Bringing Cypress Back to Life
August 16, 2011 | 9:14 am CDT

Bringing Cypress Back to LifeThe Sinker Cypress from Marwood Inc. of Jeffersonville, IN, is pre-cut timber salvaged from rivers and lakes, that has been naturally preserved for hundreds of years.

These trees were lost during transit to saw mills and simply left behind. Harvesting of these “sinker” logs first occurred in the Colonial times of the 1600s and 1700’s, and continued on up to the late 1800s. Some logs were blown down into the rivers even before colonial times. The age of a few of the logs goes back 1,000 years; you need a lot of patience, a magnifying glass, and a bottle of aspirin to count the rings!

It is told that “old-timers” lost an estimated 10 percent of the logs harvested, during transport to the mills. In the late 1930s-1980s, Sinker Cypress logs were everywhere on the river.

Bringing Cypress Back to Life

This antique Cypress is salvaged and recycled, its beauty and significance stored, versus being lost forever. The Seminole Indians called cypress "hatch-in-e-haw" meaning "wood everlasting." The name "eternal wood" comes from long term use of small hollow logs as water pipes in houses and larger hollow logs for well casings in use for more than 150 years. There are reports of cypress shingles lasting more than 250 years.  Cypress is considered the longest lasting exterior use wood in history.

Cypress trees, known by the scientific name Taxodium distichum, are native of the South. They are found primarily in wet, swampy areas along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Delaware to Florida, and west along the Gulf of Mexico to the border of Texas and Mexico. Cypress also thrives along the Mississippi Valley from the Louisiana delta to southern Indiana.

Bringing Cypress Back to Life 
Knotty or rustic cypress.

The sapwood is pale yellow white with the heartwood varying in color from light to pumpkin orange to dark or reddish brown. The Sinker Cypress has dark gray, emerald, and black on the outside portions in contrast to the lighter colors in the center. Heartwood is generally darker than sapwood, but the two are not always clearly differentiated. True sinker cypress is green or olive green. When cut it is a deep yellow and when exposed to oxygen, a chemical reaction occurs and the color changes to green, or olive green with streaks of yellow in some boards. This only occurs to cypress logs that have been completely submerged underwater for several hundred years. The color changing process occurs after 20 to 45 minutes on the exposed surface, and as the board dries, the color goes completely through.

Sinker Cypress is characterized by its tight fine annual growth rings. Cypress contains an oil called Cypressene. This oil is what creates the incredible durability of Cypress lumber. Due to its own preservative oil, this heartwood is naturally resistant to insects, decay, chemical corrosion or other damaging elements. It is thus used for fence posts, telephone poles, pilings, docks and railroad ties. Since it is such a stable wood, it is resistant to splitting and warping. It also easily takes paint and stain, although most people select Cypress for its natural appearance which can be sealed clear or weathered for a grayish color.

Cypress is a versatile wood and is used for furniture, flooring, paneling, beams, interiors and exteriors.

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