Category Archives: Taylor Guitars

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!

Seasons Greetings

Another year gone.

It’s Christmas eve and time to wish you all a happy and safe festive season and a prosperous new year.

Instead of the usual review of the year, Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars has kindly provided a positive news story on which to end the year.

Taylor Guitars are partnering with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA):

to design a model of sustainable ebony production for their Crelicam sawmill in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Collaborating with the researchers of the Center for Tropical Research and UCLA’s first international affiliate, Congo Basin Institute, we will be developing a sustainable ebony logging and manufacturing model that is sensible in economic, ecological, political and legal contexts while at the same time maximizing the engagement of the local community.

https://www.facebook.com/taylorguitars/videos/10154828082742232/

To help fund the project the UCLA are seeking to raise $US15,000 in donations from the community.

So all us guitar and violin players out there here’s our chance to help put ebony back on the road to sustainability.

Do we want ebony fretboards for the future, and help the people of Cameroon? You bet we do!

If you make a $US3,000 donation one special donor will receive a Baby Taylor Guitar and get a tour of the Taylor Guitars Facility. I assume that is for US residents only.

https://spark.ucla.edu/project/3473

Good luck to the UCLA Undergraduate Research Team for Sustainable Ebony Production.

Happy donating.

See you in 2017!!

A Major Tonewood Milestone from Taylor Guitars

taylorblackwoodbaritones

The latest Wood & Steel (86) magazine from Taylor Guitars has a few interesting articles relevant to the blackwood market.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/wood-and-steel

The first is Bob Taylor’s column Bobspeak, which outlines a major milestone in the tonewood market. Taylor Guitars are now promoting guitars made using deliberately grown, not “native” wood.

This year we will make thousands of guitars using wood that was planted by man rather than having grown naturally in a forest. As a player you won’t be able to easily target these guitars to either avoid them or to embrace them because they’re completely legitimate and blend in with the choices of other guitars made from traditional forest wood. There’s not enough of this kind of wood to make all the guitars from it yet, but this is a huge breakthrough and signals a way forward. We are now starting our own tree-planting projects.

A huge breakthrough is absolutely on the mark!

Congratulations to Bob Taylor and the team!!

I’m looking forward to the day when I read an article in Wood & Steel about a tonewood grower. Perhaps it will be an article about a Tasmanian blackwood grower.

I hope you’re willing to hear a wood report from me often, nearly every time I write, because it’s become one of the most important aspects of my contribution to the world of guitars.

  • Bob Taylor, President

 

I think Bob Taylor is well on the way to having a significant wood supply and marketing advantage over his competitors.

 

The second article of note is the promotion of new Limited Edition baritone guitars on page 22 featuring mahogany tops and Tasmanian blackwood back and sides (see illustration above) as part of the 300 Series.

“A hardwood top like mahogany is really good, he says. “Blackwood is also a good fit — it’s responsive and keeps everything warm, yet has a clear focus to it. Together, the two woods are well suited for a baritone [guitar].”

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/326e-baritone-6-ltd

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/326e-baritone-8-ltd

 

The third article is a feature on bluegrass player Trey Hensley (p. 24). His latest CD collaboration with Dobro player Rob Ickes The Country Blues features a Taylor 510e Tasmanian blackwood guitar on every track.

“I’d never heard of blackwood,” he says. “It’s like mahogany on steroids!”

http://treyhensley.com/

http://www.robandtrey.com/albums/the-country-blues/

“I brought a bunch of guitars into the studio — rosewood, mahogany — but that one [Taylor 510e] really cut through the mix better than all the rest. I used it on the whole thing.”

The Taylor 510e was a 2014 Fall Limited Edition dreadnought model.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/510e-fltd

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2014/10/03/the-fall-limited-sweepstakes/

It is great to have such positive support for Tasmanian blackwood from Taylor Guitars, and their supplier Robert Mac Millan at Tasmanian Tonewoods.

http://tasmaniantonewoods.com/

Happy reading!

Guitaronomics: The Rising Cost of Tonewood

guitaronomics.jpg

Here is another article about the international tonewood market and the coming tonewood famine.

https://reverb.com/au/news/guitaronomics-the-rising-cost-of-tonewood

“Guitar enthusiasts love to talk about tonewood….. Rarely do the words sustainability or scarcity come up.

These terms, however, are now central to the lexicon of the guitar industry.”

The article features comments from three people in the tonewood market:

Chris Herrod of Luthiers Mercantile International [LMI], a major American tonewood retailer, which is seeing major changes in the tonewood market.

“LMI aims to provide as many “new” varieties [of tonewoods] they can find to offer alternatives to the classics while educating the customer base along the way.”

Perry Ormsby a small Perth [Australia]-based luthier provides us with this great quote:

“Using Tasmanian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) as a substitution [for Honduran mahogany] has been a game changer.”

“A close cousin to Hawaiian Koa, it is heavier than mahogany and difficult to work with, but it sounds great. It looks cool, and it’s Aussie,” Ormsby says.

“When his customers are educated about the wide range of wood possibilities he is using and and see the results, it makes them rethink everything they wanted out of their dream guitar.”

And finally Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars features prominently in the article.

“When the wood is in rare supply, the price goes up. Nearly all our woods have probably increased in price about 15% over the last few years. I don’t blame this on regulation. I blame it on supply. But since the supply is so low, it’s also become highly regulated to the point of illegality.”

In addition to its ebony partnership in Cameroon in west Africa, Taylor have also started a company called Paniolo Tonewoods, a partnership with Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Together they are undertaking a massive planting of Koa (Acacia koa) timber in Hawaii.

Tasmanian blackwood also gets a mention within the discussion about Taylor Guitars as a growing alternative sustainable tonewood.

But I’m not sure the article finishes on the right note.

There’s a strong emphasis on nostalgia and traditional tonewoods. There is not a strong message about the future and sustainable tonewoods.

In that regard it tends to reflect where the general tonewood market is at right now – caught between the traditional buying habits of its customers and lacking the commitment and leadership to move to a sustainable future.

But the time of the profitable sustainable tonewood will come; perhaps in the next few years.

Ultimately if the tonewood market wants to continue to access quality wood then it will have to start paying farmers to plant trees. There is no other option.

Will Tasmania be ready when the time comes?

Resource-sensitive Global Production Networks (GPN): Reconfigured Geographies of Timber and Acoustic Guitar Manufacturing

Taylor300

A few months back I was contacted by two academics based at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales. They are economic geographers and were starting a project looking at local and international tonewood markets.

Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren came to Hobart and I was pleased to catch up and discuss issues around tonewood supply and tonewood markets.

On their way to writing a book on the subject they have published the first academic paper from their research so far.

Chris Gibson & Andrew Warren (2016): Resource-Sensitive Global Production Networks: Reconfigured Geographies of Timber and Acoustic Guitar Manufacturing, Economic Geography, DOI: 10.1080/00130095.2016.1178569

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00130095.2016.1178569

Unfortunately this paper doesn’t make for easy reading with 22 pages of dense, convoluted prose.

I would encourage the authors to write a shortened popular version of the paper as I have no doubt they would find plenty of consumer and industry magazines and websites keen to publish.

Here’s my review.

Where in the 1970’s and 1980’s labour costs and shifts in production to cheap labour markets were the dominant force in the guitar industry, today it is access to secure, reliable wood resources that is becoming the major industry driver. This is happening within an increasingly complex, increasingly regulated international trade in wood resources.

Such [increasing] regulation [and diminishing supply] has, since the 1990s, transformed both tonewood procurement and guitar making. A resource-sensitive GPN has emerged in which upstream resource actors are increasingly important, with manufacturing firms responding differently to scarcity and regulation. Other industries dependent on timber, such as paper milling, furniture, and the construction industry are not as species dependent and have been able to switch more easily to substitutes, including quick-growing plantation species sourced locally. Guitar manufacturers for the most part remained bound by the guitar’s type form, requiring timbers with tensile strength, aesthetics of color and grain, and rich acoustic resonance. Moreover, as a form of manufacturing appealing to consumers for whom emotional value and identity-affirming qualities were intrinsic, the industry was encumbered with strong traditions and customer expectations. As Dick Boak, from C. F. Martin & Co., explained, convincing guitarists to switch to instruments made from sustainable materials proved difficult: “musicians, who represent some of the most savvy, ecologically minded people around, are resistant to anything about changing the tone of their guitars”. Put simply, “musicians cling to the old materials”.

As I’ve said previously, guitar companies are often their own worst enemies when it comes to product development, marketing and mixed/confused messages. Even the most evangelical of guitar manufacturers still provide a soft, oblique message to the market when it comes to environmental issues. But the aesthetic and the exotic become the focus when it comes to sales and marketing. Many guitar companies show no concern about resource supply and environmental issues whatsoever.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2015/08/11/ooops-not-such-a-success/

But there is evidence that consumer and market change is coming. Just a few examples include the No More Blood Wood campaign, the Leonardo Guitar Research Project, and the Musicians for Sustainable Tonewoods:

http://reverb.org/no-more-blood-wood-campaign/

http://www.leonardo-guitar-research.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Musicians-for-Sustainable-Tone-Wood-100977326654291/

The 2009 and 2011 raids on the Gibson Guitar Company by US law enforcement agencies in relation to importing endangered species were a watershed moment for the guitar/tonewood industry, sending shockwaves throughout the marketplace and concerned consumers.

Irrespective of the evidence and veracity of the raids, in August 2012, Gibson settled out of court, effectively admitting to violating the Lacey Act, and agreed to a $300,000 fine.

Since 2011 the international tonewood market has changed dramatically. The paper highlights three strategies being used by guitar manufacturers to adjust to the changing tonewood market:

  • Alternative species
  • Vertical integration
  • Salvage wood

In short, material scarcity in combination with higher degrees of CITES/Lacey Act enforcement made legally sound international procurement of traditional timbers more difficult, inconsistent in quality, and expensive. Accordingly, product innovation ensued, entailing new models that shifted away from rosewoods, ebonies, and mahoganies of potentially suspicious provenance, toward new alternative timbers that satisfied strength, resonance, and aesthetic benchmarks, and that could be sourced either locally or more transparently from countries with robust regulation, certification, and enforcement.

Well that is a trend that is only just beginning. If you look at most guitar websites you will still find rosewood, mahogany and ebony in abundance.

Much of the search for alternative species is focused on other tropical rainforest timbers not on the CITES list. A few American companies are increasing their focus on readily available North American hardwood species. In Australia the two commercial makers, Maton and Cole Clark, are increasing their use of locally grown and native timbers.

Taylor Guitars so far is the only major company following the vertical integration pathway back up the supply chain to timber cultivation, harvesting and milling. This is really only an option for large companies that have the resources necessary to invest upstream.

Rather than engaging in the expensive option of buying land and growing trees themselves, these companies should consider the option of contracting the growing and supply of tonewood to local farmer cooperatives. I’m pretty confident that if a major company pursued this option in Tasmania it would receive plenty of positive support from the farming community.

The third strategy being developed by small-to-medium size guitar companies is the use of salvage wood from specialised “timber hunters”. The problem here is that salvage wood is not a secure long-term resource. It comes with increased risk of resource supply. It also doesn’t help the major manufacturers and therefore the bulk of the guitar-buying public who can’t afford custom built guitars, ie. there are no large volumes of salvage wood available.

 

So how can Tasmanian blackwood feature in these three tonewood strategies?

  1. Tasmanian blackwood is one of the few alternative quality tonewood species that is non-tropical and potentially sustainable. It can be grown in profitable commercial plantations. It is well known in the domestic Australian market but has yet to break into the international market. Efforts by Taylor and Cort to introduce blackwood into international markets will hopeful make progress in this area.
  2. Taylor Guitars have strong links with their Tasmanian supplier (Tasmanian Tonewoods) but have yet to demonstrate any commitment beyond this relationship. To date their vertical integration is confined to the USA, and Cameroon in Africa in partnership with Madinter. Will other major guitar companies follow Taylor’s lead and seek upstream supply relationships?
  3. There is a sizable existing blackwood resource suitable for salvage on farmland across northern Tasmania, from Goulds Country in the east, to Marrawah on the west coast. This unmanaged resource of native remnant and planted blackwood could be used to stimulate farmer interest in growing commercial blackwood, whilst supplying international tonewood markets in the short term, should a major buyer wish to take up this opportunity.

Tasmanian blackwood is discussed on page 19 of the paper.

Following the Australian lead (Maton and Cole Clark), North American tonewood suppliers and manufacturers began importing Australian blackwood to use in high-end production guitars. A species considered invasive in some areas (unlike practically all other tonewoods), Australian blackwood is harvested in small volumes from farms and mixed-forest plantations without the need for invasive harvesting techniques or CITES paperwork (Reid 2006).

I don’t know where the mixed-forest blackwood plantations are? I’ve never heard anything about them. And why mention the invasive bit? The invasive tendencies of other species are not discussed at all. If blackwood is planted on Tasmanian farms where it is already a native how can it be considered invasive?

The only way that the tonewood market can have a secure future is to pay landowners to grow trees. Unfortunately the paper fails to discuss this strategy, I guess because so far none of the guitar companies are actually using this strategy.

Major manufacturers need significant volumes of quality timber and they need resource security to safeguard their investment. This means paying people to actually grow trees, and having strong, long-term relationships with growers.

The paper focuses on the current changing dynamics in the international tonewood market which are still in their infancy.

As the paper states, the current changes are unpredictable and likely to result in unexpected outcomes as new players and new opportunities emerge. The interplay between the consumer, the manufacturer, the supply chain, and the grower will result in significant market changes.

One important piece of information missing in the paper is an estimate of the size of the international tonewood market. In all the dense discussion it is not possible to get a sense of scale of the issue. On pages 10-11 there is a table providing some statistics about example companies, including production and employment, but nothing about tonewood demand.

Another observation is that the paper talks about the tonewood market everywhere from sawmillers/tonewood merchants all the way through to consumers; but fails to discuss forests, plantations and growers. If there’s a tonewood supply problem then not discussing trees and growers seems a bit odd.

So who will grow the tonewoods of the future?

I’m looking forward to seeing what these academics come up with over the next year or so of their project.

Taylor Guitars latest Tasmanian blackwood promotion

TaylorTonewoods.jpg

The latest Wood & Steel magazine (Winter 2016) from Taylor Guitars offers yet another big promotion of Tasmanian blackwood, featuring in three of the articles in the magazine:

  • New 12-String Voices
  • 12-Fret Revival
  • The 300 Series Branches Out

https://www.taylorguitars.com/wood-and-steel

Here’s the main Tasmanian blackwood promotion found on page 15:

Blackwood’s Broadening Appeal

“Blackwood is one of my all-time favorite tonewoods,” declares Taylor’s master guitar designer Andy Powers, reflecting on the Tasmanian timber’s addition to the series. “I‘ve enjoyed its characteristics in every guitar I’ve built with it. It always sounds good.”

A lot of us at Taylor, in fact, are fans of the tonewood. Our product development team has crafted several series of limited edition blackwood guitars in recent years (including our 2014 500 Series Fall Limiteds) in the hope of broadening the appreciation among guitar players who haven’t been exposed to it. While blackwood has been a staple among guitar makers in and around its native region of Australia, its usage has been more limited in North America due in part to its lack of geographic proximity.

“That’s one of the factors blackwood had going against it,” Andy says. “It’s a long way to America from Australia. Historically, in the formative years of the steel-string guitar, it was a lot easier to get mahogany and rosewood here because they were already being imported for furniture.”

Despite its more limited usage in this hemisphere, blackwood has earned a loyal following across the industry.

“Martin has built some nice guitars with heavily figured blackwood, and they sound great,” Andy says. “And I know a number of small builders who work with it and live in the same camp as me; we all feel it’s amazing.”

The supply is also sustainable, with a healthy sourcing outlook for the future. From a guitar-making point of view, blackwood’s relatively rapid growth cycle can often yield guitar quality wood in under 40 years, and the abundant supply of older, bigger trees produces a lot of straight-grained wood that is easy for guitar makers to work with. We purchased our blackwood from Tasmanian wood supplier Bob Mac Millan (profiled in our Fall 2014 issue), who also sourced the much rarer blackheart sassafras we recently used for limited edition models.

http://tasmaniantonewoods.com/

As an acacia wood species, blackwood sometimes draws comparisons to Hawaiian koa, another member of the acacia family, although, in reality, Andy says, the two species are unique.

“People sometimes refer to blackwood as the old cousin of koa, a more prehistoric version,” he explains. “While that may be so, blackwood has some distinct working characteristics, color, and grain structure, which distinguish it from koa.”

While blackwood will occasionally display exotic figure, Andy says our grading specifications for the sets used with the 300 Series call for more of a classic, straight-grained structure.

“We wanted a staple wood we could count on,” he says. “It’s a high quality guitar wood, clean, clear and straight-grained. In terms of color and overall appearance, it’s not a dramatic change from the classic mahogany or sapele aesthetic. It has a similar look a lot of times, especially paired with the mahogany tops and with a nice shaded edgeburst. Frankly, a lot of players may not even visually notice the difference unless they’re really looking for it.”

A color-matched stain for the blackwood back and sides and mahogany top and neck brings a seamless visual cohesion to the guitars, adding a rich undertone to the natural cinnamon-brown hues and highlighting the similar grain structure of both woods. Tonally, blackwood yields a strong midrange focus — dry and clear yet also warm, like mahogany and koa — with a splash of top-end shimmer and richness similar to rosewood. Its musicality, Andy says, suits a variety of body sizes and musical styles. Paired with a mahogany top, players can expect plenty of dynamic range.

Phew!

There’s a lot of promise, hope and opportunity in all those excellent words. Can they be matched by some clever product development and marketing, and finally by market acceptance and appreciation?

On top of the blackwood promotion there is other good news including the fact that Taylor Guitars has been the top-selling acoustic guitar brand in the USA for 26 straight months, with total (acoustic and electric) production in 2015 of 165,000 guitars and employ over 1,000 people! Even then they still can’t keep up with the demand.

Also the article Forestry for the Future on page 5 by Bob Taylor makes for interesting reading. Mr Taylor says “A word that has now become part of my daily vocabulary is “forestry.” He goes on…” The foresters I’ve met are mostly very good and brimming with concern, ideas and skills to help us all. And they’re frustrated because they work in a structure that often doesn’t allow them to work. Their work takes committed clients, and it also takes time.”

And as we have seen in Tasmania over the past 40 years, good intentions can so easily become corrupted and distorted to the point where the forest industry struggles to operate effectively because of the domination of ego, ideology and politics.

Bob Taylor says that forestry is the answer. I would say that good leadership is the answer. And I’m happy to say that Bob Taylor fits the leadership role pretty well!

I certainly sympathise with the expression of frustration! Being a forester in Tasmania means living with permanent dose of frustration.

Taylor Guitars and Bob Mac Millan at Tasmanian Tonewoods are doing their bit to bring Tasmanian blackwood to the world stage.

Now what can we in Tasmania do to support Taylor Guitars promotion of profitable, sustainable Tasmanian blackwood tonewood?

This is a commercial opportunity going begging.

Are Tasmanian farmers interested?

Are our politicians interested?

Is the TFGA interested?

We need leadership!

We need cooperation!

Taylor Guitars 2016 Spring Limited models

2016-limiteds-326

As a new addition to the 300-series Tasmanian blackwood/mahogany models, Taylor Guitars have added a limited release 8 string baritone model.

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/limited-editions/2016-limited-editions

https://www.taylorguitars.com/guitars/acoustic/326e-baritone-8-ltd

Read my review of the 300-series here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/01/25/new-taylor-300-series-solid-tasmanian-blackwood/

This is Tasmanian farm-grown blackwood timber supplied by Tasmanian Tonewoods:

http://tasmaniantonewoods.com/

The future of Tasmanian special species timbers is here!