The Guitar Player's Girlfriend

For the other half of the guitarist's life

Gibson Guitar Being Bullied By EPA?

The Wall Street Journal reported that the EPA raided Gibson Guitars to seize pieces of wood for samples.  Apparently, the guitar maker may be guilty of using illegally harvested woods in its guitars.  On the other hand, if you take the company’s side, they are getting harassed by the EPA – AGAIN – for making guitars elite musicians play.

At issue is the ebony being used for the fret boards, which comes from a number of developing nations.  India and Madagascar are prime suppliers, and the woods may not always be harvested in accordance with official standards.  Which Gibson may not know – they are just the end recipient, buying through recognized channels.  The whole thing has been compared to the blood diamond thing, where even if you are buying from a legitimate source, your products could be from shady sources the further you go down the food chain.

Instead of using hardwood for the fret boards, the “responsible” choice is carbon fiber.  Yet Gibson Guitars and others have said that guitarists don’t want to use carbon fiber since they feel it messes with the tone of their guitars.  (Ask your guitar playing boyfriend about his preferences.  I’ll wait.  Let’s both have a drink.)  Living with a tone obsessed player, I can get that this is a sensitive issue.  The dear boy’s guitar is all hardwood, and was custom made for him by a friend.  If you asked me to tell you what kind of wood it is made from, I would say “brown” and then run away before you could hit me.

Anyway, I am hardly alone in not knowing my hardwoods from a rock on the ground, but apparently if you are traveling with your guitar, there is a possibility that it could be seized if you don’t know all the woods in it thanks to the Lacey Act, which covers importation of flora and fauna.  Fun fact: guitars can count as flora and fauna, even if they are nice vintage guitars.  So you have to do some extra paperwork if you have rare woods in your guitar or risk fines for faulty disclosure and confiscation of your guitar.  Scary stuff – and just a part of what Gibson is fighting against.  I’ll keep you posted as I figure out more!