Category Archives: Tonewood

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.

 

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Taylor 358e LTD

Taylor358eLTD

I haven’t done a guitar feature for ages so here we have the latest from Taylor Guitars featuring farm-grown Tasmanian blackwood courtesy of Tasmanian Tonewoods.

I wonder who were the lucky Tasmanian farmers who grew this premium product?

https://tasmaniantonewoods.com

This is a limited edition Grand Orchestra 12 string model in the 300 series.

This guitar was introduced at the 2018 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim, California.

It’s so new it isn’t even featured on Taylor’s website yet.

https://www.taylorguitars.com

In 2016 Taylor Guitars introduced Tasmanian blackwood into their regular production in the 300 series, becoming the first major guitar company to do so. The 300 series is the entry level series featuring all solid wood bodies.

To date the 300 series has not included an Orchestra Model in the line up. I guess this is Taylor testing the market to see if there is demand for a large body 12 string model in this price range. Currently 12 string Orchestra Models are only available in the 400 and 800 series.

Here’s a great review of the guitar from Alamo Music:

If you are after a big guitar with a BIG sound this is your axe!

Enjoy!

PS. I do like that shaded edge-burst on the blackwood back and sides. Good one Mr Taylor!

The Future of Wood

Future of Wood

The latest Martin Journal (Vol 8. p. 58) has an interesting article called The Future of Wood.

https://www.martinguitar.com/about/martin-journal/

It’s a soft-message article about sustainable forest management and sustainable tonewoods.

It’s such a soft message I’m not sure what the take home message is supposed to be.

I wonder how many guitar company stalls at the recent NAMM show had the word “sustainable” on display?

From my watching on social media the NAMM message was the same as usual – “come and see my new exotic, glamorous guitars!”

I didn’t see any presentation or review that mentioned “sustainable”.

Martin’s sentiments are similar—the company has a lot riding on the hope that the tonewoods they’ve built their business around [ebony, rosewood, mahogany] will still be around in another 185 years and that consumers will embrace alternative woods as well.

“We are a six-generation family business,” Davis-Wallen says. “We are going to try to do everything that we can to continue to go on, but we need help from consumers.”

So far I think the message has been so soft it isn’t even getting on the radar let alone getting any response from consumers.

The message needs to be laser sharp and LOUD…..to the point of being irritating.

Message to CF Martin – keep up the good work……BUT TURN UP THE VOLUME!!

Happy reading!

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!

How CITES is changing the future of rosewood in guitars

rosewood_guitar2

http://www.musicradar.com/news/how-cites-is-changing-the-future-of-rosewood-in-guitars

It’s interesting trying to keep up with how guitar companies and the tonewood market are dealing with the new CITES restrictions on rosewood.

It’s pretty clear that most guitar companies have been caught sleeping on the job when it comes to tonewood supply.

Here’s a recent article that puts a spotlight on the difficult times ahead for the industry.

It’s a long read but worth the effort. Here are some of the more relevant sections from a tonewood growers viewpoint:

The specific timing and impact of the latest restrictions on commercial rosewood usage is indeed a headache for the guitar industry, but it comes amid a much longer contextual setting of ecological concern and environmental politics. Which is to say that you don’t have to be Nostradamus to work out what’s coming next. We’re discussing rosewood here, but ebony and mahogany are glowing bright on the radar for more stringent protection.

 

Despite the best efforts of Martin, Taylor and Gibson in pushing the likes of Richlite and HPL for more than two decades now, many guitar enthusiasts – particularly fans of premium instruments – remain uninterested in anything but traditional timbers.

 

Sustainable wood species such as maple, sycamore, cherry and so on may provide some form of halfway house, but it still leaves the big guitar brands labouring with a stark contradiction. By their own admission, they’ve been telling us for decades that the ‘best’ guitars use the ‘best’ rosewood, mahogany and ebony. Their survival as businesses, however, requires much more widespread use of more sustainable materials.

“By their own admission…” indeed. And it still continues. Efforts by most guitar companies to “shift the market” have been pretty mild to say the least.

And we hear that most mahoganies and ebony are next on the list.

New Zealand blackwood growers are looking at a significant opportunity here.

With their plantation resource now maturing just as the global tonewood supply is coming under pressure, it’s the perfect time to be a blackwood grower.

New Zealand blackwood growers need to start making connections into the tonewood market, promoting New Zealand plantation-grown blackwood as a profitable, sustainable quality tonewood.

The opportunity is right now!

As for Tasmania, well we seem to have missed the boat.

No guitar company is coming to Tasmania to buy blackwood or other tonewoods plundered from our conservation reserves at taxpayers expense.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

The next 5-10 years will see the global tonewood market completely transformed. Who will be the beneficiaries of this change?

One of the major challenges is that the tonewood market does not know how to engage with the farming community to support and encourage them to grow tonewoods. Getting farmers to make a 30+ year investment planting trees takes a lot of support and encouragement.

Enjoy!

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!