Category Archives: Markets

DW Drums Debuts Pure Tasmanian Timber at NAMM 2018

DW_Tasmania Kit20

Here is an update on the previous story.

Drum Workshop Inc. has announced the debut of their limited edition DW Collector’s Series® Pure Tasmanian Timber drumsets. Handcrafted in DW’s California Custom Shop located in Oxnard, CA, these exceptional drums feature a core of incredibly resonant Australian Blackwood with an outer layer of highly figured Blackheart Sassafras. Finished in a Quick Candy Black Burst to Natural Lacquer which is perfectly complemented by DW black nickel hardware, these distinctive drums are completed with a specialty “Limited Edition DW Pure Tasmanian Timber” badge.


Pure Tasmanian Timber Drums

Thanks to Scott Seymour for this story.

I remember back in 1985 when I got my first drum kit, it was an entry level set, but they were mine, and it was an exciting time. Some of the drums needed minor repairs, loose screws, rattles here and there, so I took each and every drum apart and became familiar with their construction and managed to fix some of the problems myself. I remember my first brand new professional drum kit as well, the day the delivery truck arrived and the boxes began being unloaded. One thing that stood out though was that the individual drums arrived without drum heads on them; they were in a separate box, and every time I opened a box with a drum in it, wow…..the smell of wood. I’ll always remember that, it was wonderful.

I’ve been watching guitar companies like Maton, Taylor and others using Tasmanian Blackwood and Sassafras for quite a few years, and as a tonewood they work exceptionally well. I play guitar as well as drums, so I have an interest regarding both instruments. It’s no secret that small boutique drum manufacturers in Australia have been using these timbers to make drums as well, and these drums have gained a reputation for being really good, not just visually but more importantly in terms of their tone. It’s very difficult though to get the world to sit up and really take notice, in a big way, of drums made from Tasmanian tonewoods, and realise just how good they are, unless the company behind them has a worldwide audience.

Enter major US manufacturer DW (Drum Workshop Inc.).

DW has firmly established themselves in the drum market and are a well-known name in the music industry, they recently celebrated their 45th anniversary and so many of the world’s best drummers play their kits and/or use their hardware, cymbal stands, foot pedals etc. They have an artist roster well over a dozen pages long everyone from Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) Peter Criss (Kiss) Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and Roger Taylor (Queen) to name a few, play or have played DW Drums.

The sort of exposure a company like this can generate is on a whole different level to the smaller manufacturers. DW also own Gretsch Drums, LP Percussion, Gibraltar Hardware, PDP (Pacific Drums) and Ovation Guitars (yes….a world renowned guitar brand).

For many years I’ve wanted to be able to talk with a company like this about building drums using Tasmanian tonewood, but, I’m a musician, I don’t have access to timber, I don’t have a mill or the knowledge of wood to be able to put any kind of idea to a company like DW or anyone else.

Sure, I could try and bluff my way, get a company interested and then frantically get on the phone to call mills and timber suppliers to try and get what is needed, and hope for the best, but that’s not a sound idea, it’s a risky notion at best. I needed to find someone who knows timber, knows the industry, has access to not just ‘ok’ timber, but above average quality timber, something really special. I needed someone who not only sources the timber, but someone who is all over every aspect of it, the logging, the transport, the milling, packing and sending, otherwise end costs can get out of hand if the process involves paying six different people for all of the required processes. My only other requirement was that the timber is legally sourced and only from private land because I am not a fan of seeing native forests destroyed, I don’t want to support that. It took a few years but I ended up finding just the right person, Jason Weller, in Burnie.

I’d like to say it was through great planning but honestly our meeting was a total fluke and happened via social media back in June last year when I spotted a photo Jason’s brother Paul had posted of a spectacular Blackheart Sassafras log that they had just cut. I’ve seen Blackheart Sassafras before but this, this was stunning. I left a comment saying something along the lines of ‘this would make some sensational guitars’…..funny how my first thought was still the guitar industry. Well through Paul I ended up talking with Jason, and this is where the story gets really interesting. We discovered quickly that while I had some basic knowledge of tonewood, Jason had very little knowledge of the music industry but a wealth of knowledge regarding timber, and was all over every aspect of supplying product. Bingo, the perfect match.

Initially I was going to market the timber to guitar tonewood suppliers, and although we started to do that, we quickly discovered that it wasn’t going to work out too well, and that indeed, it can be a ‘cut throat’ industry, because some people go out of their way to make it so.

So that idea quickly went out the window, and it was then that I thought…….drums. Here is the chance to ‘go for it’, why didn’t of think of this first? Jason was supportive of the idea and said, ‘well…let’s see what happens, can’t hurt to try’. How right he was.

So in June last year I contacted DW and was put in touch with the Vice President of the company, John Good. John has been with DW since the company first opened their doors.

What I sent John were a couple of photos of Jason’s Blackheart Sassafras and Blackwood, a brief introduction to the species, and the idea for drum shell construction with an explanation of why I thought it should work, and how it might sound. Now, of course, a theory is one thing, but this was a sound theory (no pun intended) based on a few years of research.

John really liked the idea and we ended up emailing and talking on the phone several times working out the details, and of course, Jason and I always kept each other up to date.

Talking with John was great, he understands drums and drum shell construction, I understand drums and to some extent their construction as well, we were on exactly the same wave length.

Initially the idea was that we would send just some sample veneers over to DW, they had never worked with these species before, and wanted to make a few drum shells and see if this might be a viable project. The more John and I talked the more information that changed hands and our confidence in the idea grew. I got a phone call from John early one morning (6am here in Tassie) and he said ‘Scott…..we want to get a project underway, 200 drum kits, I’m going to come and see you and Jason, this is all very exciting, I can’t wait’.

Sure enough, in September, John, his wife Esther, and long-time friend from Melbourne, Bill Mackin, arrived in Burnie for a few days and we all sat down to really iron out the details of the project, to look at veneer, logs, and spend some time together. It was an exciting time.

The drum shells themselves are 9 ply…..the outer ply is Blackheart Sassafras, the inner most ply is Crown Cut Blackwood, the core of the shell, the remaining 7 ply, is all Quarter Cut Blackwood, but just plain grain Blackwood, free from knots/inclusions etc. because we’re after tone from this Blackwood, not appearance because it cannot be seen, we don’t need to be using the more rare fiddleback or spalted varieties. John states in the video that Blackwood can’t be rotary cut, well, it can be, but as we explained to him, to achieve the best tonality from the wood, it really needs to be Quarter Cut. We need to remember though that getting the best out of Blackwood is something people in Australia have been working out for a long time, but for John, he’d never even seen Tasmanian Blackwood.

The project was a ‘Go’…….

So there we have it, the world is now being introduced to ‘Pure Tasmanian Timber’ drum kits, and this also proves that while it’s great to see guitars being made by large well know companies such as Maton and Taylor, and gaining international recognition, let’s not forget drums, they are an acoustic instrument after all.………..


It would be great if companies like Drummers Workshop (DW) were more proactive and had a sustainable tonewoods policy. Note to Chris Lombardi and John Good at DW – please develop a sustainable tonewoods policy guys!

If these DW Tasmanian blackwood drums are a success how do we ensure that it results in more blackwoods being planted to grow more quality timber? It will require a lot of direct intervention to get the interest and confidence of Tasmanian landowners.

It looks to me like these 200 Pure Tasmanian Timber drum sets will be sold out the day they go on sale.

Great work Scott. Congratulations!

New Zealand Historical Pine Log Price Data

In the early 1990s the New Zealand Government made the fateful decision to hand the forest industry over to the private sector.

It was a brave and visionary decision.

Before then the New Zealand forest industry was a Government run community service that included plundering public native forests and running a massive pine plantation employment program.

Public native forestry was shut down and the pine plantation resource was sold to the private sector.

The forest industry was mortified! Apoplectic!

Twenty five (25) years later and NZ has one of the most successful forest industries in the world, based on profitable private tree growers. Can anyone challenge this assessment?

Forestry was third in the list of exports by value in 2016 in New Zealand (after dairy and meat; with no Government subsidies):

What did New Zealand export in 2016

Once the pine plantation resource was privatised then pine log prices became realistic and meaningful and the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries began recording pine log price data.

So here we have twenty five (25) years of export pine log price data.

What an astonishing achievement!

Well done New Zealand!!

I’ve converted the data into a chart and added some second order polynomial trend lines.

Before June 2017 the data is numerical average price. Post June 2017 the prices are weighted average which should mean more realistic and stable data.


The obvious trends are a major spike in 1994 due to the Northern Spotted Owl crisis in North America (1) followed by a gradual price decline until the GFC in 2007/08. Following the Global Financial Crisis export pine log prices have seen a steady 10-year price improvement, to the advantage of NZ pine growers.

The other interesting trend in the chart is the convergence over the last 10 years of the A Grade, K Grade and Pulp log prices. Pruned pine log prices have continued show a significant price differential.

Oh how I wish we had meaningful long term blackwood log price data.

No chance! Not in Tasmania!

Good luck to New Zealand pine growers!!

How CITES is changing the future of rosewood in guitars


It’s interesting trying to keep up with how guitar companies and the tonewood market are dealing with the new CITES restrictions on rosewood.

It’s pretty clear that most guitar companies have been caught sleeping on the job when it comes to tonewood supply.

Here’s a recent article that puts a spotlight on the difficult times ahead for the industry.

It’s a long read but worth the effort. Here are some of the more relevant sections from a tonewood growers viewpoint:

The specific timing and impact of the latest restrictions on commercial rosewood usage is indeed a headache for the guitar industry, but it comes amid a much longer contextual setting of ecological concern and environmental politics. Which is to say that you don’t have to be Nostradamus to work out what’s coming next. We’re discussing rosewood here, but ebony and mahogany are glowing bright on the radar for more stringent protection.


Despite the best efforts of Martin, Taylor and Gibson in pushing the likes of Richlite and HPL for more than two decades now, many guitar enthusiasts – particularly fans of premium instruments – remain uninterested in anything but traditional timbers.


Sustainable wood species such as maple, sycamore, cherry and so on may provide some form of halfway house, but it still leaves the big guitar brands labouring with a stark contradiction. By their own admission, they’ve been telling us for decades that the ‘best’ guitars use the ‘best’ rosewood, mahogany and ebony. Their survival as businesses, however, requires much more widespread use of more sustainable materials.

“By their own admission…” indeed. And it still continues. Efforts by most guitar companies to “shift the market” have been pretty mild to say the least.

And we hear that most mahoganies and ebony are next on the list.

New Zealand blackwood growers are looking at a significant opportunity here.

With their plantation resource now maturing just as the global tonewood supply is coming under pressure, it’s the perfect time to be a blackwood grower.

New Zealand blackwood growers need to start making connections into the tonewood market, promoting New Zealand plantation-grown blackwood as a profitable, sustainable quality tonewood.

The opportunity is right now!

As for Tasmania, well we seem to have missed the boat.

No guitar company is coming to Tasmania to buy blackwood or other tonewoods plundered from our conservation reserves at taxpayers expense.

The next 5-10 years will see the global tonewood market completely transformed. Who will be the beneficiaries of this change?

One of the major challenges is that the tonewood market does not know how to engage with the farming community to support and encourage them to grow tonewoods. Getting farmers to make a 30+ year investment planting trees takes a lot of support and encouragement.


Timbers with a sustainable timbre


Remember my blog about the 2 academics, Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren, from the University of Wollongong, NSW, and their research around forestry and the guitar manufacturing business?

Well here’s a great article about their research. It’s much easier to read than their academic papers.

The two videos are especially enjoyable and informative.

Here’s one of them.

Unfortunately we still haven’t got the tonewood narrative going back to the tree growers yet. It is still about the players, the makers and the sawmillers. The trees just magically exist in the current narrative.

Where are the people planting and managing these tonewood resources?


Taylor Custom Shop Grand Auditorium all Blackwood

Taylor Custom GA BW1

Here’s a great Taylor Custom Shop Grand Auditorium (GA) all blackwood guitar currently on the market at Max Guitars in The Netherlands.

Imagine a unique Taylor guitar that’s just yours, brought to life with Taylor’s legendary craftsmanship. Your Taylor. Your way! It’s possible.

Max Guitar stocks a great selection of these Custom Made Taylor Guitars. And lots of customers either pick one from stock or use our stock to inspire them to compose their own design! Simply Choose your category of guitar, pick your body shape, select from a rich assortment of our finest tonewoods including non-standard species and grades, choose from a full palette of appointments, and more. Then we’ll get to work building your Taylor guitar that’s uniquely personalized for your tastes. Ready? Talk to us?

Taylor Custom Shop 9009 is a Unique Custom shop model made at the Taylor El Cajon factory and picked especially by Robbert for Max Guitar!

The exquisite Grand Auditorium Custom model is a special order made in El Cajon and sports a Venetian Cutaway. Built up out of superb tone woods. A Blackwood back and sides and a very resonant Blackwood top that sounds really full! Furthermore ebony fingerboard, MOP binding, dot inlay, Gotoh 510 tuners, The whole instrument is finished in a warm Sunburst and extremely thin gloss finish. Comes with COA and Hardcase.

Bring Your Dream Guitar to Life! Imagine a Taylor guitar that’s uniquely yours, brought to life with Taylor’s legendary craftsmanship.

At €4930 or $A7480 it’s not cheap.

But then it is a custom build.

Things I like about this guitar:

  • The all blackwood body
  • The shaded edgeburst
  • The gold Gotoh 510 tuners (I think gold goes well with blackwood)
  • Those neat fretboard inlays look pretty cool too!

Taylor Custom GA BW3

Made with farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood courtesy of Tasmanian tonewoods:

Taylor 2010 Spring Limited Editions


Above L-R: Tasmanian Blackwood 514ce-LTD, Walnut 414ce-LTD

For the fourth consecutive year Taylor Guitars included Tasmanian blackwood in a limited edition set. Spring 2010 saw 9 limited edition models of which 2 featured Tasmanian blackwood, this time in the 500 series thanks to the highly figured blackwood.

Bob Taylor and his design team herald spring’s arrival with a quartet of limiteds that promise to invigorate the senses.

Our Spring Limiteds have become one of those typically atypical Taylor design projects. Rather than making a firm commitment to come up with something each spring, Bob and his fellow designers wait to see if the product development stars align. Are there any reserves of exotic woods available that invite special treatment? Which models are generating lots of excitement around the factory? We think you’ll be happy with this year’s outcome (Wood & Steel Vol 63).

Tasmanian blackwood is often compared to its better-known cousin, Hawaiian koa. We gathered an assortment of impressively figured backs and sides for this run, making this a special upgrade to our 500 Series. Tonally, blackwood shares koa’s blend of midrange bloom and top end brightness, and will grow sweetly mellower over time, with great dynamic range.

Both models are topped with Sitka spruce and include Ivoroid binding, an abalone rosette, and an all-gloss finish [and gold-coloured tuners].

Tasmanian blackwood is often compared with Hawaiian koa as a tonewood. It’s a natural comparison to make but it can quickly turn to blackwood’s disadvantage if overdone as a marketing strategy. I think Tasmanian blackwood is more than capable of standing on its own two feet (roots??) as a quality tonewood.

Here’s a Spring Taylor 2010 516ce-LTD for sale on Reverb:

Production numbers (courtesy of Taylor Guitars) were:

514ce-LTD 301
516ce-LTD 215

Over four consecutive years 2007-2010 Taylor Guitars produced almost 2,700 guitars across 9 Limited Edition models featuring Tasmanian blackwood.

My next spotlight will be on the 2012 Spring Limited Edition GS mini models.

Previous Taylor spotlights:

2004 Fall Limited Editions – when Taylor Guitars first introduced Tasmanian blackwood

Taylor GS4e 2007 Fall Limited Edition

Taylor 2008 Spring Limited Editions

Taylor 2009 Spring Limited Editions