both of them featuring Tasmanian blackwood. But Taylor’s Wood & Steel magazines for 2008 make no mention of any Spring Limited Edition releases; and today the internet contains little residual record of their release.

Taylor’s own website makes no mention of these models.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

I have been aware of the all-blackwood 426ce model for many years but only recently became aware of the Sitka-topped 416ce model thanks to my correspondence with Taylor Guitars.

Both of these models are essentially the same GS (Grand Symphony) design with the 416ce having a Sitka spruce top and the 426ce having a blackwood top, otherwise they are identical. Production was 325 and 676 units respectively (1001 total).

Compared to the 2007 GS4e these two models were only available with the cutaway body and with better quality appointments such as the abalone rosette.

The 2008 Spring Limited 426ce was also the subject of an “Ask Bob” letter in the 2014 Wood & Steel Vol. 78 (p. 6). Both the letter and Bob Taylor’s response say a lot about the potential of blackwood as a tonewood. Here is the letter:

I picked up a used [Grand Symphony] 426 with Tasmanian blackwood back, sides and top. After playing it a few weeks, it seemed to meld with my playing style (I got used to how to fingerpick it), and I’m one of those people who believes that good guitars will adjust themselves to a player’s sound. It sounds absolutely stunning with the kinds of blues I play. I think it sounds better than any all-koa, mahogany or walnut guitar I’ve heard. I’d bet you could find a pretty good market for this model with acoustic blues players looking for that really old-fashioned sound that can be elusive. Have you considered making this a regular model?

Jim S.

And here is Bob Taylor’s response:

Actually, Jim, in some ways we prefer the sound quality of Tasmanian blackwood to koa. Both are acacia trees and are nearly identical, or as close as cousins can be to one another, but blackwood has a very nice sound. We have been considering using blackwood on a regular basis for many years, but the challenge is getting a regular supply of guitar-grade wood. We have spent considerable time and energy in the country, working and developing relationships. We want to obtain wood in the most ethical and environmentally sound manner, so we’ve backed away from the traditional logging supply in favor of more sustainable methods that benefit local people. Tasmania has so much going for it with the species available there, and the added plus is that it’s a well-developed country rather than a poverty-stricken country. This condition puts many wonderful rules in place, and we are now working on some wonderful possibilities for obtaining blackwood. Currently we have a great relationship with a man who gets blackwood in the most ideal way. You can expect to see at least limited runs of guitars with this wood for years to come. Someday it may also become a standard model, but it’s too soon to tell at this point.

So here we are 3 years later, Tasmanian blackwood is now part of regular production at Taylor, but the 2008 426ce Ltd is still the only all-blackwood model produced in volume by Taylor to date. All-blackwood Custom or Prototype guitars are occasionally made. Perhaps they want to avoid market confusion with their highly successful Koa “K” Series:

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/features/series/koa

Here’s a video review of the 426ce:

My next spotlight will be on the 2009 Spring Limited Edition models.

Previous Taylor spotlights:

2004 Fall Limited Editions – when Taylor Guitars first introduced Tasmanian blackwood

Taylor GS4e 2007 Fall Limited Edition

Trans-Tasman Blackwood Grower Friendship

Simms

I just received this great email from my friend and blackwood grower Gilles which I couldn’t resist turning into a blog.

I like good news stories!

And yes…it’s another story from New Zealand.

Hi Gordon,

I just got back from a 3 weeks trip in New Zealand , originally it was a meant to be just a vacation with some friends but after a week I ended up travelling on my own and i soon found myself on a farm near Kaitaia in the Northland,  guest of Brian and Gaye Simms ( they are friends of a friend of mine who sent me there ).

As I got there we were soon talking blackwoods and Brian ask me if I knew you …

I was so lucky to spend 4 days with them and look very closely at his 40 years work on his farm, planting  natives and of course blackwoods to create windbreaks and stabilise the hills … an impressive result !

What a great example of what needs to be done on most farms to improve the production and create an asset that, in his case, he is able to start harvesting.

Here are some photos I took last week:

I hope Brian posts some stories of his experiences as he begins his first blackwood harvesting.

Here’s a video of Brian talking about his farm and his trees produced by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association:

Keep up the great work Brian.

Thanks to Gilles for the inspiration and photos.