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


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

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.

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.

2 responses to “Guitar Makers Challenged by New Rosewood Restrictions—and What This Means for Players

  1. Gordon you do not mention the alternative of using non tropical woods in guitar making which is something that The Leonardo Guitar Research Project and the EGB’s Local Wood Challenge have been promoting with some success. Many individual luthiers and small companies are working this way now – it is mainly the large factories that are slow to change. I have not noted any reluctance amongst my customers to order guitars with non tropical hardwoods – the sound and playability is the final test coupled with the fact that there are local woods that look stunning.

    I have used Tasmanian blackwood. It is a fine, fine tonewood but I had to import it 18000 km to get it to Ireland as I had with ebony, rosewoods and other tropicals in the past – although not always the same distances. This makes no sense when there are local, suitable hardwoods available. I completely understand where you are coming from but for me to use Tasmanian Blackwood, or other tropicals, is not ecologically sound on many levels.

    • Hi Chris,

      You are right. The LGRP and the LWC are two great initiatives. But they are initiatives because of the need to change consumer preferences and behaviour.

      The Local Wood Challenge is a great idea, especially for small custom builders; especially if it is extended to include and encourage local tree growing. I haven’t seen any evidence of that kind of focus yet but I’m sure it will come. It would be sad if the LWC was just about salvage.

      But larger companies would quickly exhaust their local wood resources. They must look globally for their tonewood resources.

      And why can’t Tasmania expand and develop it’s tonewood market potential to meet global demand?

      People who buy from custom builders like yourself are far more discerning than the average guitar buyer. And even discerning buyers are still attracted by the aesthetic, the rare and the exotic.



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