The Redwoods of Coast and Sierra
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Redwood lumber.—Because of the brittleness of the wood and the wastefulness of lumbering it, the Sierra Redwood is of sentimental rather than commercial importance. So far as actual use is concerned, nearly every timber tree in the United States is superior to it. Although it was formerly lumbered in the Converse Basin region, near General Grant National Park, it is not now being cut for lumber.

The Coast Redwood, on the contrary, has many valuable uses. Dr. Jepson gives a striking summary of them in his Trees of California:

The writer of these lines is a Californian. He was rocked by a pioneer mother in a cradle made of Redwood. The house in which he lived was largely made of Redwood. His clothing, the books of his juvenile library, the saddle for his riding pony were brought in railway cars chiefly made of Redwood, running on rails laid on Redwood ties, their course controlled by wires strung on Redwood poles. He went to school in a Redwood school house, sat at a desk made of Redwood and wore shoes the leather of which was tanned in Redwood vats. Everywhere he touched Redwood. Boxes, bins, bats, barns, bridges, bungalows were made of Redwood. Posts, porches, piles, pails, pencils, pillars, paving-blocks, pipe lines, sometimes even policemen, were made of Redwood. . . .

One of the most emphatic tributes to the economic value of Redwood is that new uses are constantly being discovered for it. We ship our choicest grapes to distant lands packed in Redwood sawdust. We replace steel water conduits with Redwood. We supply Redwood doors to the Central American market because the white ant does non eat Redwood.

Redwood lumber has long had the reputation of being one of the slowest woods to burn, and for that reason it is one of the safest materials for wooden houses. In does not kindle into a blaze quickly, and the wood is so absorbent that it takes in water almost immediately. Therefore a Redwood house on fire may be saved when a pine building would be destroyed. Of course Redwood houses will burn, but they are less likely to burn than buildings constructed of almost any of the other woods.

Redwood was used by early settlers of the region, though they cut it sparingly. The Spaniards preferred adobe or unburned bricks to wood, but they used a few heavy beams in their churches and mission buildings. The Russian settlers used it more extensively.

After the discovery of gold, settlements of native Americans were made very rapidly and many California towns were built in large part of Redwood. Sawmills began to appear about 1850 in the neighborhood of San Francisco. The first lumber cargo, amounting to 200,000 board feet of Redwood lumber, was shipped from the Humboldt region to San Francisco.

Approximately one-fourth of the lumber now cut in California, every year, is Coast Redwood. The Redwood lumber region covers an area of about 1,000,000 acres. Many individual acres yield more than 100,000 board feet of sawn lumber, and some areas are reported to have produced as much as 1,000,000 board feet. For several years past, the average annual cut has been 500,000 board feet. It is estimated that there is Redwood forest enough to supply lumber for 100 years at the normal rate of production.

Consideration of the Coast Redwood leads one to think not only in terms of the values of Redwood lumber, but also of the social, educational, and inspirational values of conservation. The lumber companies have coöperated with the Save-the-Redwoods League in saving certain areas of Coast Redwood for State parks. There are, however, certain areas still owned by lumber companies, and marked for lumbering, that ought to be saved for park purposes. Although remarkable progress has been made, less than one-twentieth of the standing Coast Redwoods have been preserved in California's system of State parks.


Redwood bark products.—Redwood bark is used for many purposes, some useful, some merely ornamental. Pincushions, penwipers, table mats, lamp mats, moisture-proof matchsafes, bathroom mats are made of it. Bark is also used for fishing-floats, cork jackets, cold-storage insulation, heat insulation, house sheathing, mattress fillings, carpet substitutes, and sound-deadening insulation.

Redwood burl products.—The burl is an excrescence which grows on the trunk or the surface roots of the Coast Redwood. It does not have the grain of ordinary wood sections. It is unusually durable, and takes a fine polish. Pieces of burl containing growing tissue are used as table decorations; when placed in water, they develop a beautiful foliage which continues to form for a year or more. It is possible indeed, though not usual, to grow a new tree by planting a piece of burl. Sections as much as eight feet across are sometimes obtained. Tables and other articles of furniture are made from them and command high prices. Numerous small articles, such as napkin rings, pin trays, collar boxes, and matchsafes are made from Redwood burl. The Sierra Redwood produces a knotty growth which does not have the value of the real burl and usually is not dignified by the name.


The Redwoods of Coast and Sierra
©1940, University of California Press
shirley/sec9.htm — 02-Feb-2007