Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars recently posted a video on YouTube that announced a change to the guitar and wood world that may change minds about the quality of wood. He has decided that the use of B-grade ebony wood, which is used for the fret boards of high-quality guitars, will be used because the practice of only using A-grade ebony produces such extreme waste.
Taylor says, “The Truth of the matter is, we are living in the generation when almost all of the wood species we are using in a guitar are stressed beyond belief.” This is because “ebony has been used on instruments since the Egyptians made musical instruments,” and “ebony has been a wood that for 2 or 3 or 4 hundred years we’ve gone into countries and we’ve used the ebony until its all gone. Literally.”
With the supply of ebony dwindling and the only place to buy it legally being Cameroon, Taylor headed to the African country to look into buying a lumber supply company there. While he was there he learned the gruesome truth. To find one single A-grade ebony tree, workers had to cut down nine B-grade trees that were then left to rot. When he asked the workers why they didn’t bring them to the yard, they told him they were worth 1/5th of an A-grade tree, and companies like his would not use it because of the discoloration.
Taylor decided then that B-grade would now be used in their guitars. In addition, Taylor noted, “We supply not only Taylor Guitars but the vast majority of guitar builders of high quality guitars,” meaning that other high-quality guitars will soon be following suit. He said, “I can’t in all good conscience know that we cut down ten good trees to get one black one and let that happen over and over again… every month, every year.”
J Gibson McIlvain does not sell ebony because most of our clients prefer other species similar to and more sustainable than Ebony. However, we have been touting the use of B-grade lumber for years. Today, very little A-grade wood is available in many species, and buyers are beginning to accept the use of B or even C grade material often in the name of price, sustainability, and even the unique character of the wood.
We can’t help but be excited about Bob Taylor’s recent decision to use B-grade wood in guitars. This is a giant step forward in sustainability for our industry that will ensure these species survive for many more generations. Ebony is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the use of exotic A-grade lumber, and we can’t wait for other industries to follow suit.
Watch Bob Taylor’s YouTube video below.
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