Category Archives: Markets

Softwood growers seek sector review

SWANpine

https://www.bdtimes.com.au/?news%2Fbusselton-dunsborough-times%2Fsoftwood-growers-seek-sector-review-ng-b88817681z

WOW!!

This must be the first time in my 40 year career as a forester that I’ve heard farm foresters openly complaining about Government control of forestry markets in Australia.

This is a unique event.

Hopefully this is the beginning of the major reform of the forest industry that is so desperately needed in Australia.

We really need to keep this discussion going.

And it’s not just about softwood prices.

It’s also about native forest log prices, and markets, transparency and competition.

It’s also about Government forest policy which is firmly focused on subsidising sawmills, and not about profitable tree growers.

This is true right around Australia!

I wish the WA farmers luck in their discussions with the State Government.

Even if you don’t succeed initially, keep the discussion going. Keep the campaign alive.

The fact that here we have farmers wanting to grow trees for wood production and yet we have Government policy directly hindering their efforts is beyond madness.

GOOD LUCK!

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The Australian International Timber and Woodworking Festival

Otherwise known as Wood Dust.

wooddust

https://www.wooddustaustralia.com/

Now this is ambition.

I wrote recently how I thought New Zealand needed a national wood festival to take their already successful forest industry to the next level.

Well it seems Australia is looking to go one better with an international wood festival, which is extraordinary given the parlous state of our forest industry.

I’ve also written recently about wood-based festivals in the 21st century that fail to recognise where the wood comes from and who grows it:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/02/13/all-about-the-wood-nothing-about-the-growers/

And finally I wrote recently about the Maleny Wood Expo in Queensland that is a much better example of what a 21st century wood festival should be like:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/02/19/maleny-wood-expo/

Every single wood-based festival in the 21st century should:

  • Demonstrate concern for where the wood comes from (is it sustainable and not just certified); and
  • Encourage and support profitable private tree growers.

The Maleny Wood Expo does this by having clearly defined mission and objectives.

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

The Maleny Wood Expo comes from a landcare base, whilst Wood Dust comes from a wood craft base, and the difference in attitude is immediately apparent.

Don’t get me wrong.

I think Australia desperately needs a major wood festival to help rebuild our battered forest industry, but on a proper basis. Encourage profitable private tree growing. No wood from public native forests.

Wood Dust is on October 17 – 21, 2018 in Bungendore and Queanbeyan, NSW, Australia.

Tickets are available online.

So whilst this year’s Wood Dust Festival falls well short of what I regard a modern wood festival should be I hope it is a great success and can grow to include the “whole timber story”.

 

Greenpeace leaves the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

rainforest3

It’s a grim day for the world’s forests.

On Monday 26th March Greenpeace International announced it was leaving the FSC.

Greenpeace said that the FSC has become a “tool for forestry and timber extraction” and it wouldn’t renew its membership.

Greenpeace International to not renew FSC membership

Here’s how the Washington Post reported the story:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/greenpeace-leaves-sustainable-wood-certification-group/2018/03/27/aa6c0a4e-3184-11e8-b6bd-0084a1666987_story.html?utm_term=.1993de3f7510

The FSC’s response to the Greenpeace announcement clearly shows no interest in rebuilding the relationship. Is this an indication that vested interests have indeed successfully taken control of the FSC?

FSC Statement about Greenpeace International

Is this the end of third party forest certification?

Reflections on New Zealand

MWE

I finally made it to the Shakey Isles after all these years, or at least the North Island; and thankfully they didn’t shake or erupt while we were there.

Here is a collection of thoughts on New Zealand forestry from a visiting forester from Tasmania.

If I think about the farm forest industry as a jigsaw puzzle then the New Zealanders seem to have most of the pieces in place, unlike here in Australia where we haven’t even found the puzzle box yet.

Potential

Despite its already huge forest industry New Zealand still has enormous potential to expand its industry further. There are huge areas of cleared farm land whose best long-term and most profitable use would be forestry.

This land is mostly marginal cattle and sheep grazing country, but I was amazed to see dairy farmers happily incorporating tree-growing into their businesses – harvesting timber whilst milking the cows! Brilliant!!

Whether the country’s road, rail, and port infrastructure could handle the increase is a different question.

There are also huge areas of cleared farm land whose best long-term use would be planted back to native forest – but that’s another story. Grazing cows on 70 degree slopes? Really?

With it’s potential for growing a wide range of quality timber species New Zealand could easily become the quality timber capital of the world.

Tree Growing Culture

For someone from Australia one of the things that stands out in NZ is the abundance of planted trees on farms. NZ farmers have an obvious passion for growing trees. This is not surprising in the North Island as everything grows with such rampant abundance. Trees are planted for aesthetic and utility purposes, sometimes for environmental purposes and occasionally for wood production. Most of the planted trees will eventually become liabilities that need to be cleared and burnt, instead of assets to be harvested and sold.

This tree-growing culture is a real advantage for New Zealand.

The question is – how do you progress that culture to be one of passionate profitable wood growing?

Wood Festival

One of the ways to build a culture of passionate profitable wood growing is with a wood festival.

For all its forest heritage I was surprised to learn that New Zealand does not have a Wood Festival. In order to build a focus around farm grown quality wood and farm foresters, New Zealand needs a Wood Festival. Whether it is a National Festival or a separate one for each island the future can determine. My recommendation would be to begin with a Wood Festival in the North Island, since this has the advantage in being able to grow a wider range of quality timbers.

I think the Maleny Wood Expo would be a good model for the New Zealanders to start with and develop further.

http://www.malenywoodexpo.com/

The Wood Festival should include a wide range of people from tree growers, tree nurseries, harvesting contractors, sawmillers, craft people, cabinet and furniture makers, architects, builders, etc.

The Maori community and its wood carving heritage definitely need to be part of the Festival.

The purpose of the festival is to build a community of proud tree growers and wood users, and to build links between growers and the market.

Eventually the world will come to the New Zealand Wood Festival. Major companies like Ikea will come to NZ and establish connections. I have absolutely no doubt the Festival will become an international event.

Building markets

New Zealand farmers have ready access to markets if they grow meat, vegetables, fruit, flowers, wool, wine, etc. But access to forestry markets is more difficult. Markets are well established if you grow radiata pine, douglas fir or cypress. But many farmers are growing a host of other tree species, including Tasmanian blackwood, in the hope of breaking into higher value timber markets.

But these higher value markets are yet to understand that they can no longer rely on the plunder of the worlds native forests. They have yet to understand that if they want wood today and tomorrow they need to ensure there is tree planting today and tomorrow.

Just going to the hardware or the timber merchant to buy timber is a dead end road, unless the hardware chains and timber merchants are actively supporting local tree growers.

A wood festival would help resolve this market dysfunction.

Architects

Coming from Tasmania one of the immediate impressions of New Zealand is of a go-ahead prosperous country. The NZ economy is going very well right now. There is construction and building happening everywhere.

One of the ways for NZ tree growers to establish market presence is through the architecture profession.

I strongly recommend that the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association establish a close working relationship with the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA). Perhaps even a partnership!

http://www.nzffa.org.nz

https://www.nzia.co.nz/

The NZIA should be supporting local wood growers and the use of locally grow quality timber. A policy around this would a good start.

Having the NZIA onboard promoting and supporting local wood growers would be a major boost to local growers – definitely one of the missing pieces of puzzle!

Blackwood

During my trip I caught up with NZ blackwood growers Malcolm Mackenzie and Ian Brown. It was a breath of fresh air! Thanks guys!! ….and thanks also to Alison.

I saw a lot of blackwood planted around the North Island. Most of it is unmanaged aesthetic plantings, with scraggly blackwood trees being the result. I saw only a few blackwood plantations, including Malcolm and Ian’s. No one has ever said blackwood is easy to grow, even in NZ. But with care, commitment and a focus on the Three Principles it can be done. Tasmanian blackwood obviously loves growing in the north island of NZ. It’s the perfect climate and soils.

The main challenge now is not the growing of blackwood but creating and building markets. The hope is that as markets develop more trees will be planted.

Ian Brown has approximately 4,000 cubic metres of high quality blackwood sawlogs available for sale over the next 5-10 years and he needs to find a buyer. The buyer needs to pay a good price but also share a commitment to the future of the New Zealand blackwood industry. Is there anybody out there?

New Zealand is a very inspiring place for a battle-weary forester.

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.

https://www.namm.org/thenammshow/2018/exhibitor-news/dw-drums-debuts-pure-tasmanian-timber

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.).

http://www.dwdrums.com/

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.………..

NOTES:

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

http://atlas.cid.harvard.edu/explore/?country=166&partner=undefined&product=undefined&productClass=HS&startYear=undefined&target=Product&year=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.

http://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-and-resources/open-data-and-forecasting/forestry/wood-product-markets/historic-indicative-new-zealand-radiata-pine-log-prices/

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.

NZpinelogpricesdata25

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!!