Carpenters often lament the scarcity of old-growth wood,
which they prize for its dimensional stability and natural rot
resistance. Most of the oldest old-growth wood available today
is only about 2,000 years old when it's cut.
But the truly ancient stuff is out there; you just have to know
how to find it. Bob Teisberg, of Ancientwood Ltd. in La Pointe,
Wis., imports kauri pine lumber from New Zealand that's more
than 50,000 years old.
Preserved after falling into prehistoric bogs in New Zealand's
Northland many millennia ago, the huge logs are in surprisingly
good shape. Teisberg attributes that to their oxygen-deprived
burial. Getting the monsters out of the ground and onto trucks
is a challenge; some measure as much as 12 feet in diameter.
"Moving them to the mill and sawing them has generated some
rather clever solutions, most of which came from plain old
lumberman's ingenuity," says Teisberg.
Since the wood emerges from the earth with a 100 percent
moisture content, it's often air-dried for two years or so
before it's suitable for millwork or furniture. Most of the
logs are found on grazing land. Once they're removed, the site
is graded and seeded; a couple of months later there's little
evidence of the excavation.
According to Teisberg, kauri has a tight, consistent grain and
density similar to cherry. In terms of cost, 4/4 finished
boards go for $25 per board foot, turning blocks for $32 per
board foot, and pieces of stump for $25 per board foot.
Offcuts, slabs for countertops, and veneer stock are also
For more information, contact Ancientwood Ltd. at 888/201-7544
www.ancientwood.comExtracting soaking-wet 12-foot-diameter
kauri logs from the ground and turning them into useable lumber
requires some innovative techniques. Once the logs are bucked
into manageable sections (top left), track excavators load them
onto tractor trailers for transport to the mill (bottom left).
Heavy-duty forklifts remove the logs from the trucks for
processing, but counterweights are often needed for large
pieces (top right). When finished, the amber-colored wood
resembles cherry (bottom right).