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Nickie
11-04-2014, 04:21 PM
Here's the two ukes I got from Kevin at Cocobolo Ukuleles:

72579

Doug W
11-04-2014, 04:31 PM
They are pretty, how do they sound? Do these purchases mean rice, beans and water on the menu for the next couple of months?

Jim Hanks
11-04-2014, 05:02 PM
Looking forward to my special order in another couple of months

mariegan7
11-04-2014, 05:21 PM
Here is a pic of my Cocobolo. It was a factory second - about a third off the regular price. The defects are hardly noticeable. If you're on a budget, ask if any factory seconds are available!

72580

xzcuzxme
11-05-2014, 11:43 AM
Nice...lovely grain. I've just got a cocobolo tenor uke from Mya-Moe. Not actually sure about the sound of it yet though. Maybe not my thing. Or maybe it just take a bit of getting used to!

PereBourik
11-05-2014, 12:53 PM
Give it time xzcuzxme. My Cocobolo is opening up. Sounded nice and bright at first. Now it has a bit of a twang. I think of it as awkward adolescence. I've had a few other uses go through this twangy phase on the way to a rich, fine voice.

Nickie
11-05-2014, 02:18 PM
They're not "mine" to keep. They are here for me to sell. Kevin would like me to introduce them to Tampa Bay. I may be looking for a dealer here for him. I can't buy ANY ukes right now....my fiancť said there's no way we can justify it. So I am keeping UAS at bay by doing things like this....and I may have some work done on one of my old ukes, to make it more fun to play.
The wood hasn't even begun to open up yet. The workmanship looks pretty darn good.

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 05:21 AM
Nickie, in the thread about endangered woods, you attempted to take the high road re. endangered tropical (and other) woods, yet here you are promoting cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), clearly a tropical hardwood with a lot of pressure on exploiting it as a substitute for woods like Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra).

From WikiPedia:

Logs, sawn wood and veneer sheets from the Guatemalan populations of Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), have been listed under CITES Appendix III[clarification needed] since 2008. In 2011, Panama extended that listing to include all products except seeds and pollen and finished products packaged and ready for retail trade.

For the March 2013 CITES Conference of Parties, Belize has proposed uplisting Cocobolo to Appendix II[clarification needed].

And from the Wood Database:

Sustainability: This wood species is in CITES Appendix II, and is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as vulnerable due to a population reduction of over 20% in the past three generations, caused by a decline in its natural range, and exploitation.

Cocobolo is on the way to being classified right up there with Brazilian rosewood, dalbergia nigra. I would say the pressure on cocobolo is high enough now that in another three generations the supply will be reduced not by another 20% but more likely 40% or more. I'd bet that in another twenty years, cocobolo will be CITES rated just like Brazilian...

So how 'bout them cocobolo ukes? At least ukes are small and don't use very much rare and endangered wood...

I'm just suggesting that you research what you promote so as not to come off as hypocritical. It took me about 90 seconds to find, copy, and paste those two references. Please don't get on my case for using giant Sequoia (from a wind blown tree), Brazilian rosewood (from stumps of trees felled 50 years ago), koa (not even close to a CITES listing), etc. unless you're willing to look long and hard at what woods are in products you buy and/or hustle.

All of these endangered species could be protected, replanted, used (hopefully for good products), and enjoyed. Could...

BTW, I'm happy to carefully use cocobolo in my shop. The main issue is that it is a very strong allergen, and I do not want any of my guys to become sensitized to it. We do all sanding on a downdraft sanding bench wearing respirators.

I hope whoever is building these cocobolo ukes Nickie is promoting has good health insurance. Ahh, Nicaragua...National Health program? Not ObamaCare...! Also from the Wood Database: Allergies/Toxicity: Notoriously allergenic. Reported as a sensitizer; can cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, as well as nausea, pink-eye, and asthma-like symptoms. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

I wonder how much the luthiers in the shop make an hour...

Just sayin'...research is easy...

southcoastukes
11-06-2014, 07:38 AM
... They are here for me to sell...

Nickie (and Jim), I hope you are getting these instruments legally. If not there can be severe consequences!!!

Rick is correct about Cocobolo being restricted under Cites. It has moved up to Appendix II, so anyone importing this wood or products made from it needs to have accompanying permits (from Nicaragua) showing it was harvested legally. A simple Lacey Act declaration is not good enough in this case (you are at least importing with at least a Lacey Declaration, right?).

Appendix II lists species that are “not necessarily now threatened with extinction” but “may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation.” Appendix II items only require an export permit and may be transported for commercial purposes--so long as the sale does not make the extinction of the species more likely.

While I never lived in Nicaragua, I spent more than a decade in that part of the world, and I can tell you that governments down there don't generally issue export permits for a shipment of only a few Ukuleles. If you've got the right paperwork, then it's all cool, but it would surprise me if you do, and don't let anyone tell you it isn't required. You, as the importer, are the liable party here!

We've avoided this whole issue by using only woods that are unrestricted in any way. All we have to do now is a simple Lacey Declaration. Rules here prevent a direct link to your own site, but there is a "Woods" page there with a "Learn More" link to an introduction to wood imports and their regulations.

There's a reason these woods are regulated - we stopped using Cocobolo a long time ago. It is under great pressure. But there's also the consequences of breaking the law to consider. In Jim's case, he can probably get by with the import of an individual instrument. Customs folks don't check every small shipment. As the quantities go up, however, the likelihood of an inspection does also. The penalties can go way beyond confiscation of the instruments, and though 1/2 million dollars and jail is unlikely for such small amounts of contraband, why put yourselves at risk?

Ukejungle
11-06-2014, 08:00 AM
These ukuleles are very nice. The necks are a joy to play. Looking forward to seeing their Tenors. BTW, they are really beautiful instruments.

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 08:06 AM
While I can be justly accused of using some rare and endangered woods, I try to buy them from responsible sources...yes, that is possible.

But all of this is also one of the reasons I started building Compass Rose ukuleles out of California-grown walnut, and why I like other hardly endangered local woods like myrtle, aka bay laurel, big leaf maple, California sycamore, and yes, redwood. Also Eastern woods like black cherry (makes for fabulous ukes) and Adirondack spruce...which is coming back.

The Sitka spruce thing is an interesting political football...our government, in its infinite wisdom, subsidized the logging of spruce for many years, selling logs to the Japanese for less than the cost of harvesting...to preserve jobs for loggers in Alaska, the most corporate welfare driven state in the union. Of course those jobs weren't there 100 years ago. People migrated to Alaska to cut trees. As far as I'm concerned, they can go migrate somewhere else now. Then there are the Indian "wars" with part of the tribe advocating clear cutting and another part of the tribe being horrified by the insult to the gifts from the Great Spirit. See this movie: http://musicwoodthefilm.com/ The greed of a part of that tribe is horrifying. I guess they have rights... I think they're trying to get back at whitey. I understand, but clear-cutting the Tongas reserve is kind of an ultimate "cut off nose to spite face" move. The movie will also give you somewhat of an idea of just how insignificant our (the guitar and uke) industry is in its effect on forests. We're picky SOBs, to be sure, but we are responsible for less than 0.1% of the use of these woods. We're not the problem, though using nice woods in essentially disposable ukes or guitars is an ethical affront to me and I think to most of my luthier peers. Any uke not worthy of being passed on to another two or more generations is a uke that shouldn't have been made in the first place...

southcoastukes
11-06-2014, 08:34 AM
While I can be justly accused of using some rare and endangered woods, I try to buy them from responsible sources...yes, that is possible...

Of course it is! I wouldn't want anyone to think they should never have an instrument made from Cocobolo. Wood bought from vendors in this country entered with the proper permits. The governments of the countries who issued them judged that the trees that were cut didn't constitute a danger to the survival of the species.

It's a cumbersome process, and it's very unfair to small producers like us (and likely the builders of these Ukuleles as well). The permit process has to be geared toward large operations to be practical. Some sort of system is definitely needed, and it's the only one we've got. I don't see a better solution, so I think it's important we all try to abide by the only mechanism that currently exists.

Jim Hanks
11-06-2014, 11:28 AM
Nickie (and Jim), I hope you are getting these instruments legally. If not there can be severe consequences!!!
Cocobolo Ukuleles is a member here are seems like a legit enterprise to me. They are distributing to several US dealers as well as individual sales. I certainly assume and hope they have their "ducks in a row" on these issues.

southcoastukes
11-06-2014, 11:31 AM
Sorry if you read the earlier post and got alarmed, Nickie. I just didn't want to see you get in trouble and jumped the gun.

In looking back at Appendix II just now I see Cocobolo is still only restricted in the form of "Logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets and plywood". As such, no permit would be needed for a "finished product". Still, you should file a Lacey Declaration (no fee required) just to make sure that at some point a customs official doesn't get upset over your "unidentified wood product".

I had forgotten the distinction (with some woods) between finished products and something less. It's pretty narrowly defined:


Finished products packaged and ready for retail trade:

Products, shipped singly or in bulk, requiring no further processing, packaged, labelled for final use or the retail trade in a state fit for being sold to or used by the general public.


We first started with a finished product (and are going back to that now), but for quite some time we shipped instruments unfinished. With the finishing, bridge install, tuner install and final set-up done here, they were obviously not a "finished product".

Ah - life in the tropics!

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 11:58 AM
Kind of the same status as Honduras mahogany (Swietania macrophylla). Yes, we can get it; yes, we can't get it in all forms...no logs, for instance. These kinds of restrictions are what put Martin Guitars' sawmill out of business...even though they cut logs much more efficiently than they are typically cut in the 3rd world. You wouldn't believe how wasteful 3rd world sawmill practices are. This is on of the reasons I set up my own resawing operation here. I can get 15% to 20% or more usable wood by doing my own top, back, and side sawing from billets than I see happening in South or Central America, Africa, or India. My saw takes out less than 1/16" in saw kerf, and I only need to take off another 1/32 or so on each surface on a wide belt sander to get it clean and smooth. I recently helped a fellow in Hawaii with advice on setting up a similar saw to mine ( a Baker AX horizontal band resaw ).

southcoastukes
11-06-2014, 12:36 PM
Cocobolo Ukuleles is a member here are seems like a legit enterprise to me. They are distributing to several US dealers as well as individual sales. I certainly assume and hope they have their "ducks in a row" on these issues.

Hello Jim!

Just remember the distinction between exporter and importer in cases like these. If you or Nickie are buying an instrument direct from overseas, then you'all are the importers. The burden of following U.S. regulations doesn't fall on the exporter at all. He has no obligation whatsoever regarding U.S. import laws. You are who they apply to, and it's a good idea to take care and follow them.

In this case (see previous post), you don't need a permit. That's very important, as it costs (if I remember correctly) about $75 and takes a while to get. You'd have to submit the export documents from (in this case) Nicaragua and wait for approval.

You still should file a Lacey Act Declaration, however. That is required for any wood import and is just a no-fee statement form where you declare all wildlife species (wood, shell, etc.) used in the instrument. This includes bindings, braces, etc. with weight of each part (we do estimates for the small parts, as the form doesn't allow for teeny tiny values). As long as none of their materials are restricted any more than the Cocobolo and as long as customs feels no reason to doubt your declaration (extremely unlikely), then that's all you need.

Bear in mind, they can probably ship it straight to you, and 90+% of the time a single instrument will go through, but if you want to go by the book, do the Lacey.

PereBourik
11-06-2014, 01:13 PM
As a recent purchaser of a Cocobolo Ukuleles instrument, this has been an eye-opening and somewhat chilling discussion.

I appreciate the insights and advice of guys like Rick and Dirk. They couple impeccable knowledge with clear expression. Much appreciated.

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 02:07 PM
I never had a problem (other than dust!) with Cocobolo instruments as a brand. My issue was basically being told that I was a bad boy for using woods from the rain forests of Brazil like "Amazon rosewood" (Dalbergia spruceana, see http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/amazon-rosewood/ (note, by the way, that it is not CITES listed at all, unlike cocobolo), giant Sequoia from a tree that blew down in 1968... http://www.thegiantsequoia.com/ , and redwood from local sawyers cutting selectively and also using reclaimed redwood from a fence at Stanford by someone who was then flogging ukes made out of cocobolo...a tropical hardwood on the CITES II schedule that is clearly being logged faster than it's being planted. Yes, I sometimes use Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra), and that came from stumps of trees felled many decades ago.

Use the beautiful woods that are responsibly harvested or reclaimed, and support reforestation efforts wherever possible, even in your own back yard. Support craftspeople who make good stuff that lasts a long time. And... don't get on my case about what I do with wood. It's the old "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" bit.

southcoastukes
11-06-2014, 04:07 PM
I never had a problem (other than dust!) with Cocobolo instruments ... My issue was basically being told that I was a bad boy for using woods from the rain forests of Brazil like "Amazon rosewood" (Dalbergia spruceana, see http://www.wood-database.com/lumber-identification/hardwoods/amazon-rosewood/ (note, by the way, that it is not CITES listed at all, unlike cocobolo)...a tropical hardwood on the CITES II schedule that is clearly being logged faster than it's being planted. Yes, I sometimes use Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra), and that came from stumps of trees felled many decades ago.

Use the beautiful woods that are responsibly harvested or reclaimed, and support reforestation efforts wherever possible, even in your own back yard. Support craftspeople who make good stuff that lasts a long time. And... don't get on my case about what I do with wood. It's the old "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" bit.

I agree with what you're saying Rick, and I know ignorance is no excuse when it comes to condemning others without justification, but this is a very complicated issue. I myself operated for a few years without a complete understanding of what I was doing, and unknowingly violated a few laws in the process. And don't forget that there are some in our industry who know the laws and then proceed to purposefully violate them. I agree as a whole this is a noble profession, but it's not without it's deviants. Thanks to those folks there is justification for at least some level of suspicion.

As an illustration of how complicated any given situation can be, let me add a bit more about this one as I may have actually over-simplified it a bit. The Lacey Act is unique among our laws in that in trying to protect endangered species it goes beyond the CITES listings. If a species is restricted in a particular country, even though it's not listed in CITES, it would then go back to the permit process. In other words, the Lacey Act takes into account the laws of individual nations as well as the International agreement we have with CITES.

In our neck of the Central American woods (pun intended), they don't issue permits for cutting Cocobolo at all! I don't know the laws of Nicaragua. Having been briefly in the lumber export business down there, I do know that Nicaragua had a more plentiful supply than the other Central American countries. That's not to say, however, that they don't have a local permitting process in the case of Cocobolo. If they do, then a Lacey Declaration is not enough to import these instruments, you go back to the permit process to show that the wood was taken legally under Nicaraguan law.

There's no database for the individual logging restrictions of every nation, so while you can see if there is a problem with a CITES restriction, you need to have confidence that your supplier is complying with local laws and if there are local restrictions of any sort, he should not be selling to individuals here without supplying them with export permits.

p.d: Nickie's instruments have now passed through customs. They can be sold to anyone inside the U.S. borders.

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 04:42 PM
Another major issue...probably a constitutional one at that...is that both CITES and Lacey are being applied retroactively, that is these laws are being applied to and rather high handedly so, against people who purchased Brazilian rosewood and elephant ivory when it was perfectly legal do to so and to people who own antiques and collectibles made decades or even centuries ago. Sorry, but I do not have papers for the 300 year old (plus) Japanese ivory netsuke in my desk drawer nor for some of the Brazilian rosewood that I purchased in the 1970s. I know of ivory carving and netsuke collectors whose retirements are basically wiped out; it's now illegal for them to sell their pieces. It's now literally illegal to sell an old piano with ivory keys...or bagpipes, or tea pots with ivory insulators or tortoise shell combs or decorative hair pieces. Whale tooth scrimshaw from the early 19th Century? Fuggedaboutit.

Meanwhile, poachers with chainsaws or AK-47s run rampant in Africa, Madagascar, and South America...

See: http://handmademusicclubhouse.com/forum/topics/brazilian-rosewood-in-the-u-s-to-become-illegal

And: https://www.facebook.com/chuck.erikson.3/posts/10201247075604239

southcoastukes
11-06-2014, 05:12 PM
It's true, Rick, that folks have suffered because of these regulations. At one point we planned on building instruments up here (my partner passed away unexpectedly). I've got a fair amount of wood stockpiled myself. None of it is restricted now, but I don't have receipts either. If I can't put it in instruments with a date of construction, then I need to sell it off, as it may become restricted in the future.

If I hold onto it, however, and lose as a result, that's on me. It's what's called a "bad investment". What else can they do? The worlds wildlife is down 50% in the last 40 years. In the case of ivory:


According to a comprehensive new scientific study, poachers throughout Africa killed an estimated 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012. With rough estimates putting the number of remaining elephants at around 400,000, that level of loss is obviously unsustainable.
I think you've got a great approach with your California natives. Post some pictures of that Black Acacia - I bet it's gorgeous! In our case we're leaning heavily on a beautiful tonewood that's underrated in the Ukulele world when you compare it to the esteem it's gained with guitars: Monkeypod, a Central American native that can be drop dead gorgeous and now grows all over the tropical world.

Monkeypod, and some of the Acacias can grow prolifically (like weeds), and I think builders need to think more often in terms of these sorts of woods.

southcoastukes
11-06-2014, 05:23 PM
Easy to say when you personally benefit, also for those with the wherewithal to afford custom ukes made domestically, even when their talent doesn't come close to justifying the disproportionate distribution of such instruments.

It's your penchant for making such blanket, preposterous, high-handed and, yes, hypocritical statements like this that have convinced me never to consider a Compass Rose instrument. If there is no equity in who gets such high-end instruments, there should be no bar on whatever purpose the available wood is put to.

Look at the whole statement:


though using nice woods in essentially disposable ukes or guitars is an ethical affront to me and I think to most of my luthier peers. Any uke not worthy of being passed on to another two or more generations is a uke that shouldn't have been made in the first place...

No need for trolling.

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 05:33 PM
Easy to say when you personally benefit, also for those with the wherewithal to afford custom ukes made domestically, even when their talent doesn't come close to justifying the disproportionate distribution of such instruments.

It's your penchant for making such blanket, preposterous, high-handed and, yes, hypocritical statements like this that have convinced me never to consider a Compass Rose instrument. If there is no equity in who gets such high-end instruments, there should be no bar on whatever purpose the available wood is put to.

What in the hell is "equity in who gets such high end instruments" anyway? I do not understand the concept. Is this some kind of communist manifesto? Everyone deserves the best? Or that nobody should aspire to build or sell or own instruments that cost more than you can afford. Do you mean that all of us who build ukes that cost over your certain bench-mark price should lose money making them so you can afford one?

I assume that A) You are not an artisan, B) That you have never run your own business for any length of time, and C) You have a problem with those who are, those who have, and their customers who choose to purchase moderately expensive instruments.

I assure you, I work for the equivalent of about $15.00 an hour here. I'm not getting rich no matter the retail cost of what I make. If it were not for Social Security and MediCare, I'd be royally f...ed, and there would be no such thing as Compass Rose ukuleles.

So what do you do for a living and to justify your existence in the world? And are you one who will eternally make snarky remarks while hiding his or her identity on line? It's easy to be an ass when you're anonymous.

Tigeralum2001
11-06-2014, 05:46 PM
Easy to say when you personally benefit, also for those with the wherewithal to afford custom ukes made domestically, even when their talent doesn't come close to justifying the disproportionate distribution of such instruments.

It's your penchant for making such blanket, preposterous, high-handed and, yes, hypocritical statements like this that have convinced me never to consider a Compass Rose instrument. If there is no equity in who gets such high-end instruments, there should be no bar on whatever purpose the available wood is put to.

I hope you are joking. Seriously. One doesn't need a Compass Rose, or other custom uke, to follow this rule. I believe that there are many entry level brands that will last- Ohana, Kala, and Mainland to list 3. What Rick is saying is stay away from the garbage. We would all be better off consuming less.

The other part of your statement I think is incorrect is the "equity" statement. What is that about? Quick, name other products that are distributed "equitably." I know it isn't cars because I know several people who have totaled more than 1 $60,000 car. Should they be allowed to buy luxury cars if they wreck them? Give me a break! People spend money on what is important to them. Even high-end ukes are relatively affordable compared to MANY other hobbies. Most around here would agree that everyone should buy the best instrument they can afford.

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 06:23 PM
Tigeralum, the problem is that of all the builders who post here, I'm the most outspoken, and I piss some folks off because I'd rather pull no punches than toady up to potential buyers...not accusing any other builders, but I do get emails from some who tell me that they wish they had the chutzpa to say what I'm perfectly comfortable saying. So I piss some people off who delight in telling me that they'd never buy one of my ukes because of my bad attitude. And then I also get people thanking me for sharing my knowledge, my fifty-plus years of experience as a pro luthier, and my willingness to tell it as I see it. If you don't like what I have to say, then please don't consider buying my instruments. But you might consider judging instruments on their own merits. Just remember, not all musicians whose music we like are wonderful, wanna hang with them people. I'm glad I never knew John Martyn, though I love his music. Not sure I'd want to have encountered a drunk Ukulele Ike, though he was brilliant. Joni Mitchell is one piece of work... Etc.

One of the things I do know how to do...and which I just do not understand why many other folks do not "get"...is how to ask Google the right questions and then read what information is out there. Folks, it's all right at your fingertips. Every time I post a link to WikiPedia or the Wood Database or some such, it's simply because I took the time to do a search rather than go off half-cocked spewing misinformation. If you want to post something about some wood...cocobolo, for instance...just do a Google search and read up before you post here or anywhere about it. Learn to use the Latin names for woods when appropriate. Do you have any idea how many species are popularly called "blackwood" or "ironwood"? How many spruce species there are? The fact that German spruce is the same genus as Italian spruce? Look this stuff up, for heaven's sake, before you go making pronouncements about it. And if you're wrong, just say so, thank the corrector for correcting, and move on. Information does not have an ego; people do.

And I hate to say it, but the ukulele scene does seem to attract some folks who want to bring it all down to the lowest common denominator. Everyone must have a uke...all ukes must cost less than an average worker's daily wage... Unfortunately, that means that nobody should have a uke made by anyone living in the United States, Canada, or the UK who is not a Trustafarian...

Patrick Madsen
11-06-2014, 06:36 PM
I can't sell my walrus tusk scrimshaw from the early 1800's according to the Lacey Act? Was seriously thinking of selling it recently. WTH

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 07:15 PM
There's a world of difference between "I can sell it." and "I can legally sell it."

I could go down to the Beach Flats here in Santa Cruz and buy some heroin. But not legally...

Check out the most recent interpretations of the Lacey Act, what the US Fish and Game folks have been up to, and then decide how to sell the scrimshaw. I suspect that you'll be selling it under sort of the same "rules" that illegal drugs are sold, privately and sub rosa, as it is said. Read up on Chuck Erikson's take on this; he, by the way, is known in the biz as "the Duke of Pearl".

itsme
11-06-2014, 07:51 PM
Wow, Nickie, I'm sorry to see your thread hijacked by Rick and Dirk debating endangered woods and CITES/Lacey.

I have a flamenco negra guitar with with cocobolo back/sides that was built in 1990 (in the US, I might add), before cocobolo was even on the radar. I have no paperwork for it (it wasn't required back then) and the only "proof" I have that it pre-dates any possible restrictions is the handwritten date on the label signed by the luthier.

I think the Cocobolo ukes look great, and I heard they have some now at the Fretted Frog in Pasadena, so I may just have to go there and check them out. :)

Rick Turner
11-06-2014, 08:35 PM
I can see no thread hijack. It's about cocobolo ukes, and I'm deliberately using the small "c" here, and that brings up the whole issue of woods.

You have a cocobolo guitar. Fantastic. It's great tone wood...on a par with most Brazilian rosewood. And BZ didn't used to be "on the radar"...but now it is. Why? Over-exploitation and loss of habitat to other uses. Well, that's happening now to your 1990 cocobolo.

The point here wasn't "is it OK to use cocobolo"...the point was that it's about as OK to use cocobolo as it is to use some of the woods Nickie was busting my balls for using. Do you want to talk about how great it looks or how we're running out of it, and that the moral imperative (for some folks) is not to use it. I won't be tangentially taken to task for my choices in uke and guitar building woods by someone who does not look at their own use of arguably pressured woods and the commercial promotion thereof without pointing out the obvious hypocrisy.

Yeah, the Cocobolo ukes (big C) look just wonderful. They're not ethically any different from what I choose to build or build with.

Don't shoot the messenger. Read the message.

Cocobolo Ukuleles
11-07-2014, 03:25 PM
Hello everyone,

I am sorry to join this conversation so late. I didn't know about it until a friend asked me about it today.

When we first started working with cocobolo, I was also concerned about the use of the wood, not just legally, but mostly ethically. Like many of you, I love the outdoors and I consider myself a "treehugger". That is the great hypocrisy that many of us face as buyers and builders of instruments. Call it my form of rationalization, but I try to look at it as the cocobolo tree 'reaching its full potential' by becoming a ukulele. I feel like a well made instrument has a lively soul that wants to tell you how happy it is, but needs your help to express itself :)

As mentioned in one of the previous posts, the amounts of wood that are used to create instruments is insignificant relative to other purposes. Used responsibly, I like to think that the use of woods for tonewood purposes is one of the most ethical uses possible.

As many of you know, cocobolo is indigenous to Central America and the southern part of Mexico. It is in the same family as Brazilian rosewood, but it prefers drier climates than Brazilian rosewood, and does well in this region. In the past it was logged heavily, and now it is becoming more threatened. Therefore, it has become protected from large scale logging by being listed on the CITES Appendix II list.

As mentioned in the previous post, this means that it can't be exported as a 'raw' material without the proper legal documentation. However, it is allowed to move internationally in smaller quantities as long as it is part of a finished good.

We buy all of our cocobolo and Honduran mahogany from a legally registered source that provides us with all of the required documents to transfer and posses cocobolo in its raw state. They are only allowed to sell small quantities to prevent large companies from heavily logging it. They are required to have licenses and pay a percentage of sales towards a reforestation fund. It is supposed to be a great program, but I haven't had the chance to see where they are reforesting. I would like to look into it someday.

Our ukuleles are regularly inspected by customs and border patrol officials, but the only result has been that they have scratched, broken strings, or damaged our ukuleles and for the most part not been willing to compensate us for the damages. These events are rare, but it is frustrating. Last week they drilled into the heel of a ukulele looking for drugs. It was painful to see after knowing how many hours went into that ukulele. Luckily, they are compensating us for the ukulele and we are sending a new one to the owner. Check it out:

72641


Even though we play by all of the legal rules, I still hate the thought of cutting down a cocobolo tree. I have been investigating ideas about starting a reforestation program. The problem is that you really have to watch the trees. There is a black market for cocobolo here in Nicaragua, and it is common for people to cut them down when you are away. I would need a full time caretaker and it could be a major expense. I will have to continue to brainstorm ideas. Maybe it would work to grow some in a national park close to where they have guards and buildings. If not, I am thinking about donating 5% of sales to a worthwhile program here in Nicaragua. If anyone has any ideas about worthwhile foundations I would love to hear them.

In the meantime, I am going to keep looking for opportunities to here in Nicaragua. My head luthier Silvio Conto is the pastor in his church, which is located in a rural area. Maybe we could plant 100 cocobolo trees in that community. The trees would have to be close enough that the members of the church could look after them. Silvio does a lot for their community, and I would imagine that they would guard those trees with their lives. Could be a great idea. I would love to be a part of the solution, as minor as a part as that would be.

southcoastukes
11-08-2014, 10:08 AM
Hello Kevin,

The issue that concerned me in this thread is not the use of Cocobolo. Thatís a topic worthy of discussion, but my concern is people here in the U.S. purchasing it in violation of our laws.

You are correct in stating youíre doing nothing illegal. In addition, people in probably every country but the U.S. are free to purchase single cocobolo instruments - maybe even small lots - without any restriction. Because of the Lacey Act, however, thatís not the case in the U.S.

Iíll assume youíre operating in good faith for two reasons. First, because itís a complicated situation that took me awhile to understand, and I had been importing both furniture and lumber from Central America for a number of years before I ever imported an Ukulele.

Second, because if you understood the law and were trying to get around it, you never would have written what you put in your post. As I mentioned earlier, the importer (your customer!) is the one breaking U.S. law Ė youíve done nothing wrong. They are all required to file the Lacey Declaration at a minimum. But then youíve gone ahead and stated that there are indeed local regulations in Nicaragua regulating Cocobolo harvest. Now the Lacey Declaration isnít enough.

Whatís unique about Lacey is that it requires importers to show that none of your laws were violated in the cutting of your wood. The USDA wonít just take your word for it either; theyíll require that your customer furnish documentation. Therefore, youíll now need an export permit from the Nicaraguan government and your customer needs to get an import permit from APHIS as well. Both add cost and time to the process.

If youíve been selling to businesses up here who havenít done their homework on Cocobolo, thatís one thing. Theyíre supposed to know better, and ignorance of the law is part of the risk any business assumes. I suppose you could say that individual purchasers should know better as well, but I personally donít think a responsible luthier would knowingly put their customers at risk. ďDonít ask Ė donít tell?Ē

Take a look over in the Luthiersí Lounge at some of Pete Howlettsí history. I donít know if heís given up on selling to customers in the U.S., but I know at one point he was seriously considering it. His attitude, and I think the attitude of most luthiers who care about their customers, is that whether he was legally obligated to do it or not, he nonetheless still felt some sort of obligation to handle the paperwork, or at least advise his customers on procedure, for both sides of the transaction.

Thatís a lot of work for a single instrument sale, and when youíre selling for moderate prices (not the case with a Howlett) the import & export fees add a considerable added expense as well. If you feel the U.S. market is worth it, and if you donít mind a suggestion, then hereís something that may work better in your situation.

The import permits here are a flat fee. Single instrument, or container Ė same price. I donít know how export permits are handled in Nicaragua, but in most countries itís the same thing Ė a flat fee for whatever quantity you ship. If I were you, Iíd standardize your wood choices so you donít have to do a form for every instrument (that could also drive up the cost), find yourself a distributor up here who can handle the import documents, and then start shipping in bigger lots. Good luck!

Ukejungle
11-08-2014, 11:37 AM
Well put Kevin.

southcoastukes
11-08-2014, 11:45 AM
Well put Kevin.

Unfortunately it was not well put, Trey. If you're interested in seeing these Ukuleles imported into the states as you told me you were, then give Kevin a hand. Offer to handle the imports. Win, win.

Cocobolo Ukuleles
11-08-2014, 05:36 PM
Dirk,

I appreciate you sharing your knowledge about the Lacey Act. It sounds like you learned a lot in your years of exporting furniture and lumber to the US. I am sure that it must be frustrating to now have limited access to some of those same exotic woods that you did in the past.

I have done a fair amount of due diligence on the matter, but I am not an expert on the laws, or how they are currently enforced to different sizes of producers. Based upon the level of protection that cocobolo is restricted to, all of my research and experience has indicated that exporting small quantities of finished goods to the US is allowable without documentation or anything required out of my customers. Our ukuleles are regularly inspected by customs agents and we haven't raised even one red flag. I am assuming that in our quantities of finished products we are playing by the rules. That is what I have regularly been told.

It is also possible that this is due to the lack of enforcement of the laws on the books. However, if customs agents aren't objecting, I can't imagine that we are ever going to have any problems. If we were breaking the rules, why wouldn't they hold the ukuleles until the importer provided the proper documentation? I am almost certain that is what would happen if we were exporting raw cocobolo or Brazilian rosewood to the US.

We are a very small maker. All of our ukuleles are hand made with 'Fred Flintstone style tools' compared to what US luthiers are blessed with. We have 2 luthiers that are capable of producing about about 15 ukuleles in a good month. We are hardly a threat to the existence of cocobolo.

Today I found two sources of cocobolo saplings and I am hoping to have at least 20 trees planted by the end of the year, and another 100 by the end of next year. I know that this doesn't change anything about whether or not we follow the letter of the law, but at least when I go to bed at night I will know that I have given back much more than I have taken.

Larry D.
11-08-2014, 08:50 PM
What in the hell is "equity in who gets such high end instruments" anyway? I do not understand the concept. Is this some kind of communist manifesto? Everyone deserves the best? Or that nobody should aspire to build or sell or own instruments that cost more than you can afford. Do you mean that all of us who build ukes that cost over your certain bench-mark price should lose money making them so you can afford one?

I assume that A) You are not an artisan, B) That you have never run your own business for any length of time, and C) You have a problem with those who are, those who have, and their customers who choose to purchase moderately expensive instruments.

I assure you, I work for the equivalent of about $15.00 an hour here. I'm not getting rich no matter the retail cost of what I make. If it were not for Social Security and MediCare, I'd be royally f...ed, and there would be no such thing as Compass Rose ukuleles.

So what do you do for a living and to justify your existence in the world? And are you one who will eternally make snarky remarks while hiding his or her identity on line? It's easy to be an ass when you're anonymous.

How many hours do you invest in making a ukulele? At $15.00/hour it must take a few weeks to produce one unless your materials and overhead are quite high or if the store has quite a mark up at $1,695.

They are very beautiful instruments and truly a work of art and at $15.00/hour a true labor of love.

https://reverb.com/item/313155-compass-rose-luxo-concert-uke-2013

As far as cocobolo wood for instrument import/export according to one article it is listed as:
Appendix II Ė This appendix contains species that are at risk in the wild, but not necessarily threatened with extinction. Species in this appendix are closely regulated, but are typically not as restricted as Appendix I.
http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/restricted-and-endangered-wood-species/

This innocent thread sure got heated sadly. Nickie see what you "biker babes" start. I love scooter too:) is that yours in your picture?

I could not find any information that stated that there was a requirement to file forms as a private importer for one instrument for my personal use. I will not hesitate purchasing one of Kevin's instruments and look forward to doing so soon.

I did find the following that addresses duty taxes for importing cocobolo:
http://www.dutycalculator.com/dc/92889212/musical-instruments/guitars/guitar-parts/import-duty-rate-for-importing-cocobolo-from-united-states-to-united-kingdom-is-2.7/

southcoastukes
11-08-2014, 09:13 PM
Well, this has been an interesting thread, and it turns out that once again, I’m going to have to back away from one of my statements, or at least qualify it.

APHIS may not be presently requiring Lacey paperwork for individuals on low dollar purchases for personal use. This was their position in 2009, and a quick search gave me no indication they’ve changed that. Government policy updates are difficult to track, however, unless you subscribe to the federal register (and read all that stuff).

That’s not to say those shipments don’t technically require a Declaration (or more), but it sounds like the requirements still aren’t being enforced on that class of purchase by the regulatory agencies at the moment and Congress has voiced no objection. Kevin’s customers are probably fine in those instances, and my sincere apologies to him and any customers of his who I might have made anxious.

My experience in all this is as a commercial importer, and in those cases both a Declaration and permits would be required to import a Cocobolo Ukulele from Nicaragua. What first drew me into this thread was Nickie’s statement that she would be selling Kevin’s Ukuleles. That puts her in the same category as me, and she would be subject to all the documentary requirements.

So, Kevin, here’s an aid for your research:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/lacey_act/downloads/faq.pdf

It shows what Nickie or any other person acting to sell your instruments is legally required to do. Nickie in my experience is one of the sweetest people on this forum. I did get a more than a little hot thinking she may have been put in the position of violating the law by someone who hadn't done their "due diligence". I’m guessing (hoping) you didn’t mean to put her in that position and will use a bit more "diligence" in the future.

Best of luck on the rest.

wayward
11-08-2014, 10:10 PM
Today I found two sources of cocobolo saplings and I am hoping to have at least 20 trees planted by the end of the year, and another 100 by the end of next year. I know that this doesn't change anything about whether or not we follow the letter of the law, but at least when I go to bed at night I will know that I have given back much more than I have taken.

Brilliant! Well done: I wish you the very best of luck with this :)

Cocobolo Ukuleles
11-09-2014, 03:25 AM
Brilliant! Well done: I wish you the very best of luck with this :)

I will keep you posted how it goes. I am thinking about starting with some saplings by Silvio's church. I also am going to contact Volcan Mombacho National Park here near where we live. They have a good sized Visitor's Center that has a lot of traffic, guards, etc. I think it would be a safe place to get a little cocobolo community started. I wouldn't be surprised if there is already a lot of cocobolo inside the park. It does well here in Nicaragua, and the populations in protected areas is really strong.

Volcan Mombacho is killer. It is a volcano that blew its top and created 365 little islands in Lake Nicaragua called 'Las Isletas'. It is just outside of Granada, which is considered the first city in the western world that was settled in 1517 by the Spanish. It is the home of the first church in the western world, Convento y Iglesia San Francisco. The Spanish stored a lot of gold in Granada and it was a common spot for pirate attacks. It was burned down several times. Tons of history. Really cool colonial architecture too.

Check out some pictures:

https://www.google.com/search?q=granada+nicaragua&rlz=1C1CHFX_enUS574US576&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=681&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=W3dfVNbFLMagNvPggrgF&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg


Also, check out these local cocobolo resources. The first one is in Costa Rica, but they both look really promising. There are about 10 other nurseries in a town called Catarina that isn't too far from where we live. I would imagine that we could special order some there as well. I am going to look into it this week:


http://www.cocobolotreefarm.com/


https://www.facebook.com/cocobolotreenurserynicaragua

hoosierhiver
11-09-2014, 04:47 AM
The Nature Conservancy does some great stuff, it's a good place to throw a few bucks to help the planet.
http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/southamerica/brazil/placesweprotect/atlantic-forest.xml

Ukejenny
11-09-2014, 12:16 PM
The photos in the original post are lovely. I've also seen some lovely cocobolo clarinets - very pricey and with different timbre than a traditional clarinet.

Let's be honest, if we all had every single ukulele we had ever wanted, there wouldn't be so much as a matchstick of wood left of any species. (trying to introduce a bit of levity)

Rick Turner
11-09-2014, 05:44 PM
I'd like to reiterate here that it was not my intention to get on anyone's case for making ukes out of cocobolo...I do it myself. My point was that I didn't like being taken to task by Nickie for using some of the woods I use when she's actively promoting cocobolo which is as threatened as Brazilian rosewood was about 30 years ago and is on the CITES II schedule.

The coastal redwood that I use is 100% legal, and is sourced from responsible sawyers culling one or two trees at a time...no clear cut. And the giant Sequoia that I have is from a tree that was blown down in a storm in 1968.

Let's be clear here. Many of the woods we use are threatened to a certain extent. That does not mean we cannot use these resources responsibly and also promote replanting and conservative (in it's best meaning...) harvesting and usage. Many of the woods we use are only threatened because of really dumb politics. Many are threatened because of really bad land management. Many are threatened because of the pressure to open up land for grazing. And I believe that a lot of trees are being wasted to the lowest possible common denominator of usage...toilet paper, for instance.

Ukejungle
11-10-2014, 10:50 AM
Hello Kevin,

The issue that concerned me in this thread is not the use of Cocobolo. Thatís a topic worthy of discussion, but my concern is people here in the U.S. purchasing it in violation of our laws.

You are correct in stating youíre doing nothing illegal. In addition, people in probably every country but the U.S. are free to purchase single cocobolo instruments - maybe even small lots - without any restriction. Because of the Lacey Act, however, thatís not the case in the U.S.

Iíll assume youíre operating in good faith for two reasons. First, because itís a complicated situation that took me awhile to understand, and I had been importing both furniture and lumber from Central America for a number of years before I ever imported an Ukulele.

Second, because if you understood the law and were trying to get around it, you never would have written what you put in your post. As I mentioned earlier, the importer (your customer!) is the one breaking U.S. law Ė youíve done nothing wrong. They are all required to file the Lacey Declaration at a minimum. But then youíve gone ahead and stated that there are indeed local regulations in Nicaragua regulating Cocobolo harvest. Now the Lacey Declaration isnít enough.

Whatís unique about Lacey is that it requires importers to show that none of your laws were violated in the cutting of your wood. The USDA wonít just take your word for it either; theyíll require that your customer furnish documentation. Therefore, youíll now need an export permit from the Nicaraguan government and your customer needs to get an import permit from APHIS as well. Both add cost and time to the process.

If youíve been selling to businesses up here who havenít done their homework on Cocobolo, thatís one thing. Theyíre supposed to know better, and ignorance of the law is part of the risk any business assumes. I suppose you could say that individual purchasers should know better as well, but I personally donít think a responsible luthier would knowingly put their customers at risk. ďDonít ask Ė donít tell?Ē

Take a look over in the Luthiersí Lounge at some of Pete Howlettsí history. I donít know if heís given up on selling to customers in the U.S., but I know at one point he was seriously considering it. His attitude, and I think the attitude of most luthiers who care about their customers, is that whether he was legally obligated to do it or not, he nonetheless still felt some sort of obligation to handle the paperwork, or at least advise his customers on procedure, for both sides of the transaction.

Thatís a lot of work for a single instrument sale, and when youíre selling for moderate prices (not the case with a Howlett) the import & export fees add a considerable added expense as well. If you feel the U.S. market is worth it, and if you donít mind a suggestion, then hereís something that may work better in your situation.

The import permits here are a flat fee. Single instrument, or container Ė same price. I donít know how export permits are handled in Nicaragua, but in most countries itís the same thing Ė a flat fee for whatever quantity you ship. If I were you, Iíd standardize your wood choices so you donít have to do a form for every instrument (that could also drive up the cost), find yourself a distributor up here who can handle the import documents, and then start shipping in bigger lots. Good luck!

Well Put Dirk too.

Nickie
11-10-2014, 02:18 PM
How many hours do you invest in making a ukulele? At $15.00/hour it must take a few weeks to produce one unless your materials and overhead are quite high or if the store has quite a mark up at $1,695.

They are very beautiful instruments and truly a work of art and at $15.00/hour a true labor of love.

https://reverb.com/item/313155-compass-rose-luxo-concert-uke-2013

As far as cocobolo wood for instrument import/export according to one article it is listed as:
Appendix II Ė This appendix contains species that are at risk in the wild, but not necessarily threatened with extinction. Species in this appendix are closely regulated, but are typically not as restricted as Appendix I.
http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/restricted-and-endangered-wood-species/

This innocent thread sure got heated sadly. Nickie see what you "biker babes" start. I love scooter too:) is that yours in your picture?

I could not find any information that stated that there was a requirement to file forms as a private importer for one instrument for my personal use. I will not hesitate purchasing one of Kevin's instruments and look forward to doing so soon.

I did find the following that addresses duty taxes for importing cocobolo:
http://www.dutycalculator.com/dc/92889212/musical-instruments/guitars/guitar-parts/import-duty-rate-for-importing-cocobolo-from-united-states-to-united-kingdom-is-2.7/

Yes, that WAS my scooter. I had to sell it, needed the money. My sis and my Mom needed help. I really enjoyed that scoot, but I'm not rich, so it had to find a new home.

Larry D.
11-10-2014, 02:28 PM
Understand Nickie. We have two scooters but my wife does not drive them and I am away from my FL home in NC. I am looking forward to riding at Thanksgiving soon. They are fun! My neighbors sometimes get mad when I ride around the neighborhood. I just tell them if they do not like the way I ride then stay off the sidewalks.....:cool:

mm stan
11-10-2014, 02:39 PM
[QUOTE=Rick Turner;1601025]What in the hell is "equity in who gets such high end instruments" anyway? I do not understand the concept. Is this some kind of communist manifesto? Everyone deserves the best? Or that nobody should aspire to build or sell or own instruments that cost more than you can afford. Do you mean that all of us who build ukes that cost over your certain bench-mark price should lose money making them so you what do you do for a living and to justify your existence in the world?
Ah Rick, I can always count on you even when I am sick to put a smile on my face with your quick wit, healthy mind and straight forward talk :)

Nickie
11-10-2014, 02:44 PM
Rick, touche....you are the pro here, not I. I am sorry if I took you to task. I didn't mean to sound like it at all. Yes, the entries in this thread made my spine chill....then I remembered, I'm never going to be a bigf importer of ukuleles, I don't have the cash for it. Kevin sent me those ukes without payment. It's always, ever, going to be a small sideline biz for me, and I'll stop it if it costs more than I make at it.
And I also remembered I am a Legal Shield Associate, and will be on the phone with my attorney's firm tomorrow RE: the Lacey Act.
Dirk, thanks for your help.
(PS, I really like the Cocobolos, I played one of them all weekend at TBUG)

Cocobolo Ukuleles
11-10-2014, 03:25 PM
I am glad to hear that you have been enjoying the ukes Nickie. I am truly sorry if I have put you in any 'hot water'.

As for a little background, Nickie and I have gotten to know each other over the last few months since she contacted me about our ukuleles. She was interested in seeing them in person and having the chance to play one first, but she was upfront with me and told me that she is in UAS rehab and wasn't going to be able to purchase one at the time. I suggested to her that I send her a couple to check out and to show off to her friends at the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society Getaway over this last weekend. I told her she could sell them to some friends if they were interested, but if not I would have her forward them to one of my dealers in the US and they could sell them as demos. Seemed innocent enough and I never would have imagined it would have raised so much ruckus or I never would have suggested it.

I apologize Nickie if any of this has bothered you. I hope that you have just shaken it off like Taylor Swift :) As mentioned in one of the other posts, Nickie is very sweet and supportive both on UU and Facebook. She is the type of person that makes the ukulele community so much fun to be a part of.

Nickie
11-10-2014, 03:42 PM
Aw, thanks Kevin. You are very sweet, and very proffessional. Don't worry about me getting in trouble, it lurks behind every corner, and has followed me all my life....but it will never get the best of me.
And the motor scooter....that's nothing guys....when i made lots more money, I had Harley Davidson motorcycles. Yes, I'm a biker chick, and a bit of a troublemaker. But I've never been in jail, or in court, or in handcuffs. That would kill me.
I play by the rules, heck, I'm a nurse, and if I get in any kind of trouble, even if my attorney gets me out of it, I could lose my nursing license.
I'll sleep good tonight....

Larry D.
11-11-2014, 03:54 PM
Biker Babe and now Cocobolo's....you live life on the edge Lady.....:cool:
Like Jimmy Buffett sang...many of us are "growing older but not up!"
As a Florida Gal you may like this one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLC8fJdQJ24

Freeda
11-11-2014, 04:27 PM
Well this was the most interesting thread I have read in a while. :).

Rick Turner
11-12-2014, 07:32 AM
I think this all comes down to the fact that we cannot make wooden ukes without killing trees, and even ukes (or any other products) made of "not trees" carry with them some sort of ecological price. Sorry, but that's just the truth of it. One of the issues for luthiers is just how important factors other than just the look can be. If you see and play a good guitar or uke with Brazilian rosewood back and sides, the fact of that wood becomes a paramount feature and is promoted by whomever builds and/or sells it. If you see a corporate board room with Brazilian rosewood veneered wall paneling, it's just pretty, and nobody thinks twice about where it came from or the consequences. Yet, it is the luthiers who take the heat, not the anonymous architects and carpenters. The destruction of the habitat and cutting down of the Brazilian rosewood trees has been driven much more by the plywood and furniture industries than by guitar and uke making. And I'm only using one example of wood here, but I could also point to Hawaii where many times the amount of flame koa that has gone into ukes has also been used for paneling, flooring, and furniture. Yet, it is the luthiers who take the heat...

Nickie
11-12-2014, 01:30 PM
I hate to hear that, Rick. Maybe it happens because ukulele people are more concientious than the bigwigs who sit in those fancy offices....personally, for all I care, corporate bigwigs can sit on plastic camping chairs....

Rick Turner
11-12-2014, 02:25 PM
Better that they sit in or on wooden chairs! At least trees can be grown. Plastic camping chairs are not very bio-degradable, and while it is possible to derive plastics from trees, it's pretty energy intensive. Do not be sorry about nice things made out of nice wood. Cherish them.

southcoastukes
11-12-2014, 05:30 PM
First of all, Nickie, you should sleep well. Once instruments pass through customs, they’re in the clear, and as I indicated earlier in this thread, if anyone inside the U.S. wants one of these Ukuleles, they shouldn’t hesitate for one moment in purchasing one of Nickies.

The legality of the entry (moot at this point) is a bit questionable in my mind. There’s a generous allowance for not declaring private purchases, but even though the value of Nickies instruments were well under that figure, her instruments entered as commercial products. It’s sort of a grey area you might want your legal pals to look into.

Since I got myself involved in an area that’s not really my bailiwick – private purchase from overseas, I thought I should look into it a bit more to define the situation a bit better for forum members. As it turns out, it’s “informal”, or private entries that don’t require a declaration, but only up to a limit. That limit was $2,000 until a couple of years ago, and it has now been raised to $2500. Not only do Kevin’s Ukuleles fit under this limit, you could buy a number of them and still not need to declare the materials. Obviously, only the high end Ukuleles (and midrange guitars) would need to file under these limits.

Note that as I mentioned earlier, USDA is not saying these shipments are legal. They don't write laws, they enforce them. While there is no "de minimus" exception in the Lacey Act, if Congress makes no objection, they can decide how to enforce that law. In this case, they've decided to allow private purchases under the dollar limits to pass without review, and Congress is apparently fine with that as well. But just like the dollar limits have recently gone up, they can go down again or be eliminated at any time Congress or the USDA see fit. The USDA has only promised to give "adequate notice" in the Federal Register if they decide on a change in enforcement policy.

From a purely personal standpoint, I find this a bit disturbing. It constitutes a loophole that is a lot larger than you might think. It’s true that Kevin is unlikely to destroy the world’s supply of Cocobolo. Still, the “Fred Flintstones” of the world (as he calls them) start to add up. There are plenty of asian ebay vendors selling direct to the U.S. Their instruments are also priced way under these limits. Add to that a slew of inexpensive guitars selling direct from all over the world, and you see this adds up to a lot of undeclared wood.

Bear in mind that Mahogany (swietenia macrophylla) falls under the same Appendix II restrictions as Cocobolo and the Ebonies are by and large at least as restricted, if not more so. There are a lot of tonewoods restricted under CITES, and while it’s not a hard and fast rule, when these woods are under a CITES restriction, their harvest is almost always regulated in their home countries as well. This is where Lacey kicks in for businesses.

Again, from a personal point of view, I’m proud that the U.S. has the Lacey Act. We were the first – by a long shot – to enact this kind of legislation, though the E.U. is apparently now following suit, with others I don’t know of likely doing the same. I don’t think there’s any reasonable debate that wildlife in general is under dangerous and unprecedented pressures, and tonewoods are certainly in the group that are faring worst.

So with the inexpensive instruments flying in under the Lacey radar, is there any way to know you are buying legally harvested wood? Well, first of all, you can just buy from companies in the U.S., the E.U., or any other country with Lacey-type law. Both imported wood, or instruments brought in for commerce enter with a declaration, and in cases where wood is restricted under CITES, also with export permits showing it was harvested legally. Or if it's of real importance to you, you can ask your federal representatives to close the loopholes they've allowed and enforce the Lacey Act as it is written. In other words, go by the letter of the law.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize with the “Fred Flintstones” of the world. With our previous builder in Central America, we probably out-“Freded” Kevin (though Omar built this way by choice), but when we stumbled on these regulations (thanks, Gibson!) our solution was to shut down and test new woods under no restriction at all. We give our instruments their own “Passport” stating the materials (all unrestricted) and date of manufacture (in case those materials become restricted in the future). To us that seemed the easiest route, as Central America is truly a treasure trove of hardwoods, many of which are under no pressure and no regulation.

That’s not to say everyone should take our approach. There are a lot of folks who don’t care about this sort of thing at all, and as long as they’re buying or selling instruments under those dollar limits, our enforcement agencies are presently allowing them to do so. But for those who might like to help out a bit with the pressure on tonewood, here’s a couple of suggestions.

I’d suggest to Kevin, for example, that he might find it advantageous to provide the documentation on his wood even if it’s not legally required. He mentioned he has it. And I’d suggest to anyone else who’s considering a direct overseas purchase to think about these issues. If you ask your provider - whoever it may be - for some sort of assurance on his sources, they in turn begin to see a reason to consider these things as well.

Snaky
02-22-2015, 03:48 AM
WOW! talk about throwing wooden spears at each other , this is nearly as bad as the local boys having a tribal in Papua New Guinea. The idea of growing your own lumber is, the answer, and the future. As a surfboard maker of wooden boards , I only use Plantation grown, as all of us do now, and from what I see of the threads , the amount of timber used for Ukes is very minimal ,compared to say furniture. Any way girls and boys sharpen up your points and be nice!! TIKI