Pure Tasmanian Timber Drums

Thanks to Scott Seymour for this story.

I remember back in 1985 when I got my first drum kit, it was an entry level set, but they were mine, and it was an exciting time. Some of the drums needed minor repairs, loose screws, rattles here and there, so I took each and every drum apart and became familiar with their construction and managed to fix some of the problems myself. I remember my first brand new professional drum kit as well, the day the delivery truck arrived and the boxes began being unloaded. One thing that stood out though was that the individual drums arrived without drum heads on them; they were in a separate box, and every time I opened a box with a drum in it, wow…..the smell of wood. I’ll always remember that, it was wonderful.

I’ve been watching guitar companies like Maton, Taylor and others using Tasmanian Blackwood and Sassafras for quite a few years, and as a tonewood they work exceptionally well. I play guitar as well as drums, so I have an interest regarding both instruments. It’s no secret that small boutique drum manufacturers in Australia have been using these timbers to make drums as well, and these drums have gained a reputation for being really good, not just visually but more importantly in terms of their tone. It’s very difficult though to get the world to sit up and really take notice, in a big way, of drums made from Tasmanian tonewoods, and realise just how good they are, unless the company behind them has a worldwide audience.

Enter major US manufacturer DW (Drum Workshop Inc.).

http://www.dwdrums.com/

DW has firmly established themselves in the drum market and are a well-known name in the music industry, they recently celebrated their 45th anniversary and so many of the world’s best drummers play their kits and/or use their hardware, cymbal stands, foot pedals etc. They have an artist roster well over a dozen pages long everyone from Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) Peter Criss (Kiss) Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and Roger Taylor (Queen) to name a few, play or have played DW Drums.

The sort of exposure a company like this can generate is on a whole different level to the smaller manufacturers. DW also own Gretsch Drums, LP Percussion, Gibraltar Hardware, PDP (Pacific Drums) and Ovation Guitars (yes….a world renowned guitar brand).

For many years I’ve wanted to be able to talk with a company like this about building drums using Tasmanian tonewood, but, I’m a musician, I don’t have access to timber, I don’t have a mill or the knowledge of wood to be able to put any kind of idea to a company like DW or anyone else.

Sure, I could try and bluff my way, get a company interested and then frantically get on the phone to call mills and timber suppliers to try and get what is needed, and hope for the best, but that’s not a sound idea, it’s a risky notion at best. I needed to find someone who knows timber, knows the industry, has access to not just ‘ok’ timber, but above average quality timber, something really special. I needed someone who not only sources the timber, but someone who is all over every aspect of it, the logging, the transport, the milling, packing and sending, otherwise end costs can get out of hand if the process involves paying six different people for all of the required processes. My only other requirement was that the timber is legally sourced and only from private land because I am not a fan of seeing native forests destroyed, I don’t want to support that. It took a few years but I ended up finding just the right person, Jason Weller, in Burnie.

I’d like to say it was through great planning but honestly our meeting was a total fluke and happened via social media back in June last year when I spotted a photo Jason’s brother Paul had posted of a spectacular Blackheart Sassafras log that they had just cut. I’ve seen Blackheart Sassafras before but this, this was stunning. I left a comment saying something along the lines of ‘this would make some sensational guitars’…..funny how my first thought was still the guitar industry. Well through Paul I ended up talking with Jason, and this is where the story gets really interesting. We discovered quickly that while I had some basic knowledge of tonewood, Jason had very little knowledge of the music industry but a wealth of knowledge regarding timber, and was all over every aspect of supplying product. Bingo, the perfect match.

Initially I was going to market the timber to guitar tonewood suppliers, and although we started to do that, we quickly discovered that it wasn’t going to work out too well, and that indeed, it can be a ‘cut throat’ industry, because some people go out of their way to make it so.

So that idea quickly went out the window, and it was then that I thought…….drums. Here is the chance to ‘go for it’, why didn’t of think of this first? Jason was supportive of the idea and said, ‘well…let’s see what happens, can’t hurt to try’. How right he was.

So in June last year I contacted DW and was put in touch with the Vice President of the company, John Good. John has been with DW since the company first opened their doors.

What I sent John were a couple of photos of Jason’s Blackheart Sassafras and Blackwood, a brief introduction to the species, and the idea for drum shell construction with an explanation of why I thought it should work, and how it might sound. Now, of course, a theory is one thing, but this was a sound theory (no pun intended) based on a few years of research.

John really liked the idea and we ended up emailing and talking on the phone several times working out the details, and of course, Jason and I always kept each other up to date.

Talking with John was great, he understands drums and drum shell construction, I understand drums and to some extent their construction as well, we were on exactly the same wave length.

Initially the idea was that we would send just some sample veneers over to DW, they had never worked with these species before, and wanted to make a few drum shells and see if this might be a viable project. The more John and I talked the more information that changed hands and our confidence in the idea grew. I got a phone call from John early one morning (6am here in Tassie) and he said ‘Scott…..we want to get a project underway, 200 drum kits, I’m going to come and see you and Jason, this is all very exciting, I can’t wait’.

Sure enough, in September, John, his wife Esther, and long-time friend from Melbourne, Bill Mackin, arrived in Burnie for a few days and we all sat down to really iron out the details of the project, to look at veneer, logs, and spend some time together. It was an exciting time.

The drum shells themselves are 9 ply…..the outer ply is Blackheart Sassafras, the inner most ply is Crown Cut Blackwood, the core of the shell, the remaining 7 ply, is all Quarter Cut Blackwood, but just plain grain Blackwood, free from knots/inclusions etc. because we’re after tone from this Blackwood, not appearance because it cannot be seen, we don’t need to be using the more rare fiddleback or spalted varieties. John states in the video that Blackwood can’t be rotary cut, well, it can be, but as we explained to him, to achieve the best tonality from the wood, it really needs to be Quarter Cut. We need to remember though that getting the best out of Blackwood is something people in Australia have been working out for a long time, but for John, he’d never even seen Tasmanian Blackwood.

The project was a ‘Go’…….

So there we have it, the world is now being introduced to ‘Pure Tasmanian Timber’ drum kits, and this also proves that while it’s great to see guitars being made by large well know companies such as Maton and Taylor, and gaining international recognition, let’s not forget drums, they are an acoustic instrument after all.………..

NOTES:

It would be great if companies like Drummers Workshop (DW) were more proactive and had a sustainable tonewoods policy. Note to Chris Lombardi and John Good at DW – please develop a sustainable tonewoods policy guys!

If these DW Tasmanian blackwood drums are a success how do we ensure that it results in more blackwoods being planted to grow more quality timber? It will require a lot of direct intervention to get the interest and confidence of Tasmanian landowners.

It looks to me like these 200 Pure Tasmanian Timber drum sets will be sold out the day they go on sale.

Great work Scott. Congratulations!

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New Zealand Historical Pine Log Price Data

In the early 1990s the New Zealand Government made the fateful decision to hand the forest industry over to the private sector.

It was a brave and visionary decision.

Before then the New Zealand forest industry was a Government run community service that included plundering public native forests and running a massive pine plantation employment program.

Public native forestry was shut down and the pine plantation resource was sold to the private sector.

The forest industry was mortified! Apoplectic!

Twenty five (25) years later and NZ has one of the most successful forest industries in the world, based on profitable private tree growers. Can anyone challenge this assessment?

Forestry was third in the list of exports by value in 2016 in New Zealand (after dairy and meat; with no Government subsidies):

What did New Zealand export in 2016

http://atlas.cid.harvard.edu/explore/?country=166&partner=undefined&product=undefined&productClass=HS&startYear=undefined&target=Product&year=2016

Once the pine plantation resource was privatised then pine log prices became realistic and meaningful and the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries began recording pine log price data.

So here we have twenty five (25) years of export pine log price data.

http://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/open-data-and-forecasting/forestry/wood-product-markets/historic-indicative-new-zealand-radiata-pine-log-prices/

What an astonishing achievement!

Well done New Zealand!!

I’ve converted the data into a chart and added some second order polynomial trend lines.

Before June 2017 the data is numerical average price. Post June 2017 the prices are weighted average which should mean more realistic and stable data.

NZpinelogpricesdata25

The obvious trends are a major spike in 1994 due to the Northern Spotted Owl crisis in North America (1) followed by a gradual price decline until the GFC in 2007/08. Following the Global Financial Crisis export pine log prices have seen a steady 10-year price improvement, to the advantage of NZ pine growers.

The other interesting trend in the chart is the convergence over the last 10 years of the A Grade, K Grade and Pulp log prices. Pruned pine log prices have continued show a significant price differential.

Oh how I wish we had meaningful long term blackwood log price data.

No chance! Not in Tasmania!

Good luck to New Zealand pine growers!!

IST Special Timbers Tender 6 Monthly Update

Here is my 6 monthly report of IST special timbers tender results. My last report can be found here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/07/27/ist-tender-results-2016-17/

The last 6 months have seen Island Specialty Timbers conduct 3 tenders with total of 42 cubic metres of product put to tender.

http://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au/

Total tendered volume sold was 34 cubic metres (81%) with total revenue of $34,000.

IST1217Chart1

The chart shows the price and volume trends over the last 2 years for the IST special timbers tenders. Sawn timber products are not included in the chart. Unfortunately the diversity and quality of products put to tender are so variable, and the volumes so small, that very little analysis is possible; except to say that the market is prepared to pay very high prices for premium quality wood.

Remember these prices are equivalent to mill door log prices, so harvesting and transport costs are theoretically included in the prices.

That these logs from Tasmanian public native forests are subsidised by Tasmanian taxpayers may also have some influence on the price.

The following chart tracks the average sold log volume. Many of the logs sold are very small. For comparison a target plantation blackwood log pruned to 6 metres with a dbh of 60 cm would have a volume of 1.5 cubic metres.

IST1217Chart2

With the Tasmanian State Government now giving away special timbers at taxpayers’ expense from Tasmania’s conservation reserves under the new Special Timbers Management Plan, we can expect log prices to drop dramatically.

Private forest growers are in for a tough time.

In fact I would think that IST’s days are well and truly numbered.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

Island Specialty Timbers, (IST) an enterprise of Forestry Tasmania was established at Geeveston in 1992 to increase the recovery, availability and value of specialty timbers from harvesting activities in State forests.

So much for “enterprise”! So much for “value”!!

More like complete market destruction.

 

Since this is my final report for 2017 I’ll take the opportunity to wish readers the best of Seasons Greetings.

The New Year brings another divisive and destructive State Election for Tasmania with forest policy yet again a hot election issue.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial, profitable forest industry?

New Zealand Tree Growers Enjoying Good Times

Pine

New Zealand has one of the world’s most successful forest industries.

And right now they are riding the tide of strong demand and high prices.

New Zealand farmers will be raking in the money.

http://www.laurieforestry.co.nz/Monthly-Newsletter

Forest owners are enjoying the most sustained, stable and highest prices for logs ever recorded.

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/market-report/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1711/S00809/nz-structural-log-prices-rise-to-24-year-high.htm

It’s mostly about China and export markets.

Log export markets are absolutely vital to the New Zealand forest industry.

Why?

Because the New Zealand forest industry is ALL about profitable private tree growers. Local New Zealand sawmillers have to survive in a very competitive market. This keeps them focused, efficient and hardworking. That’s business!

And for that the forest industry makes a huge contribution to the New Zealand economy.

Why can’t Tasmania have a forest industry like New Zealand?

How CITES is changing the future of rosewood in guitars

rosewood_guitar2

http://www.musicradar.com/news/how-cites-is-changing-the-future-of-rosewood-in-guitars

It’s interesting trying to keep up with how guitar companies and the tonewood market are dealing with the new CITES restrictions on rosewood.

It’s pretty clear that most guitar companies have been caught sleeping on the job when it comes to tonewood supply.

Here’s a recent article that puts a spotlight on the difficult times ahead for the industry.

It’s a long read but worth the effort. Here are some of the more relevant sections from a tonewood growers viewpoint:

The specific timing and impact of the latest restrictions on commercial rosewood usage is indeed a headache for the guitar industry, but it comes amid a much longer contextual setting of ecological concern and environmental politics. Which is to say that you don’t have to be Nostradamus to work out what’s coming next. We’re discussing rosewood here, but ebony and mahogany are glowing bright on the radar for more stringent protection.

 

Despite the best efforts of Martin, Taylor and Gibson in pushing the likes of Richlite and HPL for more than two decades now, many guitar enthusiasts – particularly fans of premium instruments – remain uninterested in anything but traditional timbers.

 

Sustainable wood species such as maple, sycamore, cherry and so on may provide some form of halfway house, but it still leaves the big guitar brands labouring with a stark contradiction. By their own admission, they’ve been telling us for decades that the ‘best’ guitars use the ‘best’ rosewood, mahogany and ebony. Their survival as businesses, however, requires much more widespread use of more sustainable materials.

“By their own admission…” indeed. And it still continues. Efforts by most guitar companies to “shift the market” have been pretty mild to say the least.

And we hear that most mahoganies and ebony are next on the list.

New Zealand blackwood growers are looking at a significant opportunity here.

With their plantation resource now maturing just as the global tonewood supply is coming under pressure, it’s the perfect time to be a blackwood grower.

New Zealand blackwood growers need to start making connections into the tonewood market, promoting New Zealand plantation-grown blackwood as a profitable, sustainable quality tonewood.

The opportunity is right now!

As for Tasmania, well we seem to have missed the boat.

No guitar company is coming to Tasmania to buy blackwood or other tonewoods plundered from our conservation reserves at taxpayers expense.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

The next 5-10 years will see the global tonewood market completely transformed. Who will be the beneficiaries of this change?

One of the major challenges is that the tonewood market does not know how to engage with the farming community to support and encourage them to grow tonewoods. Getting farmers to make a 30+ year investment planting trees takes a lot of support and encouragement.

Enjoy!

Death Certificate

Logging

Anyone reading these two recent articles by finance commentator John Lawrence would wonder if there is anyone in Tasmanian politics or public forest administration with any intelligence or integrity.

What an extraordinary tale of corruption, incompetence and waste.

Forestry Tasmania’s demise in detail

And

Forestry Tasmania’s final report

“total government (cash) assistance to the (Tasmanian) forestry industry (including Forestry Tasmania) is $1.4 billion over the past 20 years”!!!

Let me type that again:

$1.4 billion over the past 20 years!!!!

That is an average $70 million per year in cash subsidies for 20 years to the Tasmanian forest industry.

WHAT AN INCREDIBLE WASTE!

John Lawrence has been analysing and reporting on the economics of public forest administration in Tasmania since 2009. He knows the details better than anyone.

http://tasfintalk.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Forestry%20Tasmania

Anyone who has a business dependent on Tasmanian timbers from public forests is on short notice.

Your days are numbered!

These two documents should be the Death Certificate of the public native forest industry in Tasmania.

As a forester I find it very difficult.

Private Forests Tasmania Annual Report 2016-17

plantationharvest

It is good to see that the private forest grower is now the dominant force in the Tasmanian forest industry. Well almost!!

Much of the current success is due to salvage logging of hardwood plantations established under the disastrous MIS schemes of 1996-2008. Many of these plantations are not being harvested but being bulldozed and converted back to pasture. Many more are being harvested and converted back to pasture. Only about 30% of these plantations are expected to be replanted.

Be that as it may it gives private growers a brief opportunity to dominate what has been a Government run industry.

Despite this success Tasmania still does not have forest policy based on profitable private tree growers.

The forest industry is still in political and social crisis.

And Private Forests Tasmania still does not have any measurable, achievable goals and objectives for the industry. No blackwood/high quality timber objectives. No radiate pine objectives. Nothing!

It’s hard to make progress without a plan!

 

Dear Client/Stakeholder

I am writing to let you know that Private Forests Tasmania’s (PFT) Annual Report has been tabled in Parliament.  The report provides evidence of PFT’s achievements for the 2016-17 financial year.

I encourage you to have a look at our report now available from PFT’s website PFT Annual Report 2016-17.  The key outcomes are highlighted in the Year in Review on pages 1-4, and important information on the private forest estate on pages 7-13.

http://www.pft.tas.gov.au/home/home_articles/annual_report_2016-17

Highlights are outlined below:

 

  • Private Forests Tasmania’s (PFT) Annual Report provides evidence of the importance of the private forestry sector to Tasmania’s economy and the achievements of the Authority to support the sector.
  • During the year PFT responded to requests for assistance and advice from 524 private forest owners; continued to build and strengthen relationships with companies and stakeholder groups; researched, pursued and promoted new market opportunities for wood; continued initiatives targeting an expansion of the private forest estate; and provided input and advice to government on matters of relevance to the private forestry sector.
  • At 1,099,000 hectares, the private forest estate comprises approximately 30% of Tasmania’s reported forest area.
  • The native forest component (858,000 hectares) comprises 26% of the State’s native forest area.
  • The plantation component (241,000 hectares) comprises 78% of the State’s plantation area.
  • This year, the total private forest harvest rose well beyond historic levels increasing 32% from 2015-16 to supply 3.89 million tonnes of logs to the market. This increase follows on from the large increase of 48.5% from 2014-15 to 2015-16 and continues the trend of increasing production that commenced from the record low of 2011-12 (1.11 million tonnes). Levels of production in 2016-17 were the highest achieved since 1994-95 (when PFT began collecting data) being 0.71 million tonnes (22%) higher than the previous high in 1999-00 (3.19 million tonnes).
  • The increase in production primarily comprised logs sourced from hardwood plantations. However, there was also a significant increase in the supply of logs from softwood plantations.
  • The opening of the Macquarie Wharf log export facility provided much needed market options for the south of the State and contributed to increases in log exports, together with increases from northern ports. Importantly, the Macquarie Wharf facility added value to some forest areas that had become of marginal economic value after the closure of the Triabunna export facility in 2011.
  • The dominance of the plantation based sector continues with logs supplied from plantations comprising 96% of the total Tasmanian private forest harvest, the highest proportion recorded to date. Plantation logs have comprised >90% of the Tasmanian private forest harvest since 2012-13 having steadily risen from 15% in 1994-95.
  • Harvesting of hardwood plantations increased significantly, reaching a new high in 2016-17 of 2.46 million tonnes – an increase of 37% from 2015-16. This follows an 89% increase in the previous year.
  • Increases over the 2015-16 levels of production included a very significant (409%) increase in sawlog, veneer and ply log together with a 22% increase in pulp log. The large increase in sawlog, veneer and ply log predominantly comprised export logs, with only 1,600 tonnes sawn or peeled domestically.
  • An increase in hardwood plantation harvest was anticipated last year due to the increased processing capacity bought on-line in northern Tasmania resulting from the finalisation of the Gunns assets sale. This increased capacity has underpinned a resumption of appropriate harvesting levels for the maturing plantation estate and facilitated the harvesting of the backlog of plantations that accumulated during the 5 year period prior to the asset sale. Furthermore, options to sell plantation hardwoods from the south of the State through Macquarie Wharf, that were bought online in 2016-17, contributed to overall increased production.
  • The private softwood harvest increased significantly in 2016-17, by 0.29 million tonnes (30%) to 1.27 million tonnes. This production level is in line with what is thought to be the long term sustainable yield of the private softwood estate. The increase is attributed to increased output from existing ports and processing facilities in conjunction with output from the new export facility for southern Tasmania at Macquarie Wharf.
  • The private estate’s contribution to overall State forestry production has increased from 58% in 2013-14 to 73% in 2016-17- reinforcing the importance of the private estate to the Tasmanian forestry sector and its dominance from a log volume supply perspective, and, its strategic importance to the forest products sector.
  • These metrics emphasise why the private forest estate is such an important asset for the forestry sector and for the general economic, social and environmental well-being of Tasmania as a whole – with more to contribute.
  • One of PFT’s major objectives is to facilitate the expansion of the private forest estate through its Agroforestry project, funded by the Government’s Agrivision 2050 Plan. Working with UTas and CSIRO, the project aims to provide compelling evidence to farmers of the $value commercial woodlots and shelterbelts can have on agricultural returns prior to tree harvest, convincing more farmers to plant more trees.  The program will provide a win-win for agriculture and forestry, enhancing farm productivity, profitability and resilience whilst simultaneously expanding the volume of forest product available to processors. Considerable research activities continued during the year.
  • PFT’s forest management certification project remained an important focus with the draft documentation needed to form an ‘independent group certification option’ being completed and shared with interested parties. This will add to the quality certification options already available through the forest management companies.  PFT promotes all options to interested private forest owners.
  • The Authority delivered a comprehensive financial surplus of $413k, an increase of 34% from 2015-16.
  • An important highlight during the reporting period was the highly successful Australian Forest Growers Biennial National Conference held in Launceston between 23- 26 October 2016. PFT, as the principal sponsor, worked closely with the AFG Conference Organising Committee and AFG National Office over 12 months to lead, plan and deliver this premier event.
  • Other highlights for the year included the conduct of several field days and seminars; the maintenance of an active research program; and engaging with/assisting other land management organisations on matters that benefit private forest owners.