Category Archives: Stringfest

Deloraine Stringfest Update

Stringfest Logo

The Deloraine Stringfest Facebook page Wednesday announced there would be no festival this year.

We are currently reviewing our options and dates for 2017.

That’s a shame.

Looking back at my comments on last year’s festival I still think those comments remain relevant.

Developing a broader audience from the non-musical side of the festival, so that the festival lives up to its objectives (and avoids becoming yet another music festival) is essential – but problematic!

Given the highly contentious and politicised nature of anything forestry related in Tasmania, putting more of the Festival focus on timber, timber growing and timber craftsmanship becomes difficult.

Where does the wood come from? Public native forest, World Heritage Area, lake salvage, farm salvage, commercial private grower??

Is the wood certified? Is it sustainable? Is it profitable?

All of this immediately generates tension and conflict because so many people have such a wide diversity of opinions and expectations.

How can the Festival navigate this social, political and economic minefield and survive?

But for the Festival to live up to its objectives that is exactly what it must do:

The Aims of Deloraine StringFest Tasmania are:

  • To present a festival of stringed instruments, showcasing Tasmanian luthiers, Tasmanian tone-woods and instruments;
  • To recognise Tasmanian instrumentalists and provide a social gathering for musicians, both professional and amateur;
  • To highlight the craft of luthiers and the pre-eminence of Tasmanian timbers used world-wide to create quality crafted stringed instruments; and
  • To provide ongoing recognition of Deloraine as a centre for craft and arts excellence.


The Festival must lead to the future and not be bound by the forest policies, practices and conflicts of the past.

A part of that future is profitable, sustainable farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood.

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 & World Heritage Area logging


This was going to happen sooner or later. But the Deloraine Stringfest is now becoming associated with Tasmanian State Government forest policy and the logging of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). This is courtesy of the Premier Will Hodgman and his press release associated with the recent launch of the 2015 Stringfest.

We want to ensure craftsmen like Daniel can continue to create instruments from Tasmanian timbers, which is why we are committed to rebuilding the forest industry.

As many people know, State forest policy now includes the planned logging of special timbers including Tasmanian tonewoods from the TWWHA. See my recent blog:


Daniel Brauchli certainly doesn’t support current Government forest policy, but the Premier seems happy to risk damaging the reputations of our craftpersons and artists.

The proposed logging of the TWWHA will become yet another divisive and destructive episode in the long running Tasmanian forestry wars.

Last year at Stringfest 2014 the elephant in the room was the ongoing supply of tonewoods to sustain the festival. That elephant was a mere calf.

This year the elephant has grown considerably into a cow elephant. The prospect of the Festival becoming associated with the logging of tonewoods from the TWWHA will see the elephant become a rampaging bull. It will destroy the Festival.

The Deloraine Stringfest depends on attracting major performing artists. Once the Festival becomes associated with TWWHA tonewoods, no major (and many minor) artists will want to be associated with the Festival.

End of Festival!

By all means please come along and enjoy the 2015 Deloraine Festival, but spot the elephant hiding in the room, or wandering the streets of Deloraine with deliberate intent.

It may even be hiding behind me. Come and look!

The Deloraine Stringfest is a fantastic festival, but given the highly politicised and conflict-driven nature of forestry in Tasmania, the future of Stringfest hangs in the balance.

Stringfest has now become a political weapon. The reputations of those associated with the Festival are now at risk.

Say “No” to World Heritage tonewoods!

[Come along and talk to me about conflict-free, farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood.]

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.

This is a magnificent blackwood plantation with plenty of unique features and lessons to learn. There are plenty of opportunities to repeat this same success on farms across northern Tasmania.

Come and find out whether growing commercial blackwood is for you.

Transport will be by bus so places will be limited.

This is your chance to see and learn the art of growing commercial blackwood.

The visit will be on the Sunday the 22nd of March (Stringfest runs from 20-22 March 2015). The bus will depart Deloraine at 9.00am and be back in Deloraine by about 12.30pm. Hopefully we will have about 1-1.5 hours onsite to learn and discuss issues around successfully growing Tasmanian blackwood in plantations.

Come and see the tonewood of the future.

Contact me on m. 0428 754 233 to book your place.


Go Deloraine Stringfest! – a reply

I thought this recent comment to one of my earlier blogs was worthy of a more full response.

While I believe Gordon’s point of view might be an important point of view, it is certainly not the only point of view. In fact, I have some deep reservations about what Gordon is on about, not just about the future for instrument makers, but for craft and furniture makers in general.

Plantation timber is not ideal for every one, in fact, for some it is just plain wrong.

I believe it is of almost no interest to artistic wood turners, for example. They usually like the most gnarly, twisted, knotted, stressed and complex timber they can find, and it is almost totally without exception found to be old-growth timber.

Many users like their timber to be old, slow-growing, stable, rich, dark, and close in grain structure. I have never seen plantation-grown timber of any sort that looks like that. While some luthiers would definitely like straight-grained timber, there are plenty of others, such as the solid-body electric guys who want the most spectacular timber they can find, and I can give examples.

I would have less of a problem with Gordon if he were to not be saying that all the old-growth Blackwood forests should be locked up so that it could give a free kick to the fledgling Blackwood plantation growers – even John Gay did not ask for that!

Hi George,

Thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear from you.

Here’s my response to your concerns:

  1. No one has ever claimed that my views are supreme. I openly welcome other opinions and ideas.
  2. The wood qualities you describe “most gnarly, twisted, knotted, stressed and complex timber they can find” might appeal to a small number of artisans and craftspeople. But by far the major markets for blackwood – veneer, furniture, cabinetry, flooring, and commercial (as distinct from custom) instrument makers all prefer straight-grained wood for its uniformity, stability and ease of machining and workability. Feature grain such as fiddleback blackwood is also highly prized by these markets, but has only ever been available in very limited ad hoc supply anyway. Supply has never been guaranteed. New Zealand instrument makers are already using plantation blackwood.
  3. Plantation blackwood is my main focus because it is the best way to meet the dominant market demand and is the only way to expand and develop the blackwood industry. But I also have a focus on the remnant blackwood forest that exists on private land and how this can be better managed to improve productivity and value. With time (and perhaps even right now) this resource could easily supply the type of wood you describe including featured grain material. In fact it is already supplying the specialised craft and custom market.
  4. The genetic potential of blackwood is huge. A blackwood selection and breeding program could well provide improved, specialised wood properties of consistent quality to meet a number of different markets. These could be based around wood hardness, density and colour and perhaps even figured grain. Such genetic potential will only ever be realised once blackwood cultivation is well established and profitable. We are currently a long way from reaching that point!
  5. if he were to not be saying that all the old-growth Blackwood forests should be locked up”. George can you please identify where I have said this? I am more than happy for public native forest to be commercially managed PROVIDED it is done properly and profitably. I have certainly said that Tasmania has clearly demonstrated over the past 30 years that we do not have the commitment nor the skills to commercially manage our public native forests to meet social, ecological, political and commercial objectives. Every week our newspaper headlines scream this fact to the world. Many Tasmanians are thoroughly sick and tired of it.

I am not against your interests at all George. I want good professional, fully commercial and profitable forest management. I want a fair go and a “level playing field” for both public AND private tree growers. That’s all I want. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently it is.

Right now the policies and practices of the Government and Forestry Tasmania are deliberately undermining my attempts to build a private commercial blackwood venture. In fact your precious public native forest blackwood resource is being wiped out by overcutting! Does this concern you at all George?

When I look at the forest industry I look at as many aspects as I can, not just the quality of the wood resource. Right now there is very little about the forest industry and Tasmanian State forest policy that I find positive or useful. Unlike others I do not ignore the numerous political, social and commercial challenges facing the industry. I certainly do not support the use of taxpayer funds to log Tasmania’s conservation reserves for special timbers. Such stupidity will foment community conflict the likes of which we haven’t seen since the dark days of the Franklin River blockade.

The Deloraine Stringfest is a fantastic festival that in time will become a unique international event, highlighting the complete supply chain for stringed instruments from grower to artist. It has significant appeal to a wide audience. But while Stringfest sits within the current political, social and commercial malaise that is the forest industry in its current form, it will struggle to gain momentum and support.

It is well and truly time for fresh thinking and a new start.

That’s where I want to head George. A new beginning and a new vision.

Forestry is business. It is not about community service, or taxpayer subsidies whilst we are sacking teachers and nurses and closing schools. Forestry is about building wealth, not destroying it.

Go Stringfest!

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.


More Stringfest Thoughts

In the review of my experiences and thoughts on the inaugural Deloraine Stringfest I said the major element missing were the proud, passionate and profitable tree-growing farmers – the first link in the chain from tree to instrument, farmer to artist. I was the only one exhibiting at Stringfest representing existing and future growers of blackwood and other special timbers.

From a business/market process point of view the Stringfest exhibitors (luthiers and tonewood merchants) were all pushing in the one direction. The luthiers were promoting and selling their instruments to players and performers, while tonewood merchants were promoting and selling their timbers to the luthiers – links in a chain. But there was little action in the opposite direction.

Why do we need action in the opposite direction? What action?

Markets work by an interplay/tension between supply and demand. The push and pull of the marketplace. If we are to encourage farmers to grow our special timbers for us then we need to provide as much incentive and information as possible. Trees are a challenging investment at the best of times so Stringfest provides an ideal forum for providing market, price and demand information in BOTH directions back to the farmer/tree grower all the way to the consumer/artist. All that passion, dedication and commitment can help drive some significant market activity.

At Stringfest the tonewood merchants should be looking to both sell their tonewood timbers to luthiers AND buy suitable trees/logs from farmers, and establish long-term relationships with tree-growing farmers. It would have been great to see some “LOGS WANTED” signs showing at Stringfest. Even some information telling people about what goes to making a good tonewood log, species, sizes, indicative prices, etc. The average farmer has absolutely no idea about the tonewood market. This needs to change and change quickly, so the more information the better.

Similarly Stringfest provides an ideal opportunity for luthiers to talk to tonewood merchants about their wood requirements and indicative prices. I saw plenty of this happening at the weekend, hopefully with some positive outcomes.

At Stringfest I spoke to a number of people who had trees they were interested in selling and I pointed them towards the tonewood merchants. I heard of a number of follow-ups being arranged which was great. At the moment the Blackwood Growers Coop remains more a dream than a reality. As the Coop develops then building relationships and markets with sawmillers and tonewood merchants will be an important goal. Hopefully in the future I will have “LOGS FOR SALE” as part of my Stringfest display.

Stringfest was not really marketed at the farming community but the farming community needs to be brought into the audience in future.

The question of the future supply of our special timbers was definitely the “elephant in the room” at Stringfest, especially given the extraordinary political events on the Friday. Stringfest provides a brilliant focus and opportunity to help resolve that question and remove the elephant once and for all. I’m already thinking about next years festival.


Go Deloraine Stringfest!

What a hoot!

I had a fantastic time as an exhibitor at the inaugural Deloraine Stingfest.

It was fantastic meeting so many people in the industry as tonewood merchants, luthiers, and artists. It was also fantastic meeting and talking to so many of the public who came along. I had many great conversations with people.

I met many farmers and landowners who expressed interest in becoming commercial blackwood growers. I will be contacting the most enthusiastic to arrange a visit, and hope to get phone calls or emails from many others.

I want to thank and congratulate the organisers and people who volunteered their time and talents to make Stringfest happen. And to the people of Deloraine who helped make the event such a success.

As an exhibitor I didn’t get to see much of the festival myself. But I saw 5.5 hours of absolutely brilliant performances on Saturday night. It was a long day but well worth it.

Stringfest definitely has the potential to become a major Tasmanian cultural and community event. It features so many aspects that attract and interest a wide audience. And there is no doubt about the quality, the passion and commitment.

From my point of view one major aspect missing (under-represented??) was the proud, passionate tree-growing farmers. I was there promoting that dream, that opportunity, but if Stringfest is to have a sustainable future then all the links in the chain from tree to instrument, from farmer to artist must be represented and promoted. This is especially true within the current political madness and conflict with the public native forest resource.

I spoke to a few people about the idea of having a mini-Stringfest stall at Agfest to help promote and build interest and relationships with the farming community; to help create that first link in the Stringfest chain. Some of us are discussing this idea to make it happen in 2015. Anyone interested?

Create the full chain from farm to stage and Stringfest could easily become a unique major international event.

Thanks to Kevin for buying the two display blackwood trees that I brought up from Hobart and didn’t want to bring back home. I hope they have found a good home.


Deloraine Stringfest Final Program

The final program for this weekends Deloraine Stringfest is available here:

Stringfest Program 2014 p1

Bigger than Ben Hur!!!

See you there!