Harvesting Madrone and Tanoak in the Santa Cruz Mountains
We love the look and feel of wood in a house, and we value harvesting our forests in a sustainable manner. Given we are using our existing redwood decking for our finished ceiling, we thought it would be fitting to use a local hardwood for our hardwood floors, specifically Pacific Madrone.
In the Santa Cruz Mountains, there are large stands of Redwood trees. In these forests, there are other trees, including Madrone and Tanoak. The Madrone and Tanoak are sometimes incidental as they take valuable sunlight and water, limiting the growth of the valuable Redwood trees. Consequently, the Madrone and Tanoak trees are selectively cut from the maturing Redwood forests. In most cases, the Madrone trees are cut and used for firewood (Madrone is considered the best firewood material because it burns very hot for a long time, and results in little ash).
Given the limited logging in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the very limited amount of Madrone and Tanoak, these timbers are simply dried and then used for firewood. Without scale and sufficient volumes, it is difficult to process the timbers economically.
Seeing this as an opportunity, David Merchant set up a small operation to use Madrone and Tanoak timber, and then cut it, season and dry it, kiln dry the wood, and then have it planed and finished for hardwood flooring. His company, located in Bonny Doon, California, is called ‘Out of the Woods‘.
Dave’s vision is wonderful and could be a very nice fit for our remodel project at Via Sereno. We believe that our reclaimed Redwood ceiling will look beautiful with Madrone, or Tanoak, hardwood floors. These woods will work nicely together, especially since the trees grow together in the local forests in the Santa Cruz mountains.
We called Dave and discussed our requirements with him. He thought he could meet our needs and came to our project site with some wood samples. After, he kindly offered to give us a tour of his full operations.
The complete operation consists of locating the timbers, bringing the timbers to the milling area, cutting the rough logs into blanks, milling the blanks into rough boards, and then air drying those boards. Once the most of the moisture has been removed (approximately 4 months), the boards are then kiln dried (4 to 5 weeks) to the required moisture level (6 to 7%). Then, the boards are trucked to a specialty mill where they are planed into precise dimensions for hardwood flooring.
After cutting the Madrone, Dave showed Bryan some of his inventory of wood that he is working on milling. Dave seeks walnut, oak and other large trees in the San Jose area that are being removed for various purposes. He takes those trees to his mill so the wood can be cut and used in buildings, not simply chipped and used as ground cover.
After the boards have been air dried, they must be kiln dried for 4 weeks. Kiln drying is the critical phase where the moisture is removed slowly from the wood and it is stabilized into its final condition. After kiln drying, the boards can be planed and finished into hardwood flooring.
Dave maintains some inventory of finished hardwood flooring (both Tanoak and Madrone), as well as other boards that artists and craftsmen seek for special projects.
Touring a New House Looking Over the Pacific Ocean
Dave took me on a tour of a new home that is being completed nearby, which faces west over the Pacific Ocean. The house includes Madrone in much of its finishes and has some great detail that we will be including in our home. The tour was inspirational!
Yes, this house was an inspiration and confirmed several features that we want in our house.
At the conclusion of our tour, Dave showed us a table top, which was made over 50 years ago from a Redwood tree cut in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is a solid piece of wood!