Monthly Archives: March 2015

Cole Clark Fat Lady 2 – all Tasmanian blackwood

Cole Clark is the “outsider” of the Australian commercial guitar world.

They are new(-ish), innovative and untraditional.

In this age when the acoustic guitar market seems to go from strength to strength, makers are exploring everything new and everything old in order to supply the ever-growing market. All-mahogany and all-koa guitars were popular in the 20’s and 30’s, and they have recently made a big comeback.

So the idea of an all-blackwood guitar seems pretty straight forward to me. It should become an Aussie classic model!

But until recently they have been one-off custom makes.

Now Cole Clark of Melbourne is offering a range of all-blackwood models.

This is farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood!

They are quite understated in appearance, which to my mind fails to capitalize on blackwoods natural beauty. But it’s a great beginning. I hope they sell well.

Here’s a recent review by Cranbourne Music.



I hope one day to write a story that begins at the farm and finishes with the performer/artist. That would be a great story!

Tourism Council sees the light


The Tourism Industry Council Tasmania (TICT) is to be congratulated!

They understand the lessons of the last 30 years and the damage that a highly politicised forest industry has done to the economy of Tasmania.

They don’t want that to continue, especially if it directly threatens an important tourism brand/image.

In their submission to the Draft Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) Management Plan the TICT makes explicitly clear their concerns about the economic, social and political risks of opening up large areas of the World Heritage Area to special timbers logging.

Page 14 of the TICT submission gives a nod of appreciation to the historic importance of the special timbers sector “as an important part of the Tasmanian retail tourism sector, and the contribution it makes to the Tasmanian visitor experience.”

The TICT also “supports a vibrant, sustainable and responsible specialty timber sector in Tasmania.”

But the TICT soundly rejects any notion that “vibrant, sustainable and responsible” equates to logging the World Heritage Area, threatening the image and integrity of the Tasmanian Wilderness brand, or casting Tasmania into another bitter decade of political and community conflict.

The “TICT does not support further extraction of timber from the TWWHA beyond the practices already permitted under the current Management Plan,” ie. Huon pine salvage on Macquarie Harbour.

The public-native-forest-dependent special timbers industry has never been sustainable. It has never had a business plan. Since 2010 it has been explicitly managed by Forestry Tasmania as a non-profit, non-commercial activity with significant costs being deliberately made against the Tasmanian taxpayer. Teachers, nurses and other front-line public services are being cut back whilst the special timbers industry enjoys preferential treatment.

Post-TCA the future of the public-native-forest-dependent special timbers industry is largely unknown except:

  • It will continue to be taxpayer subsidised;
  • It will continue to be highly politicised;
  • It will involve logging the TWWHA;
  • It will not gain FSC Certification;
  • A new special timbers strategy (not a business plan) will not be available until 2017;

With all of these current uncertainties and the lessons of the last 30 years the TICT is perfectly correct in wanting to avoid another damaging conflict around public native forest management; especially when it directly threatens our tourism image.

And as someone trying to establish a commercially focused, profitable, farm-based special timbers business the proposed logging of the World Heritage Area represents a direct threat to my business.

It is well past time for the forest industry to be run on a proper commercial basis in Tasmania.

The next step

The next step in the development of the [TWWHA Management] Plan is the consideration of the representations. To provide for transparency and accountability in finalising management plans the Act establishes a process for review of public representations involving the Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC).  The Director of National Parks and Wildlife (the Director) will review all representations received and prepare a report which includes a summary of all representations, the Director’s opinion on the merit of each representation and whether modification of the management plan is required.

The Director will forward copies of all representations received, together with the Director’s report, to the TPC who will advertise the representations and the Director’s report for public viewing.  The TPC may hold hearings on the representations.  The TPC will review the representations and the Director’s report and the results of any public hearings held and will prepare a report to the Minister. The TPC’s report to the Minister will be published.

Stringfest 2015 Review


The Deloraine Stringfest is over for another year. Being a stallholder at Stringfest gives you a restricted view of the festival since so much happens at other venues around the town and in the main street.

The Community Hall where the luthiers, tonewood merchants and others such as myself hang out can seem a lonely place at times. That was my impression on Saturday, the main day of the Festival, with far fewer people than last year. A common comment was that there are too many other events on that weekend. The crowds picked up Sunday morning and I met a few interesting people, picked up some useful information and perhaps even some new blackwood growers.

I love the busking and the random spontaneous music making. I think that is also a special feature of Stringfest. It’s almost a BYO instrument event!

Clearly it will take Stringfest some years to get established and create a unique identity and following. It will take a big commitment and effort by the Deloraine community to make it a success. But it will be worth the effort!

Stringfest is a unique vision.

The focus on the musical performers is great, but Stringfest will never compete with the other established music festivals. The key to success for Stringfest I believe will be attracting a broader audience with the performers as well as the luthiers, tonewood merchants and tonewood growers.

In 2014 there were 4 tonewood merchants at Stringfest. None of those merchants returned this year, being replaced instead by 2 new tonewood merchants. I’m not sure how many tonewood merchants Tasmania can support but I suspect it is less than the current number if anyone is to have a hope of making a decent living from it.

But keeping tonewood merchants at Stringfest will be difficult. Whilst not many of us can afford a custom made guitar, at least the luthiers have merchandise that will sell, and it certainly attracts plenty of interest. Tonewood merchants however occupy a very restricted market, so Stringfest offers them little in the way of financial reward, unless we get to the point where bigger guitar companies start coming to Stringfest. While that’s not beyond the realms of possibility it is still a few years away.

So we need new ideas on how to make the non-performing side of Stringfest more useful and engaging for both the participants and the audience.

Here’s some ideas:

  • Field trips to a blackwood plantation;
  • Presentations on growing blackwood (and other tonewoods);
  • Tonewood merchants are both a) selling tonewood, and b) looking to buy logs from farmers/landowners. What are some things that tonewood merchants can do to attract both types of customers?
  • A tonewood auction.
  • A farm-grown log auction.
  • A log-sawing demonstration;
  • Luthier talks and demonstrations? Eg. the effect of tonewood on tone; how to refret a guitar; different soundboard bracing patterns; etc..
  • A restringing booth! Bring your guitar/instrument in for a health check and restring (byo or buy strings);
  • Craft-made guitar straps – these could be leather or other material;

I think the luthiers, merchants and growers themselves need to take ownership of their participation at Stringfest and be more creative.

How can we better link the performing and non-performing sides of Stringfest? Artists/luthiers on stage road testing a range of local guitars of different designs, sizes, shapes and tonewoods?

Finally my thanks and appreciation to the organisers and volunteers, and the Deloraine community, who make Stringfest happen. I think it is a fantastic idea and a great model.

I will be back again in 2016 to give the Festival my fullest support.

Plant a guitar!

Deloraine Stringfest & World Heritage Area logging


This was going to happen sooner or later. But the Deloraine Stringfest is now becoming associated with Tasmanian State Government forest policy and the logging of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). This is courtesy of the Premier Will Hodgman and his press release associated with the recent launch of the 2015 Stringfest.

We want to ensure craftsmen like Daniel can continue to create instruments from Tasmanian timbers, which is why we are committed to rebuilding the forest industry.

As many people know, State forest policy now includes the planned logging of special timbers including Tasmanian tonewoods from the TWWHA. See my recent blog:


Daniel Brauchli certainly doesn’t support current Government forest policy, but the Premier seems happy to risk damaging the reputations of our craftpersons and artists.

The proposed logging of the TWWHA will become yet another divisive and destructive episode in the long running Tasmanian forestry wars.

Last year at Stringfest 2014 the elephant in the room was the ongoing supply of tonewoods to sustain the festival. That elephant was a mere calf.

This year the elephant has grown considerably into a cow elephant. The prospect of the Festival becoming associated with the logging of tonewoods from the TWWHA will see the elephant become a rampaging bull. It will destroy the Festival.

The Deloraine Stringfest depends on attracting major performing artists. Once the Festival becomes associated with TWWHA tonewoods, no major (and many minor) artists will want to be associated with the Festival.

End of Festival!

By all means please come along and enjoy the 2015 Deloraine Festival, but spot the elephant hiding in the room, or wandering the streets of Deloraine with deliberate intent.

It may even be hiding behind me. Come and look!

The Deloraine Stringfest is a fantastic festival, but given the highly politicised and conflict-driven nature of forestry in Tasmania, the future of Stringfest hangs in the balance.

Stringfest has now become a political weapon. The reputations of those associated with the Festival are now at risk.

Say “No” to World Heritage tonewoods!

[Come along and talk to me about conflict-free, farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood.]

Forestry Tasmania fate in balance


[The fate of] Forestry Tasmania hangs in the balance, with its chairman telling staff the company’s immediate future is entirely in the government’s hand.

In an email sent to Forestry Tasmania staff yesterday, chairman Bob Annells [pictured above] responded to mounting concerns that the cash-strapped company may be dissolved and folded into a government department.

[“folded into a government department” What an absolutely terrible idea! What Government department would it fit into? And what would be the point? It would fix none of the existing problems, and create even more new problems. A classic case of duck shoving!]

This article in today’s The Examiner tells us that things are pretty grim at the Government forest management agency.

While no official announcement has been made it now seems clear that FTs application for FSC Certification has been rejected. FSC auditors SCS Global were due to deliver their report last month.

And yet another review into Forestry Tasmania is currently being written. I’ve lost count of how many of those we’ve had. Far too many. And none of them have been at all useful, at least in terms of their implementation.

But enough is already known to understand that FT has absolutely no commercial future.

The Tasmanian Government is no doubt finding it increasingly difficult continuing to sack teachers and nurses whilst propping up the forest industry.

It is now just a matter of how best to clean up the decades of mess and close the organisation down.

It will be a bitter pill for many Tasmanians.

Decades of mismanagement may finally be coming to an end. Or it may drag on for a few more painful, bitter years. History tells me that the latter is more likely eg. the “fold” option.

The shutting down of FT will see the supply of blackwood to the market drop dramatically, with a corresponding rise in price very likely. Will Tasmanian farmers finally reap the rewards of a more competitive blackwood market?


Seems like the FSC outcome is indeed correct judging by the article in today’s The Examiner. No medal for FT.

So FT will “keep trying”. They don’t have the time nor the money to keep trying.

The longer FT stays in business the longer it will take for private tree growers and private investment to rebuild the forest industry. It just wont happen whilst FT continues to play zombie corporation.