Pacific Rim Tonewoods has been supplying wood to makers of fine musical instruments for over 30 years.
Tonewood is more than lumber: it’s wood carefully chosen for specific properties, milled to precise specifications and expertly treated so that the instruments built from this wood will look good, sound good, and endure. Pacific Rim Tonewoods’ longstanding mission is to provide luthiers with the best available soundboards for guitars and other musical instruments.
Our shop is nestled in a forested valley of the North Cascades; neighboring British Columbia and Alaska are rich with spruce, the industry standard for guitar tops. We also have relationships throughout the world that allow us to source a wide range of woods for guitar makers.
This is a trade that starts with trees and ends with music; it is equally about people along the way. We like to keep everyone happy, not only with our products, but also with the way we do business.
Eric Warner is the general manager of Pacific Rim Tonewoods. He started as a janitor in 1994, and steadily learned all facets of the business. Eric is now a partner, and manages our production on a daily basis. He also takes care of many of our client relationships and travels to various trade shows. If you call with questions regarding our products and services, Eric will be happy to speak with you.
Steve McMinn is the founder of PRT. Up until recently, he split every log that came into the mill, but now he spends most of his time involved with our koa, maple, and various research projects.
Kevin Burke is our primary log buyer; he also oversees various projects and research. His background in horticulture and landscaping make him a natural fit for our work with maple propagation at Utopia. He has been our key liaison with forestry experts at Purdue, Oregon State, Washington State and other universities.
Brian Sweeney buys alder logs for resale to veneer slicing mills in the mid-west, and figured maple logs for our own production. Quiet, resourceful and thorough, Brian takes care of a number of other concerns for us.
Justin El-Smeirat has taken splitting logs over from Steve. This critical process –the first cut– requires knowing where the guitars are in a given log. Justin also buys logs, and is heavily involved in the koa project in Hawai’i, with Paniolo Tonewoods.
Steve Farrell is responsible, as millwright, for making and/or maintaining all of our milling equipment. He has recently been learning CNC milling for making jigs and fixtures for our brace manufacturing operation.
David Olson spends his days as an ear, nose and throat doctor. He also has a Masters degree in paleobotany, and plays the guitar. His interest in trees and acoustics have led him to PRT, where is has been working on ground-breaking research into the sonic properties of tonewoods. He also instigated the clean water project with the Engelmann spruce at Holden Village.
Christi Schmidt handles our phones, billing, payroll, and export paperwork. Hers is the warm voice that will answer when you call.
The seed that would grow into Pacific Rim Tonewoods was planted in 1981, when Steve McMinn decided to build a guitar. He sent away for a box of basic materials, but upon receiving it and surveying the blocks of wood inside, he thought, There’s better wood than this out there.
He started building the guitar, but was increasingly intrigued by the materials, for he had an intimate knowledge of wood and Northwest trees. Son of a forester, he’d grown up surrounded by coastal forests; as a young adult, he’d put himself through college by logging, and then had spent summers on trail crews for the Park Service. He’d built wooden boats, and taught wood shop at Western Washington University.
Motivated to look for superior wood, Steve started salvaging blown down spruce from the Forest Service Lands in Alaska and Washington. He’d split up promising logs into blocks and then backpack these out from the forest. Having turned his home garage into a small shop, Steve talked to and worked with various luthiers and figured out what a guitar wants from a piece of wood. His love for wood, beauty, music and craft found a practical home in creating a business that focused on milling the right wood in the right way, to create the finest possible tonewoods. As this business grew, Steve moved his milling operations to Birdsview, a hamlet tucked in the Skagit River valley, in the foothills of the North Cascades. The guitar that started this all was eventually burned in a rubbish bonfire that Steve had set in his driveway. The soundboard, though, was saved when Steve plucked it from the flames. It hangs now on a wall at PRT, tribute to an ongoing commitment to excellence in tonewoods.