Is wood harvested in a waning moon (Moon Wood) better for building?

Moon over shoe lake
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter/ moon over woods

This post has been revised, separating the product originally viewed from the issue and question of moon wood.

Touring the exhibits at the Wood Solutions Fair, I noticed a product made of what was called "moon wood." The company website described it:

‘Moon’ timber refers to wood harvested during the waning moon when the sap in the trees are at its lowest. The wood is then left to dry vertically, upside-down with, its bark and a few branches left intact. Gravity will pull what remains of the sap into the branches, which are then cut off. This process produces a superior quality wood that has no cracking, splitting, or warping, as well as no infestation of insects and longer durability. This process involves no use of toxins or kiln drying, thereby creating a lower carbon footprint. This is an ancient technique that has provided the same wood that created the 1,000 years old temples that still stands to this day in countries such as Japan.

I was skeptical of this, but in fact, a quick search showed that moon wood is a thing among guitar and violin makers, who are convinced it makes a better wood. One guitar maker site notes that it is all about gravity, the moon pulling on the sap.

Some furniture builders insist on cutting wood during the growing moon to ensure that the moisture content is high since the sap is being drawn up into the trunk of the tree, which makes wood easier to steam and bend. Wood for making instruments, however, must be dry. If trees are felled during the waning phases of the lunar cycle, when the pull from the moon is not so strong, then the fluids will remain closer to the base of the plant, making the wood drier and less susceptible to decay and infestation.

orbit of moonGranite State/via

The trouble with this theory is that the phase of the moon has nothing to do with how strong its gravity is; that is a function of its elliptical path, and a full moon can occur when it is at perigee (close to the earth) and its apogee (far away). If gravity had anything to do with it, then guitar makers would cut wood during the apogee, not the waning phase.

However, according to one Swiss supplier, the question of moon wood has been studied and proven:

The goal of this study, encompassing various regions throughout Switzerland, was to determine scientifically whether variations in wood characteristics could be determined in connection with lunar cycles. Criteria such as moisture loss, shrinkage, and relative weight (the ratio of oven dry weight to green volume) were specifically analyzed by using individual samples.

It was determined that the division waxing (from new moon to full moon) and waning (from full moon to new moon) points to significant, across-the-board differences in shrinkage, but final results are still outstanding. The data analysis permits two precise, systematic, lunar orientated divisions that apply much more precisely to all three criteria.

Trees communicateMax and Dee Bernt/flickr/CC BY 2.0

Again, I say really? The skeptic in me wants to call hogwash (stronger word removed at editor's insistance) on the whole idea of moon wood. But then I recall Melissa’s posts on how Trees in the forest are social beings and how Trees can form bonds like an old couple and look after each other. Who knows, perhaps they stay up late and party during the full moon (keeping the sap levels high, like our blood pressure) and nap during the waning moon.

It’s an explanation that makes a whole lot more sense than the ones from the guitar makers and moon wood suppliers.

Tags: Green Building | Wood Construction

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