MONKEY PUZZLE

Araucaria Araucana or Chilean Pine

The Monkey Puzzle tree was introduced into England by Archibald Menzies in 1795, it became popular in the mid to late 1880's and someone at Pencarrow near Bodmin, was showing some friends their young tree and one remarked " it would puzzle a monkey to climb that" and the Monkey Puzzle name was born.

Dead Monkey Puzzle Tree, 54" diameter at the base

My History of Monkey Puzzle Wood

 

I bought my first Monkey Puzzle tree in 1998 from the village of St Germans in south east Cornwall. Since then I have obtained 64 Monkey Puzzle trees, the largest being 54 inch diameter at the base and standing over 95 feet tall (30m)

Loading dead monkey puzzle tree Cutting into rings for making lamps and bowls

 

Westpoint Woodworking West

My use of Monkey Puzzle Wood

Table Lamps

The top part of the tree is ideal for making table lamps: the centre of the tree has a natural soft pith running the length of the trunk. When making a lamp, the wood is mounted on the lathe between centres with the drive centre and tailstock located into the soft pith of the wood so that the ring of branches are the main feature of the lamp. A spigot is made at the top of the lamp, so that the lamp can be mounted to enable me to hollow the inside of the lamp. After hollowing, the lamp is attached between centres to finish shaping the lamp. If the Monkey Puzzle is turned when the wood has a moisture content above 18% the lamp is put aside for 12 to 18 months to dry. The part finished lamp is brought into our home for at least two months before finishing to make sure the wood is dry and is accustomed to room temperature. 

 

Bowls and Vases

The bowls I make vary in size from 9 to 26 inches in diameter and from 3 to 8 inches deep. Vases range from 10 to 18 inch diameter and up to 14 inches deep. The rings of Monkey Puzzle vary in weight 30lb to over 160lbs, I use a hoist to mount the heavy pieces onto the VB36 lathe.

When making bowls or vases, I always ensure that the centre of the pith is in the centre of the bowl or vase. The wood is turned between centres (mounted on the soft pith of the tree) into a round cylinder, I then decide which will be the top and bottom of the bowl, to achive the best pattern. Before removing from the lathe, I make a 4 inch (100ml) spigot at one end of the cylinder.

Turning Monkey Puzzle Lamp

 

A heavy duty gripper chuck is used to hold the Monkey Puzzle by the spigot, it is then turned to make the outside shape of a bowl, a recess or spigot is made into the base, so that the wood can be remounted to turn the inside. It is easier to turn a bowl with branches around the the side of the bowl, however it is more spectacular to have the branches of knots in the bottom of the bowl, but this is more difficult to turn because the branches are very hard and brittle. Most bowls and vases are part turned and left to dry for a period of 8 to 18 months, depending on moisture content.

When making large vases I use a heavy duty faceplate to hold the wood and part off the completed vase from the faceplate.

9" diameter lamp 11" high 16in diameter, work in progress