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WHY are we organising the Local Wood challenge?
The recipe for a great guitar consists of so many ingredients – and there is not one single path that is right while others would be wrong. That is the beauty of our craft – there are countless paths to make fine guitars.
We can all, however, agree upon this: The usage of many of our favourite tropical wood species has become more and more problematic over the last decades. That is why we have come up with the Local Wood Challenge (LWC). We want to highlight the fact that using only traditional tonewoods is not the only way to make a great guitar, and that sustainability has started to gain serious recognition as a seminal value in our trade.
The Challenge is not only about avoiding the use of endangered tropical wood. Using locally grown wood also leaves a smaller carbon footprint than using wood that’s been transported half way across the planet to your shop. Also – by using local wood you have a chance to differentiate yourself from others, too!
HOW are we doing the Local Wood challenge?
This is where you, the luthiers, come in. Everyone is free to join or to decline. Your task is to make a guitar out of locally grown wood. This is not a competition, there are no prizes or rewards other than the experience and learning inherent in challenging yourself to try something new and different.
Local Wood Challenge means: To make an instrument out of wood locally grown in your region. All of it. There are some of you – acoustic, electric and bass builders alike – who already make instruments of local wood as a common practice – but maybe there still are some unexplored possibilities for you guys too. Look at this as an exercise – an exciting opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and try something you’ve never tried before.
Currently, the LWC is organized as a peer - reviewed registration program, which means that every application will be individually reviewed by professional and experienced luthiers.
The Leonardo Guitar Research Project with their study of using non-tropical, sustainable wood species in making acoustic guitars is an inspiring example of such development from recent years. There are useful resources on their website http://www.leonardo-guitar-research.com where they are creating a database of suitable European woods, sawmills and wood suppliers who can provide these and luthiers who are using non-tropical woods. You may want to check them out for more information.
Remember – this is a Challenge, and not a competition. You’re out to challenge yourself, to explore new ground and try something new!
Once you built such an instrument and would like to use the LWC mark to connect to the project register it with us. If appropriate you will then receive permission to use the mark and you will also be included in newsletters, activities etc.
A few additional notes:
Keep a record of where you obtained the wood from and what you are using it for. This is an important part of the project – we would like to compile a database of your experiences with the various species of wood and their properties so we then can make this information available to all. The Challenge has not stopped with the HGGS 2016 – it has become an ongoing project, with more luthiers joining and beginning to work with local wood over the coming years.
As your project develops, you may want to send us pictures and descriptions which we’ll post on our social media channels and which can be used for publicity purposes.
Frequently asked questions:
What does “local wood” mean exactly?
There is no definitive answer to this question, but to put it simply – by local wood we mean such pieces of wood that are “regionally (locally) grown” in relation to your location. This includes the geographic area and the climate region. But remember, the whole instrument needs to me made of local wood, not just parts of it.
For someone living in the southern region of Germany, local wood might mean something from the Swiss alps, whereas a luthier living in Sweden might have plenty of local wood growing right on his backyard. Luthiers from Brazil or other tropical countries – well, you can use your local wood too – but challenge yourself – look for novel solutions – and remember the idea of sustainability when choosing the planks!
Each of you might interpret what “regionally” means slightly differently – so if in doubt please ask us before you buy your wood or start building! Use your common sense – and have fun with the build!
I have moved around. Can I use local wood from the previous country I previously resided in?
The idea of using local wood gets a bit lost if you go about and import wood from somewhere far away – even if you used to live there before. But if you have some stock left from the time you lived in that country, then sure, go for it! But here keeping a record and ‘creating a story’ is especially important so clients will understand why you are using that particular wood. You must explain this circumstance on the form when you file for registration!
Does the wood need to grow near my workshop area? What radius from one’s location are we talking about?
It is impossible to draw a clear line here. What is “near your workshop area” anyway..?
For one luthier it means a 10-kilometre radius, whereas in some countries the local wood grows 200 km away in the nearest forest. The climate region you live in can cover a lot of area. Again, use your common sense.
Is there some sort of definition here? Such as a verified locale of the wood’s growth?
No definitions are carved in stone. Certified woods are great of course if available. Whatever you think is a good idea to use and what you feel is local enough. This is not a competition – you’re challenging yourself! But remember to document the provenance of the wood and what you used it for – this will be included in the description of your instrument if there are publications about the Challenge.
Must the wood be native to one’s region, or simply grown there?
The essence of the Challenge is to experiment with wood species that are typical to your region and climate. So maybe it’s a good idea to choose native species – but then again, some species may have been imported from another part of the world hundreds of years ago and they’ve spread naturally and become more or less native – no need for nitpicking here.
How about 'alternative' materials?
The use of alternative materials is still being discussed, currently under consideration are Rocklite and Bamboo. Someone asked about Bog oak, which should really be regarded like other woods, meaning if it grows locally in your region it qualifies. We will keep you updated about decisions!
The instruments remain under ownership of the makers, correct? You are not expecting that the instruments will be donated?
Yes, of course, each instrument remains under the ownership of the maker – or better yet, you may sell it for a good price and decide to make more local wood guitars!
Is there any sort of prize, since this is a challenge?
The Challenge is meant to stimulate you to try new things, to challenge yourself. It is not a competition, so there won’t be a prize. The reward is what you learn and discover on this journey, which you can then share with the Show visitors, the press and your colleagues. Participating in the challenge will create a spirit of collaboration and collegial fellowship rather than a competitive atmosphere!
I have more questions about the concept — how will I get more information about the developing concept?
We have set up a closed Facebook group and invite all who indicate their interest in participating. Click here and request to become a member. There you can ask your questions, discuss with colleagues and we will also post information. For those of you not using Facebook we will post information on the EGB website, so you might want to check in there regularly if you are a member. If you have specific questions you can email us.
Do I have to be an EGB member to participate?
No. Although we encourage guitar builders to join our community and become active members this is not a requirement to participate in the LWC.
I want to participate and register an instrument in order to use the LWC symbol. What do I need to do?
- Complete the registration form online
- Once we've reviewed your information we'll send you an email with the file and permission to use the mark.
- If you are active on Facebook you should consider joining the FB group.
I have completed the registration form, what happens now?
Your instrument information will be reviewed and if approved you will receive a confirmation with a downloadable high-res file containing the LWC mark, which you may use on the instrument you registered and/or in any documentation about it. Your company name will be added to the list of registered participants.
You will also receive the LWC logo to use, please link it back to www.europeanguitarbuilders.com
We will mail you a LWC registration sheet, which you can use when you display your instrument.
Remember, if you are uncertain about the wood you want to use please please email us BEFORE you start building!