Paraoanui Sinker Story
A New Zealand river wood, the discovery of the Paraoanui Sinker is an intriguing tale that began in early 2010, when one of my sons was returning cattle across the river that borders our property in the Paraoanui Valley. A recent flood and uncovered a small log and my son came home excited about what he had found. I went back with him and soon discovered that it had identification marks, still readable, stamped on the butt end. It was obviously a lost sinker that had somehow been uncovered in the flood and deposited on our doorstep. But how old was it and what species? Hard to tell because of the weathering, I wondered if it might be a small kauri log, left behind because of it's relative small size. An inquiry into the identification marks revealed that this log was felled between 1850 and 1950, so it could be around 70 to 170 years old! The old-timers who knew their native timbers struggled to identify the samples I showed them so I sent samples to the Scion Research facility in Rotorua where they examined the cell structure and compared it on a microscopic level to their data base. It was positively identified as Tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides), apparently one of the most elastic timbers in the world. Not wanting to see it go to waste I decided to bring the log back to my workshop and process it into billets and test it for suitability in musical instruments. Floating the log down our river, the project involved the whole family. The log was sawn into smaller sections and the billets split with a froe, to minimise grain run out. It yielded a limited quantity large enough for guitars, and more for smaller instruments. The success of this tonewood as soundboards means that I am seeking more of this wood and hope to augment my stock in the years ahead.