Monthly Archives: April 2017

Bob Taylor – Searching the World for Sustainable Tonewoods

Bob Taylor, President of Taylor Guitars, and a group of friends are currently on a world tour looking for sustainable tonewoods.

Bob is posting regular updates of his tour on Youtube. You can watch them here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIa-kz_oNaiTYa5ZWKYsKSML5eEAIQKu6

Traditional tonewoods such as rosewood and mahogany are disappearing fast due to overlogging.

Bob Taylor consequently has two enormous challenges if Taylor Guitars is to survive and prosper into the future:

Firstly he needs to find sustainable sources of new tonewoods with which to build quality guitars.

Secondly he needs to convince a guitar-buying public to say goodbye to traditional tonewoods (perhaps a Farewell Party is needed) and welcome the new sustainable alternatives.

Neither of these challenges will be easy.

Trees take a long time (30+ years) to grow so Bob needs to be thinking 30+ years ahead. How many of us have to think 30+ years ahead just so that we have a job tomorrow?

Now that is a rare challenge!

But he also needs tonewoods in the short term. Traditional tonewoods will be gone well before any trees planted today can be harvested. So the tonewood market over the next 30+ years will be a mixed bag, until people start planting tonewoods to produce a regular, managed supply.

Despite my efforts unfortunately Tasmania is not on Bob Taylor’s itinerary.

In terms of forestry opportunity Tasmania has a poor reputation around the world. The rhetoric here may be “world’s best practice” but that is definitely not how the rest of the world sees us.

Bob Taylor may love Tasmanian blackwood as a tonewood, but as yet he is not prepared to commit his time and energy trying to deal with the many challenges facing forestry in Tasmania.

It will be interesting to watch the videos and see what Bob Taylor & Co discover on their journey.

Enjoy!

Taylor 2008 Spring Limited Editions

426ce

In my last spotlight on Taylor Guitars use of Tasmanian blackwood I described the 2008 Spring Limited Edition models as enigmatic.

The reason is it is difficult to find any information on these models.

As far as I understand only 2 Limited Edition models were issued Spring 2008, both of them featuring Tasmanian blackwood. But Taylor’s Wood & Steel magazines for 2008 make no mention of any Spring Limited Edition releases; and today the internet contains little residual record of their release.

Taylor’s own website makes no mention of these models.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

I have been aware of the all-blackwood 426ce model for many years but only recently became aware of the Sitka-topped 416ce model thanks to my correspondence with Taylor Guitars.

Both of these models are essentially the same GS (Grand Symphony) design with the 416ce having a Sitka spruce top and the 426ce having a blackwood top, otherwise they are identical. Production was 325 and 676 units respectively (1001 total).

Compared to the 2007 GS4e these two models were only available with the cutaway body and with better quality appointments such as the abalone rosette.

The 2008 Spring Limited 426ce was also the subject of an “Ask Bob” letter in the 2014 Wood & Steel Vol. 78 (p. 6). Both the letter and Bob Taylor’s response say a lot about the potential of blackwood as a tonewood. Here is the letter:

I picked up a used [Grand Symphony] 426 with Tasmanian blackwood back, sides and top. After playing it a few weeks, it seemed to meld with my playing style (I got used to how to fingerpick it), and I’m one of those people who believes that good guitars will adjust themselves to a player’s sound. It sounds absolutely stunning with the kinds of blues I play. I think it sounds better than any all-koa, mahogany or walnut guitar I’ve heard. I’d bet you could find a pretty good market for this model with acoustic blues players looking for that really old-fashioned sound that can be elusive. Have you considered making this a regular model?

Jim S.

And here is Bob Taylor’s response:

Actually, Jim, in some ways we prefer the sound quality of Tasmanian blackwood to koa. Both are acacia trees and are nearly identical, or as close as cousins can be to one another, but blackwood has a very nice sound. We have been considering using blackwood on a regular basis for many years, but the challenge is getting a regular supply of guitar-grade wood. We have spent considerable time and energy in the country, working and developing relationships. We want to obtain wood in the most ethical and environmentally sound manner, so we’ve backed away from the traditional logging supply in favor of more sustainable methods that benefit local people. Tasmania has so much going for it with the species available there, and the added plus is that it’s a well-developed country rather than a poverty-stricken country. This condition puts many wonderful rules in place, and we are now working on some wonderful possibilities for obtaining blackwood. Currently we have a great relationship with a man who gets blackwood in the most ideal way. You can expect to see at least limited runs of guitars with this wood for years to come. Someday it may also become a standard model, but it’s too soon to tell at this point.

So here we are 3 years later, Tasmanian blackwood is now part of regular production at Taylor, but the 2008 426ce Ltd is still the only all-blackwood model produced in volume by Taylor to date. All-blackwood Custom or Prototype guitars are occasionally made. Perhaps they want to avoid market confusion with their highly successful Koa “K” Series:

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/features/series/koa

Here’s a video review of the 426ce:

My next spotlight will be on the 2009 Spring Limited Edition models.

Previous Taylor spotlights:

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

Taylor GS4e 2007 Fall Limited Edition

Trans-Tasman Blackwood Grower Friendship

Simms

I just received this great email from my friend and blackwood grower Gilles which I couldn’t resist turning into a blog.

I like good news stories!

And yes…it’s another story from New Zealand.

Hi Gordon,

I just got back from a 3 weeks trip in New Zealand , originally it was a meant to be just a vacation with some friends but after a week I ended up travelling on my own and i soon found myself on a farm near Kaitaia in the Northland,  guest of Brian and Gaye Simms ( they are friends of a friend of mine who sent me there ).

As I got there we were soon talking blackwoods and Brian ask me if I knew you …

I was so lucky to spend 4 days with them and look very closely at his 40 years work on his farm, planting  natives and of course blackwoods to create windbreaks and stabilise the hills … an impressive result !

What a great example of what needs to be done on most farms to improve the production and create an asset that, in his case, he is able to start harvesting.

Here are some photos I took last week:

I hope Brian posts some stories of his experiences as he begins his first blackwood harvesting.

Here’s a video of Brian talking about his farm and his trees produced by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association:

Keep up the great work Brian.

Thanks to Gilles for the inspiration and photos.

A Harvest Result to Confound the Experts

Here’s another great little story from the latest New Zealand Tree Grower (Vol 38/1 p. 19) journal that will be of interest to farmers.

www.nzffa.org.nz

Harvest result to confound the experts NZTG 38-1

The story follows from my other recent blog:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/03/01/good-news-story-great-returns-from-small-blocks/

The story isn’t about blackwood, but it illustrates what commitment, good management and planning can achieve on a farm even with a commodity wood like Radiata pine.

Every year for the past 27 years the Wilson family have planted and managed 1 hectare of pine plantation on their farm near Otorohanga, North Island NZ. The farm is obviously close to markets and on easy ground so harvest and transport costs are minimised.

The recent first harvest of 1 hectare of well managed pine plantation netted the Wilson family $NZ57,700.

All up they now have 27 hectares of well managed pine plantation on their farm, and good annual income in perpetuity (markets permitting). Now if they want they could replant another hectare each year so that in 27 years time they are harvesting 2 hectares per year.

This is an excellent example of how to incorporate wood production into your farming business.

Yes it takes time for trees to grow, but that time will pass regardless of whether the trees are planted or not. And as the Wilsons now discover their commitment and hard work will pay a handsome annual dividend.

Your farm may not allow 1.0 hectare to be planted every year for 30+ years. Or it might have difficult terrain or greater distance to markets.

You could make a planting every 2 years, or every 5 years. Most farms have areas that are not being used as part of the main productive activity, whether its grazing, cropping or dairy, due to size, location, slope or drainage. These areas could be used for growing valuable wood products.

Eventually, as the Wilsons discovered, you end up with a regular handsome dividend from your work and commitment.

Bunnings enters the war zone as the forestry deception continues

Bunnings.jpg

Australian hardware giant Bunnings has waded into the Tasmanian forestry war zone as more troops line up on both sides of the escalating conflict.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-05/bunnings-will-not-stock-timber-from-areas-logged-under-tas-plan/8419226

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/bunnings-wood-suppliers-wont-be-sourcing-their-product-from-soon-to-be-reopened-forests/news-story/97582af4856db9afff95f1f0438df3b5

The only way any of this makes any sense is if it is considered a political ruse, a deception.

What if the Government only wants to open up the 430,000 ha of public native forest to allow taxpayer-funded, destructive, unsustainable special timbers harvesting of our last remaining oldgrowth and rainforest?

The Government knows that by itself such an idea will get little public support.

But within the context of the “threat” of large-scale industrial forestry, a “compromise position” of special timbers harvesting becomes much more palatable.

Almost acceptable!

The Tasmanian community are being played for fools once again.

The fact that FIAT (the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania) opposes the Law but supports the special timbers provisions within the Act indicates that at least some of the forest industry are aware of the deception.

It’s all just a game.

As I said previously the Tasmanian Government has no plan to rebuild the forest industry. Nobody has a plan to rebuild the Tasmanian forest industry.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing and there are no profitable tree growers in current Government or industry policy.