Moroccan Thuya Wood
Thuya is an aromatic, exotic wood harvested from a special tree indigenous to Morocco. Grown exclusively in the Middle Atlas Mountains, thuya (say it twee-ya) has been revered since Roman times both for its gorgeous burled grain and splendid aroma. Ancient men of wealth demanded their furniture be crafted of this rare wood, which was often used in religious ceremonies. In modern times, thuya has become synonymous with wealth thanks to its incorporation into luxury products during the last several centuries. In fact, it was the first burled wood to be selected for the dashboard consoles of Rolls Royce’s expensive felt of opulent cars. The fact that the trees grow only in Morocco’s climate- and nowhere else in the world- has lent the wood an air of exclusivity which has heightened global demand.
The roots that tunnel into the ground hold the true secret of thuya, as that is where the most ornate wood grain is found. The trees take upwards of 70 years to mature, during which time the root bloc develops its characteristic burls. Many times the root structure has been affected by natural phenomenon from decades of underground growth, which often presents as cracks, or rocks and debris lodged inside the actual wood. Finding a piece large enough to craft into something beautiful is a challenge in and if itself, but it pales in comparison to the artistry and care needed to transform the raw wood into finished pieces.
The skills necessary to craft thuya wood are most often passed down through the family and the thuya industry is an important facet of the Moroccan economy, protected and strictly regulated by the local government. Fathers teach their sons how to select and harvest specimens of high quality wood, as well as the delicate process of measuring and cutting the wood into a variety of shapes and sizes. Thuya products often have elaborate forms and detailed inlays which take days to weeks to complete. Each piece must be carefully polished with a blend of lemon and vegetable oils in a process that often takes as long as the actual construction. Hundreds of passes with the polishing oil must be made to enrich the various deep burls and highlight the complexity and beauty inherent in the wood.
The entire process is done by hand and the results are well worth the effort. Thuya wood is striking and distinct. A cousin of the cedar tree, thuya possesses a rich, heady aroma that lingers on the wood years after its initial harvest. The manufacture of these products are a long-held Moroccan tradition, showcasing both the natural beauty of the nation’s resources and the delicate skill of its artisans.