Few figures in the guitar industry have been as involved in exploring issues of sustainability and the legality of existing rare tonewoods as Tom Bedell. His Bedell Guitars has made major strides in working out processes to ethically source tonewoods and build guitars in the spirit of the great instruments of early folk and rock ‘n’ roll scenes.
The super limited edition ‘Summer of Love’ dreadnaught guitar (limited to 12 copies) is maybe the company’s most potent symbol of this effort. As the company says, “During the summer of ‘67, if you could’ve had any guitar, it would’ve been an Adirondack/Brazilian dreadnought.” This guitar features Brazilian sidewood and an Adirondack Spruce top with a Honduran mahogany neck.
Bedell secured a large collection of Brazilian rosewood that had been imported into Spain over 50 years ago. This collection at Bedell is now the largest collection of legally harvested and preserved Brazilian rosewood in existence today. It has been naturally dried and aged in a carefully controlled climate, making it some of the finest tonewood around. All Bedell Brazilian rosewood is legally documented and available to be exported throughout all CITES nations.
Which brings us to Tom Bedell’s personal attempt to show the world how to navigate the recently updated travel regulations imposed on these types of tonewoods. On the occasion of this year’s Musikmesse show in Frankfurt, Germany in March, Bedell packed up a Summer of Love and all of its required paperwork and headed to the airport.
“The bottom line is that if this wood was in Europe before 1992, it can legally be brought back into Europe,” says Bedell. “So we applied for a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service and got that, then we went to the Dept. of Agriculture and got their endorsement, and then when I got to Germany I cleared customs. When I went home I went through Spain and they stamped it and made it back to the United States.”
Though he arrived home in one piece, Bedell says there’s room for improvement. “To be candid, the process at the FWS is just being developed,” he says. “I’m going to take my team back to Washington D.C. in May and we’re going to work with the FWS to help them understand how to work with musicians and the guitar industry to make it a smoother process. It’s just a new thing that people need to get used to.” Bedell also led a workshop at Musikmesse to help explain the technicalities of traveling with different restricted woods.
The very theme of the Summer of Love guitar itself dates back to what could be seen as the beginning of the modern approach to endangered tree species. “In the late 1960s is when Brazil outlawed the exportation of Brazilian trees,” says Bedell.
“Also, the Summer of Love was the beginning of rock’n’roll as a voice to express social change that we still enjoy today. The most sought-after guitar back then was the Brazilian rosewood Spruce dreadnaught, and that’s what this is.”
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