Back in July last year I wrote about two academics from The University of Wollongong, NSW (Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren) who came down to Tasmania as part of a project they are working on concerning the guitar industry and its response to changes in the tonewood market.
At that time they had just published the first paper from their research:
They have now published a second paper which looks specifically at the Australian industry and its use of Bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii).
Once again like the first paper, this is not an easy paper to read, containing dense academic text.
Being a forester I was already aware of the history of Bunya pine, and the trial plantings made by the Queensland Government in the early to mid 20th century on public land.
New to me was some of the history about the use of native timbers in the local guitar industry, particularly Maton and Cole Clark. Bunya pine is a major sound board tonewood for these two companies.
But the article makes clear that both these companies are now relying on the old Government Bunya trials for their supply, and the future of those trials is clearly subject to the whims of political fortune. The pressure to clear the Bunya trials and replant with the faster growing more profitable Hoop Pine is always there. Future Bunya tonewood supply hangs by a thread unless alternative supplies can be established.
Maton and Cole Clark are clearly struggling to secure and control their future tonewood supply.
It’s a complex and difficult challenge. Not the least of the challenges is that Bunya takes 60+ years to reach a size that allows soundboards to be sawn from the logs.
Unfortunately the article provides few clues as to how the problem can be resolved.
Long term thinking and commitment is needed.
Both of these companies appreciate that relying on Governments for their timber supply doesn’t work.
What we need here is a business model that encourages farmers/landowners to plant tonewoods for both commercial return and non-commercial planting. This will involve the collaboration and support of many players, especially Maton and Cole Clark. These companies are too small to have the resources to grow their own tonewoods.
Perhaps a “Tonewood Alliance” is needed to get the ball rolling?