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my very own rain forest

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Howard K, Sep 24, 2002.


  1. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Hey Steve,
    As soon as my chunky credit card debts are cleared I'm gonna be on the market for a new 4 string. I'm think of getting something a little less factory standard than my Fender P, something more unique I guess?

    You often talk about your disapproval of the use of exotic and/or rare woods to make instruments and I completely agree. I'm keen to avoid buying a bass that is made from parts of a rain forest.

    Thing is, there are so many woods and I have absolutley no idea which are rare and which are not? Other than to guess on the basis of a real giveaway name, like bubinga or whatever, I wouldn't know where to start?

    Are more commonly used woods like walnut, ebony, maple, swamp ash generally from sustainable forests/sources?
    What woods should I basically avoid for this reason and what are OK? ...or is it a case of being down the manufacturer/ luthier, rather than the wood itself?

    I figured this would be better as a post than a PM or conversation :)
    ta
    H
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Howard,

    checking wood sources for bass stuff is pretty tricky - the best bet though is to email the company for information. This serves two purposes - 1) it gets you your info, and 2) it lets the companies know that there are people out there who give a s**t. I've had some great chats with bass builders about this issue - Joe Zon and I talked for a long time about it, as he had checked out his sources for a lot of his wood, and though not certified, was satisfied that it was responsibly farmed etc...

    another avenue to try for information is a company called Sound Wood, based in Cambridge - good luck getting any sense out of them - they've said they'll phone me back loads of times and never have - no wonder the enviromental movement has such a bad rap when the people involved are as disorganised as that lot!!!!!

    For the most part, it's the exotic rare rosewoods that are the problem - any company will tell you the country of origin of the wood, and if you want to be pretty safe, avoid any hard-wood sourced in South America that isn't certified. There probably are wood sources that are OK there, but I've no way of telling, and I'd rather be safe than contribute to the issue.

    One thing you will get people telling you is that guitar/bass building is such a tiny part of the wood trade that what we use doesn't make any difference, which is boll*cks, clearly - any industry that pays the kinds of premiums that luthiers do for quality wood is going to create a demand for wood of whatever kind - it makes clear cutting a forest much more profitable if you know that someone is going to pay $$$$ per board foot for the best of it, and a paper-mill will take the rest off your hands.

    however, the best possible way to 'stay safe' is to buy a second hand bass - that way, it doesn't matter what it's made from! :D

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. I know that Matt Schmill of FBB, at least, uses only certified wood. He has recently ceased using South American mahogany in favor of sapele and khaya, which come from certified sources in central Africa.
     
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    That's really good to know, Peter - I'm sure it'll catch on more and more as people realise what gorgeous wood there is out there that can be had from renewable sources as opposed to hacked-up old growth forests...

    do you have a web address for the company?

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  5. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Rosewoods, South America, noted.

    I think I might just avoid anything that sounds remotely exotic to be on the safeside!

    Maybe I should write to bass player mag and ask them to do an article on it, I'll bet their advertisers would love that! ;)
     
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Interestingly enough, Guitarist did a feature on something like that not all that long ago - it did fudge the issue in order not to piss off too many people, but it was nice to see someone making a stab at it.

    I've been meaning to ask ECRA/Ethical Consumer magazine to do a feature on instrument buying for a long time - maybe I should get on and do it! :)

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  7. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I'd like to thank you folks for discussing this issue. I very much appreciate being informed about this. In our quest for the ultimate tone, it's easy to forget there may be bigger issues at stake. I hope that many more people will read this thread and take ethical consumption into consideration when shopping for a new instrument. Thanks so much for your research and for sharing the information!