NEW ZEALAND NATIVES
Kauri is the giant of the New Zealand forest. Tāne Mahuta, named after the Māori god of forests and of birds, is the largest living kauri tree known to stand today at 45.2m tall and with a 15.44m girth. It is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years.
Kauri timber has a fine and even texture with a straight grain. While Kauri can be a bland timber, it can have a golden hue with a golden speckle, due to resinous rays, that makes the appearance of the timber quite stunning.
Kauri was a multi-purpose timber; it was used extensively for boat building, general house building and furniture and joinery. In 1985 the felling of live old growth trees was prohibited unless the wood was required for nationally important purposes. The Kauri we use in our work is either recycled or comes from stumps and head logs left behind on the forest floor, often over 100 years ago, when the milling of Kauri was taking place
Kohekohe trees naturally become hollow as they grow, so were prized by Māori for construction of strong and swift river canoes - however as they also tend to become misshapen as they reach maturity, good quality specimens were hard to find.
Often referred to as New Zealand Mahogany, Kohekohe saw a period of popularity for furniture making, however better access to other timbers over time put paid to this and as a result it’s not widely used for much at all anymore. We love working with Kohekohe here at Mamaku so it's a real treat when we get our hands on some.
It is thought that Kāpiti Island was primarily covered in Kohekohe before it was cleared for farming in the 1800's. These days, you’ll find Kohekohe growing in the coastal and lowland forests of the north-western half of the North Island, but also in the Queen Charlotte Sound on the South Island.
Mataī is one of New Zealand’s finest native timber species. It is a robust tree up to 25m in height with a trunk up to 1.3m in diameter and a broad crown held on stout, erect, spreading branches. While it occurs throughout New Zealand in lowland forests, it is most common in the central North Island, locally abundant in the South Island, and extremely rare on Rakiura/Stewart Island.
Mataī timber is straight-grained, easily worked, strong, easily split and fairly hard. The dry heartwood of Mataī is straw yellow to chestnut yellow, with an occasional reddish tinge. On exposure to air it darkens to a deep red-brown.
With its excellent machining qualities, dimensional stability and hardness, Mataī timber made a first class exterior joinery timber. It is one of the world’s great flooring timbers.
Most of the Mataī we use at Mamaku is 'Swamp Mataī', which is milled from fallen trees that spent hundreds of years buried in muddy and silty watercourses, so have an even darker and richer colour.
Rimu is a large evergreen coniferous tree endemic to the forests of New Zealand. It is easily identified by its spreading crown with pendulous branchlets, which in young trees have a graceful, weeping, appearance.
Rimu was formerly abundant in lowland and hilly forests throughout the North, South, and Stewart Islands from sea level to 600m. Although the largest concentration of trees is now found on the West Coast of the South Island, the biggest trees tend to be in mixed podocarp forest near Taupo. It generally has a straight trunk that can be up to 1.5 metres in diameter and even larger in older trees, some of which are estimated to be 800 – 1,000 years old.
Once a widely used building timber – over 50% of the timber milled from the earliest days of saw milling in New Zealand was Rimu – however nowadays, the availability and cost is such that it is used mainly by the specialty woodworker.
Tōtara is naturally distributed throughout New Zealand in lowland forests. It has been utilised for many purposes by both Māori and European settlers. Tōtara is a medium to large tree, which grows slowly to around 20 to 25m, exceptionally to 35m. It is noted for its longevity and the great girth of its trunk. The largest known living tōtara, the Pouakani Tree, near Pureora in the central North Island, is over 35m tall and nearly 4m in trunk diameter at breast height.
The wood is hard, straight-grained, and very resistant to rot, especially its heartwood. Due to its durability, tōtara wood was often used for fence posts, floor pilings, and railway sleepers. It is also prized for its carving properties, and was the primary wood used in Māori carving. It was the primary wood used to make waka in traditional Māori boat building due to its relatively light weight (about 25% lighter than kauri), long, straight lengths, and natural oils in the wood that help prevent rotting.
TAWHAI / SILVER BEECH
Tawhai is a broad, spreading, magnificent dome-shaped tree with its lower branches arching towards the ground. In the forest, the main trunk is straight and cylindrical and it usually has no branches for more than half the tree height. It averages 20-25m in height with a trunk 0.6-1.5m in diameter. It is found from Thames southwards in the North Island (except Mount Taranaki), and throughout the South Island.
Tawhai is a straight grained, strong, tough, compact and workable timber. The dry heartwood can vary from reddish to pinkish brown to pinkish white while the dry sapwood is light greyish pink.
Principal uses of high grade Tawhai have been furniture, implements, turnery, boat frames, flooring, interior finish and weatherboards.
TASMANIAN BLACKWOOD (AUS)
Tasmanian Blackwood is an Acacia species native in South eastern Australia. In its native range, the tree is found from Queensland down the east coast into New South Wales, through Victoria and west along the south coast of South Australia. It is also found down the east coast of Tasmania.
Tasmanian Blackwood is valued for its decorative timber which may be used in cabinets and in boatbuilding. Plain and figured Australian blackwood is used in musical instrument making (in particular guitars, drums, Hawaiian ukuleles, violin bows and organ pipes), and in recent years has become increasingly valued as a substitute for koa wood.
The name of the wood may refer to dark stains on the hands of woodworkers, caused by the high levels of tannin in the timber.