Design Philosophy: Be Green

Accept it, civilization is damaging the planet. Some of the damage may be permanent. The future will not be good for generations to come if we do not act now. I love wood. I love working with wood. Yet, the tonewoods used in making really good guitars are getting scarce. Many species are already endangered.

Can we just shrug it off with the excuse that luthiers only require a small quantity of these exotic woods? Up until the early 20th century, musical instrument makers make use of Ivory, in piano keys, as ornaments, etc. Unlike in the past centuries, killing an elephant in the wild for whatever purpose, let alone for ornamentation, is now considered horrific. But aren’t we committing the same crime against these wonderful majestic trees?

Take Mahogany for example. This fine wood is used in guitars such as the Gibson Les Paul, the Gibson SG, and most of the PRS Guitars. The wood is particularly prized for its warm tone, good midrange response and rich high notes. The trees are barely usable at 80 years old but favorable at around 170 years old when it reaches half a meter in diameter.

The paradox is that musicians as a group tend to be pretty progressive and ecologically savvy and concerned — until it comes down to their guitar…. They don’t want to take the chance that they won’t have the absolute best tone. It requires a little bit of education and it requires them to see the product. – C.F. Martin & Co. head of artist and public relations Dick Boak.

I want to make a statement. I want to see my children and my children’s children see these magnificent trees standing as they were for hundreds of years. With the Alpha project, we will not be using any wood. Nil. Zilch. Nada. So for that matter, here goes our disclaimer:

No Trees Were Harmed During the Making of This Guitar

Yet, the question is: is there a substitute that will sound just as good? I believe there are many potential candidates both natural and synthetic waiting to be discovered. I spent the past 2 years, on and off, looking for viable alternatives and I think I found some plausible green and renewable candidates. They won’t sound exactly like your Les Pauls or your Stratocasters, but so what? The main goal is not to sound like a copycat anyway. If you want the sound of a Strat, then get a Strat.

Piqued your interest yet? Watch this space… 😉

Next: Tuning the Wood: On Tonewoods and Other Myths next

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