At PRT, we envision a future that encompasses reforestation, energy and material efficiencies, and continued support of land conservation and clean water projects as part of providing our clients with the best tonewoods possible.
One recent project brought clean water projects and guitars together.
In 2014, the Taylor Guitar Company produced a special edition of its popular GS Mini model, using salvaged wood from near the defunct Holden mine in Washington’s North Cascade Mountains. This unique instrument is the result of an unprecedented partnership between the guitar maker, Pacific Rim Tonewoods, and charitable organizations; a partnership formed to bring clean drinking water to Central Americans in need.
The inspiration for this guitar began with a walk through a doomed forest near Holden Village. Holden Village was the residential camp for the Holden mine and has functioned as a Lutheran retreat center since the closure of the mine in the late 1950’s. Hundreds of trees were slated to be felled in order to re-route a river polluted by the operation of this abandoned copper mine. A friend of mine, David Olson, a frequent Holden Village visitor, recognized that many of the trees marked for cutting were old growth Engelmann Spruce, a wood that is valued by guitar makers for its warm tone and “quick” response to a light touch, making it a premium tonewood. David thought that there must be a use for them that would be more noble than firewood. Being a guitar player and an instrument builder, he thought, “why not use them for guitars?”.
The soundboards of the Holden Village Special Edition of the GS Mini guitars are cut from the wood of these 250- year-old Engelmann spruce trees. The backs and sides of these guitars are made from the wood of a single maple tree that grew near Bellingham, which was cut for a college expansion project. The wood of this particular Big Leaf Maple tree displays a beautiful “fiddleback” pattern resulting in its striking appearance.
David Olson conceived this project and has guided it along at every stage, but it only became a possibility through the willingness of Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug, of Taylor Guitars. Wood without guitar builders is just wood.
When I first asked Bob Taylor whether he might be willing to build a special limited edition “Holden” guitar, he said “Yes” without hesitation. This attitude is of a piece with Taylor’s innovation in sourcing wood sustainably in Central America and Africa, with their emphasis on minimizing waste, and with their belief in doing well by doing good.
In addition to Dave Olson, Taylor Guitars, and Pacific Rim Tonewoods, the project involves Whatcom Community Foundation, Holden Village, and the two main non-profit beneficiaries, Living Waters for the Worldand El Porvenir. Because of the enthusiastic involvement of all of these partners, this guitar project has flourished.
The remediation at the Holden Mine is essentially a water cleanup project, and through this effort, a polluted stream will soon be clean once again. Large parts of the developing world are not so fortunate. United Nations statistics tell us that over one-third of the world’s population, some 2.5 billion people, lack access to clean water. Water-borne diseases are a major cause of illness and mortality in these areas, most of which are in the developing world.
Nearly 40% of the proceeds from the sale of the Holden Village Special Edition of the Taylor GS Mini guitar will be donated to the clean-water nonprofit organizations Living Waters for the World and El Porvenir. “Through this extraordinary gift of music and craftsmanship, a widening circle of community will come together to help children and their families have clean water for the first time.” says Steve Young, Executive Director of Living Waters for the World.
Another project partner, Jenna Elisabeth Saldaña, Director of U.S. Operations for El Porvenir, says, “This is a story of full-circle benefit to the environment and to the people whose health depends on a healthy environment. ”
The Whatcom Community Foundation has helped to steward the philanthropic aspects of the project. “We are thrilled and honored to be a part of this incredible project, which combines inspiration, ingenuity and collaboration.” says Mauri Ingram, President and CEO of Whatcom Community Foundation. All of the local wood for this guitar, and all of the effort to transport and mill this wood, has been donated to the cause.”
Those of us at Pacific Rim Tonewoods love the idea of using these local woods for an international benefit via this diverse ensemble. It’s almost alchemy; transmuting water into wood, into guitars, and then back into clean water – with a side benefit of creating music for years to come.
The Holden project is complete and the guitar is no longer available for purchase.
We don’t have footage of the manufacture of the GS Mini, but here is a quick tour of Taylor’s El Cajon factory.