For us at Spacetwo it’s our yearly trip to Germany to visit Chiemgauer Holzhaus, see friends and to experience a few days in the forested slopes of the Bavarian Alps. Today is a full moon and according to old farming traditions the time after the full moon when it begins to wane is the best time to fell wood for building stems from the simple belief that the moon governs moisture. Some saw mills across the Alps still provide "Mondfichte", which translates to Moonspruce.
Moonspruce is simply a name for spruce that was harvested and handled according to a century-old tradition from the Alp-regions in Europe during the waning moon when the sap in the trees are at its lowest. Carpenters had recognised that wood that was felled under certain conditions, differs from wood that is not cut using the old traditional way of handling.
These traditional rules for getting the best wood possible is – simplified – as following:
• The best trees grow on the northwest slope of a mountain on altitudes from 1000 meter/3500 feet up to the limit of vegetation.
• The best trees measure approximately 50 centimeters in diameter; This means that if you consider how slow a tree grows the tree is likely to be about 300 years old (that’s when a tree hits it’s peak).
• Cut the tree within the last quarter of waning moon in the wintertime.
• After felling leave the tree as it is in the forest for stabilization including it’s branches and bark until the first stage of drying has occurred naturally and the cut tree tries to start to grow again after the end of wintertime.
• Finally bring it down to the mill, split the logs out of it and cut. Air-dry the logs.
Today Moonspruce is felled in winter according to the full moon and then the wood is then left to dry vertically, upside-down with, its bark and a few branches left on. This is so gravity will pull what remains of the sap into the branches, which are then cut off. By removing all the Sap, what is left is a superior quality of wood, which will not crack, split, or warp. The sap content of the tree is the key point in this tradition. In winter the tree in in a state of hibernation and the tree draws the sap lower to the base to protect it. The lower the sap content when felled the better the quality of the wood. Another issue affecting the tree and its sap content is that insects that infest wood usually feed off the sap. By taking away any food source the wood is less likely to suffer any form any infestation of insects and therefore lengthen its durability. Because the wood is dried naturally the process also involves no use of toxins or kiln drying and therefore creates a much more sustainable product with a lower carbon footprint than more contemporary felling methods.
This tradition has been used for hundreds of years across Europe and Japan and the technique has provided the same wood that created the 1,000 years old temples that still stands to this day in countries such as Japan. Even if you don’t believe in old wives tales there may be some science behind the tale!