Bosco Violin Supply

The Future of Ebony

September 5, 2017

Articles and Videos about Ebony

I highly recommend that everyone in the musical instrument field, from makers to musicians, familiarize themselves with the following information.

"Ebony's Final Frontier", Bob Taylor, PDF article

"The State of Ebony" by Bob Taylor, YouTube


We Must Become Better Stewards of the Forest

The exotic woods that we are accustomed to using in the musical instrument field are in very short supply. Ebony, in particular, is only legally exported from the African country of Cameroon. Almost all other countries have forbidden the export of ebony due to the carelessness with which it has been harvested, which has resulted in the forests becoming nearly exhausted.

It has been standard practice to only process 10% of useable ebony trees that are cut down; any trees exhibiting mottling were left to rot on the forest floor. Industry leaders such as Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars is trying to improve the situation to help ensure future availability of ebony, as well as helping to fairly compensate the local people who work in the industry where the Ebony is grown and harvested.

Quality vs. Appearance

The solution that Bob Taylor (who also owns one of the larger ebony mills in Cameroon) is bringing to the table is that much more ebony will be processed for use. The ebony that is harvested which is mottled or streaked is still of excellent density; it is only the appearance that is not what we expect.

As wood quantities dwindle and harvesting strategies change, we will have to become accustomed to what Bob calls, "the truth of the forest". Unless we learn to accept ebony that is not pure black it may not exist as an option for musical fingerboards in the future, as current strategies are unsustainable.

We have visited the manufacturers of violin fittings and fingerboards in Europe, and had a look at their supplies of rough sawn ebony. While there is some remaining inventory of jet black wood, their newer billets are streaked marbled. This will become the norm, and we in the music community must learn to appreciate it for what it is.

With education on this matter, we can learn to appreciate the beauty of ebony differently that we have in the past. This is the only responsible way forward. Whereas we will continue to try to source the blackest fingerboards for our customers, please know that the global supply of ebony is changing and that we must be willing to accept a different aesthetic going forward.

"This [striped ebony] is the ebony that the last place on earth's forests produce, and that's just simply the truth of the forest." - Bob Taylor

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