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Tasmanian Blackwood Growers

Go Deloraine Stringfest! – a reply

I thought this recent comment to one of my earlier blogs was worthy of a more full response.

While I believe Gordon’s point of view might be an important point of view, it is certainly not the only point of view. In fact, I have some deep reservations about what Gordon is on about, not just about the future for instrument makers, but for craft and furniture makers in general.

Plantation timber is not ideal for every one, in fact, for some it is just plain wrong.

I believe it is of almost no interest to artistic wood turners, for example. They usually like the most gnarly, twisted, knotted, stressed and complex timber they can find, and it is almost totally without exception found to be old-growth timber.

Many users like their timber to be old, slow-growing, stable, rich, dark, and close in grain structure. I have never seen plantation-grown timber of any sort that looks like that. While some luthiers would definitely like straight-grained timber, there are plenty of others, such as the solid-body electric guys who want the most spectacular timber they can find, and I can give examples.

I would have less of a problem with Gordon if he were to not be saying that all the old-growth Blackwood forests should be locked up so that it could give a free kick to the fledgling Blackwood plantation growers – even John Gay did not ask for that!

Hi George,

Thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear from you.

Here’s my response to your concerns:

  1. No one has ever claimed that my views are supreme. I openly welcome other opinions and ideas.
  2. The wood qualities you describe “most gnarly, twisted, knotted, stressed and complex timber they can find” might appeal to a small number of artisans and craftspeople. But by far the major markets for blackwood – veneer, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, and commercial (as distinct from custom) instrument makers all prefer straight-grained wood for its uniformity, stability and ease of machining and workability. Feature grain such as fiddleback blackwood is also highly prized by these markets, but has only ever been available in very limited ad hoc supply anyway. Supply has never been guaranteed. New Zealand instrument makers are already using plantation blackwood.
  3. Plantation blackwood is my main focus because it is the best way to meet the dominant market demand and is the only way to expand and develop the blackwood industry. But I also have a focus on the remnant blackwood forest that exists on private land and how this can be better managed to improve productivity and value. With time (and perhaps even right now) this resource could easily supply the type of wood you describe including featured grain material. In fact it is already supplying the specialised craft and custom market.
  4. The genetic potential of blackwood is huge. A blackwood selection and breeding program could well provide improved, specialised wood properties of consistent quality to meet a number of different markets. These could be based around wood hardness, density and colour and perhaps even figured grain. Such genetic potential will only ever be realised once blackwood cultivation is well established and profitable. We are currently a long way from reaching that point!
  5. if he were to not be saying that all the old-growth Blackwood forests should be locked up”. George can you please identify where I have said this? I am more than happy for public native forest to be commercially managed PROVIDED it is done properly and profitably. I have certainly said that Tasmania has clearly demonstrated over the past 30 years that we do not have the commitment nor the skills to commercially manage our public native forests to meet social, ecological, political and commercial objectives. Every week our newspaper headlines scream this fact to the world. Many Tasmanians are thoroughly sick and tired of it.

I am not against your interests at all George. I want good professional, fully commercial and profitable forest management. I want a fair go and a “level playing field” for both public AND private tree growers. That’s all I want. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently it is.

Right now the policies and practices of the Government and Forestry Tasmania are deliberately undermining my attempts to build a private commercial blackwood venture. In fact your precious public native forest blackwood resource is being wiped out by overcutting! Does this concern you at all George?

When I look at the forest industry I look at as many aspects as I can, not just the quality of the wood resource. Right now there is very little about the forest industry and Tasmanian State forest policy that I find positive or useful. Unlike others I do not ignore the numerous political, social and commercial challenges facing the industry. I certainly do not support the use of taxpayer funds to log Tasmania’s conservation reserves for special timbers. Such stupidity will foment community conflict the likes of which we haven’t seen since the dark days of the Franklin River blockade.

The Deloraine Stringfest is a fantastic festival that in time will become a unique international event, highlighting the complete supply chain for stringed instruments from grower to artist. It has significant appeal to a wide audience. But while Stringfest sits within the current political, social and commercial malaise that is the forest industry in its current form, it will struggle to gain momentum and support.

It is well and truly time for fresh thinking and a new start.

That’s where I want to head George. A new beginning and a new vision.

Forestry is business. It is not about community service, or taxpayer subsidies whilst we are sacking teachers and nurses and closing schools. Forestry is about building wealth, not destroying it.

Go Stringfest!



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