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The Kauri Story

Agathis australis, commonly known by its Māori name 'Kauri', is a coniferous tree found north of 38°S in the northern districts of New Zealand's North Island.

 

The kauri timber used to make our products is from prehistoric kauri trees which were buried and preserved between 3000 and 50,000 years ago.

 

Buried under peat swamps by an unexplained force of nature at the end of the last ice age, the trees have survived the millenia underground, sealed in a chemically balanced environment that has preserved the timber in near-perfect condition.

The trees each grew for nearly 2000 years before they were buried. The trunk of a kauri tree can grow to a diameter of around 5 metres and an overall height of 40 - 50 metres.

Although today its use is far more restricted, in the past the size and strength of kauri timber made it a popular wood for construction and ship building, particularly for masts of sailing ships because of its parallel grain and the absence of branches for much of its height. Kauri crown and stump wood was much appreciated for its beauty, and was sought after for ornamental panelling as well as premium furniture.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s much of the living kauri was chopped down for purposes such as these. Thankfully, kauri became the first indigenous tree species in New Zealand to be protected and since 1973 no standing trees have been cut down. Today there are around 18,000 acres of kauri forest remaining.

Kauri Extraction

In more recent times ancient kauri logs have been extracted from beneath the ground. This is a time consuming, expensive and technically difficult process which requires skilled operators and heavy machinery, often working in wet conditions.

Each log must be carefully brought to the surface and on completion of work the area is restored to its original condition.

Only the lower trunk section and ball-root structure is predominantly found. The trunk tends to taper to a "V" shape as the portion of the log lying above ground has decayed to ground level. Some logs are on a 20-degree angle into the ground suggesting they have fallen over with force, probably under a larger tree that has fallen on top. For this reason complete round logs lying deeper in the ground are occasionally found.

A trademark of swamp kauri is deep, shimmering streaks of iridescence, called "white bait", found in some of the wilder grain patterns. This particular grain is named after schools of New Zealand whitebait fish that emit a similar pattern when swimming in one direction.

Ancient Kauri Dining Table