Posted on January 10, 2008
A local timber cutter was contracted to remove several trees close to a rural nursing home. One of them was a red cedar. He called me up to see if I wanted any of the pieces before he slabbed them up on his Lucas mill.
Upon arriving at his place, I noticed the main trunk had a diameter of about 1.2m (4 feet) and it had probably been cut some years ago and had regrown into what was now still a fair size tree. While the regrowth trunk logs had a diameter of about .6 to .9 meters (2 to 3 feet), they were really only just big enough to be worthwhile as a slabbing proposition for Bryan.
One log really stood out from the others, however. It was flattened and showed extensive fiddleback even through the bark. The figuring ran from one end to the other of the 2m (6ft) log and, because of it's flattened shape, it was just going to be perfect for bowls.
Bryan said "what do you want??" I never dreamed that he would give up the one log of the whole pile that was wildly figured. This was really the gold nugget in the creek-bed as far as I was concerned. So, I pointed to the figured log and said a bit sheepishly "how 'bout that one?". Without emotion either way, he agreed and hoisted it onto the back of the truck with his tractor. I couldn't believe my luck.
I also took another slightly larger log and some small branch pieces.
Australian Red Cedar is a very rare and highly valued resource. Once plentiful in the coastal rainforests of all eastern Australia, it was cut almost to extinction in the early days of european settlement of this country. The trees were highly valued by the early timber-cutters because they were easy to find (their leaves turned pink at certain times of the year) and they were light in weight relative to the more common rainforest hardwoods and eucalypts. The lightness in weight made the cedars much easier to handle and transport.
Sadly, much of the early red cedar wood found it's way into external house cladding because it was easy to nail and had good resistence to termites and rot. It's a shame that such beautiful wood is buried beneath dozens of layers of paint as 1 inch boards on the old homes of northern New South Wales and Queensland.
The remaining wild red cedars are mostly within state forest or protected in national parks and world heritage areas. Some red cedars also exist on private property where their future is uncertain. Most standing timber of value on farms or in rural communities is regarded as 'retirement fund' by land-owners and it is probable that most will 'fall over in some future storm'.
UPDATE May 29, 2008
I roughed out one piece from this wood so far and it is certainly very highly figured as can be seen in the following (unfinished/unsanded) image.