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Forum topic by ChuckV posted 08-07-2012 02:28 PM 1945 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3124 posts in 3553 days

08-07-2012 02:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: new zealand wood species

Back in 1985, I was working as a contractor for a small company in Santa Barbara, CA. The president of the company took a trip to New Zealand. When he returned, he had gifts for everyone including me, even though I was just working there for the summer.

He gave me a carving of a Kiwi bird and a ruler containing 14 NZ woods. Now I am wondering if anyone has any experience using any of these wood species. (Steve, I have a feeling you know a thing or two about Rata and probably many more of these.) I am also wondering what the carving is made from. To me, it seems to match the sample of Rimu the best.

Here are both pieces:

The sample pieces go all the way through the ruler:

Here are closer views of the front of the ruler:

This is a closer look at the carving:

In case it’s hard to read the species from the ruler, here they are in order from left to right:
rimu, totara, taraire, kahikatea, kohekohe, kauri, pukatea, tawa, matai, towai, tanekaha, rewarewa, rata, miro


- Chuck

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

3 replies so far

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3940 days

#1 posted 08-07-2012 06:22 PM

The kiwi does look to be rimu – probably heartwood rimu. Rimu has a very broad transition between heartwood and sapwood and it is the wood in this transition which gives the unique marbled figure such as what you have on your ruler. Heartwood is quite dark brown. Softwood is a very light creme color and the transition wood, which is very common is stripey combination of the two.

Rimu is very nice to work with – polishes up really nicely – good for turning as well as primary as well as secondary wood. Relatively hard but technically a softwood. Impossible to nail or screw without predrilling once it is dry. Still abundant mainly because it was used in construction as dimensional lumber for a long time (until they almost ran out). Available through recycling.

I’m not familiar with some of these because either they are mostly or exclusively found on the north island ( taraire, kohekohe, pukatea, tawa, towai, tanekaha, rewarewa)

On the south island it is possible to find in small quantities: totara, kauri, matai, miro, kahikatea
Totara – has similar properties to cedar. Still possible to get in small quantities
Kauri – available as recycled timber but first growth trees nearly harvested to extinction – any remaining are either historic sites or too small to harvest – give it another 200 years minimum. Was widely used as construction lumber in the north island and so is available through recycling of old buildings. Beautiful timber, beautiful iridescent golden honey grain – weather resistant – over-harvested to be used as shipping masts for the British army and then to be used in construction. Original trees were massive and branchless to great lenghts. Another tree which is technically a softwood but works like a hardwood. Incredibly tight grained and stable even when wet.
Matai/Miro – nearly the same tree – used a great deal for wood flooring. Works like maple.
Kahikatea – large stands of these were also cut down but curiously many remain in open fields as farmers kept them for shade. Very tall, straight, the tree looks like it has muscles when it is large. Grows in wet area. First branches are usually quite high on mature trees. Usually towers above all other trees. Wood is a very white, featureless, tasteless. Uses a great deal to make butter crates for exporting butter to the UK (yes, butter was made in NZ and exported to the UK – crazy). Not very interesting and not much call for butter crates so perhaps the trees are safe now as a result. Beautiful to look at and probably worth more standing in the forest.

Nearly impossible to find : rata – the imported Australian brushtail possums, which are now a major pest, unfortunately have a good appetite for this tree and it is now rare in nature, let alone at the lumber yard.

None of these trees are allowed to be exported in lumber form, only as finished goods, so nobody should get their hopes up of ever getting their hands on any of these trees unless you are in NZ.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

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3124 posts in 3553 days

#2 posted 08-07-2012 06:43 PM

Steve – Thanks for all that great “insider” information.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2866 days

#3 posted 08-09-2012 01:46 AM

I was reading this and thinking of Steve. Well theres your answer.
Cool ruler Chuck

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

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