Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The (Murky) World of Exotic Timber

This post was motivated by a curious turn of events. A pipemaking friend was short of a few pieces of blackwood, and asked me to recommend suppliers that he could buy from without having to order and wait, as he needed it yesterday. I immediately thought of Theodor Nagel Gmbh, in Hamburg, from whom I bought a lot of blackwood ( and some cocus) in the early days. In looking out the link to send to him, I logged onto their site, and noticed that they had nothing listed under stock. I initially put this down to a blip or re-organisation of the site, but soon realised the reason was that Nagel has apparently gone out of business and is filing for bankruptcy.
The company has been around for a very long time, since 1837 I believe, and was one of the largest players on the international exotic hardwood scene.
I'm not sure if there is a direct connection with the business failure, but a little bit more snooping revealed that there had been some trouble with timber they had supplied to American guitar making giant, Gibson. Apparently Gibson are in trouble for illegally importing wood, and Nagel was the supplier.
Murkier and murkier I came across this article which claims that Fox news were trying to politicise the story, claiming that Gibson had been targeted by the government because their CEO was a contributor to the Republicans. Worth reading if you're interested in US politics and this time, by extension, the politics of international timber trading.


  1. Fox "News"! Scary.

    Is sourcing (quality) exotic timber becoming more difficult than it was, say, ten years ago?

  2. Depends on the timber. Luckily for me ( and for most bagpipe and flute makers) African blackwood is not difficult to get, and steps are being taken to ensure a good environmentally sound source in the future. I must post about this soon actually.
    Other timbers like cocus, are just about gone as commercial timbers now, as is "real" rosewood, and Indian ebony.
    I think it was ebony of some sort that Gibson were in trouble about.
    And yes, Fox news is very scary......

    1. http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0706-ebony_gibson.html

      Nagel and Gibson involved in purchasing illegally sourced ebony and exotic timbers from seriously endangered Madagasgan rainforest. After seeing a documentary on the affects of this ilegal logging I hope Gibson pay the price as Nagels have.