Monthly Archives: August 2017

The message couldn’t be clearer

CFM.png

Dear Martin enthusiast,

……………………………..

I’d like to ask you personally to be open to the use of alternative materials.

I love tradition as much as anyone. I believe it’s possible that the new woods we are introducing today can become the accepted and traditional [and sustainable] woods of tomorrow.

 

Sincerely,

C.F. Martin IV

Chairman & CEO

C.F. Martin & Co., Inc.

Having ranted about the guitar industry a few blogs back here I am eating a serve of humble pie.

This is a clear message to guitar buyers everywhere from Chris Martin, CEO at Martin Guitars. This message is in the latest Martin Journal (Vol. 7, p. 9):

https://www.martinguitar.com/about/martin-journal/

Being an old company with a significant product heritage can be a bonus and a drag.

When a large part of your customer base is focused exclusively on your heritage and not on where you want to go in the future then it can be a real problem.

Chris Martin is calling to his “heritage bound” customers –

Loosen up and give us a future……please!

To help drive that message home:

  • CF Martin should start a narrative. A narrative about change and the environment. About customers and guitars. They have made a start (I think) with an article on page 29 of the Martin Journal. It’s a good start but we need more of it; and
  • That message needs to be on the front page of CF Martins website; right there in everyone’s face! You won’t change your customers habits by having the message in the bottom draw of your desk.

The message is clear. There just needs to be more of it.

Good move Mr Martin!

Keep building the momentum for change.

PS. With such a powerful message from Chris Martin, I am surprised that the Martin Journal did not contain a feature article on alternative tonewoods. Was this a missed opportunity?

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Guitar Makers Challenged by New Rosewood Restrictions—and What This Means for Players

rosewood2

This article appeared in the August 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine. It makes for interesting reading.

http://acousticguitar.com/guitar-makers-challenged-by-new-rosewood-restrictions-and-what-it-means-for-players/

It doesn’t provide much in the way of new information, but gives insight into the challenges the guitar industry is facing in a rapidly changing tonewood market, and the different responses.

So will the price of rosewood tonewood increase as a result of the new CITES restrictions?

Of course it will!

As supplies of illegal rosewood become restricted the demand for Indian rosewood will increase. Indian rosewood supply will not increase in the short term so price must go up. The basic laws of economics.

Guitar makers are caught between a guitar-buying public that is resistant to alternative species and a shrinking supply of traditional tonewoods.

But anyone who goes to any guitar maker’s website will see plenty of images and products made from rare and exotic tonewoods. Try and find the word “sustainable” on these websites!

The guitar industry does not seem to be terribly serious about the problem.

Bedell Guitars are one of the few standout examples of a company that is trying hard to build a sustainable tonewood future and pushing the market in that direction. Their website is pretty good.

http://bedellguitars.com/

Bedell still believe that logging rainforest and oldgrowth is sustainable and where their future is; unlike Taylor Guitars who are making the move towards plantation tonewoods.

When it comes to alternatives [tonewoods], there’s much more likelihood of supply chains being erratic in terms of quality and supply.”

Given that most of the world’s forests have been systematically plundered this is not surprising.

The guitar industry needs to start from scratch and help replant and grow new tonewood resources. Taylor Guitars are doing this. It’s time for the rest of the industry to get on board.

Tasmanian farmers are waiting to hear from the tonewood market.

Tasmanian blackwood – the [potentially] sustainable tonewood.

The New Maton Blackwood Series

Maton_Blackwood_Line_up_900_405_s

https://maton.com.au/product/the-maton-blackwood-series

Simplicity and purity of tone lay at the heart of the Blackwood range of Guitars.

Pure Blackwood tone -clear, bright trebles, strong mid range and full bass. The all Blackwood construction produces a unique compression, blending frequencies into a new, unique voice.

The Dreadnought Cutaway and the 808 from the New Maton Blackwood Series will be available from the 14th August 2017, the rest of the range will be available later in the year.

There were rumours of this new series of blackwood guitars earlier this year.

And here they are finally in all their blackwood glory.

As a blackwood enthusiast what can I say?

The all-blackwood acoustic guitar should be an Aussie music icon.

Cole Clark has been doing this for a few years now. And finally Maton has joined the team.

My wish is that Maton would open up and tell us the back story of where the wood comes from.

Does the guitar industry want to encourage farmers to grow more quality tonewoods?

Where does this blackwood timber come from? Who grew it? Please tell us the story so that other farmers are inspired!

This new blackwood series would be the ideal opportunity to start that journey.

In the mean time congratulations to Maton.

I hope they sell like hot blackwoods!!

When someone does a video review of these I’ll post it here.

Cheers!

So here is a video of the new all-blackwood EBW70c from Maton Guitars courtesy of The Acoustic Centre in Melbourne, Victoria:

Nice guitar!

Here’s another video from Music Junction in Melbourne:

This new Blackwood Series from Maton seems to be creating quite a stir.

Enjoy!

IST Tender Results 2016-17 addendum

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/07/27/ist-tender-results-2016-17/

Looking at how small some of the IST tendered logs are, I thought I’d create a chart showing average sold log volume.

ISTSoldVol

For some context to this chart, the target plantation blackwood log is 1.5 cubic metres in volume (DBH 60 cm pruned to 6 metres).

So you can see from the above chart that IST sold logs are pretty small. In fact given that the chart shows the average volume, some of them are downright tiny (less than 0.1cubic metres).

That these small logs can command such high prices is quite extraordinary.

I’ll include this chart in future reports.

 

Has one act changed our course forever?

KL

Kevin Lyons (Tasmanian deputy premier 1969 – 1972)

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/has-one-act-changed-our-course-forever/news-story/d1b6601e86aafbed4f06f20233e3c10f

This excellent short article in last Saturdays Mercury (5/8/2017) newspaper provides interesting background to how first the Hydro and then the forest industry became willing participants in the environmental wars that have dominated Tasmanian politics for the past 45 years.

The alleged bribing of a State MP and the bringing down of an elected Government provided the spark that went on to become first the dam wars (1970-1983) and then the forestry wars/crisis (1983-present).

The arrival of a party (the United Tasmania Group that went on to become the Greens) focused on the environment was a double-edged sword. It delivered victories for the natural world, and attracted support from disaffected Labor and Liberal voters.

However, without a mandate to govern, the presence of the Greens has helped marginalise the environment as a party-political issue rather than as a matter that should be front and centre of all human endeavour.

Anti-Green sentiment is now a factor in the voting patterns of a cohort of Tasmanians large enough to deliver power to whichever major party is prepared to harvest the negativity.

It is a vicious cycle. Divisions in our community are amplified by major parties competing for the anti-Green vote. Governing parties incite this conflict to maintain power. We have seen it all the way through from premiers such as Reece to Robin Gray and Paul Lennon, with overt displays of aggression and ridicule to green ideas in a bid to firm their voter base.

The forest industry is not mentioned specifically but any Tasmanian knows immediately what the author is talking about. Up until 2011 the forest industry was a more-than-willing participant in these high-stakes political games.

But the only winners in political games are the politicians. Everyone else loses!

And so many Tasmanians still believe the political rhetoric as if it was gospel. Finger pointing has become a Tasmanian obsession.

A vicious and destructive cycle indeed!

Recommended reading.

Hoop pine

Hoop

The recent discussion about Bunya pine and the tonewood market led me to wonder about Queensland Hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii)

Hoop pine is the only premium plantation timber species currently harvested in Australia. Some 500 ha are harvested each year. It is not known how much wood is produced from this harvest.

As such Hoop pine provides the only example in Australia of what a future plantation blackwood market might look like; with the one exception that if I was around I would be trumpeting the blackwood market dynamics as much as possible. Market transparency is vital!

Here’s a Hoop pine fact sheet from the Queensland government:

http://era.daf.qld.gov.au/id/eprint/3931/4/hoop%20pine%20final%20factsheet_update%20May%202017.pdf

(Curious how these forest fact sheets never talk about economics or log prices, as if investing in trees has nothing to do with money!)

The 44,500 ha of Hoop pine plantations were established by the Queensland Government but were sold when the Government decided to privatise the forest plantation resource in 2010, and are now owned by the one company,  Hancock Timber Resource Group, with the plantations managed by HQPlantations.

http://www.hqplantations.com.au/araucaria.html

So far as I’m aware the forest industry is not seeking to encourage the expansion of the Hoop pine plantation resource. Given that the Hoop pine owners pay no local Government rates, expansion of this resource by competing landowners will be difficult.

No one will ever know how much the market is paying for Hoop pine logs. It’s difficult enough to find Hoop pine timber retail prices. Timber merchants positively hate advertising their prices. So the economics of plantation Hoop pine as an investment are unknown and that’s the way the forest industry likes it.

If you spend a lot of time searching on the internet you may find the following economic study of plantation hoop pine investment:

Herbohn, J.L. 2006, ‘Potential financial returns from Hoop Pine and an assessment of the likely impacts of various support measures on landholder willingness to plant’, in Harrison, S.R. and Herbohn, J.L (ed.), Proceedings of Sustainable Forest Industry Development in Tropical North Queensland; Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Rainforest Ecology and Management, Rainforest CRC, Cairns.

Herbohn 2006

The study uses a stumpage of just $70 per cubic metre for a 45-50 year-old plantation grown premium wood product!!

That would certainly kill any landholder willingness to plant!

All a 2012 Queensland Government report on the State forest industry could say about Hoop pine was these 60 words:

Araucaria (hoop pine) plantations consist largely of plantings of hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), with smaller areas of bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii). However, araucaria log timber is relatively costly to produce because of high management and harvesting inputs, largely as a result of the steep sites on which it has been established and high pruning costs. Crop rotation lengths are also very long at around 40 to 50 years.

State of Queensland (2012) Queensland forest and timber industry situation analysis.

It doesn’t sound encouraging does it?

Nevertheless I managed to track down one Hoop pine retail price list:

HoopPriceChart

It’s a curious price list in terms of the limited sizes available and the prices. High prices for small cuts but not for big cuts. Wide boards (140mm) are cheaper, with thicker wide boards (31mm) being cheaper than thin boards (12mm). The prices on the range of 42mm wide boards (8, 19, 31 and 42 mm) provides for some curious deliberation.

What is clear is that these represent premium prices (~$9,000 per cubic metre) for premium plantation timber. Compare these prices with the $2,500 per cubic metre for dressed premium grade Radiata pine from Bunnings Hardware:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/07/01/bunnings-timber-price-lists/

It would certainly be interesting to know the details of the business model the Hoop pine plantation owner uses to maximise returns to the company. Just exactly how profitable are these plantations to the owner? This price list gives us few clues.

If any readers have Hoop pine growing I’d love to hear your stories. Send us a comment.