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Does the wood ever bother you?

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 Ande
(@ande)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 659
Topic starter  

Weird question for a guitarist, but this has been bugging me.

Every time I go to a guitar shop, there's a LOT of stuff that I want. One of the things that keeps me from pulling the trigger, though, is that I can't help thinking about how irresponsible some of the production is.

Maybe it's because I've spent quite a lot of time in jungles. Maybe I'm a hippy at heart. I don't know.

But I KNOW, and nobody denies, that a lot of the hardwoods used in guitar construction, once used, are gone forever. There is no way any of the mahogany and other exotic hardwoods that find their way into guitars are ever going to replaced. Some of the greatest guitars are made of wood that is now extinct. And nobody really knows how old these trees even were. (They say "count the rings" but jungle trees don't ring the same way, due to not having the same annual change of seasons. Any plant biologist will tell you- we don't know, but it's a fair guess that a lot of hardwood trees are/were amongst the oldest living things ever on this planet.)

Is it necessary??

This is a real question- I don't make guitars. I don't know if there's something special about the really rare hardwoods that makes them make better guitars. It seems to me that there's gotta be a way that instruments of similar quality can be made of woods that could actually grow back, but I don't really know. Maybe not out of the really fast growing woods, but even woods that could grow back in a couple of generations? Every guitar manufacturer I can find is making at least some axes from trees that won't grow back in the life of a civilization.

Am I the only one who worries about stuff like this?

Thanks for your thoughts,
Ande

PS- I still haven't bought that bass you've all kindly given me info about. Now you know why. Everything I find in the shops is shiny new...and cut down something that can never be put back....maybe I'll by second hand. Somehow extending the life of a guitar already out there seems more...responsible than causing the manufacture of a new one.


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 Crow
(@crow)
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Is it necessary??

No. Good instruments can be built from sustainable materials. Yesterday I saw a Martin built largely of sustainable cherry:

http://www.martinguitar.com/guitars/choosing/guitars.php?m=OMCGTE%20Cherry&s=E&p=ge

Most of the mystic lore about tonewoods is over-hyped IMO.
Am I the only one who worries about stuff like this?

Not at all. I keep scouting around for better options...
....maybe I'll by second hand. Somehow extending the life of a guitar already out there seems more...responsible than causing the manufacture of a new one.

...and that's the best one I've found: buying used instruments. The environmental impact is part of someone else's karma, not mine. :)

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@greybeard)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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I agree about "wasting" these resources, BUT............

I would suspect that the market for expensive and rare woods for the guitar builders represents a minute part of the world-wide usage. Some rare woods are now on an "endangered" list and the only supplies are those that luthiers and wood merchants have been hoarding. The vast majority of wood for guitars comes from renewable resources.

The worst criminals are those that destroy the rainforests to create farm land for crops and/or animals. They take away the soil and micro-climate that are so vital to the trees. Man's greed and foolishness are why great tracts of Northern Africa that the ancient Egyptians irrigated and farmed are now the biggest beach on Earth

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


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(@dogbite)
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I'd rather nature's good materials go into the manufacture of things deemed good for the world; useful things, like guitars.
walking down the aisle in any store I see so much of earth's resources go into making stupid junk. trinkets. some toys, packaging, doodads, shiny worthless things for the shelf, stuff like that. the amount of energy to produce, ship and stock junk boggles the mind.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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(@gnease)
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numerous makers -- Danelectro, Taylor, Martin and Reverend among those many -- have demonstrated in both concept designs and real products that very good, and even excellent, acoustic and electric guitars can be built completely from low cost and renewable materials. so mass production need not rely on materials of any particular sort to achieve sonic goodness. Reverend's original premise for the use of alternative body materials was improved uniformity of timbre (sound, not wood) across production lots. this was supposedly realized by using composites to create more uniform (less unique) materials than would be possible to realize from a stock of wood slabs. the results were quite good. but players like wood. and it seems Reverend has long abandoned the "high-end" Danelectro niche, and now builds using solid and laminated woods. the market rules.

and while I'm not into the "beauteous woods" thing -- I appreciate overall ID more, I will agree with GB and DB that building fine instruments is probably one of the better uses for exotic woods and other "natural" materials. nevertheless, I don't see any reason to cut down even one old growth tree for this purpose alone -- harvesting timber from existing stores, fallen trees or from (necessary) managed growth cuttings, should provide enough exotics for the "instrument as art" market. sure, prices will rise on guitars and furniture crafted of exotic solid woods, but why not? if a player wants an exotic look in a low to moderately priced instrument, then very thin veneers or so-called 'photo-veneers' over solid non-exotics might be the ticket.

-=tension & release=-


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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Hmm never thought about it that much although I don't see myself buying any guitars made from exotic woods but in strictly consevationist thinking there is no "good" use of these woods.

I don't think using the wood for guitars is any more nobel or worthwhile than any other use of the wood. If it's endangered it shouldn't be used for anything.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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 Ande
(@ande)
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Topic starter  

Another thing that I learned during my time in Ecuador is that the laws don't matter much in the places where these things grow. If it can possibly be sold, it will probably be cut down.

There ARE restrictions. Like on endangered species. And trees and animals both get poached. A lot, since the areas they come from are running out of other options, economically speaking.

So when I saw the beautiful mahogany neck on a bass I was looking at...I don't KNOW that it was legally harvested. It's not hard to get certificates indicating the sustainability and legality of poached wood, just as poached animals are usually sold with certificates indicating that they were born in captivity in thus and so zoo...

Anyway, I've got an appointment to look at a second-hand bass made out of lucite. It's a possibility.

Best,
Ande


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(@kent_eh)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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I read an article about sustainable wood guitar making in Acoustic Guitar Magazine a year or so ago (the original isn't online, but it is re-printed here.)
There is even an organization promoting responsible wood usage for instrument making.

Another article on the subject.

And then there are a couple of companies building carbon fibre or graphite guitars

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


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(@u2bono269)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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I'm a big fan of certain models in Martin's X-series guitars. I have a DX-1, which has a solid spruce top and is otherwise completely made of alternate materials. The back and sides are made of HPL, which is paper fibers compressed with a plastic photo-veneer on top. Looks pretty great. The neck is made by laminating scraps of wood and infusing it with a resin so as not to require a finish, per se. The fingerboard and bridge are made of a high-density plastic called Micarta, as are the nut and saddle. It's only made with about 20% real wood, but it sounds amazing, especially since the tops has aged nicely these past few years. So it's a good alternative if you want to be more envrionmentally conscious, maybe more so than the Sustainable Cherry guitars. Some of the X-Series guitars even have HPL tops with special bracing.

I learned all this while on the Martin Guitar Factory tour a little while ago. Great place to visit.

Honestly though, if I had a chance, and the money, to own a guitar made with Brazilian Rosewood, I would do it.

http://www.brianbetteridge.com


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 Crow
(@crow)
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Here's my bass:

Late-'70s Kramer DMZ4001. Aluminum neck with thin wood fillets on back. Ebonol (bowling ball material) fretboard. Maple body (I don't believe maple is endangered). Passive DiMarzio pickup, so no batteries to dispose of. I got it used. Plus it has a distinctive sound -- notes roll out of it like huge shiny aluminum bowling balls....

To me, this is an environmentally responsible instrument, at least where trees are concerned. (That's not why I got it, but still.) There are no good answers, really -- Ebonol takes energy to extrude, aluminum has to be mined, and a perfectly good maple tree died for my bass. Not to get too philosophical, but: Every human action has consequences. And under these conditions, we can choose to do the best we can. Or not.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@kent_eh)
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Every human action has consequences. And under these conditions, we can choose to do the best we can. Or not.
That's probably the thing that matters most.

It's impossible to eliminate one's impact on the planet (without removing yourself from it), but it is possible to make better choices.
And when making choices, accept that there is no perfect choice, only better and worse ones.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


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 Ande
(@ande)
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Joined: 14 years ago
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Topic starter  

Very well said, Crow. And COOL BASS. You wouldn't want to sell that second hand, wouldja?

In seriousness, it's very true. Guitars are like anything else. They provide a benefit, but come at a cost. The cost isn't just the $$ we pay, but it's everything- materials used, time spent, energy put in, pollution put out, disposal.

One thing that appeals to me, as part of my solution, is the idea that instruments are permanent, and not just something to have for a while, then stop playing.

My guitar collection, which peaked at five, was recently knocked back down to one when I moved internationally. Before I left, though, I gave the others to friends and/or aspiring guitarists who I believe will play them, and won't now need a new one, having got my old one.

And I'm up to two again- my old guitar and my new bass. Yesterday, found in a secondhand shop, one BC Rich! The perfect thing for metal. It seems to be maple neck, and some lightish wood for the body. Beat to heck, but that gives it character. And I like the fact that I'm not starting something new, just continuing the music that's already started...not to get too philosophical.

(Photos coming up on another thread.)

Best,
Justin


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(@trguitar)
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Does the wood ever bother me? Not nearly as much as when I was younger. :P I have a Switch guitar that is made of composite and has an ebonite fingerboard as well. Not a spec of wood in the thing. One piece, came out of a mold and a fine axe it is!

"Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard,
grow big, wear glasses if you need 'em."
-- The Webb Wilder Credo --


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 cnev
(@cnev)
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Ha TR and I was going to say only in the morning!

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


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(@ricochet)
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I've been biting my tongue and sitting on my hands since this thread came out. The day will come when you'll just be glad to have wood.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


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