Monthly Archives: March 2017

Pruning blackwood

Here’s a couple of blackwood pruning questions from David in South Gippsland, Victoria.

Example 1

How would you tackle this one?

Cootes1

That’s an easy one David!

Read the Blackwood Growers Handbook Pages 55-60.

You have at least 2 clear options on this tree – the dominant on the left or the dominant on the right.

Blackwoods have an amazing ability to straighten up if you encourage them with good pruning.

Be brave!

PS. I should mention that Spring is the time to prune blackwoods. This gives the trees a whole growing season to begin healing the pruning wounds.

Example 2:

I think a deer might have got at this one

Cootes2

Looks like it!

The tree is fundamentally compromised from a quality wood production point of view.

I think with this one I would prune it to ground level and let the blackwood coppice. Then after a year select the best coppice shoot.

Try and get some venison sausages!!

Cheers.

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Notes on West coast (NZ) blackwoods

IanBrown

New Zealand blackwood grower and co-author of the blackwood growers handbook Ian Brown has posted a useful and detailed update on his view of current blackwood management. It makes for thoughtful reading for current and prospective blackwood growers.

Here’s the handbook:

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/farm-forestry-model/species/blackwood/#Blackwood handbook

Here’s the update:

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/nzffa-member-blogs/ian-browns-blog/notes-on-west-coast-blackwoods/

I have two comments on Ian’s notes:

Firstly on the issue of blackwood growth rate and wood quality.

Certainly current research shows that growth rate has little to no impact on blackwood wood quality in terms of heartwood colour and basic density.

But my PhD research showed that blackwood wood quality can vary enormously from tree to tree. This is supported by numerous other studies, and is shown to be mostly genetically based.

So if you want good quality wood from plantation blackwood you need to plant good quality genetic stock.

Unfortunately we don’t yet have a blackwood selection and breeding program.

Fortunately the incidence of poor wood quality genes is relatively low.

Also note that research shows there is no correlation between heartwood colour and wood basic density.

Secondly on the issue of pruning height.

Pruning height will obviously affect the final value of the crop and in a big way since most of the value is in the clear pruned log.

Where the site dictates that you can only prune to 4 metres so be it.

But a fully stocked blackwood plantation of 200 trees with an average tree diameter of 60cm dbh pruned to 6 metres will have approximately 300 cubic metres of clear grade premium blackwood per hectare. Only prune to 4 metres and the volume of clear grade blackwood comes down to 215 cubic metres per hectare a reduction of 28%!!

Whilst you have the trees growing you may as well get the most value out of them that you can.

Thanks to Ian Brown for posting his comments.

C F Martin Guitars & Sustainable Tonewoods

CFMFTF

Martin The Journal of Acoustic Guitars is a glossy magazine published by CF Martin Guitars every 6 months.

The latest edition (Vol. 7, p. 64 – 69) contains a great article about what CF Martin are doing about promoting sustainable tonewoods.

https://issuu.com/cfmartin/docs/mag808_martin_journal_vol7-final_li?e=23350636/43337570

CF Martin has a problem, a problem called success.

Most of the world’s premium guitars are built from a combination of mahogany, rosewood, and ebony. However, these traditional tonewoods often come from areas of the world that are under severe pressure from logging and development.

“We’ve done such a good job of convincing the customer that these traditional, rare and exotic timbers make the best guitars, that it’s difficult to move customers away from those materials,” said CEO Chris Martin.

Being an old company can have its advantages and its disadvantages. In the case of CF Martin tradition and heritage can prevent change, even if that change is desperately needed. And in the international tonewood market change is definitely needed; change away from using rainforest and old growth timbers to a more sustainable future.

The customers of CF Martin are becoming a problem.

They are addicted to rosewood, mahogany and ebony!

So Martin Guitars approach to sustainable tonewoods is to establish a close working relationship with a third party forest certifier, in this case the Rainforest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

But…

one of the biggest challenges the FSC® and the Rainforest Alliance have had over the years is consumer awareness. “One of the goals has been to make the consumer more aware of these brands and, in turn, for these brands to become more relevant to the consumer.”

Hence the Rainforest Alliance has created the Follow the Frog program, which Martin Guitars has signed up to support.

https://www.martinguitar.com/FollowtheFrog

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/followthefrog

www.fsc.org

Here’s a great video with Martin CEO Chris Martin explaining the history of the company’s relationship with the FSC and the Rainforest Alliance. Well worth watching:

In the mean time Martin Guitars are caught between an inflexible customer base and a rapidly changing tonewood market.

In the coming years, Martin will introduce a new line of guitars using temperate hardwoods from North America that relies on both historical and new shapes and designs.

I have absolutely no doubt about CF Martin’s commitment to sustainability, but I do have a few suggestions for them:

  • Can the FSC logo be displayed on the front page of the Martin website?
  • Under the “Guitars” section of the website, why can’t I select and view FSC guitars?
  • Even when I find an FSC guitar using the Search facility, the FSC logo isn’t prominently displayed.
  • And if I go to this page under Custom Shop (https://www.martinguitar.com/custom-shop/tonewoods/) the message is all about rare and exotic tonewoods.  Nothing about a sustainable future at all.

So whilst the commitment to sustainable tonewoods is there I think the marketing and promotion at CF Martin still needs extra work, whilst at the same time the focus on traditional, rare and exotic timbers needs to be ramped down.

I wish CF Martin all the luck in the world in their endeavours to change the acoustic guitar market.

FIAT (& the TFGA) opposes forestry bill

Edwards&Bailey2

Three important news articles in minor Tasmanian newspapers this week shine the light on the growing conflict in Tasmania over Government forest policy.

Firstly a front page article in this week’s Huon News (22/03/2017) is one of the more detailed and informative news articles on the current forestry chaos that I’ve seen.

Huon News 22032017

The Huon News is the weekly newspaper of the Huon Valley, a Tasmanian community that has been particularly hard hit by the 35 years of forestry wars. The community has been left shattered and bitterly divided. And still we have our politicians stirring up trouble and pain.

The second and third articles are in this week’s Tasmanian Country (24/03/2017) newspaper, a weekly newspaper published for the rural community.

Tas Country 24032017

The Tasmanian Government is actively working against the advice of its own forest management agency Forestry Tasmania.

The Government is also acting against the advice of both the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) AND the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) representing private forest growers.

http://www.fiatas.com.au/

http://www.tfga.com.au/

The Tasmanian Government says it is acting on behalf of the Tasmanian community AND it has a mandate from the 2014 election, and on that basis it will ignore these three critical organisations.

After reading these articles you are left scratching your head wondering what on earth is going on?

There are two points I want to highlight from these articles:

  1. FIAT says that the forest industry is not taxpayer subsidised. I beg to differ in the strongest terms. Despite going to the 2014 election promising no more subsidies for the forest industry, in the past 3 years the Tasmanian taxpayer has given over $250 million in subsidies to the forest industry. This includes the Tasmanian taxpayer assuming responsibility for $150 million in superannuation costs from Forestry Tasmania!! So much for health and education. What private company gets that kind of special treatment?
  2. The TFGA talks about bipartisan political support for the forest industry. Given that neither FIAT nor the TFGA have any forest industry policies or plans it is difficult to determine exactly how we are to judge the issue of bipartisan support. Exactly what are the political parties supposed to support? Exactly who is leading? It was blind bipartisan political support that created the Gunns and MIS disasters.

Our political system is deliberately competitive (and ultimately destructive). It’s like a football grand final. Winners AND losers!! Bipartisan political support is an oxymoron. The 2014 State election proved that.

NO ONE HAS A PLAN FOR THE TASMANIAN FOREST INDUSTRY.

Not FIAT, nor the TFGA; neither Liberal or Labor.

And if they did have a plan it would only be as good as the next State election…….if that!

While the State Government remains a major player in the forest industry then the industry is doomed.

In 2014 the people of Tasmania voted against the forest industry at the State election.

No matter what the outcome of the 2018 State election, the Huon Valley community along with the rest of the Tasmanian community and the forest industry will lose.

And on top of this the State Government is looking to bring a 150,000 cubic metres per year sawmill to Tasmania from Victoria. The Victorians have run out of sawlogs and the mill will close.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-18/tasmanian-government-claims-vote-of-confidence-after-victorian-/8366344

All available public native forest sawlogs in Tasmania are already fully allocated, so why bring the sawmill here? Hence the concern in the third article.

Nothing makes sense.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growers. None of them in Tasmania!!

Milling blackwood in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

The latest edition of New Zealand Tree Grower produced by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association, contains a nice article by blackwood grower and sawmiller Paul Millen (NZTG 38(1) p. 7-8).

http://www.nzffa.org.nz/

Paul runs a business called Marlborough Timbers.

http://www.marlboroughtimbers.co.nz/

Here’s the story in summary:

  • 8 plantation blackwood trees milled
  • Tree age: 30 years
  • Tree dbh: 30 – 60cm
  • Pruned height: 4 – 6m
  • Total log volume: 10 cubic metres
  • Total sawn recovery: 4.0 cubic metres
  • Total sawn recovery: 40%
  • Three to four logs per tree were milled, at lengths between 2.4 metres and 3.6 metres, including unpruned logs from above the pruning lift that were targeted to produce decorative knotty flooring.
  • Knotty boards were rough sawn 157 x 27mm and sold green at $NZ1800 per cubic metre. In future they hope to sell this grade of knotty blackwood for $NZ2,500 green or $NZ3,000 kiln dried.
  • They hope to sell kiln dried clear (select) grade blackwood for $NZ4,000 per cubic metre, which equates with what Malcolm Mackenzie is selling select grade blackwood into the NZ market:
  • https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/11/21/new-zealand-blackwood-market-report/

Here’s a link to the article (pdf file):

Milling blackwood in the Marlborough Sounds NZTG 38-1

I got the extra information from Paul to help fill out the story.

Blackwood is a niche timber that I suggest is like the pinot noir variety of New Zealand exotic timbers. The timber has some incredible colour and diversity, and it is a relatively easy hardwood to saw and season. There is a lot of satisfaction in producing a really top notch product. I know there is some excellent mature well-managed farm forestry stands and these growers deserve to receive a high return given the demanding silviculture required to manage these early plantations.

Maybe the New Zealanders should market blackwood as Noirwood!!

As more of the New Zealand farm-grown blackwood resource matures we will be seeing more of these success stories.

Thanks to Paul Millen for the story and further information.

Completely toxic – Tasmanian State Election 2018

BarnettDenmanHodgman

L to R: Tasmanian Resources Minister Guy Barnett, wooden boat builder Andrew Denham, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman.

Tasmania is due for its next State election by March 2018 but we are already in campaign mode. Battlelines are being drawn and as many battlegrounds opened up as the politicians can handle.

The forest industry is an old campaign warhorse. This old nag has been dragged onto every election battlefield for the past 35 years. Up until the 2014 election it was with the support of the forest industry.

But times have changed.

It’s all about logging public native forests; an issue that for a number of reasons (economic, social, political and environmental) is now completely toxic in Tasmania.

At least some sections of the forest industry now recognise the enormous cost of last 35 years of “forestry wars” to both the industry and the Tasmanian community.

The last 3 years have seen the new Liberal State Government dismantling the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement (TFA), which was a landmark agreement between the forest industry and conservationists developed over many years of often difficult negotiation.

The media is already full of campaign stories. Major sections of the forest industry are in open opposition to State Government policy as the Government ramps up its campaign:

Forestry plan set for logjam as industry group prepares opposition campaign

Sawmill boss warns against return to Tasmanian ‘forest wars’, says wood may go unclaimed

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania wants more information on State Government logging plan, not convinced it will be good for the industry, conservationists are strongly opposed

Ruth Forrest MLC calls for proof of demand to unlock forest

But sections of the special timbers community and the Special Timbers Alliance have come out in support of Government policy:

Tasmanian special timbers sector affirms support for Liberals’ forestry plan

Tasmanian Special Timbers Alliance

Pro-forestry advocate wants showdown with the Greens at 2018 Tasmanian election

The next few months will also see the release by the Government of a draft Special Species Timber Management Plan that is perfectly timed to fuel the divisive election campaign.

http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/forestry/special_species_timber_management_plan

How do we build a healthy profitable forest industry within this hostile context?

An angry, divided community/electorate is what the Government wants. How else can they hope to win the election?

The Tasmanian community is not given any opportunity to resolve this dispute amicably. Thirty five years of forestry wars have left the forest industry and the community bitterly divided. The political system exacerbates the problem and the forest industry lacks leadership.

When will the forest industry and the Tasmanian community realise that politics and politicians will never solve the industry’s many problems?

When will the Tasmanian community realise that if it wants a forest industry for the future then a vote at the ballot box every 4 years is not enough?

Rural communities especially need to take the initiative. The future of the forest industry is with profitable private tree growers. The New Zealanders do it. Tasmanians need to do it too.

It’s going to be a long and bitter election campaign with the Tasmanian community the big losers.

The next 12 months will do the Tasmanian blackwood industry and the Tasmanian community no good whatsoever.

Google News already knows that the forestry wars have recommenced!

GoogleForestry

People thinking of buying or promoting Tasmanian specialty timbers or specialty timber products sourced from public native forest need to think carefully about what their support does for this conflict and the Tasmanian community. Farm grown timber is a safer alternative.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Taylor GS4e 2007 Fall Limited Edition

GS4e

My trip down Taylor Memory Lane continues with a spotlight on the next blackwood issue. Following the introduction of Tasmanian blackwood into the Taylor Guitars limited production in 2004 the next appearance was in 2007 with the GS4e Fall Limited Edition.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

In contrast to the abundant 2004 range of Fall Limited Edition models, only five (5) Fall limited release models were issued in 2007, with the GS4e being the only blackwood model (Wood & Steel Vol. 53, p. 16).

Production of the GS4e was only 400 units.

The Grand Symphony (GS) model was introduced by Taylor in 2006, designed to fit between the GA (Grand Auditorium) and the Jumbo. The Jumbo itself was replaced by the GO (Grand Orchestra) in 2013.

The GS4e was a plain basic GS model with a RRP of $US2,198. The specifications are:

Model GS4e 2007 Fall Limited
Type/Shape  Grand Symphony
Back & Sides  Tasmanian blackwood
Top  Sitka spruce
Soundhole Rosette  Plastic
Neck  American tropical mahogany
Fretboard  Ebony
Fretboard Inlay  4mm mother of pearl dots
Headstock Overlay  Indian rosewood
Binding  Cream
Bridge  Ebony
Nut & Saddle  Tusq
Tuning Machines  Chrome-plated Taylor Tuners
Electronics Taylor Expression System (ES)
Strings  Elixir Medium Gauge Strings
Scale Length  25-1/2″
Truss Rod  standard Taylor truss rod
Neck Width at Nut  1-3/4″
Number of Frets 20
Fretboard Radius  15″
Bracing  forward-shifted scalloped x-bracing
Finish  Satin with Gloss Top
Body Dimensions  19-7/8″L x 11-1/4″W (upper bout) 9-5/8″W (waist) 16-1/8″W (lower bout) x 4-5/8″D
Overall Length  41″

For the next 4 consecutive years from 2007 to 2010 Taylor included Tasmanian blackwood in their Limited Release issues with a total of 9 models. My next spotlight will feature the enigmatic 2008 Spring Limited Edition models.

Previous Taylor spotlights:

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