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Wood 101

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Inspired by the recent government raid of the Gibson Guitar Corporation, we take a closer look at the woods used in the instrument-making trade and the various issues surrounding them. We'll be joined by Quinnipiac University law professor and guitarist W. John Thomas, as well as New York luthier Roger Sadowsky, who has been making guitars for more than 30 years.


Roger Sadowsky and W. John Thomas

Comments [17]

sornord from Germany (US Forces)

The INDIAN government says Gibson's shipments were LEGAL under their laws but the US government said they were inviolation of Indian law. So the US government is enforcing THEIR interpretation of INDIAN law when India says there was no infraction? And Gibson alone (for now) is the only manufacturer being raided/shut down? The Lacey act also stands to negatively affect furniture makers and other users of "exotic" woods.

Oct. 18 2011 01:59 AM
ernie g from detroit mi

the gov. singles out gibson for this when the chinese build anything with no restrictions n dump it on us stop buying anything from them n dose the fed have evidence that gibson knowingly purchased this wood illeaglly, what is going on in our country

Oct. 10 2011 02:01 PM
Scott Berrian from Calfornia

I'm still trying to find someone...anyone who can fill out a Declaration Form on an instrument. :(

Sep. 15 2011 12:25 PM

There is a very simple answer to this issue, buy Roger's great instruments, not those Gibby guitars that have so very many issues.

Sep. 15 2011 07:01 AM
Jason from Sussex county NJ

I have been using alternative materials for building with good results...As far as "tone woods" go, I was recently playing in a studio & was approached by a player who said he had been looking for a sound like mine for years, & had bought & sold several pricey guitars. He asked about mine & seemed shocked to hear that it was made from plywood & cost me $149.00. I've had it for almost 20yrs now as my main squeeze. Not knocking the purists, maybe my plywood baby's just got some kind of MOJO!

Sep. 14 2011 10:52 PM
Dave from Kalifornia

I've been following this issue and it is bureaucratic BS. The Lacey Act, as currently written, is a POS nightmare when it comes to any reasonable and fair application.

It is all a shell game anyway. The environmental laws, I mean. Unless the world population stops growning, none of this will matter to your greatgrandchildren.

Sep. 14 2011 10:08 PM
Gregory from The Bronx

I am always amused when liberals who go around pointing their fingers at the greed of others (and rightfully so, usually, in my opinion) are caught complaining because just laws adversely affect them. Maybe there is less difference than one would imagine between the true human nature of guitarists and multinational corporate types.

Sep. 14 2011 02:45 PM

Maybe the government could just warn these companies a year or so before they raid them.

In response to 'how can I vet these suppliers'? That's just passing the buck, it's how a lot of injustice in this world is allowed to continue. Find suppliers you can vet. Maybe you can't be 100% sure, but do some diligence.

Sep. 14 2011 02:27 PM
Ken from Little Neck

I don't buy the argument that your last caller made. In what way is the Fish and Wildlife Service stopping Congress from doing something about the economy?

Sep. 14 2011 02:27 PM
Ben from Park Slope

I was an instrument maker for many happy years. I am supportive of the goals here, but think the regulations sound insane and would drive any tour manager to madness.

The one thing I can say authoritatively, though -- the person you should trust the least in any discussion is Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz. Trust me on that one.

Sep. 14 2011 02:25 PM
Jim from Manhattan

Maybe I shouldn't comment, because I will be starting a new job in a week at (ironically) a large guitar manufacturer, but I intend to fly with one of my favorites on the plane out. Should I cook up some paperwork? Will I be stopped at Security? How can you / the gov't / anyone force a simple enthusiast to comply with these ridiculous laws. The net-net is all the guitar makers have been for at least 15 years looking for alternative woods that yield the tone customers are looking for.

Sep. 14 2011 02:24 PM
Erika from Brooklyn

I knew a man in Costa Rica that owned a small amount of land. He had a beautiful old tree with rare wood on his property. While he was gone some people came on to his land, cut down his tree and took it away. The wood was very valuable so they stole it. It’s easy to say the issue isn’t important when people aren’t sneeking onto your land and stealing your property.

Sep. 14 2011 02:23 PM
Wayne Johnson from Brooklyn

The Gibson CEO should be in jail. These rare woods mean tremendous suffering for the animals that live in the depleted forest. Let alone the elephants that died agonizing deaths for the ivory. Good for you for doing this topic

Sep. 14 2011 02:20 PM
Edward from NJ

The exact same thing happened to me when the government shut down my wholesale panda meat import business.

Sep. 14 2011 02:19 PM
Ken from Little Neck

As a guitar and mandolin player for many years, I've been following this story for a while. I tend to agree with Eli - there are plenty of sustainable wood sources that can be used to make instruments of equal or even superior quality to instruments from older sources. That said, I can't honestly say that a D-28 with Brazilian Rosewood doesn't get my blood pumping just a little more than other kinds of woods (even though I usually prefer Mahogany). As a mandolin player, I'm very happy that Maple isn't going to be a problem any time soon. :)

Sep. 14 2011 02:14 PM
Eli from astoria

Having owned and played guitars made from a very wide range of woods i really think that great instruments can still be built without using illegal wood. I also think that certain "prestige woods" are used to sell the most deluxe expensive instruments which are by no means always the best sounding instruments or if they ARE the best sounding and playing instruments from a given maker it is not necessarily a result of using one particular illegal wood and has more to do with the skill of the builder.

Sep. 14 2011 01:06 PM
barry irwin from Orlando

This will lead to pricier instruments and one's of lesser quality as well.

Sep. 14 2011 11:08 AM

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