Category Archives: Taylor Guitars

The Green Shoots of Recovery

Green Shoots

Here’s a great article in the April edition (Issue 129, p. 41-46) of Acoustic magazine where Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars talks about sustainable tonewoods.

http://www.acousticmagazine.com/

Green Shoots

In the article Bob Taylor makes some excellent observations and comments which I fully support. Here’s my selection:

there is plenty that smaller guitar manufacturers can do to promote sustainability. “Each guitar maker has the ability to do something,” he says. “If a guitar builder is large like Taylor, they should do ethical sourcing of wood and replenishing. A small luthier cannot replenish, but they can ethically source wood. One part of ethical sourcing is to care about the quality of life and the pay of the people closest to the wood. We must each know that our wood is coming from places where laws are followed and people are paid”.

Totally agree with this comment. I find it extraordinary there are so many luthiers out there more than happy to help keep plundering the worlds rainforests. Even in Tasmania and Australia this is true!

And the same goes for consumers! Please stop plundering the worlds rainforests!

If people think that growing trees is or should be charitable work, then they don’t understand sustainability at all. Are tomatoes sustainable? Of course they are, because it’s profitable to grow them. We just have to make trees profitable to grow. This will happen in many different forms, because in many industries like construction lumber or plantation teak, it is already profitable. Small operations such as our Paniolo in Hawaii, or Crelicam in Cameroon, attract attention. This magazine is interested, as are the readers, and so are some industrialists or landowners. We can· show that it can be profitable if you’re in the right situation to do so. In the case of ebony, we have to start it with investment from us, which looks like charity really, but others will be able to profit from it someday, and the sustainable cycle can start. Without selling something there is no sustainability.

But I do think it’s possible to farm guitar wood, if I can be so basic in my description.

A huge round of applause for these comments!!

That’s it! It’s all about profitable tree growing. Unless and until tree growing is profitable there will be no tonewoods in the future. Bob Taylor understands this.

That means paying higher prices than what we pay now for plundered wood.

 

This move [the recent CITES regulations around rosewoods] has already had an effect on Taylor’s guitars: “All the rosewoods we use will be used in lesser quantities and on more expensive guitars. Why? Because there is expense associated with using the wood and exporting and importing both the wood and the guitar. That expense for permits is the same for an expensive or a cheap guitar. Consequently, we’ll see fewer1ow-priced rosewood guitars in the market.

As rosewood is one of the major tonewoods used worldwide, this means that other species must now come into the market to replace the reduced supply of rosewood.

“no [tonewood] species now can be sustainable without a proper planting programme”.

Here in Tasmania we have no blackwood planting plan. In fact we have no blackwood plan at all. All we have is a plan to continue to plunder our public native forests using taxpayers money. For details see here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/05/08/a-strategic-growth-plan-for-the-tasmanian-forests-fine-timber-and-wood-fibre-industry/

“I often say that most guitar buyers are environmentalists, except on the day they spend their hard-earned money on their dream guitar. But I forgive them and understand. If we work together, we will find a new excitement. We are working hard to make beautiful guitars that please all the senses”.

Farm grown Tasmanian blackwood has the potential to become a profitable sustainable tonewood, but it will be a long slow road ahead under the current circumstances.

Bob Taylor – Searching the World for Sustainable Tonewoods

Bob Taylor, President of Taylor Guitars, and a group of friends are currently on a world tour looking for sustainable tonewoods.

Bob is posting regular updates of his tour on Youtube. You can watch them here:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIa-kz_oNaiTYa5ZWKYsKSML5eEAIQKu6

Traditional tonewoods such as rosewood and mahogany are disappearing fast due to overlogging.

Bob Taylor consequently has two enormous challenges if Taylor Guitars is to survive and prosper into the future:

Firstly he needs to find sustainable sources of new tonewoods with which to build quality guitars.

Secondly he needs to convince a guitar-buying public to say goodbye to traditional tonewoods (perhaps a Farewell Party is needed) and welcome the new sustainable alternatives.

Neither of these challenges will be easy.

Trees take a long time (30+ years) to grow so Bob needs to be thinking 30+ years ahead. How many of us have to think 30+ years ahead just so that we have a job tomorrow?

Now that is a rare challenge!

But he also needs tonewoods in the short term. Traditional tonewoods will be gone well before any trees planted today can be harvested. So the tonewood market over the next 30+ years will be a mixed bag, until people start planting tonewoods to produce a regular, managed supply.

Despite my efforts unfortunately Tasmania is not on Bob Taylor’s itinerary.

In terms of forestry opportunity Tasmania has a poor reputation around the world. The rhetoric here may be “world’s best practice” but that is definitely not how the rest of the world sees us.

Bob Taylor may love Tasmanian blackwood as a tonewood, but as yet he is not prepared to commit his time and energy trying to deal with the many challenges facing forestry in Tasmania.

It will be interesting to watch the videos and see what Bob Taylor & Co discover on their journey.

Enjoy!

Taylor 2008 Spring Limited Editions

426ce

In my last spotlight on Taylor Guitars use of Tasmanian blackwood I described the 2008 Spring Limited Edition models as enigmatic.

The reason is it is difficult to find any information on these models.

As far as I understand only 2 Limited Edition models were issued Spring 2008, both of them featuring Tasmanian blackwood. But Taylor’s Wood & Steel magazines for 2008 make no mention of any Spring Limited Edition releases; and today the internet contains little residual record of their release.

Taylor’s own website makes no mention of these models.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

I have been aware of the all-blackwood 426ce model for many years but only recently became aware of the Sitka-topped 416ce model thanks to my correspondence with Taylor Guitars.

Both of these models are essentially the same GS (Grand Symphony) design with the 416ce having a Sitka spruce top and the 426ce having a blackwood top, otherwise they are identical. Production was 325 and 676 units respectively (1001 total).

Compared to the 2007 GS4e these two models were only available with the cutaway body and with better quality appointments such as the abalone rosette.

The 2008 Spring Limited 426ce was also the subject of an “Ask Bob” letter in the 2014 Wood & Steel Vol. 78 (p. 6). Both the letter and Bob Taylor’s response say a lot about the potential of blackwood as a tonewood. Here is the letter:

I picked up a used [Grand Symphony] 426 with Tasmanian blackwood back, sides and top. After playing it a few weeks, it seemed to meld with my playing style (I got used to how to fingerpick it), and I’m one of those people who believes that good guitars will adjust themselves to a player’s sound. It sounds absolutely stunning with the kinds of blues I play. I think it sounds better than any all-koa, mahogany or walnut guitar I’ve heard. I’d bet you could find a pretty good market for this model with acoustic blues players looking for that really old-fashioned sound that can be elusive. Have you considered making this a regular model?

Jim S.

And here is Bob Taylor’s response:

Actually, Jim, in some ways we prefer the sound quality of Tasmanian blackwood to koa. Both are acacia trees and are nearly identical, or as close as cousins can be to one another, but blackwood has a very nice sound. We have been considering using blackwood on a regular basis for many years, but the challenge is getting a regular supply of guitar-grade wood. We have spent considerable time and energy in the country, working and developing relationships. We want to obtain wood in the most ethical and environmentally sound manner, so we’ve backed away from the traditional logging supply in favor of more sustainable methods that benefit local people. Tasmania has so much going for it with the species available there, and the added plus is that it’s a well-developed country rather than a poverty-stricken country. This condition puts many wonderful rules in place, and we are now working on some wonderful possibilities for obtaining blackwood. Currently we have a great relationship with a man who gets blackwood in the most ideal way. You can expect to see at least limited runs of guitars with this wood for years to come. Someday it may also become a standard model, but it’s too soon to tell at this point.

So here we are 3 years later, Tasmanian blackwood is now part of regular production at Taylor, but the 2008 426ce Ltd is still the only all-blackwood model produced in volume by Taylor to date. All-blackwood Custom or Prototype guitars are occasionally made. Perhaps they want to avoid market confusion with their highly successful Koa “K” Series:

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/features/series/koa

Here’s a video review of the 426ce:

My next spotlight will be on the 2009 Spring Limited Edition models.

Previous Taylor spotlights:

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

Taylor GS4e 2007 Fall Limited Edition

Taylor GS4e 2007 Fall Limited Edition

GS4e

My trip down Taylor Memory Lane continues with a spotlight on the next blackwood issue. Following the introduction of Tasmanian blackwood into the Taylor Guitars limited production in 2004 the next appearance was in 2007 with the GS4e Fall Limited Edition.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

In contrast to the abundant 2004 range of Fall Limited Edition models, only five (5) Fall limited release models were issued in 2007, with the GS4e being the only blackwood model (Wood & Steel Vol. 53, p. 16).

Production of the GS4e was only 400 units.

The Grand Symphony (GS) model was introduced by Taylor in 2006, designed to fit between the GA (Grand Auditorium) and the Jumbo. The Jumbo itself was replaced by the GO (Grand Orchestra) in 2013.

The GS4e was a plain basic GS model with a RRP of $US2,198. The specifications are:

Model GS4e 2007 Fall Limited
Type/Shape  Grand Symphony
Back & Sides  Tasmanian blackwood
Top  Sitka spruce
Soundhole Rosette  Plastic
Neck  American tropical mahogany
Fretboard  Ebony
Fretboard Inlay  4mm mother of pearl dots
Headstock Overlay  Indian rosewood
Binding  Cream
Bridge  Ebony
Nut & Saddle  Tusq
Tuning Machines  Chrome-plated Taylor Tuners
Electronics Taylor Expression System (ES)
Strings  Elixir Medium Gauge Strings
Scale Length  25-1/2″
Truss Rod  standard Taylor truss rod
Neck Width at Nut  1-3/4″
Number of Frets 20
Fretboard Radius  15″
Bracing  forward-shifted scalloped x-bracing
Finish  Satin with Gloss Top
Body Dimensions  19-7/8″L x 11-1/4″W (upper bout) 9-5/8″W (waist) 16-1/8″W (lower bout) x 4-5/8″D
Overall Length  41″

For the next 4 consecutive years from 2007 to 2010 Taylor included Tasmanian blackwood in their Limited Release issues with a total of 9 models. My next spotlight will feature the enigmatic 2008 Spring Limited Edition models.

Previous Taylor spotlights:

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

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

taylor355l712s

While still on the Taylor theme, I became curious as to when Taylor Guitars first introduced Tasmanian blackwood to their production.

Here’s an extract from the 2004 Fall Wood & Steel (Vol 42, p. 16) magazine published by Taylor:

Inasmuch as we love introducing new stuff for you to discover and explore, we are pleased to unveil a tonewood that is sure to catch your eye and your ear: Tasmanian blackwood. This beautiful wood shares some characteristics with its Hawaiian cousin, koa, in that its variegated coloring runs from a deep tawny to a light golden brown and is accentuated by rich dark grain patterns. Also like koa, Tasmanian blackwood has a warm, mellow tone highlighted by complex overtones. The more you know about this tonewood, the more there is to like.

Tasmanian blackwood’s charismatic visual allure will make the 300 Series Fall Limited Editions very special indeed. Each guitar will feature satin finish, mother-of-pearl fretboard markers, and a black/white/black fiber purfling on the body binding and in the soundhole rosette.

The 2004 Fall Limited Editions included 10 Tasmanian blackwood models in the 300 series, including three 12-string models. These had solid Tasmanian blackwood back and sides & Sitka spruce top. The models and production numbers were:

MODEL PRODUCTION
310-L7 Dreadnought 6-string 116
310ce-L7 Dreadnought 6-string with cutaway and ES 320
312ce-L7 Grand Concert 6-string with cutaway and ES 65
314-L7 Grand Auditorium 6-string 40
314ce-L7 Grand Auditorium 6-string with cutaway and ES 471
315-L7 Jumbo 6-string 5
315ce-L7 Jumbo 6-string with cutaway and ES (a) 34
354ce-L7 Grand Auditorium 12-string with cutaway and ES 37
355-L7 Jumbo 12-string 15
355ce-L7 Jumbo 12-string with cutaway and ES 47

(a) Model not listed in Wood & Steel Vol. 42.

These 1150 guitars may one day become iconic collector’s items in the new world of sustainable acoustic guitars.

Here’s a video of the 2004 355-L7 Jumbo 12 string Tasmanian blackwood:

And here’s one of these rare jumbos currently for sale:

https://reverb.com/item/3345670-taylor-355-l7-limited-edition-1-of-15-12-string-2004-w-taylor-hard-case

(NOTE TO REVERB USERS: If you are searching for blackwood guitars on reverb the search only picks up “blackwood” if it is in the title of the advertisement. If blackwood is in the text and not in the title, it will not appear in your reverb search results. The above 355 Jumbo is a good example of this faulty search program. You will also need to search by make and model to find blackwood guitars.)

For 13 years Taylor Guitars have been championing Tasmanian blackwood to the world. Thank you Taylor Guitars!

Thanks also to Taylor Guitars for their assistance with this article.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

Taylor Custom GS Grand Symphony Tasmanian Blackwood

tcgs2017b

Here is a stunning custom Taylor GS all Tasmanian blackwood currently for sale in the UK at Sound Affects Premier, Ormskirk, Lancashire.

Ok its £5298 or $AU8640.

Ouch!

But this thing is eye candy! I bet it sounds even better than it looks.

http://www.soundaffectspremier.com/guitars-c93/acoustic-guitars-c96/custom-gs-grand-symphony-tasmanian-blackwood-electro-acoustic-guitar-p6325

The specifications are:

  • Grand Symphony
  • Florentine cutaway
  • Tasmanian Blackwood top, back & sides
  • Mahogany neck
  • Special Ebony fretboard
  • 2-piece back configuration with .200 backstrip
  • Ebony headstock overlay
  • Performance bracing
  • 1-11/16² nut
  • Short scale (24-7/8²)
  • V- carve neck profile
  • Slotted peghead
  • ES2 electronics
  • Tusq nut
  • Micarta saddle
  • Clear pickguard included in case
  • Figured Maple body & fretboard binding
  • Maple, single ring rosette with bound soundhole
  • Gloss back & sides finish
  • Gloss top finish
  • Satin neck finish

Worldwide shipping is available.

I love the blackwood top, the Florentine cutaway and the slotted headstock.

Guitar by Taylor Guitars:

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

Tasmanian blackwood supplied by Tasmanian Tonewoods:

http://tasmaniantonewoods.com/

I hope this one finds a good home.

Go check it out.

Plantation Koa tonewood in Hawaii

Because traditionally all tonewoods have come from native forests from trees that are hundreds of years old, the tonewood market is pretty obsessed with the opinion that no good tonewood will ever be grown in a plantation environment. It’s almost a religious dogma!

But a handful of people are out to prove otherwise.

My own research on blackwood wood quality and genetics shows that wood quality in blackwood is more about genetics and less about environment or speed of growth.

Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars and Steve McMinn from Pacific Rim Tonewoods are two people out to show that plantation wood, combined with good research, selection and breeding, will provide a significant source of quality tonewood in the future.

Here’s a great video of what these people are looking to achieve in Hawaii with Acacia koa.

I would love to see a video of the story of making the young planted koa trees into guitars that is mentioned in this video. I think that is a significant story that the tonewood market needs to see and understand.

Paniolo Tonewoods has been working with Haleakala Ranch and Native Nursery on the island of Maui, Hawaii to selectively harvest and to propagate koa.  Here, Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars, Scott Meidell of Haleakala Ranch, and Steve McMinn of Pacific Rim Tonewoods, discuss this exciting project.

http://paniolotonewoods.com/

https://www.taylorguitars.com/

http://pacificrimtonewoods.com/

Paniolo Tonewoods, a joint venture between Pacific Rim Tonewoods and Taylor Guitars, is a new project based in Hawaii, aimed at bringing koa and other ethically-sourced tonewoods to market.

Native only to Hawaii, koa has long been prized for its beauty and versatility. It has traditionally been the wood of canoes, surfboards and guitars.  Koa forests have been much diminished, and good koa lumber is now scarce. All over the world, hardwoods are becoming more difficult to responsibly harvest, yet the demand for beautiful wooden instruments keeps growing.

Paniolo Tonewoods is dedicated to meeting this growing demand with good forest management, reforestation, and innovation.  With Hawaiian groups, we are collaborating on new ways to plant, grow, and manage koa forests to ensure their vitality.

If only I had a few benefactors like Bob and Steve supporting farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood.

PS. I especially like Bob Taylor talking about the “heart and rind of the melon”, and the fact that the guitar industry has to stop only using the “heart” and tossing the rest away. I shall await the arrival of plain-grain maple guitars with much interest!