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Environmental Enforcement

Thanks to Salvelinas Fontinalis for sending in this article. Gibson Guitars in Memphis and Nashville have been raided by federal agents, who seized several pallets of wood as well as computer files and guitars. The folks at Gibson contend they bought the wood from a certified supplier. The discussion about what sources of wood can legally be harvested is one thing, but if you happen to own a vintage high-end instrument, you could run into problems at borders:

If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent—not to mention face fines and prosecution.

I expect this kind of aggressive enforcement is going to change the playing field for luthiers – both the smaller shops of independent craftspeople and well established and well known companies like Gibson and Martin.

From what I’ve read, luthiers are convinced that they can achieve the highest quality tones only by using some specialty woods that are becoming increasingly rare in our rain forests. That isn’t to say that some very fine instruments cannot be made using woods that are not scarce. So what should a luthier do? I’m going to say leave the rare stuff alone and work at making the best instruments possible using woods that are not endangered. As for  individuals who own vintage Martins, the feds should leave them alone. The trees that went into those guitars have long ago  been cut down. Penalizing the end-user of a vintage instrument doesn’t seem reasonable to me. On the other hand, if you have a guitar today made using materials that are illegal to harvest, I don’t have much sympathy if the feds come a-knocking.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Guitar Frets: Environmental Enforcement Leaves Musicians in Fear « News Worldwide

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