Monthly Archives: November 2016

A Major Tonewood Milestone from Taylor Guitars


The latest Wood & Steel (86) magazine from Taylor Guitars has a few interesting articles relevant to the blackwood market.

The first is Bob Taylor’s column Bobspeak, which outlines a major milestone in the tonewood market. Taylor Guitars are now promoting guitars made using deliberately grown, not “native” wood.

This year we will make thousands of guitars using wood that was planted by man rather than having grown naturally in a forest. As a player you won’t be able to easily target these guitars to either avoid them or to embrace them because they’re completely legitimate and blend in with the choices of other guitars made from traditional forest wood. There’s not enough of this kind of wood to make all the guitars from it yet, but this is a huge breakthrough and signals a way forward. We are now starting our own tree-planting projects.

A huge breakthrough is absolutely on the mark!

Congratulations to Bob Taylor and the team!!

I’m looking forward to the day when I read an article in Wood & Steel about a tonewood grower. Perhaps it will be an article about a Tasmanian blackwood grower.

I hope you’re willing to hear a wood report from me often, nearly every time I write, because it’s become one of the most important aspects of my contribution to the world of guitars.

  • Bob Taylor, President


I think Bob Taylor is well on the way to having a significant wood supply and marketing advantage over his competitors.


The second article of note is the promotion of new Limited Edition baritone guitars on page 22 featuring mahogany tops and Tasmanian blackwood back and sides (see illustration above) as part of the 300 Series.

“A hardwood top like mahogany is really good, he says. “Blackwood is also a good fit — it’s responsive and keeps everything warm, yet has a clear focus to it. Together, the two woods are well suited for a baritone [guitar].”


The third article is a feature on bluegrass player Trey Hensley (p. 24). His latest CD collaboration with Dobro player Rob Ickes The Country Blues features a Taylor 510e Tasmanian blackwood guitar on every track.

“I’d never heard of blackwood,” he says. “It’s like mahogany on steroids!”

“I brought a bunch of guitars into the studio — rosewood, mahogany — but that one [Taylor 510e] really cut through the mix better than all the rest. I used it on the whole thing.”

The Taylor 510e was a 2014 Fall Limited Edition dreadnought model.

It is great to have such positive support for Tasmanian blackwood from Taylor Guitars, and their supplier Robert Mac Millan at Tasmanian Tonewoods.

Happy reading!

New Zealand Blackwood Market Report

The latest edition of New Zealand Tree Grower Vol 37(4) has a market report from blackwood grower Malcolm Mackenzie.

It makes for positive reading given the NZ blackwood market is still in its infancy.

As a farmer Malcolm has made a significant investment in farm forestry including 30 ha of plantation blackwood now 30 years old and reaching commercial maturity.

You can read Malcolm’s previous articles about blackwood milling and collective marketing here:

And watch a video about Malcolm the tree grower here:

As the report shows, with less than three years data, both the volume and the value of blackwood being sold by Malcolm is increasing.

As the NZ market gains confidence in the quality and quantity of the home grown product things will only improve.

New Zealand farm-grown blackwood is a great product. I’m looking forward to the day it will be available for sale here in Australia.


Building a Sustainable Guitar


Here’s an interesting series of articles about tonewoods on the World Resources Institute website. It’s a series of six articles looking at the 6 traditional tonewoods used in making acoustic guitars.

The last in the series featuring mahogany is still in production.

Here’s a comment from the lead author after I questioned them about the focus on traditional tonewoods.

the important contribution of this blog series is that it first informs consumers about the environmental and social impacts of their guitars, and second updates them on progress being made with traditional woods. It is ultimately up to the consumer to make the choice, and we have found that simply writing off an entire tradition as unsustainable is an ineffective way of creating lasting change.

I still think that a seventh blog focusing on alternative species (like Tasmanian blackwood), materials and technologies would have been useful. At the moment these articles seem to reinforce the impression that great guitars can only be made from these six woods, which is clearly wrong.

Happy reading!

Special Timbers Subsidised Charade Continues


Forestry Tasmania, the State government forest agency tasked with commercially managing the public native forests of Tasmania, has released its Annual Report for 2016. Forestry Tasmania is Australia’s largest grower and producer of Tasmanian blackwood timber.

A previous blog has focused on the insolvency of the organisation and its dismal future.

Here I limit my comments specifically to blackwood and other so called special timbers. These are mostly reported on pages 25-26 of the Annual Report.

Since 1991 Forestry Tasmania has had a commitment to supply 10,000 cubic metres per year of millable blackwood sawlog (Category 4 and Utility) to market.

Forestry Tasmania also calculates a blackwood (millable) sawlog sustainable yield which it must abide by. Forestry Tasmania only calculates 2 sustainable yields: one for eucalypt sawlog and one for blackwood sawlog. The blackwood sawlog sustainable yield is 3,000 cubic metres per year.

Once again Forestry Tasmania refuses to tell us how much millable blackwood sawlog it produced during the year. Once again all we are told is total special timbers production that includes outspec and craftwood. We are told that 8,007 cubic metres of millable special timbers sawlog was produced.

Once again the report refuses to tell us what prices blackwood and other special timbers achieved. The Government has already admitted that Forestry Tasmania’s prices are ridiculously low give-away prices!!

Once again the report refuses to reconcile blackwood sawlog production with the sustainable yield. The overcutting of the public native forest blackwood resource continues unabated.

Once again the special timbers report on pages 25-26 refuses to openly and honestly tell us that special timbers production is managed as a non-profit, non-commercial, taxpayer funded activity. Is Forestry Tasmania being deliberately deceitful?

Once again the long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer has been forced to subsidise the special timbers industry directly to the tune of $0.91 million (p. 70).

That equates to a direct subsidy of $86.27 for every cubic metre of our highest quality, most valuable sawlog, veneer log and old stump and lump of craftwood that was harvested during the year.

Every $10,000 dining suite, every $8,000 bedroom suite on the showroom floor includes a few hundred dollars of taxpayer subsidy. It really is an outrage and a terrible waste of public money that should be spent on our schools and hospitals.

If anyone in the blackwood industry or the Tasmanian community believes this charade equates to open, honest, transparent reporting by our public forest manager they should think again.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Blackwood Timber Price List Summary 2016

It’s a year since I started down the road looking at sawn timber retail prices in Australia.

Part of the reason is the lack of publically available market-based stumpage prices for blackwood.

What I have found is blackwood timber pricing that is all over the place.

Here’s a summary of the four timber price lists I have found so far.


Here we have Select grade blackwood selling for the same price as Radiata pine at Bunnings Hardware, and with no price premium for larger dimension timber.

I hate to think what the grower of this blackwood got paid for their logs!

Blackwood doesn’t have a future at these prices.


This price list looks much better. It even has a modest 5.8% price premium for sizes above 25mm. And with the recent 15% price increase we are beginning to rival global premium timber prices.

If this was the standard retail price for Select grade blackwood we might get some investor interest.


This price list seems very confused. It offers a price premium for both small and large dimension timber (width), but this premium decreases with increasing timber thickness!?

A huge ranges of sizes are offered, in two length classes.

However these prices equate to Select Grade Tas Oak prices at Bunning. These prices are not those for a premium timber species.

Yet another road to blackwood ruin.


And finally we have retail prices for Hydrowood blackwood, which are much cheaper than Tas Oak at Bunnings.

Bargain basement salvage blackwood timber designed to destroy the blackwood industry.

In summary we have kiln dried select grade blackwood timber available from $2,500 to over $8,500 per cubic metre, with most price lists setting no price premium for larger dimension timber. In one case there is a negative premium for large dimension timber!

It’s complete market chaos!

With so much taxpayer-subsidised blackwood in the marketplace it’s impossible to know what the real market price for blackwood timber is.

It is certainly not a growers market, and if growers can’t make any money then blackwood doesn’t have much of a future.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing.

This is what happens when Government and industry policy dictates that the forest industry must be a community service and not a business.