Pacific Rim Tonewoods
From template to guitar at Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Photo courtesy of Pacific Rim Tonewoods.
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Pacific Rim Tonewoods

If you own an acoustic guitar by Gibson, Martin, Collings or Taylor, you might wonder where the wood that it’s made from, came from. Located at the base of the rugged North Cascades just outside the tiny town of Birdsview, WA, Pacific Rim Tonewoods uses local figured maple trees for the backs and sides of acoustic guitars and for the tops on electric guitars. For over 35 years, founder Steve McMinn and his dedicated team have shipped items to guitar manufacturers here in North America as well as customers in Australia, Asia, & Europe. The ‘seed’ that began Pacific Rim Tonewoods was first ‘planted’ in 1981 when Steve, then a woodshop professor at Western Washington University and music enthusiast, decided to build a guitar. He sent away for a box of basic materials, but after surveying the blocks of wood inside, immediately determined, “I can find better wood than this.” So he did.

Today with 35 full time employees, Pacific Rim Tonewoods manufactures specialty wood for musical instrument components at the main manufacturing facility in Birdsview. From local figured maple wood to koa wood from Hawaii, they source and hand select every single log destined to become Pacific Rim Tonewood. With the same attention to detail as Steve started in the very beginning, the wood is split, sawn, and dried so that their tonewoods will endure the rigors of string tension and climatic changes. The end result is simply world-class and highly sought after.

The team at Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Photo courtesy Pacific Rim Tonewoods.

We recently spoke with Eric Warner, General Manager and partner at Pacific Rim Tonewoods. Eric has been working with Steve since 1994. Eric says that last year, Pacific Rim Tonewoods started an online website to sell their product to the smaller luthiers. They also introduced their sonically graded soundboards for guitars. Measuring the mechanical properties in the wood, density, stiffness and Q (damping). 

But the story doesn’t end there. Pacific Rim Tonewoods has conscientiously looked toward the future when it comes to sourcing wood sustainably. Utopia began in 2014 as a research project to grow more valuable wood for both foresters and guitar makers. They were interested in the question of whether figure in wood was genetically caused, and if it were, how they could grow figured trees that would be suitable for musical instruments. Long sought after by luthiers for its beauty, fiddleback maple occurs in rare individuals of big leaf maple, which is native to the Pacific Northwest. Pacific Rim began their program on 74 acres of farmland in the Skagit Valley, by propagating cuttings from trees that exhibited extraordinary figure. Learn more about the Utopia project on Pacific Rim Tonewoods’ website. They also have a similar program with koa wood in Hawaii.

We recently asked Eric what the team’s favorite #SkagitGrown crop was. He says the majority of the team enjoys local strawberries and Brussels sprouts, as well as Nookachamps Farms Organic Hazelnuts, grown and harvested right here in the valley.

We’re constantly amazed at the different products that come from Skagit County, and Pacific Rim Tonewoods soundboards, bindings, and bracewoods are just another example of the diversity here in the #MagicSkagit. We hope you learned something new with this week’s #GSVMemberMonday feature. We know we did.

Thank you for supporting the Genuine Skagit Valley program, Pacific Rim Tonewoods!

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