Category Archives: Maton Guitars

The Guitar: Tracing the Grain Back to the Tree

Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren

https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/G/bo81816665.html

I finally got around to reading this book by Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren.

It will never make the Best Seller List, which is a shame because every person who owns a guitar should read it. That small piece of wooden magic in your hands has a very uncertain future.

Which is why every music festival should have a focus on encouraging farmers to grow tonewoods. Before the magic disappears!

https://theconversation.com/friday-essay-the-guitar-industrys-hidden-environmental-problem-and-the-people-trying-to-fix-it-159211

The Table of Contents gives a good idea of how the story goes.

Introduction

Part 1 Guitar Worlds

1 * The Guitar

2 * The Factory

3 * The Sawmill

Part 2 Into the Forest

4 * Rosewood

5 * Sitka

6 * Koa

7 * Guitar Futures

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index

The book is more a social/spiritual than a economic/resource oriented journey, which may appeal to guitar players.

Unfortunately the book does peddle some of the myths of the guitar world, such as

  • guitars can only be made from large, old, slow-growing trees; and
  • guitars can only be made from a small range of tree species.

Neither of these myths is true!

Cole Clark Guitars is just one example that breaks both of these myths.

What is obvious from reading the book is that the guitar industry is in serious trouble.

The book focuses strongly on what was historically, and is no more.

Having plundered the best of the best of the worlds forests, the guitar industry is running out of resource. At least a resource that they have been accustomed too = large, big, old trees!

If solid wood acoustic guitars are to have a future, makers (and consumers/artists) must shift from 2 piece backs and soundboards, to 3 and 4 piece. Big old trees will no longer be available in any volume.

Secondly, the guitar industry and tonewood suppliers must actively encourage, support and reward the planting and growing of tonewoods. Taylor Guitars and Pacific Rim Tonewoods are the only examples I know of who are doing this. Others must follow!

Thirdly, as I said, every music festival should have a focus on encouraging farmers to grow tonewoods.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Koa, recognising the many parallels between Koa and its Tasmanian cousin Blackwood. The one exception is that whilst Koa has turned the corner to a brighter future, Blackwood remains bound to its colonial past of plunder and waste.

The book finishes on a bright note, giving us the impression that the entire global guitar industry has experienced an environmental epiphany. If this is so there is little evidence of it on the guitar company web pages; Taylor and CF Martin being two exceptions. This is true even here in Australia.

A big part of the problem is that most guitar companies (and more so tonewood suppliers) are small businesses that do not have the resources to put into securing their future tonewood supplies. The very existence of these guitar/tonewood companies is premised on the ready availability of plundered cheap tonewoods. The idea of Maton or Cole Clark engaging with farmers to plant tonewoods is completely off the radar!

So the key question is – how will the global guitar industry secure its future supply of tonewoods? Will only the big companies survive the resource Armageddon?

This question is not asked in the book, nor is it answered! Not directly anyway!!

The answer will be in using smaller wood sizes and a larger range of different tree species.

But who will grow these trees, where and at what price?

I see no evidence as yet to link the guitar markets with landowners.

The same problem is equally true of wood furniture makers. They have no future!!

One gets the impression from the book that the only way the guitar industry will survive is if we suspend standard western economic theory. If that is the case the guitar industry has no hope.

One aspect of the book I found difficult was the very strong anti-monoculture rant. Never mind that all our food is grown in industrial monocultures. How else do we feed 7.8 billion humans?? Native forests are ecosystems that should be managed as such, but trees as commercial crops are just that. They are no different to apple orchards or cow ranches or corn farms. A blackwood plantation that covers 5-10 hectares or even 50 ha is a commercial decision made by the landowner.

The book provides no discussion of forest certification systems (eg. FSC, PEFC). Will certification guarantee future supplies of quality tonewoods? Absolutely not!!

Will the book change the global tonewood market or the guitar industry?

It’s a shame that the book was not launched by the Musicwood Alliance – assuming the Musicwood Alliance still exists. Beside Bob Taylor and Taylor Guitars, no one is telling the marketplace what the situation is.

Right now guitar players everywhere should be mobilising and marching in the streets demanding action.

Ultimately it is consumers and artists who will determine the future of the guitar industry. The more they know and understand what is happening the better it will be for everyone.

Maton Guitars Tonewood Guide

MatonTonewoods

Maton Guitars of Melbourne, Australia has released a stunning new brochure on tonewoods.

https://maton.com.au/timbers

But does the marketing work?

Is it the message for the 21st century?

Whilst we acknowledge and have a deep respect for traditional tonewoods, we are also excited by the potential we have discovered in non-traditional (alternative) woods.

The musical instrument making community is becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of availability of some of their favorite traditional tonewoods. … it would be environmentally irresponsible to keep utilising these timbers without looking for alternatives.

We are fortunate enough to have the support of many of Australia’s most knowledgeable and skilled timber gatherers and continue to try new species….

This last statement completely bowls me over!

Maton still don’t get it do they?

Tonewood is about hunting and gathering??? WTF!!

I thought we had left those days behind. I thought this was the 21st century.

If you want tonewood for the future you need to plant, grow and harvest trees. It is not about hunting and gathering! Those forests have gone!

In the 21st century the future of tonewoods is about THE GROWER – who manages the forest, who plants the trees!

To their credit Maton devotes a beautiful two page spread to blackwood. But the idea that we should be actively growing blackwood for tonewood production still hasn’t entered Maton’s conscience.

MatonTonewoodsBWD

In all 15 tonewoods are described, but very little about where the wood comes from, who grows it or whether is it sustainable. Once upon a time I would have mentioned certification (PEFC/FSC) but my faith in forest certification is gone.

In today’s market it’s not enough to just say “it’s not rosewood” or “it’s alternative”.

The whole point of the “alternative tonewoods” story is not just to demonstrate the woods have good acoustic and aesthetic properties, but that they come from ethical, sustainable, profitable (for the grower) sources.

Maton needs to demonstrate commitment not just to using alternative tonewoods, but to supporting those who grow these quality timbers.

“Gathering” isn’t good enough.

Maton Guitars was a pioneer in the use of alternative tonewoods long before they became important.

It’s now time for Maton to take the next step in their commitment.

Unfortunately this glossy brochure just doesn’t do it!

PS. In their defense most other guitar makers are on the same page as Maton.

 

Timbers with a sustainable timbre

Kirby

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?

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/07/19/unintentional-path-dependence-australian-guitar-manufacturing-bunya-pine-and-legacies-of-forestry-decisions-and-resource-stewardship/

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

http://stand.uow.edu.au/sustainable-guitar-timbers/

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?

Enjoy!

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!

So here is a video of the new all-blackwood EBW70c from Maton Guitars courtesy of The Acoustic Centre in Melbourne, Victoria:

Nice guitar!

Here’s another video from Music Junction in Melbourne:

This new Blackwood Series from Maton seems to be creating quite a stir.

Enjoy!

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?

Sunday morning eye candy

Here are some beautiful photos of a top-of-the-range Maton acoustic guitar from the Guitar Factory in Parramatta, Sydney, featuring some stunning fiddleback blackwood.

http://www.guitarfactory.com.au/CatalogueRetrieve.aspx?ProductID=9576579&A=SearchResult&SearchID=8509977&ObjectID=9576579&ObjectType=27

http://maton.com.au/product/w.a.-may-custom

Designed as a tribute to our founder, Bill May and to bring the best of our heritage and our guitar making skills together, the W.A May is a guitar for the connoisseur.

Victorian Blackwood (in our opinion the best tone wood available) back and sides combine with blackwood neck and AAA spruce face to produce a huge sounding dreadnought guitar. Add to that our unique Custom Shop voicing and craftsmanship, you have a guitar worthy of the name W.A May

That it features Victorian blackwood is fine by me.

It’s almost too good to play!

Enjoy!

Maton Guitars update

It’s been a while since I’ve done a story on Melbourne-based guitar maker Maton, renown for it’s blackwood guitars. Here are two good stories.

Firstly some eye candy.

The recently (?) released Maton BB1200 DLX is an absolute beauty.

http://maton.com.au/product/bb1200-dlx

Check these out –

Maton BB1200DLX

And

Maton BB1200DLX 2

[Click on this image to see the larger view and appreciate the real blackwood beauty!]

This guitar just screams the beauty of blackwood. Yes it’s Victorian Otways blackwood but blackwood nevertheless. Here’s a video review.

Imagine your farm-grown blackwood ending up here, looking this good! Something to be proud of!

Secondly Maton Guitars are now also using Tasmanian as well as their traditional Otways blackwood. The new Maton SRS 70 acoustic guitar is an example.

http://maton.com.au/product/srs70

Some images:

Maton SRS70 1 Maton SRS70 2

And a video review:

Do Maton’s want to help secure their future supply of blackwood? Now how do we transmit this blatant market passion for blackwood on to Tasmanian farmers?

Any ideas?

Another guitar story

Following on from the Cort Guitars story here’s another guitar story that recently appeared in ABC Business News website.

A great little story (video) about renowned Melbourne-based Maton Guitars.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-04/australias-maton-the-guitar-to-the-stars-wont-be/5298888

The Sound of Business

A story posted yesterday on the Business Spectator website. One of their series on Australian family businesses. Not so much a story about blackwood, but given the importance of Melbourne-based Maton Guitars in the commercial development of blackwood as a internationally recognised tonewood I think it’s a great story. Plus I always enjoy reading Alan Kohler’s articles. Thankyou Matons and Mr Kohler.

http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2013/10/31/family-business/sound-business