Oldest Workable Wood On Earth

Ancient Kauri
Botanical Name: {Agathis australis}

Other Names
Kauri Pine
Dakua Makadre
New Zealand Kauri

The oldest workable wood/lumber on earth is Ancient Kauri {Agathis australis}. The trees from ancient forests on North Island, New Zealand have been buried under peat moss during the last ice age. They are well preserved and are now being dug up from the tundra. They have been radio carbon dated to approximately 30,000 - 50,000 years old. Of coarse, 50,000 years is the ultimate limit of radio carbon dating so it is quite possible that these trees could be older!

It is estimated that the trees were growing approximately 12 - 20 centuries before they were buried by the ice. Some of the trees had a circumference of approximately 40 foot and heights of almost 200 foot. The Ancient Kauri trees are native to New Zealand and are not found anywhere else in the world.

Ancient Kauri wood is environmentally safe. There are no cutting of living trees and the land that the trees were on is redone to its original contours and state.

The logs are underneath the surface of farm fields and ranch lands. When a site is identified, permission is obtained and expert heavy equipment operators are brought in to carefully expose and lift the logs which are gigantic and are at 100% moisture content out of what was a prehistoric bog. Then they are moved to a location to begin the milling process. The milling itself, has demanded some innovative equipment designs and in some instances just plain old lumberman?s ingenuity.

The kiln drying process is very slow and great care and patience is required as it looses heavy amounts of moisture to reach the moisture content of 12%.

Kauri trees still grow in New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, Fiji Islands, Indochina, Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Indonesia and New Caledonia. Law protects the Kauri trees that grow in New Zealand. The above Kauri trees are not the quality that Ancient Kauri trees are.

Woodworking Properties & Characteristics

Ancient Kauri

Botanical Name: {Agathis australis}

Color can be light to medium golden brown sometimes with a very slight reddish or yellowish tinge or cast. Its color will darken with age.

The Following Are My Opinions Based Upon Working The Wood.

Ancient Kauri lumber is classified a softwood. It has about the same hardness as say Southern Yellow Pine. Because the growth rings are much closer together {tighter} than present day Kauri has, it is a little harder and easier to work.

The lumber has minute movement in service, {very stable}.

It planes, drills, hand carves and cuts well with either high speed tool steel or carbide tipped cutting tools and it also does not tool burn easily. It does have the tendency to fuzz. It does not have much of a dulling affect even when using high speed tool steel cutting tools. Cutting tools should be kept quite sharp as the wood has a tendency to chip out, tear and splinter.

As with most softwood routing across the grain is difficult. Extremely sharp bits should be used and multiple shallow passes made cutting away only small amounts of wood per each pass, 1/32? or so per pass.

Turns well on a lathe. Due to the softness of the wood it is best when turning miniature pieces to use the highest possible lathe speed. Sharp tools should be used at all times when working with the wood. Care should be taken to use slight pressure and remove a minute amount of wood at a time due to its softness.

Glues very well with carpenters yellow glue or polyurethane glue.

Sands well with all types of sandpaper (no gum up). If sanded down in steps to 2000 grit sandpaper or finer it will produce a finish that gives the illusion of being 3 dimensional.

Stains well but the wood should be preconditioned before staining due to the softness of the wood to eliminate blotching.

Polishing will produce a remarkable luster.

Due to the softness of the wood, deep thread wood screws should be used for fastening multiple pieces of this wood together or other parts to it. It nails well and no pre-boring is needed.

It is closed pored, usually straight . Sometimes some lumber will have wavy grain, may have a flame or mottled figure and may even have areas that give the illusion of changing colors..

Ancient Kauri wood is moderately durable in an outdoor environment.

Ancient Kauri can be bought from veneer 1/20th of an inch thick, 9" wide and 10 foot long to slabs as large as 14 inches thick 48? wide and 12 foot long. Logs, stumps, natural edge and free form wild edge pieces are also available.

The lumber cost is $25.00 - $60.00 per board foot depending upon the grain {figure pattern}, thickness and width. The veneer starts at $3.00 per square foot

One place you may purchase Ancient Kauri wood online is, Ancientwood, LTD. Each piece of Ancient Kauri wood/lumber purchased, comes with a Certificate Of Authenticity.

Acknowledgements & References

Ancientwood, LTD.

A Guide To Useful Woods Of The World, Second Edition
The International Wood Collectors Society

Copyright Johnny W. Morlan 2006

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