FSC Lumber – What is it & Why Does it Matter? by Steve Casper
FSC or the Forest Stewardship Council (www.fsc.org) by their own definition is:
FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.
They were established in 1993 prompted by issues dealing with global deforestation. Since its beginnings, the FSC has become widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last almost 2 decades to promote responsible forest management worldwide. They provide internationally recognized standard-setting, trademark assurance and accreditation services to companies, organizations, and communities interested in responsible forestry.
The FSC label provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value.
FSC is nationally represented in more than 50 countries around the world.
Now, that being said, our concerns in the guitar or musical instrument building business require a supply of tone woods to build craft our products. Some of these tone woods are alder, ash, mahogany, and rosewood. All materials used to build probably 75% of the solid body electric guitars out there. These are the woods used to build the classic guitars we all crave and the tone produced from those materials were, well, classic.
But some of these beautiful sounding woods are being harvested before they can mature into the choice materials we crave, and then they are either sold on the black market or shipped to crafty importers for the black market elsewhere. The result, shortages in the lumber market of some of the ideal materials necessary for the top end instruments to be built from.
Remember a few months ago a very large, well-known guitar manufacturer was in some trouble with the Feds due to some potentially illegal African Rosewood that was purchased from an expediting firm out of Germany? Well, that was all due to a possible violation of the Lacey Act.
The Lacey Act, as it is described on the Federal Regulation site protects both plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for a wide range of violations. Most notably, the Act prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. This way, the Act underscores other federal, state, and foreign laws protecting wildlife by making it a separate offense to take, possess, transport, or sell wildlife that has been taken in violation of those laws. The Act prohibits the falsification of documents for most shipments of wildlife (a criminal penalty) and prohibits the failure to mark wildlife shipments (a civil penalty). The Departments of the Interior, Commerce, and Agriculture administer the Lacey Act through their respective agencies.
So if you purchase lumber from a poacher, you are in violation of the Lacey Act. If you purchase lumber from any other source, the real origin can’t really be determined unless you can gain access to the Manifest of when the shipment arrived. This will give you some idea thru some digging as to where the lumber originated and as to it’s legality. This is not to say that lumber mills and suppliers purchase illegal wood in shady deals in back alleys and old warehouses. I’m sure that does go on some. $199.00 guitars should tell you that. But by purchasing FSC Certified lumber, you have a document stating the origin as being FSC Compliant. Once again, it boils down to being a responsible business and guitar builder. Whether you’re the builder or the consumer, purchasing FSC Lumber and lumber products, helps supports the self-regulation of the lumber industry and helps to continue to insure that the materials being sold haven’t been pillaged from some poor village somewhere for a bag of peas.
The whole deal with FSC Certified lumber is the ability to self regulate our usage. By purchasing lumber from certified tree farms that regulate their harvest, we are helping to regulate our portion of the system. These tree farms will specifically select trees in their forest, and only cut what has been marked. No clear-cutting of an entire forest. When companies do that, it causes quite a bit of damage to the eco-system and depletes our (luthier’s) supply of choice materials for our creations. But unless you are purchasing trainloads of lumber, you have to go thru a supplier and not the farm. There are many FSC certified Lumber Mills and Suppliers around. Check your phone book or Internet for some close to you. They will provide you with the paperwork associated with your lumber when you purchase it.
Believe it or not, Lowes and Home Depot have a lot of FSC Certified products. Get a can of paint from their paint department and they hand you a paint stirrer right? Check it, I bet they tell you that it is either recycled or made from FSC certified lumber. If you would like more detailed information about FSC Lumber or a certification, please go to www.FSC.org and check it out. There is lots of great info to be had.
Something I like to see is that some of the larger companies are beginning to catch on to the idea of building a greener guitar. Most offer a model that can be built using FSC Lumber. But they do come with an additional price tag for their efforts. Ahhh, Competition- Good Luck Fellas!