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Rare Ambrosia Beetle Hole Bowl

Red Alder
Handmade, one-of-a-kind
excellent display piece, fruit bowl, or other
finished w/ food-grade tung oil
made by Zach LaPerriere
Sitka, Alaska 2018
bowl measures 12 1/2" X 4 1/2"

How can a brand new bowl make me nostalgic?  Well, this is some of the very last of the old growth red alder I cut almost two years ago with ambrosia beetle holes.

These beetles are so fascinating—they burrow into trees and cultivate fungus to feed on.  They're farmers!  Apparently they don't eat the wood, just chew through.  Trees aren't killed by the beetles, but the beetles are only in areas of wood that are moister via injury or rotten wood higher in the tree.

So because sound dry wood won't allow sufficient moisture for beetles to do their cultivation, it's somewhat rare to find ambrosia beetle holes.  And if the wood stays moist for a while, it rots, making it that much more rare to find beetle holes in sound wood.

As you can see this bowl has a good concentration of beetle holes in the base.  But here's where this wood is even more unusual.  The beetle holes go as far as the base of the bowl—but no further.  This is because the outer wood had a higher moisture content.  In fact, when I salvaged this dead tree, I cut most of the unsound wood off and left it in the forest to decompose.  I removed the last bit of unsound wood on the lathe, right to the beetle holes, and decided to make the base of the bowl right there.

That's what's so cool shaping a bowl!  I get to highlight exactly what I want and tell the story of what I see in the tree.

Before I sign-off on this description: check out the grain in the side of this bowl!  That ripple you see is from a healed over tiny branch scar.  These show as little bumps on the outside of the tree, even when the branchlet was discdared by the tree many years earlier...in this case probably 50 years of growth earlier.

This is why I love what I do.  It's show and tell with a phenomenal old growth tree, and I get it to share it with you so you can picture the ancient alder living a good life in a wild river valley.

Enjoy your piece of wilderness!

This bowl will serve admirably as a fruit bowl or put it on a shelf for display, contemplation, and conversation.  This could also work as a salad bowl, but only for dry salads with no dressing.  Don't be person to fill old beetle holes with Thousand Island dressing!  :)

As with all of my bowls: this is made from a single piece of wood which entitles it to a second life that should last for generations with minimal care.

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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.  The official oldest alder in the world is recorded in Washington at 100 years old.  The two alder I cut were at least 120 and 130 years old.  Alaska is full of secrets!

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: