The best friend on earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.
- Frank Lloyd Wright

There are lots of reasons to think about how we use wood. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. That's one reason.

Biodiversity is another reason. Each species has something to contribute, whether it's quinine for the treatment of malaria or it's an inspiring piece of wood for your musical instrument. Mismanagement of the world's forest and irresponsible useage of what's already cut down threatens the diversity of species that we as consumers enjoy. We need look no further than Brazilian Rosewood for a compelling example of a species mismanaged to the brink of extinction.

One-man luthiery operations like mine represent a mere drop in the bucket in big picture of where the world's forests are going. Each of my guitars represents around 5-6 board feet of lumber. A mature teak tree (25 years old, 20" diameter, 45 feet tall) will yield about 500 board feet, 100 guitars worth, or eight years at 1 guitar per month. A towering, 300 year old Douglas Fir might yield between 2 and 3 thousand board feet, or 30-40 years of guitar building (if I used Doug Fir, that is, but you get the idea).

Nevertheless, we all share the responsibility to support proper management of the world's forests. As consumers, we have three simple ways of doing this:

  • Buy Smart. Sustainable-yield harvesting is smart forestry. Organizations that engage in SY harvesting manage forests carefully, falling only mature or overmature trees, and replanting to maintain the diversity and health of the forest as they go.

    Any time you have a chance, support responsible forestry. I am lucky to have a local retailer that stocks only sustainable-yield lumber: south american mahogany, padauk, zebrawood, bubinga, and others. It is not always the easiest or cheapest way to get lumber, but we need to encourage operations that do it. If you're buying lumber, or wood products, demand Smart Wood!

    For more information on responisble forestry, visit The Forest Stewardship Council or the Certified Forest Products Council.

  • Buy Local. Using domestic species makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, there's not as much effort required in getting the lumber to you. Second, you're not getting your lumber from a rainforest. The unfortunate fact is that much exotic lumber comes from underdeveloped nations where logging practices are often suspect at best. There are plenty of great domestic species to choose from.

    I can build a variety of all-domestic wood basses. Commission an all-domestic bass and I'll give you a 5% discount on it.

  • Buy Alternatives. The import ban on Brazilian Rosewood enlightened the guitarmaking industry. There are lots of other woods out there that sound and look good. When possible, choose an alternative to popular woods that are being taxed by overuse. The main endangered species are listed in the CITES appendices: alerce, afromosia, Brazilian rosewood, South American mahogany (swietenia spp), and Lignum Vitae. For more information on the CITES lists, click here.

    Instead of Honduras mahogany, try African mahogany or sapele. Instead of rosewood, ask for granadillo. I'm happy to suggest lesser known species that will meet your needs; just ask. For a few more "lesser known" suggestions, try this page. .