BOTANICAL NAME: Sequoia sempervirens of the Family Cupressaceae (formerly Taxodiaceae)

A related tree, the giant sequoia (Sequoiadenrdon gigantea, also of the Family Cupressaceae) is also called redwood, coast redwood, big tree or giant redwood. The word sequoia was selected to honor Sequoyah (also spelled Sequoia), (aka George Guess; 1770?-1843), Native American inventor of the Cherokee alphabet. The name sempervirens means evergreen. Metasequoia glyptostroboid (also of the Family Cupressaceae), the third species that is considered a true redwood, is an obscure Chinese wood (called "dawn redwood" in the USA) that was thought to be extinct but was redicovered in the 1940's. It's a non-entity (unavailable) as far as US craftspeople are concerned.

COMMON NAMES: amerikansk sekvoja, california cedar, california evergreen, california redwood, coast redwood, coastal sequoia, common redwood, corla, giant-of-the-forest, humboldt redwood, mexican cherry, pacific redwood, palo colorado, pin rouge d'amerique, pino rosso d'america, sempervirens, sequoia, sequoia de california, sequoia pine, sequoia roja, sequoia rossa, sequoia toujours vert, sequoie

vavona or vervona is the name is used for veneer made from redwood burls

TYPE: softwood

COLOR: Heartwood is generally bright red when first cut but may vary from light cherry red to dark reddish-brown or mahogany, sometimes with purplish tints, and can vary within a single tree. It deepens with exposure, usually to a reddish-brown. The sapwood is whitish or yellowish and I did not find any reports on the width of the sapwood.

One reports says that the wood lightens with exposure to light but I believe this to be erroneous but so far I have not conducted that experiment myself.

Occasionally burls are found on the trunks and these yield highly figured wood that is cut into veneers that--although redder in color-- resemble thuya burl. These burls are sometimes 6 feet in diameter and often exhibit a wide variety of interesting grain patterns.

GRAIN / TEXTURE / FILLER / FINISH / LUSTER: Reportedly, the grain varies depending on the growing conditions of the tree. It usually has exceptionally straight grain with prominent growth rings but secondary growth wood may have somewhat uneven grain. The grain is rarely wavy but it can be spectacular when it is; this often comes from stumps.

The texture is reported as everything from fine to coarse. My experience is that it has a moderate texture, but some reports say the texture varies from even (with narrow growth rings) to coarse (with wide growth rings), within the same tree.

General finishing qualities are rated as good; takes paint and stains very well, polishes well but does not have a high natural luster.

PROPERTIES / WORKABILITY: A very soft and light wood, it works very easily in all operations with both hand and power tools, and has little dulling effect on cutters. The only problem in working the woods is that it is often brittle and thus subject to chipout and with a tendancy to splinter, which requires very sharp cutters for planing. Also, of course, it is very soft, so care needs to be taken not to dent it and power sanding requires considerable care so as to not whisk away far more of the wood than is intended.

It is moderately strong in bending, strong in endwise compression, weak in lateral compression, moderate to low stiffness, moderately low in shock resistance.

It does not split with nailing or screwing but holding properties are poor for both because the wood is so soft (minority reports say it has acceptable holding properties). My own experience is that it is very easy to nail but holds nails rather poorly. Glues extremely well --- some reports say it glues best with alkaline adhesives, other reports say that alkaline adhesives cause stains in the joints and should be avoided.

Although I have not seen it in any of the literature, my own experience is that hand sanding can produce an uneven (ridged) surface because the early growth can be much harder than the late growth. It is similar to Douglas fir in this regard, but the late growth is even softer.

Because it is so soft, it makes a poor veneer; the burls, which can be huge, are widely available for decorative veneer (which is also soft, but beautiful). There is reportedly a slight to moderate drying degrade and the potential for buckles and splits in veneering.

DURABILITY: None of the normal wood-rotting fungi grow in redwood timber, and the tree is free from fungus disease. Brown rot takes a heavy toll on the standing timber and causes portions of the butt to crumble into a fine powder. Few insects cause material harm and the wood is highly resistant to attacks of termites. It is moderately resistant to preservative treatment but that doesn't matter really since it is naturally very durable and is widely used in outdoor furniture because of that.

Redwood is one of the best examples of the difference between hardness and durability. It isn't hard at all (you can make serious dents with your fingernail) but it is highly durable in the chemical sense, including in outdoor use. In the mechanical sense it is not durable, being very soft and weak.

FINISH: Takes paints exceptionally well. It will soak up stains like a sponge but that's OK because anyone who stains it should be shot anyway! It does not take a high natural polish (too soft).

STABILITY: high dimensional stability and resistant to warping

BENDING: steam bending properties are variously reported to be poor to moderate

ODOR: no characteristic odor or taste

SOURCES: Redwood is native to the Pacific Coast region from extreme southwestern Oregon (Curry County) south to central California (Monterey County), mostly in a coastal strip of land which is about 5 to 25 miles wide.

USES: Widely used for outdoor furniture because of its combination of fairly attractive color and extreme durability.

Native Americans used redwood in the construction of canoes and as grave markers. Spanish missionaries arrived in the mid 1700's and practiced occasional logging to provide timbers for their ships and missions.

straight-grained stock is converted into shingles which, it is claimed, will last without any preservative treatment for 18 to 20 years

The wood has long been used for high-class joinery in European countries.

Other uses: bark is used to manufacture particleboard and the lumber is used for bedroom suites, beehives, blinds, boat building, boxes, bridge construction, bridge timbers, building construction, building materials, cabin construction, cabinetmaking, canoes, caskets, ceiling, chairs, chemical containers, chests, cigar boxes, coffins, concealed parts (furniture), concrete formwork, construction, cooling equipment, cooling towers, crates, dairy, decking, decks, decorative veneer, desks, dining-room furniture, doors, dowells, drawer sides, electrical equipment, excelsior, exterior cladding, exterior trim & siding, exterior uses, factory construction, fence-posts, fences, fencing, figured veneer, fine furniture, floor lamps, flooring, food containers, foundation posts, framing, furniture, furniture components, furniture squares or stock, garden furniture, grape stakes, green houses, hatracks, heavy beams, heavy construction, hot tubs, insulation., interior construction, interior finish, interior trim, jewelry box, joinery, joinery (external): ground contact, joists, kitchen cabinets, laundry appliances, lifeboats, light construction, living-room suites, millwork, mine timbers, moldings, musical instruments, novelties, novelties (from burl wood)., office furniture, outdoor applications, outdoor furniture, paneling, particle board, pencil, piles, pipelines, pipes and other parts for organs, planks, plywood, poles, porch columns, posts, poultry and apiary supplies, power poles, pulping, radio, rockers, rough construction, rustic furniture, sash, shakes, sheathing, sheds, shingles, shipbuilding, shredded bark for yards, siding, signs, sills, silos, sluice boxes, stadium seats, stair rails, stairworks, stakes, stereo, stools, stringers, structural work, studs, tables, tanks, timbers, tobacco boxes, trim, turnery, utility furniture, vats, veneer, wardrobes, warehouse construction, wine casks, and wooden ware.

TREE: The coast redwood is the tallest tree in the world with heights to 350 feet and averaging about 300 feet. Diameters range from 12 to 27 feet with about 20 feet the average. The oldest known redwood lived to be 2,200 years old with a height of 376 feet and a diameter of 20 feet. The giant sequoia is the most massive tree in the world, with 30-foot diameter trunks not uncommon. The bole is buttressed (hey ... you would have buttressed yourself if you were that tall!). The bark can be a foot thick and is highly resistent to fire.

WEIGHT: mostly reported as 27 to 29 lbs/ft3 but some reports go from 21 to 30 lbs/ft3

DRYING: Although freshly-cut wood is very high in moisture content, it dries easily with a minimum of drying defects.

Shrinkage is: radial 3%, tangential 4%, volumetric 7%

AVAILABILITY: very common, readily available wood in lumber form, readily available in burl form, moderately available with curly figure

COST: low to medium priced for lumber, expensive for curly-figure and expensive for burls

TOXICITY: reportedly can cause allergic reactions in the skin and/or lungs

web quotes:
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Redwoods are quite easily the world's most magnificent trees. The giant sequoia is the most massive tree in the world (with 30-foot diameter trunks not uncommon) while the coast redwood is the tallest tree in the world (averaging about 300 feet in height). The oldest known redwood lived to be 2,200 years old.

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Redwoods are the last representatives of an ancient lineage that flourished during the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. About 40 fossil forms have been found and described. While many forms, now extinct, were widely scattered throughout the forest of the Northern Hemisphere--North America, Europe, Greenland, and China--the modern genus consists of but one species.

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Redwood burls are reported to be common. They are sometimes 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter, and often exhibit a wide variety of interesting grain patterns.

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Redwood is one of the best examples of the difference between hardness and durability: it isn't hard at all (you can make serious dents with your fingernail) but it is almost unique among woods in its imperviousness to decay-inducing conditions.

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The redwood has long attracted high interest because of its unusual size, its unusual properties, and public concern for the species' long term survival. Today, redwoods are found only near the Pacific Coast and the Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco, a 560-acre site, stands as a reminder of the way much of the surrounding Marin County landscape once appeared. The California redwood became the official state tree in 1937.

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Redwood burls are sometimes 6 feet in diameter

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Redwood is used in the restoration of disturbed areas and riparian ecosystems, and is plantation-grown in several parts of the world, notably New Zealand and Australia. Two cultivated forms nana pendula and prostrata are available commercially and extensively used in landscape applications.

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Curly redwood is cut from redwood stumps and is very dramatic looking. According to Culross Peattie, the best grades of commercial timber come from an area called Humbold County.

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White redwood, the term for the wood from some trees grown in the Crescent City area, has neither blemishes nor knots. Black redwood is very rare and is obtained from trees with a very dark heartwood. It is primarily used for tanning vats, designed to be set underground.

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" ... coast redwood has been in cultivation in Europe since 1840. It grows in the Rhine region, Denmark, Britain (on plantations) and Ireland, but does not thrive as well as in the United States because of harsh continental winters. Frost will damage redwood trees."

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Efforts to grow Redwood in other locations, including the eastern states have met with little success.

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According to Albert Constantine in the book, "Know Your Woods," the sequoia, he said, is "limited more or less to some 30 groves varying from a few trees to over a thousand. These are located only in the Sierra Nevadas of California, in Sequoia National Forest and in Tahoe National Forest. These trees are the oldest and largest of all living things, with the largest sequoia and the largest tree in the world being in Sequoia National Park." Constantine adds that if the tree were converted to lumber, it would "provide more than 600,000 board feet.

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Some stock may have alternating even-width zones of compression wood and normal wood.