Deadhead Sinker Cypress

by Lambdafarm on January 20, 2011

Deadhead Sinker Cypress is cypress wood that has lain at the bottom of rivers and lakes for 150 years or so before being retrieved and cut into lumber.  It is old growth wood, rare today.  The wood is rot resistant and the long bath in the tannin rich waters where most of it has been allowed minerals to deposit in the wood.  This gives it a durability beyond regular cypress.

When trees were cut in the old days, they were floated down the river or a canal to the sawmill in large rafts.  About 10% of the logs sank before reaching their destination.  Because the forests seemed to go on for miles, men did not retrieve these logs.  They were deemed an “acceptable loss.”

Now, however, we know the forests do not go on forever.  The virgin forests in the United States have been mostly logged out.  Second growth wood is not as dense and the trees are not as big.  Suddenly, the “acceptable loss” at the bottom of the river or canal is not acceptable any more.  Men are going down and salvaging these trees.    It is dangerous work, but the logs are brought up to the surface and then dried out, cut to size, and dried until they are ready to use.

These old growth logs are dense because they grew slowly.  I was able to obtain a piece of deadhead sinker cypress and have made two items to show you what it looks like.  The color ranges from blond to an almost black brown.  The wood is hard and resinous so dulls blades quickly.  However, the items I made from it look nice and have a pretty grain pattern.

Blond sinker cypress with fretwork rose

Blond sinker cypress with fretwork rose

rough sawn deadhead sinker cypress with cross

This wood is expensive because it is so hard to salvage.  It is also hard to find. only lists three sources, and they are under the search term “sinker cypress.”  Most places that have it cater to architects and do not want to deal with hobbyists.  Large minimum purchases are always a clue they are commercial only.  You might ask if you can buy some scraps from them and resaw them into thin wood you can use.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Caroline Clemmons January 20, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Beautiful photos and very nice explanation of the wood. Thanks for sharing. Excellent woodworking. Love the cross and the rose.


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