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Thread: The State of Ebony

  1. #1

    The State of Ebony

    As this video is more than a year old, maybe some of you have seen it. But I just watched it and thought it was brilliant. Here's hoping you guys like it as well.

    Richard

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  2. #2
    Senior Member toothace's Avatar
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    Great video! Thanks for posting.

  3. #3
    Senior Member andy474x's Avatar
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    Wow, that was really interesting. I LOVE the ebony board on my Akesson, it was my first ebony fretboard, and the feel is just unmatched IMO. Denser and smoother than rosewood, but not sticky like maple, especially finished maple. Ebony board will be a feature I look for on future guitar purchases, so this is good info to be aware of. I'm glad PRS as a company is also dedicated to this kind of responsibility - if there's going to be color in the ebony, I think PRS is the company that can show the rest how to make it beautiful! Bring it on!!!
    -I'm no expert, but it seems to work and I haven't electrocuted myself yet. Which is pretty much the standard I live by.

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    I was severely impressed Herr Squid's Avatar
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    That's a very wise man right there!

  5. #5
    Forgive my cynicism, but the smart part is that he's cornered the legal ebony market, and multiplied what he can make on it by increasing the yield by a factor of ten - a masterstroke that immediately makes the company far more valuable than the price he paid for it.

    And the sweetest part of the deal is that he can convince everyone he's doing it in the name of Saving the Planet, thus increasing the demand for the 9/10 of the company's output that didn't make it to market before.

    There will now be demand for the ebony no one wanted prior to his acquisition. And customers will accept the ebony they wouldn't have before. Brilliant! Of course, the price won't go down when people get the grade B ebony, despite the increased supply and relatively stable demand. And the grade A ebony you know will be priced higher.

    Who's gonna argue? You play ball with him, or no ebony.

    Ya gotta admire the guy's cojones.

    He did another bright thing by making necks on his expensive guitars the way PRS does it on their second-line models, but he didn't lower the price. Instead, he touted it as a big advance.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 02-11-2014 at 11:14 PM.
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    Wow, it's about time some one says it, that is ridiculous. Cut down 10 to get one...This needs to be done.

  7. #7
    Almost was a FG22 owner.. WEDGE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    And the sweetest part of the deal is that he can convince everyone he's doing it in the name of Saving the Planet
    I have this same thought when I have to stay in a major chain hotel and they have signs in the bathrooms admonishing you to use the same towel for days on end to save water and Mother Earth.......all I can think of is how they pray on people's sentimentality or soft side and as a corporation save millions by cutting down on laundry expenses, but maybe I am a just a cynic....
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  8. #8
    Senior Member 11top's Avatar
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    Who cares Mr. Taylor's motives if the results are for the betterment of us all? I applaud what he's done. Let him be rewarded for his foresight and the resulting good.






    Also, while black ebony is certainly beautiful, I also love the uniqueness of the "colored" pieces.

    Thanks for posting, Richard.
    Last edited by 11top; 02-12-2014 at 07:29 AM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member veinbuster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 11top View Post
    Who cares Mr. Taylor's motives if the results are for the betterment? I applaud what he's done. Let him be rewarded for his foresight and the resulting good.
    I've been following this story for a couple of years. I've always believed Bob's motives are good and it is clear that what he has done has been good for the community.

    I don't mind if he makes a lot of money from it.

  10. #10
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    I saw this video when it first came out.

    I don't see Bob Taylor as a robber-baron. He easily could have taken a different approach and ignored the 10:1 cutting ratio and been content to control and manipulate the market with even higher priced black only wood.

    I believe it is true that solid jet black ebony may cost more as the mix of ebony fills the channel, but we already pay more for the rarer versions of tone woods - the artist and PS grades of flame and quilt maple are good examples. Rarity will always command a premium. Simple economics. Bear claw spruce costs more than clear spruce. Ribbon mahogany costs more than non-figured mahogany. Brazilian rosewood costs more than Indian rosewood. We accept these things because they are market truths. So, ebony should be different??

    Bob is going to make some money off of the other guitar manufacturers and the violin makers. So? If it wasn't him, it would be someone else. If your job is to build guitars, part of that job is to gather the raw materials. You can travel the world and do it yourself and charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per guitar to compensate for your time, travel expense, special lumber mill tooling, trucks for hauling, freighters for shipping and the thousands of other expenses involved in getting a tree from stump to your luthier's bench. OR you can pay far less by letting the various industries do what they do best at scales you would never be able to achieve individually.

    Want some legal ebony? Call Bob.
    Want some legal koa? Call someone just like Bob who has developed or purchased a company with the logistics to supply it.

    Think it stinks? Make your guitars from the maples on your own property - while they last.
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  11. #11
    Defender of the Universe HANGAR18's Avatar
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    What I enjoy most aobut that video is that it brings to light something that the majority of guitar players never knew was going on. I for one was borderline horrified to learn that irresponsible tree harvesting was going on to such a large scale. Here in the USA, we have no shortage of lumber at the local Home Depot or Lowe's because there are a lot of guys in the Northwest cutting down trees that their grandfathers planted and in turn, they plant 2 trees for every one they cut down which will eventually be cut down by their grandchildren. That sort of thing isn't happenning in other countries that grow all the tone woods that we all love for our instruments because "well, that's just someone else's problem". Extinction is a serious thing and I consider myself very privileged to own more than my fair share of guitars made from real Mahogany, totally black Ebony and solid Indian & Brazillian Rosewood.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    Think it stinks? Make your guitars from the maples on your own property - while they last.
    I don't think it stinks. I think it's brilliant planning and marketing.

    And yes, as 11 top says, his motives aren't relevant to most of us.

    He's a lot like Henry Ford, who decided he didn't want to buy steel from suppliers, so he opened a steel plant on his factory grounds, bought the companies owned by many of his suppliers, used the pallets that parts came on as floorboards at first, then bought himself a forest for the wood, and even started a company to make charcoal briquets from the leftover wood scraps (that company still exists and is called Kingsford)!

    Bob now has the Ebony market all to himself. Decided he didn't want to spend money on cases for his instruments, at first made them in the US, and then put a factory in Mexico to do it more cheaply. Didn't want to spend so much on neck wood, so came out with the headstock design, again, gift-wrapping it in save the forests propaganda.

    Nothing wrong with making profit. I just have to laugh that he wraps it all up in Save The Whales.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 02-12-2014 at 02:30 PM.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
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  13. #13
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    It is a bit over the top, but he is unquestionably saving the whales a little bit.

    They won't be cutting down and harvesting 10 times more trees and flooding the market. The demand for ebony will likely stay near what it is now. There aren't suddenly going to be 10 times more guitars and violins made, the market doesn't change just because Bob cornered the supply of ebony.

    What will change is those 9 trees that were left to rot will now be used. They will be cutting only 10% of what they used to cut to fill the supply channel to what it is now. The wood gets used whether it is black or streaked.

    Yes the message was a bit 'look at me' but the outcome is no less desirable because of it.

    I'm not discounting your take on it, Les. In almost every way I agree with you. I'm just looking at the down the road implications.

    I'm actually eager to see some figured ebony. I anticipate that it will appeal to me the same way that one rosewood neck with blonde streaks did.
    Last edited by rugerpc; 02-13-2014 at 02:23 PM.
    Thbbbbbt...
    Check it out: Phillybri used to have a band: Resonance But he's soooo over them now!

    sɹǝqɯǝɯ uɐıןɐɹʇsnɐ oןןǝɥ

  14. #14
    I just don't appreciate the sanctimony.

    Yes, some good will likely come of it. As a side benefit. It was surely not the primary purpose.

    When a company buys another company, first and foremost it is a business decision.

    It was made for sound business reasons, or the bankers wouldn't have let it happen, especially with an international partner in a third world country.

    Bob talks about "we," meaning Europe and America, taking this wood away from the third world. That's still going to happen. There isn't a big market for Taylor guitars in wherever the hell that wood is being cut. Yes, he's being kinder to his suppliers, and yes, wood won't be so profligately wasted.

    But it's still largely colonial style paternalism, make no mistake. The profits are going where? To some African company? No, they're coming here, to Bob's company in the United States.

    That wood is still going into the CNC machines of Taylor and other guitar makers here and in Europe, and that is the bottom line. I hope he can figure out a way to make the harvesting more sustainable, because that will be good business for him, and good for my 3 year old grandson who dreams about one day playing the guitar.

    But as the great sage once said, I've seen this rodeo before in other industries. I'm old enough, and educated enough, to understand what is happening. Don't pee on my shoe and tell me it's raining.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 02-13-2014 at 07:16 PM.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  15. #15
    When people begin a monolog with "the truth of the matter is...", I generally stop listening. I blame my Father -- who prefaced everything he ever said with those words.

    That said, it takes a lot longer to grow a tree than it takes to live my life. Hand me a well-crafted guitar with exceptional wood (especially the hard-to-get stuff) and I'm a potential buyer. If I can do my part to keep the good wood growing [snicker], I will.

    <edit> I should add, just in case it isn't clear, I like Bob's message and effort to stop the waste of the colorful ebony trees.
    Last edited by ]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! ; 02-13-2014 at 08:36 PM.
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  16. #16
    Name Manglin' Putz alantig's Avatar
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    Is that...wait for it...the truth of the matter?







    Sorry - could not resist.
    Alan

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  17. #17
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    I'm not disputing that Bob's decision to buy the company was a business decision foremost instead of the altruism he projects in the video. After all, he did buy the company before he knew about the 90% waste.

    But he did bring the waste to light and seems honest in his plans to market all the trees cut, and that will have a favorable effect on the trees and their future supply.

    I also agree that there is something a bit disturbing under the surface. I get what Hans says above. But I'm working on looking at where it goes from here, trying to divorce the messenger from the message.

    It is the same feeling I get when someone answers a question or starts a conversation with "Honestly..." or "To be honest..." I realize that in almost every case it is just an affectation in a person's speech pattern. But I still miss a bit of what they say next because I'm busy wondering if the really do lie most of the time and only speak honestly when they explicitly announce it. With those people too, I try hard to separate the idiom from the message..

    There are things in the video that we could dissect, much to Bob's detriment, but at this point, I'd rather concentrate on the wood.
    Last edited by rugerpc; 02-13-2014 at 10:11 PM. Reason: DAK
    Thbbbbbt...
    Check it out: Phillybri used to have a band: Resonance But he's soooo over them now!

    sɹǝqɯǝɯ uɐıןɐɹʇsnɐ oןןǝɥ

  18. #18
    I was severely impressed Herr Squid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    It is the same feeling I get when someone answers a question or starts a conversation with "Honestly..." or "To be honest..." I realize that in almost every case it is just an affectation in a person's speech pattern. But I still miss a bit of what they say next because I'm busy wondering if the really do lie most of the time and only speak honestly when the explicitly announce it. With those people too, I try hard to separate the idiom from the message..
    When I find myself saying that, what I usually mean is "you're not going to want to hear this, but you really should..." and that's the way I take it in this video.

    I also agree there's not much good to be found in analyzing this to death!

  19. #19
    Senior Member sleary's Avatar
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    Great information in there. Wood manufactures need to be a little smarter for the future.

    Interesting story and a little off topic.

    My great grandfather started a saw mill back over a hundred years ago. Most other business would clear cut a forest and move on. Non are around today because they didn't see the future. My great grandfather would buy a forest, cut what they needed and plant more trees. Company is still around today and even has flourished because of this practice.

    Moral of the story...think for the future
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  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by 11top View Post
    Who cares Mr. Taylor's motives if the results are for the betterment of us all? I applaud what he's done. Let him be rewarded for his foresight and the resulting good.

    Also, while black ebony is certainly beautiful, I also love the uniqueness of the "colored" pieces.

    Thanks for posting, Richard.
    Yeah, this is kind of where I was coming from. As this isn't a huge part of their marketing, I'm a little less jaded about his intentions. I particularly liked the last part of the video.

    Sentiment aside, I would rather have a lasting supply of a range of colored ebony, than for it to go away. And to be honest, I've seen some VERY cool ebony that I would love to have. I think it was someone working on a Private Stock piece that had a completely white ebony board. Calling it "B" stock tends to devalue the pieces, which I understand. But unique pieces of wood can be highly coveted -- and I have a feeling as years go by, these B stock pieces will be, too...

    Quote Originally Posted by HANGAR18 View Post
    What I enjoy most aobut that video is that it brings to light something that the majority of guitar players never knew was going on. I for one was borderline horrified to learn that irresponsible tree harvesting was going on to such a large scale. Here in the USA, we have no shortage of lumber at the local Home Depot or Lowe's because there are a lot of guys in the Northwest cutting down trees that their grandfathers planted and in turn, they plant 2 trees for every one they cut down which will eventually be cut down by their grandchildren. That sort of thing isn't happenning in other countries that grow all the tone woods that we all love for our instruments because "well, that's just someone else's problem". Extinction is a serious thing and I consider myself very privileged to own more than my fair share of guitars made from real Mahogany, totally black Ebony and solid Indian & Brazillian Rosewood.
    This. And if he's figured out a way to get 9 times as much yield, great! I only wish someone else would have had this foresight years and years ago...
    Richard

    I tried setting my password to "penis". It said my password wasn't long enough...

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