Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mahogany In The Making

West Indian mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) wood is not only beautiful but also contains catechin, which is a powerful anti-oxidant useful in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. But before you go out and make a delectable salad of mahogany branches to reap the benefits, you might care to know that this compound can also be found in red wine and green tea, which is why you don't see many bags of mahogany wood chips tempting your taste buds in the health food store snack aisles.

That being said, the utility and beauty of the wood remains. Our mahogany trees are a regular part of my ethnobotanical tour here at Kona Kai and during one particular tour with a couple staying at the Resort, the gentleman in the pair became extremely attentive when I began talking about these trees. His eyes were those of Ralphie from A Christmas Story daydreaming of the Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, only our guest was no doubt daydreaming of mahogany logs under the Christmas tree. He explained that a big hobby of his is woodworking and that he has always been jealous to read on woodworking forums about others who were able to get their hands on pieces of West Indian mahogany, as their range is quite limited in the United States and naturally-occurring populations are protected by law from harvesting. While I knew that most of our major mahogany trimming had been done years ago, I promised to let him know if we happened to remove a piece that could be of use to a woodworker.

A few months later, we had the tree crew arrive to work on a few trees on the property, including a couple of the mahoganies. I was actually doing a tour when one of the trees was being pruned but happened to be in the right place at the right time, just as a solid log was cut and set by the base of the tree. I quickly put the tour on pause, had the log set aside near the door to the office and posted three Italian mastiffs by it to ensure it would not disappear during the remainder of my tour. Afterwards, I sent a picture of the log to our guest, who was elated and dispatched UPS to obtain and deliver the log. Here's a picture of the hand-off for delivery:

As it turned out, much like Ralphie, our guest had a wonderful Christmas surprise with the object of his dreams finding its way to a spot under the Christmas tree.  Just over a week after sending the Log (our guest bestowed upon it the honorary capitalization), I received a picture of work on the Log already being done:

It is clear to me that this log was so incredibly awesome that no log cutting machine in existence could cut through it without being utterly destroyed, hence the enormity and complexity of the pictured machine, which was no doubt custom-built for the sole purpose of cutting the Log. You can see the Log in the picture laying on its side with cuts being made lengthwise and part of the address still visible on the end. I had never mailed a log before, but learned from our guest that the way to go about it is to write the address on both ends of the log in permanent marker.  An ideal package, really, with no box or packing peanuts required! I am excited to see pictures of the next steps of the Log's transformation, which will end up chronicling a modern-day ethnobotanical journey involving both a Kona Kai plant and a Kona Kai guest - look forward to more updates to come!

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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