Category Archives: Markets

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!

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.

 

IST Tender Results 2016-17

ist

http://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au

Back in December last year I wrote my first report summarizing all tender results for Island Specialty Timbers given that IST itself provides little market information.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/12/13/island-specialty-timbers-tender-results/

So here is my half yearly update and financial year summary of their tender results.

A separate report looks specifically at IST blackwood tender results, given that blackwood is the only specialty timber species for which this information might have some use for market and investment purposes. No one is going to invest money based on the tender results for the other specialty species, which are too slow growing to allow for profitable investment.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/06/12/ist-blackwood-log-tender-results-2016-17/

Six-monthly update

The last 6 months have seen 4 IST tenders with total volume of 83 cubic metres of specialty timbers put to tender of which 58 cubic metres were sold, and total revenue of $49,100.

Financial year

The 12 months to June 2017 saw IST conduct 8 tenders with total volume of 166 cubic metres of specialty timbers of which 107.5 (64%) cubic metres sold for total revenue of $114,300.

This 166 cubic metres represents about 1% of the annual harvest of special timbers from Tasmania’s public native forests. The rest is sold at Government prices on long term sales contracts.

For harvesting the 166 cubic metres of special timbers in the year Forestry Tasmania received an additional $14,000 from Tasmanian taxpayers as compensation.

Compare this with the 3,000 tonne of specialty timbers auctioned by the Western Australian Forest Products Commission every year:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/05/01/special-timbers-in-western-australia/

IST2017pricechart

The above chart shows the log volumes and average unit prices paid per tender.

The price spike for December 2016 reflects a tender of 7 Huon pine lots.

The highest unit price for the year was a small black heart sassafras log of 0.49 cubic metres that sold for $5,100 per cubic metre!! This is an extraordinary price for such a small log.

The highest total price paid for a log was for a Huon pine log of 1.75 cubic metres that sold for $5,160.

These results show that when subject to competitive forces even the little southern Tasmanian special timbers market can afford to pay very good prices for quality logs.

Three species attracted strong demand and high prices over the year, these being black heart sassafras, huon pine and banksia with average log prices over $1,000 per cubic metre. Celery top pine sold for an average price of $630 per cubic metre. All of these species take 400-1,000+ years to reach maturity so I suspect even these prices are cheap.

Black heart sassafras made up 25% of the successful tendered volume but made up 44% of the sales revenue. Blackwood, the dominant special timber, made up 7% of the successful tendered volume but only 5% of the revenue. Huon pine made up 20% tendered volume and 11% revenue.

Black heart sassafras, blackwood, myrtle and wattle comprised 15%, 24%, 16% and 20% respectively of unsold log volume.

The low volume and variable quality of products tendered by IST makes it difficult to draw conclusions from these results, except to repeat that quality wood is worth big money.

Remember these prices are equivalent to mill door log prices, so harvesting and transport costs are theoretically included in the prices.

And don’t forget these public native forest specialty timbers come to you courteously of an $86.27 per cubic metre direct taxpayer subsidy.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/11/13/special-timbers-subsidised-charade-continues/

Tasmanian taxpayers certainly have abundant generosity (and deep pockets) when it comes to the forest industry.

Unintentional path dependence: Australian guitar manufacturing, bunya pine and legacies of forestry decisions and resource stewardship

Bunya-Mountains-Bunya-Pines

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:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/07/10/resource-sensitive-global-production-networks-gpn-reconfigured-geographies-of-timber-and-acoustic-guitar-manufacturing/

They have now published a second paper which looks specifically at the Australian industry and its use of Bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii).

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00049182.2017.1336967?journalCode=cage20

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.

BunyaPineS

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?

CF Martin & Tasmanian blackwood

OM45TBc

CF Martin is possibly the name in steel string acoustic guitars in the world.

https://www.martinguitar.com/

As a tree grower, to have your product associated with the CF Martin brand is as good as it gets.

But the Tasmanian farmers who grew this wood never got that recognition and support. If they had, they might now be growing more quality tonewood.

Unfortunately the tonewood market and the guitar industry don’t work that way.

Not yet!!

Martin admits their customer base is conservative and fickle; they have a hard time introducing new tonewoods into their product range. Tasmanian blackwood has been a disappointment for them in terms of market acceptance.

Nevertheless here’s a not-so-complete summary of CF Martin’s use of Tasmanian blackwood.

For those unfamiliar with Martin’s product codes, the OM is an Orchestra Model body shape/size and D is for Dreadnought body shape; the 42/45 designates the amount of bling (abalone and other exotica) on the guitar with “45” being bling-max!

Eight months after Taylor Guitars first introduced Tasmanian blackwood into their Limited Editions, CF Martin also introduced blackwood into their Limited Edition models at the 2005 Summer NAMM Show. And whilst Taylor went for a more affordable market, Martin went for the top shelf market.

These are rare premium guitars from a premium builder!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/02/17/2004-fall-limited-editions-when-taylor-guitars-first-introduced-tasmanian-blackwood/

2005 OM-45 Tasmanian Blackwood (The Sounding Board Vol. 19 p. 8)

The OM-45 Tasmanian Blackwood NAMM Show Special is tonally enhanced with an extremely rare flamed Engelmann spruce soundboard, and bookmatched back, sides and headplate of highly flamed Tasmanian blackwood. Special appointments include fossilized ivory bridge pins and endpin, Style 45 abalone trim with a boxed endpiece, Style 45 snowflake fingerboard inlays, gold plated Waverly hand-engraved tuning machines, a modified torch headstock inlay nested beneath the C. F. Martin & Co. logo inlaid in abalone, and a premium Accord case. This NAMM Show Special will be limited to no more than thirty instruments. Dealers may only place orders in person during the 2005 Indianapolis NAMM Show.

Here’s a link with some images of the OM-45 TB:

http://acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=287129

OM45TB

2010 D-42 Tasmanian Blackwood (The Sounding Board Vol. 29 p. 11)

Once again, Martin has produced a NAMM Show Special guitar which truly lives up to its “special” designation – the D-42 Blackwood. Backs and sides of this exquisite instrument are crafted of flamed Tasmanian Blackwood, a close relative of Hawaiian Koa both in looks and tone, and which grows primarily on the island of Tasmania off the southeast coast of Australia. Its tone is clear and bright and highly reflective, a perfect match for the D-42’s Adirondack (Red Spruce) top, prized for its resonance and big, open bass voice. Top braces, also Adirondack, are carefully scalloped and tapered. The small maple bridgeplate is typical of Golden Era 30s Martins. As a special touch, European flamed maple is used for the top binding, fingerboard binding, heelcap and endpiece. The entire top perimeter and fingerboard extension are inlaid with colorful heart abalone pearl as is the style 45 rosette. A polished and beveled Delmar tortoise pickguard accents the pearl binding. Ebony fingerboard (inlaid with Golden Era snowflake, cats eye & concave squares) and bridge (with long bone saddle). “Alternative” flower pot headplate inlay. Only 10 of these unique guitars will be offered. Orders will be taken only at the Summer NAMM Show.

Here’s a link with some images of the D-42 TB:

http://theunofficialmartinguitarforum.yuku.com/topic/103988#.WOHlJtKGNdg

 

2011 OM-42 Tasmanian Blackwood (The Sounding Board Vol. 31 p. 27)

We should have called OM-42 Tasmanian Blackwood NAMM Show Special the “Show Stopper!” This magnificent 14-fret, longscale (25.4″), Orchestra Model exemplifies the very best that Martin has to offer the discriminating collector and player. For starters, back and sides are crafted of rare flamed Tasmanian blackwood from Eastern Australia. Visually, it’s similar to premium figured Hawaiian koa. Tonally, it shares the brightness of koa but with the rich overtones of rosewood, giving it a unique and very balanced voice. With its solid Adirondack spruce top and 1/4″ scalloped “Golden Era” braces, it’s also got a big voice, with plenty of volume when you need it. Finger-picking or rhythm, this is your guitar. In the 42-style, the top, rosette and fingerboard extension are inlaid with colorful Paua pearl. Martin’s early (and rarer) “alternate” pearl torch design is inlaid into a polished ebony headplate. The ebony fingerboard is likewise inlaid with “Golden Era” snowflakes. A vintage 1930s ebony “belly” bridge features long bone saddle, bone bridge pins (and end pin) with pearl dots. European flame maple top binding, heelcap and endpiece. Gold engraved Gotoh tuners. Modified V neck, of course. Only 15 of these beautiful instruments will be offered, each personally signed by C. F. Martin IV and numbered in sequence. Exquisite. Resonant. And oh-so-limited.

Here’s a link with some images of the OM-42 TB:

https://artisanguitars.com/2011-martin-om-42-limited-edition-adirondack-and-tasmanian-blackwood-5-8-id-6647

2011 was the last time Tasmanian blackwood featured on a Martin Limited Edition guitar. Perhaps aiming at the top shelf market wasn’t best way to introduce a new tonewood into the market.

In addition to these limited release NAMM Show Specials Martin continues to produce the occasional custom model featuring Tasmanian blackwood, some of which have featured on this website over the years, including the Martin Custom Shop 018-T-Tasmanian Blackwood and the Martin Custom CEO7 Tasmanian Blackwood.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/category/cf-martin-guitars/

With CF Martin’s focus on FSC as their lifeline to a sustainable future, Tasmanian blackwood will have a hard time staying in Martin’s tonewood catalogue. There is currently no FSC certified Tasmanian blackwood available anywhere, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. The best chance of FSC Blackwood will come from New Zealand as farmers there ramp up production over the coming years.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/03/28/c-f-martin-guitars-sustainable-tonewoods/

Tasmanian blackwood needs lots of market support to reach the stage where it may be possible to achieve FSC certification. It’s up to the market to build a sustainable future for Tasmanian blackwood. The FSC won’t achieve that by itself.

Market demand for Tasmanian blackwood

logs-on-ship-close-up.jpg

I am getting enquiries from buyers in Asian markets looking to buy blackwood from Tasmanian farmers. Here’s a recent example:

 

Dear Dr. Gordon Bradbury

How are you? I hope you all are very good!

This is Paul ███ from ███ Furniture that is a furniture wholesaler in Victoria, And in Guangdong China have own furniture factory. Our factory produces leather sofas, bed and wooden furniture. 

Recently, we knew that a Chinese company import 20 containers of blackwood logs from Tasmania, we are very interested in this product, I would like to know can you supply the blackwood to us?

Or if you can provide us the supplier for our future’s potential cooperation, that will be grateful!

Looking forward response for you soon

 

Best Regards

Paul ███  

Director

 

I’m happy to put this enquiry up on my website to help improve forest market transparency.

The question is what exactly do these buyers want, what volumes, and at what price?

The next question is what farm blackwood resource is available to meet the demand, and how do we mobilise more of the Tasmanian farm blackwood resource? The farm blackwood resource in Tasmania is generally of average to poor quality because Tasmanian farmers have mostly never considered themselves tree growers, so the existing blackwood is unmanaged.

And finally can market demand for premium Tasmanian blackwood progress to the point where Tasmanian farmers regard growing premium blackwood as a commercial profitable opportunity and begin planting?

Given the Tasmanian political and forest industry context, I suspect this change in the farming community will take more than just normal market forces. It will also require market leadership and support!

I’m happy to pass these enquiries on to any log traders or sawmillers out there, but my objective is to build the blackwood industry. This means using market demand and price to encourage farmers to establish blackwood plantations and actively manage their remnant blackwood forest.

Is anyone up for the challenge?

Please contact me if you want details.

Can premium blackwood timber once again become an iconic quality Tasmanian product?