LOS ANGELES - Ron and John Daniels of Daniels Wood Land have spent close to 15 years salvaging massive, old-growth redwood logs to create custom treehouses, chainsaw sculptures, themed facades and arcade-style shooting galleries for clients across the U.S.
Beginning tonight, August 1 at 9pm/ET the brothers and and their 40-person crew will star in Animal Planet's new Friday series, "Redwood Kings." In each episode, the woodworkers, builders and engineers will uncover ancient trunks from the redwood forest to create their custom pieces.
In anticipation of the show's premiere, I spoke with Ron and John on their business, the unique character and history of the redwoods and the challenges in working with massive logs that have been seasoned by the elements for decades:
"One of the biggest challenges," John says, is finding the wood. Specifically, old growth sequoias left behind by loggers. "There’s a very small ridge on the sierra Nevada mountain range and they grow in this little tiny window at about 7,000 feet."
Finding a private landowner in that space narrows the field even more.
"And it's a major feat just getting them out of the forest," he adds. "Just because of sheer mass."
But the Daniels brothers thrive on innovation. In order to move and mill logs upwards of 20,000 lbs and 13 feet in diameter--without disturbing the surrounding ecosystem--they have developed their own custom saws.
They mill most of their lumber with a hydraulic Wood-Mizer sawmill, but say they tend to stray from creating traditional, dimensional cuts.
"We like to use reclaimed wood of all different varieties. We love the sequoias, we love the redwoods, we love the coastal variety," Ron says.
"What we look for is wood with a story," he adds. "There's a spirit and an energy in that wood that's not in the stuff you get from the lumber store."
Redwood trees, John also notes, produce an acid called tannin which protects the wood from rot and infestation.
"When you have two or three thousand years of accumulation of tannin," he says, "bugs absolutely hate it... and rot cannot grow on it."
"It's a natural antimicrobial, natural antibacterial treatment," Ron adds. "Like Mother Nature's pressure treatment."
"And down on the base of the log, the bark can sometimes be as thick as three feet," John says. "Which makes it so resistant to forest fires."
"They resist rot, they resist infestation from bugs, they resist lightning strikes, they resist fire," Ron says. "They resist all those natural forces like very few species on earth can."
In working with the old-growth wood, Ron and John keep the story going, not only in the custom pieces they build for their clients. Ron says they plant new trees as they salvage the ancient wood.
"It's a spectacular wood," Ron says. "The virgin forests have been set aside and will never be logged, and I'm willing to bet anything on that. The good news about redwood, especially the coastal variety of redwood, is that it's a fast-growing wood."
"Some of the best managed forests in the world are redwoods," he adds. "But you're not going to get the old growth. Which is probably a good thing. You're lucky enough to find some salvage."
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