Turning the Monkey Puzzle Tree with David Trewin

Turning the Monkey Puzzle Tree with David Trewin

We received an email from British woodturner David Trewin this week about his adventures in turning wood harvested from the monkey puzzle tree. David, who is listed on the register of the Worshipful Company of Woodturners in the U.K. has used this unusual tree to produce some interesting and somewhat dramatic pieces.

“The Monkey Puzzle tree (Araucaria Araucana or Chilean Pine) “, he says, “was introduced into England by Archibald Menzies in 1795, it became popular in the mid to late 1880s. Someone at Pencarrow, near Bodmin, was showing some friends their young tree and one remarked that it would puzzle a monkey to climb that, and so the Monkey Puzzle name was born.

“I bought my first Monkey Puzzle tree in 1998 from the village of St Germans in southeast Cornwall. Since then, I have obtained seventy-five of these trees, the largest being 54 inches diameter at the base and standing over 95 feet tall.”

David turns this wood around the grain rather than through it. That is, he keeps the pith or center of the tree at the center of his bowls and vessels.

“The center of the tree has a natural soft pith running the length of the trunk,” he says. “When making a lamp, the wood is mounted on the lathe between centers with the drive center and tailstock located in the soft pith of the wood, so that the ring of branches are the main feature of the lamp.”

Visit the Monkey Puzzle and Gallery pages his website for more info on how he works, and then follow the link on his homepage to Monkey Puzzle World for more info on this unusual wood.