recycled wood

As my mother used to say, if it’s not one thing, it’s another…..

Just as we thought it was safe to go in the water, or at the very least to let out a deep sigh, Japan happens. I can’t watch videos of the tsunami. It’s too upsetting. I’m trying not to watch the news because if I do, I’ll be living in fear. More than ever I feel a connection with the people of the Pacific Rim and deep, deep sympathy for the people of Japan.

You might think the knitting needles above are any old wooden needles. They’re not. The wood they’re made from is 35,000 years old.

The kauri tree is our sequoia or redwood. It can grow to more than 50 metres tall, with a girth of up to 16 metres and live for more than 2000 years.  They used to grow in vast forests, and were used by Maori for boat building, carving and building houses.  Unfortunately, European settlers who began arriving here in the 17-1800’s began to decimate the forests. The trunks were ideal for ships’ masts, and for building. The reason for this is that the lowest branches are shed as the tree matures making a parallel grain and an absence of knots, which gives the timber strength. The legend is that kauri masts contributed to the success of the British navy in the Battle of Trafalgar because they allowed Nelson’s ships more maneuverability to sail close to the wind.

Many of our lovely old houses were built from kauri and their polished floors are one of our national treasures.

Today its use is far more restricted, which is why the ancient kauri that are found under the swamps in the north are so highly prized. They came to be there due to the huge size and shallow root structure of the trees which would make them unstable in the moist ground around lakes. They’d grow to maturity over millennia and topple, one crop lying on top of another, like an ancient game of pick-up sticks. Now they’re being salvaged and used.

On a trip to Northland I saw beautiful pieces made of swamp kauri

and wondered if it would be suitable for knitting needles.  Asking around, I found a craftsman who made me two sets, 4.5 mm and 6 mm, which I love to use.  They’re very dense and strong, but silky and warm. I was hoping to be able to produce them for other knitters. They would be expensive, I was told, but still I thought that knitters would love to have such beautiful wooden needles and know that no precious tree has been felled to make them. Unfortunately my craftsman told me that they are too difficult to make by hand and that he would need a special machine the likes of which we do not have in New Zealand. Pity.

Ideas, anyone? do you have a suitable wood tooling machine in your garage?

So that is how I came to have 35,000 year old knitting needles.

8 Responses to “recycled wood”

  1. Karen Says:

    I send my prayers and hope for calm to the Pacific Rim. I will be knitting with Habu yarn to honor Japanese craftspeople.

    I hope you are able to find the wood tooling machine – they sound like wonderful needles.

  2. Lindsay Says:

    Kauri knitting needles – Amazing! In October I was awe-struck by the Kauri forests I visited when in the Northland and we went to the Kauri kingdom. It’s amazing to think these trees have existed for so long withstanding NZ’s geological changes.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    Those are beautiful needles. What a lovely idea.

  4. Karen Barrett Says:

    What kind of a tool specifically does he need? A lathe for wood turning, or something more specialized? We’ve just given one away, or rather have bartered it away for work at the farm…..I would love a pair of kauri needles!

  5. KarenJ Says:

    The needles are beautiful and seem to touch the soul. Somehow in juxtaposition to the horrors in Japan they give some hope.

  6. louise Says:

    i’m with you on keeping away from the images – what i listen to on national radio is more than enough. frightening times for us all.

    love the needles – there must be someone out there – i immediately thought double ended needles. i am teaching 30 seven and eight year olds how to knit once a week – we make their needles out of dowel and a wooden bead – thats as close to construction as i have been.

  7. Marian Says:

    Oh I have a touch of needle envy. They look great and I am sure are a joy to knit with. Amazing to think that the wood is that old – a sense of permanency in our sadly ever changing world.

  8. lisa miller Says:

    I can barely look at the image in either Japan or Libya- it is all too terrifying. Last weekend, I took myself off to see the new Jane Eyre
    film- abosolutely breathtaking- fine acting with incredible visuals. Actually
    I was completely transported to the 19th century and did not want to leave… your knitting needles are superb—

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