Tag Archives: sustainable tonewood

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.


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:


“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.

Music Industry Advisory on New Rosewood Trade Regulations


For Australian readers here is a current list of new regulations around the import, export and personal travel with items containing rosewood timber due to the recent CITES changes:


Please note CITES documentation is generally not required for imports and exports of personal items of up to 10 kg per shipment containing either Dalbergia or any of the three listed Guibourtia species.

Almost all acoustic guitars have at least a rosewood fretboard.


These new trade restrictions on all rosewood species, including Indian rosewood, effectively mean the end rosewood as a commercial tonewood.

Rosewood is regarded as the premium tonewood.

The idea that the music products industry is somehow the innocent bystander in this situation (because little of the rosewood cut in the world goes towards guitars) is from what I understand a bending of the truth. Being a minor party in a crime does not make one innocent.

The adage about “lying down with dogs” comes to mind.

The guitar industry is still generally a very long way from sourcing sustainable timber and being supportive and transparent about it.

And as for customers/buyers who turn a blind eye to the continuing problem.

So what will the market do now?

My guess is they will turn to other rainforest timbers. If they can’t get rosewood at least they can still get cheap timber. The plundering of the worlds rainforests won’t stop just because of the restrictions on rosewood.

Ultimately it must come down to the consumer.

If the consumer wants to help preserve what remains of the planets rainforests then guitar buyers have to start making the tough informed choices.