Have you ever looked at a guitar and wondered who made it or where the wood came from? We recently visited James Kidman from Otway Tonewoods, a father-son business in the Barwon South West region of Victoria. James and his father Murray select and harvest single trees in Victoria’s Otways, providing tonewoods to luthiers (string instrument makers) all over the country. The iconic guitar maker Maton Guitars in Melbourne is one of their biggest customers.
One blackwood tree with the right qualities can provide enough back- and side sets for up to 800 guitars! Find out more about their sustainable harvesting methods and their petition to save sustainable native forestry on their website.
Otway Tonewoods practices small-scale, low-impact harvesting – that means they head out into the bush, carefully selecting single trees suitable for guitar wood. The timber is then carried out of the bush with a motorised wheelbarrow. All timber is documented using colour coding and each piece can be traced back to the tree where it came from.
“In the Otways, Murray and James Kidman have developed a best practice model for the future harvest of forest resources, minimizing impacts while supporting a high-value manufacturing industry for which Australia has become a global sustainability leader. They prove that resource practices, commitments and relationships can be forged with ecological values rather than in spite of them.” (Gibson and Warren 2019 – The Guitar: Tracing the Grain Back to the Tree (University of Chicago Press))