As a direct importer of exotic hardwoods, J. Gibson McIlvain appreciates the message of a video (see below) published in May 2012 by Bob Taylor, President of Taylor Guitars, regarding the Ebony trade.
J. Gibson McIlvain does not deal in Ebony; however, we do supply many luthier customers with species that have excellent tonal quality and are used for instrument parts other than fret boards. Of course, we also supply plenty of exotic species for other applications, as well. As such, we’ve seen some of the same kinds of unethical logging practices and hold to the same kinds of ethics that Taylor encourages. We do so not only because it’s legally required, but also because it’s the right thing to do.
Because we care more about responsible forestry practices than we do about our bottom line, we truly consider companies like Taylor Guitars to be our allies in this battle.
In his video, Bob Taylor mentions the scenario of 20 Ebony trees being cut down for every 2 completely black ones that are taken to the mill. Because Ebony with color boasts the same qualities as pure black Ebony, Tayor decided that it’s more important to “live within the truth of the forest” than to waste our natural resources due to what’s become an acceptable view of beauty. With boldness, he asserts, “The nature of what we thought was beautiful needs to change.”
Instead of 9 Ebony trees rotting on the forest floor in Camaroon for every one that’s harvested, we’re thrilled to know that Taylor Guitars is making sure all 10 are treated as if they all have value. Ebony isn’t the only species that suffers from misguided thinking that B grade equals worthless, and it’s not the first with which B grade has enjoyed a resurgence of appreciation. Here in North America, Cherry with sapwood was once frowned upon, while today it’s just about all we have available. The only acceptable Walnut was once free from knots. Today, wood with such marks of “character” is often appreciated more than what was once considered “perfect” examples. Anyone who values sustainable forestry practices will recognize the benefits of accepting B grade materials even when it isn’t completely necessary (yet).
While this issue is not exclusive to the Ebony market, it is uniquely changing in that niche. Because Taylor virtually has a monopoly over that market, he has the power to dictate to it in a way that basically no one else can do with any other species. While we applaud his taking such responsible leadership, we urge other importers to do the same. We also appeal to our customers to help stop trees from rotting and protect the world’s forestry industry by seeing the beauty in what nature has to offer.
While not everyone will be able to see the devastation and economic depression in Cameroon or other locales, we can all be informed about the true reasons for forest elimination and do our part in helping to sustain them.