Wood of the Gods

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Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

“In the stands of Lodhra trees, Padmaka trees and in the woods of Devadaru, or Deodar trees, Ravana is to be searched there and there, together with Seetha. [4-43-13]”
Nothing compares to the thrill of making the first passes with a sharp hand plane over freshly milled cedar to reveal the grain pattern of the tree. This is especially true when the wood carries such rich associations, brought to life under the blade by its sweet perfume, at once familiar and exotic. The same trees sheltered the ancient sages of the Western Himalaya, and is still worshiped as divine in the villages of Kashmir and Punjab. Native to this region, the name derives from the Sanskrit devadaru, and translates as ‘divine wood’; essential oils are distilled from the heartwood and used in Ayurvedic medicine. Because of its natural resistance to rot and insects, deodar cedar was important to the spice trade and featured prominently in the construction of Hindu temples. The wood is supple and tight-grained and its intrinsic qualities inspire me to make something with a vitality and character befitting the noble legacy of the tree.

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I spent a rainy Monday venturing down the coast to inspect logs and a few neatly stickered stacks of  deodar for a project I have in development- a small cabin whose interior and furnishings I’ll be designing and making over the next year and a half. I’d like all of the wood to sequence from the same tree as much as possible, and began the design process by discussing the potential yield of logs cut from ‘horticultural salvage’ with my friend Evan Shively. The tree was planted extensively in parks up and down the coast as an ornamental, and logs are occasionally available when a tree comes down. I will grade all material for the project based on how it is used/seen, featuring clear, wide boards for the floor and knottier ones for the furnishings and casework. I’ll need around 2000 board feet for the project, which will require at least two logs 36″ in diameter, about 16′ in length. Evan will cut the wood to my specifications, dry it in stacks as pictured above, and deliver the cured material to my shop for fabrication next year.

2 replies on “Wood of the Gods”

  1. YES, “wood of the gods”. just that phrase put the image and smell of cedar to my mind. few materials offer such satisfaction to so many of the senses. up here in the Pacific Northwest, cedar is long a sacred wood to the indigenous peoples. great cedar trees were selected, blessed, and prepared for years before ritual felling. these cedar trees became huge dugout canoes to hunt the whale or totem poles carved to tell their tribal histories. cedar clad their long houses and, in the end, held their bodily remains up high in funerary boxes. today, some of the best boats are built from Alaskan yellow cedar. i use it for furniture, and i save even the smallest scrap to bless my fireplace with it’s sweet aroma. looking forward to your cedar house. there is no wood more noble.

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