Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Global Wood Supplies & DBs of the Future

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by matt macgown, Jul 27, 2004.


  1. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    We can project that not just Kays, or Engles, or actually any instrument made from wood, will be priceless within a few generations. And not for thier intonation or anything else, but simply because they are made of "wood."

    We have seen what happened to European "wood" post WW II, then in American forests, where there is almost nothing left (virtually, that can be harvested for good instruments), Alaskan forests, and next, the Asian forests. South America has yet to be fully exploited, but will be just as soon as it is necessary. We don't havae more than a centru of wood left, would be a fair guess.

    Hang onto anything of reasonable quality for your grandchildren. Even if it says "Kay." Wood for it's own sake will be beyond means for the average fellow. Probably including the laminates of the present generation.

    In no time at all, the workd can deplete Asian forests. And will. Generation time of good spruce maybe 80 years in the best climates, pine less. Tonewoods?

    Within 5 or 6 generations of humans, at 20 years generation time, it may well be that anything made of real wood will be priceless, and certainly by 200 years this will be the case. And some of the double basses we have now qualify for the 200 mark.
     
  2. Gufenov

    Gufenov

    Jun 8, 2003
    It's not like it grows on trees, ya know.
     
  3. One of my favorite quotes was the one made in 1929 that there was only enough oil in world's reserves to last ten more years. Have you heard of the term "renewable resource"? I agree that the prices of wood will most likely continue to rise, but as long as demand exists and the supply can not meet that demand, there will be people or companies out there working to find a way to meet that demand. All you have to do is drive through the western logging states and see the huge renewable forests that are owned and maintained by big companies in the lumber industry. If these companies were to see a demand niche such as in tonewood that they can occupy and fullfill, you can be assured that one of them will step in to fill that niche if they see profit can be made. It's the old (but very true today) law of supply and demand. My last stock of bass top wood came from a guy (Larry Trumble/Wood Marine tonewoods) located in southern Alaska who gets his wood by raising logs that sank on the way to the sawmills anywhere from yesterday to the early days of Alaskan logging. That wood is some of the best Sitka spruce I've ever seen. No telling how many thousands of other big logs are under water waiting to be found by people searching the bottoms of the waterways in states and countries that presently or previously logged the forests. For all we know, there could be enough big logs there to keep present luthiers busy until those newly planted trees mature to a useful size for future luthiers.

    Unlike some, I'm very optimistic about the future.
     
  4. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Well, I can certainly agree that for the present, there appears to be abundant wood. But 200 years from now? Maybe. At present rates of deforestation, it'll be a toss up. Optimism or not, lumber companies pay little attention to small markets like tonewoods. One reason why some folks may have to resort to sunken logs that paper companies let go.

    We are building another brand new house here, and this one is (2 years old) and that one will be, filled with lumber bought form outside the U.S. Our rails for the cellar stairs, for example, are some kind of second rate fir from the Czech Republic. All the other wood in the house came from some other country. Not the U.S.

    And a lot of the timber shipped out of this country (particulary Alaska) becomes cardboard and tissue paper in Japan, or other. Of course, we can grow that spongy stuff that certain companies call "supertrees" at six to twelve feet a year - but they have no future in the instrument market.

    It's a world market, and timber companies are looking at the "big picture."

    But it's good to maintain a healthy state of optimism, even in the face of certain deterioration. I don't look for the forests (or ocenas, or atmosphere) to make a significant comeback until long after the humans have left. Millenia after.
     
  5. "Certain Deterioration" - give me a break. If everyone looked at the world like you do, we would indeed be living in a very depressing world. I appear to have a lot more confidence in mankind than you and I do see the signs of improvement in the forests, the oceans, and the atmosphere. I'm one who looks at this as this being a glass half full situation rather than one half empty. Man (thank God) is an animal that is smart enough to learn from his mistakes and then have the initiative to correct those mistakes.
     
  6. Mudfuzz

    Mudfuzz

    Apr 3, 2004
    WA...
    That would be nice and I do believe it is posable, but I think we have a long way to go.
     
  7. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Well, I will certainly respect your opinion, even while holding mine. As the moderator indicates, we each have rights to our opinons. My view suggests that wood will be a premium item. Likewise, basses should be preserved at all cost, whether Kay or high falutin' at least as a piece of culture. (Check out cast iron cook stoves, for example).

    Kay itself is a bit of Americana. I like the Kays, especially the old C-1 like that I started with, not for their musicality, but for more general reasons. So much so that I recently posted inquiries about my original Kay in Norway, Me., where I first got it and sold it fifty years ago. I might like to buy it back. But not at $2000.

    Future values? I can only guess, but if the past is any indicator, it speaks for itslef. I've decided that when I get my next bass, I will set this gamba shaped Chinese bass in a corner, take off the string tension, and re-examine it in fifty years. Politics shifts with every wind that blows, and this sudden, recently developed economic relationship with China could easily evaporate just as quickly - and we could not see a Chinese instrument ever after. One can only guess. The darn thing could be worth $5000.

    As far as the forests and environment go, that debate can be handled by the scientific community, for my part. Been thorugh that before.

    Again, I will respect your opinion, shared by many, but think it will be otherwise.
     
  8. You have the right to your opinion, but I can't in honesty say I respect it.
     
  9. Mudfuzz

    Mudfuzz

    Apr 3, 2004
    WA...
    Finally a voice of reason!

    Without getting too political [i.e. I live in WA, hint, hint], it seems that every time I need to buy wood: A the price goes up and B it takes me longer to find. And although mail order is convenient I still prefer to pick out my own wood; tap test for tone ect.
     
  10. You are most certainly correct. My appolgy to anyone who was offended by the somewhat heated discussion with Mr. Macgown. My sole purpose for being here is to share my real world experiece as a bass luthier and learning from those with real world bass experiece. I feel an obligation to the younger crowd here that don't have enough real world experiece to know what is needed to make an intellegent decision on buying or repairing a doublebass. If anyone, with the exception of one, feels I went over the line, I offer my sincere appology. However, I do not wish to retract one word of what I previously wrote. I tell it the way I see it.
     
  11. Well, Finland still consists mainly of woods, so we have an endless supply for timber. No shortage in sight.
    Finnish spruce has only recently been inspected for tonewood purposes, and there are some notifications that some of our spruce in fact could make a good tonewood supply. However, it has not been storaged in that purpose in reasonable amounts, so a few companies have been trying to develope means of turning otherwise good, but not enough aged spruce into tonewood.
    Landola guitar company uses some kind of thermo treatment, and some of the results heve been encouraging.
    Here´s a quote about the subject:

    "Treatment
    The Finnish ThermoTonewood® wood treatment is a process whereby wood can be "aged", acquiring the characteristics of wood that has been dried for decades. ThermoTonewood® is manufactured under controlled heating conditions in temperatures of 170° - 230°C. The process involves no chemicals or additives, so it is a natural product. During the ThermoTonewood® process, the cellural structure changes.

    Changes
    These following changes occur during the treatment: A light coloured wood transforms into a brownish hue, which with longer treatment can be enhanced to bring out different nuances. Twisting and warping due to moisture are reduced up to 70 %. The weight of the material is reduced by 5 % to 20 %, depending on the species.

    Effects
    The breaking point of the material decreases, but the stiffness of the material increases considerably, ie the elasticity increases. Depending on the treatment, this process has the ability to reduce EMC (equilibrium moisture content) by up to 50 %."

    R2
     
  12. Gufenov

    Gufenov

    Jun 8, 2003
    According to what I've been reading recently, our slow death by global warming will be mercifully cut short by the coming nuclear holocaust, eliminating those who haven't already succumbed to genetically altered food. In the end, the trees win!
     
  13. Another optimist.
     
  14. R2 - do you know if anyone in Finland has tried the vacuum kiln process that has been used so successfully in Germany, Canada, and the US? Basically, the process reduces the atmospheric pressure low enough that the water boils off at a temperature of around 110 degrees which significantly reduces the color change (the wood stays white) and damage to the cell structure of the wood. As far as I can see, it is the next best thing to slow air drying for tonewood. The only downside that I've been able to determine of the vacuum kiln is that it is not suited for mass production as the process takes about 3 weeks for each batch. There is a small company in the US that manufatures these units. Most are aimed at the small producer like violin makers that cut their own wood and need a way to dry it. With that said, I still prefer to naturally air dry the wood I use for making. However, I do know one large bass shop that uses vacuum kiln dried maple and spuce and has been successful in international competition.
     
  15. Bob, no one that I would know of, but I´ll do some research and will revert.

    R2
     
  16. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I think there's something in what Matt says here. Makers in Asia are buying up good wood by the container load, seasoning it barely at all, then turning it into less-than-mediocre instruments which sell for about the price a small maker like me would pay for just the wood. Not to paint everyone with the same brush--there are also good makers in Asia who do a good job with their wood supplies and craftsmanship. However, I agree that the future wood supplies for instrument makers are in peril. Many makers agree, and are hoarding wood like crazy to be sure they'll always have a supply at hand. Of course this is contributing to the problem as well. The future of fine instrument making depends on the continued availability of high quality spruces, maples, pernambuco, ebony, etc. Yet reforestation projects which intend to restore long-term supplies are essentially pitiful as "progress" marches on.
     
  17. Rather than arguing weather the efforts of planting renewable forests are "pitiful" or not, I think we need to put this whole thing into perspective. I doubt if the total consumption of spruce and maple for instrument making (worldwide) amounts to even 1% of the total consumption. Probably a lot less than that. The suppliers of tonewoods are almost always mom and pop operations located in the areas where the trees grow. Despite two centuries of logging, there is still millions of acres containing trees suitable for making instruments in the US and Canada. The problem is that instument makers don't have enough political clout to get them. We in the US are still wasting the existing resources. There is a Japanese owned pulp mill in southern Alaska that probably grinds up enough sitka and engleman spurce for paper pulp every year to supply every maker in the North America for many decades. Instead, the trees are used to make pulp which doesn't even stay in the US. Why do we allow this to happen? Simply because it provides good paying jobs for people living in southern Alaska. People have got to eat and they could care less about instrument makers.

    In the "old days", logging companies didn't have any reason to plant new renewable forests. For generations, they had easy access to government owned national forest land. Over the past 30 or 40 years, that situation has changed dramatically. That's why you find millions of acres of company owned tree farms in the western states. I noticed that that many of the tree farms in Oregon state had signs stating that they were now growing new trees for the Sixth or Seventh harvest on the same (privately owned) piece of land. It's true that these farm raised trees are not suitable for instruments, but it is also true that by using these renewable tree farms that less and less of the existing old forests with wood suitable for instruments are being harvested for other uses. If someone could convice the government that it was in this countrys best interests to set aside some of the national forests for the arts and crafts, there wouldn't be a shortage of tonewood in 50 years or 200 years even if not a single new tonewood tree was planted. It's all a question of priorities.

    Now concerning the matter of weather makers will be able to compete with cheap Asian labor - well that's an entirely different question.
     
  18. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    A very good dissertation, Bob. However, you used "weather" instead of "whether" (twice, I think), and the grammar police will be visiting you shortly... Seriously, though, you make a great point about pulp logging vs. tonewood logging. Perhaps, since money talks, if there were a way to alert pulp loggers to the value of these prime growth trees, they would find it in everyone's best interest to put some more of these beauties aside for fine crafts instead of grinding them up to print annual reports on! On the subject of whether we can compete with cheap asian labor: In the case of China, it's not just the cheap labor that makes Chinese goods so inexpensive. It's also because the Chinese government keeps the value of its currency artificially low so China can become and stay the world's manufacturing center. Many pundits believe that when worldwide competition has been crushed, then the Chinese will allow their currency to float with those of the rest of the world, and then the prices of Chinese goods will skyrocket...
     
  19. Wouldn't that be the spelling police?
     
  20. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    C'mon guys, litterusy ain't everthang...