Amazing Ancient Big Leaf Maple

Yesterday’s project: I can honestly say that this is one of the most beautiful, unique, and figured maples, that I have had the honor of milling. This is just one section in a handful, of very special trees. These trees got to live about as long and full of a life, that is possible, for a Big Leaf Maple in the northwest. Many of the hearts, in the base of the trees, were completely rotted out. They were beginning to drop branches, and holding themselves up by a layer of sapwood. They were all harvested in time for the wood to be usable, and of optimal character.
Now for the crazy part!….since the heart rot had just started to creep into this middle section, I was able to fully count the rings, and read the life story, of this particular tree. This tree began it’s life back in 1832…that’s right 185 years ago!…as a seedling on the floor, of an ancient conifer forest. (I had to count the rings twice) It spent its first 125-130 years twisting and turning, and reaching for whatever light was available, in the shadows of the towering giants. I believe that this is one of the reasons this tree has such amazing character. The heart of this tree is less than 12″, and in some areas has more than 20 rings per inch (see picture). Then sometime in the 1960’s, some surrounding old growth conifers were selectively logged. For whatever reason, they left all of the maples. This let in huge amounts of light, which the maples never had before. They shot up and grew huge, and the growth rings widened considerably. Over the last 60 years new conifers grew, or were planted, as this land is a designated tree farm. The 2nd growth conifers are now of considerable size.
Ok, I’ll stop boring you with history! Lets get to the figure…..I know the camera phone pictures don’t do this justice, but you still get the idea. This log contains almost all of the different classifications of figure. It has quilting, birdseye, burl, flamed, and blister figure, which all continue down through the whole log. My favorite is the almost metallic, copper/gold/pink looking quilting section. I also like the birdseye (check out the picture of the birdseye burl, when the log was whole…it almost looks like a sea creature) The figure on this one is so strong and pronounced, you barely notice the saw marks. The slabs almost look finished (plus I filed my chain razor sharp, and took a little more care, cutting this one). I can’t wait to put a couple of these in the kiln, and completely finish them into furniture. Imagine how they will look, sanded and varnished. What an honor and privilege, to be able to work with this tree!
(Wendy Irvin Sky Valley Timber Products, and me ForestShepherd.org)

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