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Record Age Alder

Red Alder
Handmade, one-of-a-kind
excellent display piece
finished w/ food-grade tung oil
made by Zach LaPerriere
Sitka, Alaska 2018
display measures approximately 39" across X 13 1/2" high

After I salvaged a huge red alder a mile up a river valley, I wanted to bring a piece out to age the tree by counting growth rings.  Thankfully I sledded in my REALLY big chainsaw and bar.

The official oldest alder in the world is recorded in Washington at 100 years old.  I knew this alder was considerably older, but I wanted proof.

I left this piece to dry slowly outside for over a year, then planed down one face carefully.  After sanding and oiling I did my best to count growth rings—but gave up at around 130 years old, because some rings are just too small to count.  It might be a little older, perhaps upwards of 150.

Because the tree had stood dead for many years before I salvaged it, that means this tree was a seedling about the time Alaska became a part of the United States. 

I like to think of the generations of bears who lived in the valley and walked up the nearby trail, many wandering by with fresh salmon still in their mouths.

I stop to think of the people who also visited, mostly hunters I would guess in the early years, and later: loggers who mostly wanted Sitka spruce for float logs and lumber.

It's worth considering the rain too—at 10 feet or more of rain a year in that wet valley, the total cumulative rainfall on the tree tallies to over a thousand feet of water.  Doesn't that boggle your mind!?

The back edge of this piece was left as-cut, with chainsaw marks still visible and an unfinished surface.  As the photos show, the thickness tapers a little to the right.  I almost cut it to an even thickness, but decided it has more character left as it came from the forest and I remember hauling it out on the sled.

This piece is excellent for display on the mantel, shelf, or large table.  It is certain to add a ton of old growth character to your home, and will serve for years as a conversation piece.


Story: In February of 2017 I cut two massive standing-dead alder about a mile up a wild river valley about five miles from my home and shop.

After cutting and prepping the bowl stock, my family and I took three days to sled out material in 2-3 feet of snow.  We followed frozen creeks and bear trails in a magical winter wonderland.  It was our best snow in seven years, and I'm still grateful everything worked out just right, from getting my USFS permit to the weather so graciously cooperating with our effort.

You can watch a video of our alder salvage effort here:


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