Many people ask questions about the wood we use so I would like to answer a few of the common questions. There are many types of juniper all over the world. The variety we use is called alligator juniper. It grows almost exclusively in Southern New Mexico, Northern Arizona, and Northern Mexico along the Mogollon Rim. It is a protected tree and can only be cut in New Mexico (where we cut ours) if it is completely dead. It gets its name from the bark which looks like alligator skin.
We only use dead-standing wood (totally dead tree that is upright) for our furniture. The wood that is harvested for us has been dead for approximately 20 years or more. This ensures that it is completely dead and also well cured and stable.
The whole process is very eco-friendly. Every piece is carried to our vehicle in order not to scar the forest floor by dragging logs across it. We cannot take our vehicles off the road. Because of the size of the trees this means we must slab the logs in the forest.
The area the trees grow is in a high altitude and very dry. The trees grow extremely slow. One time we set our 9 year old son to counting the rings. He came back to us and said that it would take too long but he counted one inch in several places and the count was between 50-60 rings per inch so the tree was approximately 1500 years old. Smart kid!
Alligators are extremely resilient having a resin that insects do not like and rarely infest. They survive many forest fires and strong winds. If a tree burns on one side it will continue to grow on the other side which can make determining its age very difficult. They estimate one 14 foot diameter tree to be from 3000-6000 years old. I read about a tree in AZ which is 27′ 4″ diameter but there was no age estimate given. Their age and environment give the wood amazing character and beauty. We love the fact that when a table is made from this wood their owners get a view of history that few people have ever seen.
If you are interested in more information Wikipedia was a good source. For example I learned that the Native Americans used the juniper berries for a female contraceptive. I never knew that!
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