The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More on Guitar Wood and Manufacturing - Gibson, Martin, and Yamaha

You may recall the post on the trouble Gibson ran into when an US Fish & Wildlife SWAT team raided their factory to confiscate computers, guitars, and especially Indian Rosewood components that the government claimed was was in violation of the Lacey Act. Gibson's CEO Henry Juszkiewicz has been a frequent, public and vocal defendant of his company's wood procurement practices, as you can see, for example in the following video of just a few weeks ago...

Mr. Juszkiewicz seems to be admitting that there may have been some "clerical mistakes" on the product identification...let's hope that's all it is, and that Gibson is alone in this particular error, so that this issue doesn't spill over into our other U.S. guitar manufacturing companies. If you would like to sign a petition of support for Gibson, and to resolve this Lacey Act issue, you can do so here.

Well, that previous post has made it to the top of the list as Go Wood's most popular post, passing even our solid reporting and investigation on President Obama's biomass speech earlier this year. Since there is that much interest, I thought I would take the opportunity to share with you some neat video on three different guitar companies and their manufacturing plants: Gibson's in Tennessee, Martin Guitar in Pennsylvania, and Yamaha in China. They are interesting to'll see many of the same processes and machines. Pay special attention to the wood portions of the videos, you may catch some interesting facts about how the companies acquire, store, and handle their wood. Also, see if you can catch any differences in the processes. Anyone that can identify a process step that is different in all three plants wins a Go Wood Wooden Wienie Whistle.

First, Gibson...

Next, we have two videos of Martin Guitar's factory in Nazareth, from 1939, and one a little more recently. The '39 video is great for a slice of wood products history. Hand-making classic guitars by the light of the factory window. And it has some great music as a background soundtrack...Thank You, Mr. Martin, I'm Alright.

This second Martin factory video is the first in a series of five; you can view the others on YouTube here, if you like. This first in the series has a lot on the wood handling and drying process of the company...they buy at least some of their wood green (30% MC), air dry it down to about 20% in their warehouse, and then take it down to about 6% in their kiln. Great shot of a lot of Indian Rosewood, and even some extremely rare species under lock and key. Which kind of makes you scratch your head about the Gibson situation, and understand why all U.S. producers of wooden instruments are greatly concerned about the Gibson case and further Lacey Act prosecutions.

Finally, for an international perspective and to allow us to appreciate the quality of the competition, we have a really nice video from a Yamaha factory in Hangzhou, China. Again notice the wood inventory and the "massive wood drying section" of their factory, which looks like a type of pre-dryer in which all their wood inventory is extremely well-organized and stickered. The tour guide gives us some nice detail about their attention to drying their Engelmann Spruce from Europe, Sitka Spruce from Canada, and Western Redcedar from the U.S. As I viewed that portion of the video, I found myself doubting that you would ever see Chinese officials raiding the Yamaha operation.

In fact, everything about the Yamaha factory seems massive and efficient, including the number of workers employed at the production of a great instrument. Yes, I know many of you are Gibson or Martin purists, but check out the sound the great Joe Bonamassa coaxes out of his Yamaha in the Royal Albert Hall in London. Turn up the speakers if you're able; you won't hear many finer examples of sound that wood will produce in the right hands.

U.S. guitar and piano producers, and U.S. justice officials, let's get this Lacey Act issue resolved, well-defined, and behind us. And fast. The world isn't waiting on us...they're moving ahead, improving their products and their processes as fast as they can.


Don Lewis said...

Hey- don't forget Fender. They are huge and a great company.

It seems the US Government is telling the India government that they don't understand their own Indian rules. The India government insists there is nothing wrong and they want to sell more but our government is telling the Indians that they don't know their own rules and the Indian internal laws need to be interpreted by the US. Amazing gall.

Chuck Ray said...

No slight to Fender intended, Don. They are indeed.