Category Archives: Events

Maleny Wood Expo


The more I read about the Maleny Wood Expo (MWE) the more I like.

The town of Maleny is in south east Queensland up in the hills behind the Sunshine Coast.

The MWE has been going for 22 years and is clearly a major community event!

The MWE comes from a landcare background. This seems to be what makes the difference with other “festivals”.

One of the great initiatives of the MWE is their Sustainable Timber Policy:

The fact that the MWE cares about where the timber comes from is a unique initiative.

Sustainable Timber Policy

The Maleny Wood Expo has a strong focus on ecological sustainability and sustainable use of local timbers. The first Maleny Wood Expo in 1996 was born from Barung Landcare’s recognition of the need to raise awareness about sustainable use of native hardwood and rainforest cabinet timbers. If our beautiful native timbers are to be available in the future, we must protect our resources.

[we must protect our resources…..and promote and support private tree growers].

The Expo aims to promote the whole ‘timber’ story – from seed collection through planting forests, harvesting and milling to the end product, the furniture.

[I like this sentence very much. The one thing missing from the “whole timber story” is the “Who”. Who grows the wood? Who manages the forest? Who collects and plants the seeds? If this was a dairy expo the dairy farmer would be the centre of attention. The same needs to happen with timber. Where is the Grower? Timber needs to be humanised].

The main point of difference between the Maleny Wood Expo and other wood shows is that our wood artisans are required to work in sustainably harvested native, weed or recycled timbers.

[MWE are keen to deliberately differentiate themselves from other “Festivals”. As I wrote in a previous blog, most wood festivals don’t care at all where the wood comes from. MWE care very much! This is the 21st century. This is a great positive initiative].

To achieve this we require all exhibitors to respect our ethic. All timber must be sourced from:

  • Primarily from SE Queensland or northern NSW region (minimum 80%);
  • Hardwood or softwood timber from managed plantations on private or public land;
  • Exotic (non native) hardwood and softwood timbers (e.g. Slash Pine, Camphor Laurel and Privet) that can be removed with minimal disturbance to native bushland. Many species have weed potential and their removal will benefit the environment;
  • Salvage timber from native forest logging operations i.e. timber that isn’t the primary target of the operation but rather a by-product that would otherwise be bulldozed or burnt (e.g. Blackwood Acacia melanoxylon);
  • Timber collected where it presents a danger to people e.g. trees that have fallen or are likely to fall across roads, powerlines, houses (recognise that timber left to rot on the ground provides important nutrients and wildlife habitat);
  • Dead standing trees from partially-cleared farmland – of less than 20cm diameter at waste height;
  • Recycled timbers from demolition of buildings and other constructions, and waste transfer stations; or
  • Other – if timber is not from the above sources, exhibitors must indicate where it came from prior to exhibiting at Expo.

Products made from timber burls cut from live trees (from Regional Ecosystem Guidelines, Qld Dept of Environment and Heritage Protection) are not permitted at Maleny Wood Expo.

Abiding by these guidelines will assist our community in sustainably managing our local timber resources.

It’s a pretty good policy.

What I would like to see is the policy actual focus more on promoting and supporting profitable private tree growers; actually build and grow the future supply of quality timber for both commercial and environmental objectives.  There could be a range of initiatives to support this.

Why not use the power and momentum of the MWE to get more trees in the ground; grow the future!

Private Tree Growers

Besides the Sustainable Timber Policy the only other reference on the MWE website to tree growers is this statement:

Tree Farming for The Planet

We must more and more use timber from privately-owned forests as our appreciation of old growth forests leads to cessation of logging. Private forests provide not only timber – they’re an important farm asset and income stream. They repair and protect our land and provide biodiversity and habitat, shelter and support for agricultural and grazing enterprises, landscape aesthetics, bushfoods and much more. The Barung Nursery supplies quality tree stock for boutique and larger plantations.

The Barung Landcare Group hosts the MWE which is clearly a very good thing.

It’s curious that their website doesn’t have much of a focus on growing timber.

Is there a local specialty timber growers group that the Barung Landcare Group supports?

There are significant opportunities still to be realised in this Barung Landcare/MWE team.

Keep up the great work!

Now why can’t other wood festivals be more like the MWE?


Bold plan to breathe new life into SW timber industry


SW? As in south west Western Australia!

Just like the rest of Australia the logging of public native forests in south west Western Australia has been a battle ground for decades, with the forest industry now on its last legs needing continuous Government support.

The local forest conservation group the Western Australian Forest Alliance has come up with a plan to rebuild the forest industry and create jobs. The Plan is called Forests for Life.

Normally I would be a bit sceptical of any industry plan developed by environmentalists, and from my reading the FFL plan certainly has some weaknesses.

What I do like though is that the broader community are getting behind the Plan, including the local Augusta/Margaret River Council.

Here at last is the community taking the lead, showing initiative, adopting a positive attitude and working together.

This I like!!

The question now is will the forest industry and the WA State government get behind and support the Plan. The Western Australian Farmers Federation also needs to be brought on board to help give the Plan some economic credibility and community support.

I’ve already seen the potential for growing Tasmanian blackwood in SW Western Australia:

Imagine this happening here in Tasmania?

Stringfest 2015 Review


The Deloraine Stringfest is over for another year. Being a stallholder at Stringfest gives you a restricted view of the festival since so much happens at other venues around the town and in the main street.

The Community Hall where the luthiers, tonewood merchants and others such as myself hang out can seem a lonely place at times. That was my impression on Saturday, the main day of the Festival, with far fewer people than last year. A common comment was that there are too many other events on that weekend. The crowds picked up Sunday morning and I met a few interesting people, picked up some useful information and perhaps even some new blackwood growers.

I love the busking and the random spontaneous music making. I think that is also a special feature of Stringfest. It’s almost a BYO instrument event!

Clearly it will take Stringfest some years to get established and create a unique identity and following. It will take a big commitment and effort by the Deloraine community to make it a success. But it will be worth the effort!

Stringfest is a unique vision.

The focus on the musical performers is great, but Stringfest will never compete with the other established music festivals. The key to success for Stringfest I believe will be attracting a broader audience with the performers as well as the luthiers, tonewood merchants and tonewood growers.

In 2014 there were 4 tonewood merchants at Stringfest. None of those merchants returned this year, being replaced instead by 2 new tonewood merchants. I’m not sure how many tonewood merchants Tasmania can support but I suspect it is less than the current number if anyone is to have a hope of making a decent living from it.

But keeping tonewood merchants at Stringfest will be difficult. Whilst not many of us can afford a custom made guitar, at least the luthiers have merchandise that will sell, and it certainly attracts plenty of interest. Tonewood merchants however occupy a very restricted market, so Stringfest offers them little in the way of financial reward, unless we get to the point where bigger guitar companies start coming to Stringfest. While that’s not beyond the realms of possibility it is still a few years away.

So we need new ideas on how to make the non-performing side of Stringfest more useful and engaging for both the participants and the audience.

Here’s some ideas:

  • Field trips to a blackwood plantation;
  • Presentations on growing blackwood (and other tonewoods);
  • Tonewood merchants are both a) selling tonewood, and b) looking to buy logs from farmers/landowners. What are some things that tonewood merchants can do to attract both types of customers?
  • A tonewood auction.
  • A farm-grown log auction.
  • A log-sawing demonstration;
  • Luthier talks and demonstrations? Eg. the effect of tonewood on tone; how to refret a guitar; different soundboard bracing patterns; etc..
  • A restringing booth! Bring your guitar/instrument in for a health check and restring (byo or buy strings);
  • Craft-made guitar straps – these could be leather or other material;

I think the luthiers, merchants and growers themselves need to take ownership of their participation at Stringfest and be more creative.

How can we better link the performing and non-performing sides of Stringfest? Artists/luthiers on stage road testing a range of local guitars of different designs, sizes, shapes and tonewoods?

Finally my thanks and appreciation to the organisers and volunteers, and the Deloraine community, who make Stringfest happen. I think it is a fantastic idea and a great model.

I will be back again in 2016 to give the Festival my fullest support.

Plant a guitar!

Deloraine Stringfest is for farmers

Stringfest Logo

The 2015 Deloraine Stringfest will be on the 20-22 March.

The new Deloraine Stringfest website is now online.

This website will be updated as the program for the 2015 festival develops over the coming months. Check it out!

Stringfest is for sawmillers, foresters, luthiers, wood merchants, retailers, artists and people who just appreciate beauty, craft and music; and that’s a mighty big audience!

But I believe it will be Tasmanian farmers who eventually become the real heroes of the Deloraine Stringfest.

The men and women who make the 30+ year commitment and investment, who have the interest and passion, to plant and grow the trees that eventually become the tonewoods and the instruments.

Without these people Stringfest (and the tonewood/luthier industry) has an uncertain future.

Sell your existing trees

At this year’s Stringfest there were tonewood merchants displaying and selling their timber. But they were also buying! They were getting offers of trees and logs from quite a few people.

So if you have trees that you think may have value as tonewood come along to Stringfest and talk to the tonewood merchants. Even some planted exotic trees may be of value. For example the tonewood industry is looking for redwoods and any of the true (Atlas/Lebanon/Deodara) cedars. Good quality blackwood is always in demand.

Learn how to grow blackwood

Blackwood is Australia’s premier tonewood. Come to Stringfest and find out how to grow blackwood in plantation, or turn that patch of degraded remnant blackwood forest into something of real commercial value.

There is great potential for growing commercial blackwood in northern Tasmania. Help secure Stringfest’s future. Plant a tree (or 2)!

Come to Stringfest and find out more.

I’ll be there to answer questions about growing commercial blackwood.

There will be a portable sawmilling demonstration on how to identify/select a tonewood log, and the issues involved with sawing these logs into tonewood billets.

There will also be a ½ day field visit to a successful private blackwood plantation. Places for this field visit are limited so contact me soon to reserve you place.

See you at the 2015 Deloraine Stringfest!

Deloraine Stringfest 2015

Planning is underway to include a visit to a successful private blackwood plantation as part of the Deloraine Stringfest in March 2015. Transport will be by bus so places will be limited. Your chance to see and learn the art of growing commercial blackwood. Details to follow.