About Us

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Otway Tonewoods is a private business founded by Murray Kidman who has been supplying timber to local instrument makers for over 30 years. Our reputation is well known for supplying quality timber for a range of different instruments and tonewood applications. Our harvesting methods are respectful to the environment and our awareness of threatening processes to flora, fauna, erosion and water quality are fundamental to our low impact sustainable method of timber harvesting.

From the begining

Murray began sourcing timber for making his own furniture from residue left behind on clearfell logging sites. He would salvage logs left in windrows and from stumps and used fiddleback (see figure page) to enhance sections of his furniture. He then began sourcing and supplying blackwood timber for use in instruments due to its tonal properties: independently recognised but related to that of Acacia koa (see species page). Murray began supplying local instrument makers and in 1992 began sourcing timber for Maton Guitars. Since then Maton have continued to produce quality instruments from Otway Blackwood. They commonly use Otway Blackwood for the backs, sides, tops, headstock veneers and necks of acoustic guitars and for the neck and body of electric guitars. Otway Blackwood has been used in the Australian series, BG808 Artist, Mini Matons, the 50th anniversary series, the Bill May series and our high end timber is an avaiable option in the Maton custom shop. We presently continue to maintain a close connection with Maton and its employees. More recently we have supplied timber for Cort custom shop guitars and Parkwood Guitars which have mainly targeted the American market as well as local builders including Fidock Drums, Chriss Wynne, Scott Wyse (WA), Dan Robinson and a number of timber suppliers.

Harvesting

All our harvesting is monitored by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and each tree is assessed individually and catalogued. Trees are selected for their figure, harvestable volume and straightness. It is common to search over 60 potentially harvestable trees and find one or two which have sufficient figure to harvest. They are sawn on site to specific dimensions, which minimises waste, and carried out by hand, on our backs. The volume of timber we harvest is approximately 20m^3/year, enough to make 5,000 guitars. On average we find one tree would produce between 50-125 guitar sets. Our harvesting operations are limited to minor harvesting which means our volumes will not increase (see legislation section below). We harvest as much of the tree as practicable and any residue is left to return to the ecosystem. We attempt to salvage any trees that have fallen, both on forest park (DSE) and roadsides (local government).

Regeneration

Regeneration guidelines suggest natural regeneration from the existing seed source is sufficient due to the low impact nature of our harvesting. Experiments through Acacia melanoxylon cultivation from figured parent trees have resulted in zero success but further efforts to cultivate individuals with identical genotypes to figured parent trees are being explored. Our theory on figure development (see figure page) would suggest these trees are genetically weak and regeneration on larger scales may affect healthy gene pools in the area, suggesting further research into figure development is needed.

The Environment

By selecting timber on such a small scale we are more aware of species which may be rare or threatened in the direct area, compared with clearfell logging which may overlook these species.  We can take actions on individual harvesting sites within coupes to reduce our impact, such as avoiding forest openings within the vicinity of Myrtle Beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) to prevent Myrtle Wilt from invading the area. We do not remove or modify habitat corridors and none of our operations restrict fauna movement in the area. Soil disturbance is unnoticeable and any change in water quality would be unmeasurable.

We feel that this valuable resource should be used sustainably, not exploited as it has been done in the past. The excessive land clearing that has resulted in flowing green hills and clean bottoms has not come from sourcing timber for instruments, but an ignorant approach to managing our priceless native vegetation and a lack of respect for all the species that rely on it. This is the reason why timber harvesting has had so many negative connotations, due to excessive waste and mismanagement. With a new sustainable approach to timber utilisation we feel the offerings of this precious resource can be experienced for future generations to come.

Legislation

Currently, selected areas of forest park are allocated for minor forest produce harvesting under the guidelines set out in Caring for Country - The Otways and You. Great Otway National Park and Otway Forest Park Management Plan (Parks Victoria and DSE 2009). The Great Otway National Park and Otway Forest Management Plan (Parks Victoria and DSE 2009) was compiled in consideration of the Angahook-Otway Investigation - Final Report (Victorian Environmental Assessment Council 2004) which gives recommendations, due to submissions by both Murray Kidman and Maton Guitars, to allow for the licensed low-intensity harvesting of selected trees for specialist applications such as providing ornamental timbers for musical instruments. All Victorian timber harvesting must comply with the Code of Practice for timber production (DSE 2007) and Management procedures - for timber harvesting, roading and regeneration in Victoria’s State Forests (DSE 2009). The Great Otway National Park and Otway Forest Management Plan (Parks Victoria and DSE 2009) and the Angahook-Otway Investigation - Final Report (VEAC 2004) were compiled in consideration of Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management - A Framework for Action (DNRE 2002) as well as the Forests Act 1958, Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987 and the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004, to name a few. These items of legislation aim to protect and enhance the integrity of our native forests and ensure our timber harvesting operations are safe and sustainable for the long term.

Our Passion

Not only do we enjoy being part of the initial sourcing of the timber from which the instrument will be shaped from, but we have an appreciation for every process in the making of an instrument. From respecting our native vegetation to the timber aesthetics, tonal qualities, woodworking qualities and the end sound of the piece of artwork that is the instrument. We believe that radical transparency should be an integral part of product information; ensuring high environmental and ethical standards are met and can be viewed by the public.

We hope to share our passion for the environment, timber and instruments with you...

Links:

Maton Guitars - http://www.maton.com.au/products/custom-shop.html
George Lowden Guitars - http://www.georgelowden.com/
MC Guitars - http://www.mcguitars.com.au/
Daffy Guitars - http://www.daffyguitars.com/
Parkwood Guitars - http://www.parkwoodguitars.com/
Carson-Crickmore Guitars - http://www.carson-crickmoreguitars.com.au/
Fidock Drums - http://fidockdrums.com/about.htm