In today’s logging and lumber industry, it is the new normal to treat nearly every piece of lumber used with various chemicals in an attempt to preserve the wood. However, this is often a temporary “fix” and these shortcuts have proven to be ineffective over time. But there are tried and true methods of harvesting and preserving logs and lumber the natural way. These techniques have been used throughout Scandinavia for centuries and have been proven to preserve logs for as many as 1000 years without the slightest signs of rot or decay.
The magnitude of this sustainability is unparalleled by any other industry. If we simply take a moment to look back and apply the knowledge our forefathers knew (before it’s too late), we can turn around today’s modern consumer based home building industry and greatly affect the environment, our planet, and even our personal health, for the better.
There are two known techniques of preserving the wood with resin and taking all the sugars out of it a year before felling it. They can be applied both on the growing coniferous trees or just one of these.
First is the “Ringbarking in Norwegian” technique. Removing the bark on the lower part around the tree 10” wide about 15-20” from the ground. Like all vascular plants, trees use two vascular tissues for transportation of water and nutrients: the Xylem (also known as the wood) and the Phloem (the innermost layer of the bark). Ringbarking results in the removal of these two vascular tissues and can permanently stop further transportation of sugars and water. This knowledge executed correctly will cause the tree to go through a slow death process, removing all sugars and drying the tree at the same time before it is even felled. The result is a material/log that is ready to use, more stable, experiences less cracking, shrinking and will last for many centuries.
The other one is the “Blæking in Norwegian” (Injuring/Scaring) technique. “Injured” meaning – the bark is chopped off randomly with an axe so that the tree can start to heal itself and push all the sugars out of the sapwood and fill/replace it with resin and antiseptics. It is an almost forgotten technique in modern forestry. This is one of the ways logs, in which log-buildings have been prepared throughout Northern Europe for thousands of years, make them stronger and resilient to rot as the sugars and water in the sapwood are in turn replaced with resin and various antiseptics. There is common to call such prepared pines an “Amberwood”. It takes a whole cycle of 4 seasons until the tree is ready to be felled after injuring/scaring or ringbarking.
It will start to die by the end of next summer (if you injure it in the winter before) and then by the next winter it is ready for felling. It should be felled when the roots are frozen and when the new moon is approaching based on the old carpenters calendar when is the best time to fell the trees for log buildings and timber frames.
I love this concept! Do you have any personal experience with it? Finding information on the technique has been hard for me. You mention the ringbarking needs to be "executed correctly" and I assume the Blaeking also has particular details that really matter to having it work (width of strips, spacing of strips vertically and horizontally, etc).
"Hundreds of years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the type of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that it becomes a tourist destination"
This is exciting. Is there any recommendation as to when this should be done? We’ve been using our locust for fencing and other exterior crafts here in sw Wisconsin for the last 10 years, sometimes girdling them in mid summer to try and keep them from suckering. The only definite difference in longevity we’ve noticed is that denser, slower growing posts last longer than similar sized posts with large growth rings
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio commonly known as Vitruvius, was a Roman author, architect, civil engineer, and military engineer during the 1st century BC. In one of his books about Roman Architecture he wrote following about the lost technique of forgotten forestry injuring growing trees on purpose: "In felling a tree we should cut into the trunk of it to the very heart, and then leave it standing so that the sap may drain out drop by drop throughout the whole of it. In this way the useless liquid which is within will run out through the sapwood instead of having to die in a mass of decay, thus spoiling the quality of the timber. Then and not till then, the tree being drained dry and the sap no longer dripping, let it be felled and it will be in the highest state of usefulness.
That this is so may be seen in the case of fruit trees. When these are tapped at the base and pruned, each at the proper time, they pour out from the heart through the tapholes all the superfluous and corrupting fluid which they contain, and thus the draining process makes them durable. But when the juices of trees have no means of escape, they clot and rot in them, making the trees hollow and good for nothing. Therefore, if the draining process does not exhaust them while they are still alive, there is no doubt that, if the same principle is followed in felling them for timber, they will last a long time and be very useful in buildings."" Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, 20 AD, Rome
Those experimental trees injured in those pics are going to be taken down this month after 2 years of waiting. There are two common wood injuring on purpose techniques known in Scandinavia and Baltics. 1. Ring cutting, barking. You measeure the depth of sapwood of the pine tree and axe a groove around the tree untill the heartwood. Make several spot injuries with an axe as high as you can get. Wait 1-2 years and cut down the tree during winter and empty moon. You will get a tree that has less sugars, water and nutrients in it what attracts fungi and blue stain. Pine after 2 years will still have needles in the branches but it is slowly dying as cutting the ring stops the nutrient transportation up the tree. All the suggars will filter out that ring. This way in Norway was prepared wood for stave churches. 2. Strip barking. You make lognitudal stripes on 4 sides of the pine at about 9 meters height. You do it in spring before juices start to flow. Next spring you remove 3 more stripes of bark/cambium - leaving it only on one thin stripe. After another year in spring you remove the last stripe and skin the tree completelty. All the rest of the injured places are infilled with pine resin and has closed pore structure. In the 3rd years winter by thr empty moon you fell the tree. You get 9 meters of round log that does not attract water and is copletely preserved by the pine resin. Such logs were used for round log structures - log cabins and round timber frame. I will fell the trees and post my experiment results in Northmen facebook and IG pages.