This Bedell guitar sounds 50,000 years old—because it is!
The long-submerged tale of New Zealand’s Ancient kauri
A kauri tree at Mercury Bay, New Zealand, known, due to its extreme age and immensity, as ‘Father of the Forests,’ was struck by lightning in the 1840s, ending its long reign in what was once a bustling subtropical rainforest. It boasted a sequoia-like circumference of 72 feet, with nearly 30 yards of long, smooth trunk reaching heavenward before the first branches spread to shade the Maori ground far below.
By the time of the colossal conifer’s demise, kauris, endemic to the northern districts of the nation’s lesser, but more-populous North Island, Te Ika-a-Maui, were already in danger from man even more than from nature, with the majority felled for precious timber by 1900.
Agathis australis, by volume, is the largest species in the New Zealand archipelago. A light-seeking canopy tree, its mammoth trunks grow straight, strong and tall, like the mast of a ship. The latter, as metaphor, hits close to home, because such mighty masts and spars were a primary destination, along with house frames, for the exquisite cognac-hued lumber. Its gum, too, was a valuable commodity, not just for chewing but for incendiaries, tattoos, varnish, jewelry and the like.
Today, kauri is protected, with an eye towards preserving its amazing significance to the planet’s biology. Kauri forests like Waipoua—site of the 4,000-year-old Tane Mahuta, or “Lord of the Forest”—also serve as refuges for a variety of curious wildlife, including the endangered blue-wattled kokako and the North Island brown kiwi.
Talk about roots, kauris’ forbears trace back to the Jurassic period’s ‘Age of Reptiles,’ 150 million years ago.
By that yardstick, in geologic time, Ancient Kauri is a mere pup.
Ancient kauri, or Swamp kauri as it is often called, is perhaps the oldest wood known to modern man. It is found exclusively at 38°S latitude, submerged in the peat bogs and salt marshes of Te Ika-a-Maui, lying where it fell, the victim of prehistoric ocean storms, volcanic eruptions, floods and climatic shifts, over 50,000 years ago.
Ancient kauri, so well preserved in the moist soil that when first exposed, its narrow, leathery leaves are sometimes intact, is sustainable, harming no standing trees when it is drawn from its eons old resting place.
Despite reaching its mature height before guitars were even an idea, much less an object of desire, Ancient kauri, as it turns out makes instruments of staggering beauty and rich, elusive tone.
No clear-cut woods are used in Bedell guitars, and our cache of rare, legal and traceable Ancient kauri comes from a single North American dealer, Robert Teisberg’s duly named Ancientwood, Ltd., in Ashland, Wisconsin.
Some pieces, often reserved for presentation grade furniture such as enormous boardroom tables, feature an ethereal Mega-curl, an exceptionally uncommon and otherworldly three-dimensional wave effect found only in kauri and no other wood.
Iridescent Whitebait, like that in the new Bedell Limited Edition Dreadnought Cutaway Adirondack-Ancient Kauri, is named for the flashing schools of small fish found just off the island’s coast. It is equally extraordinary, and all Ancient kauri exhibits a preternatural glow, with even lightly flamed grain flashing like a jewel. It makes for truly remarkable guitars.
Sonically, Ancient Kauri is just as individual and intriguing as it is visually, with a voice that reaches back through time and a humming resonance that predicts the future.
In a Bedell instrument, Ancient kauri embraces many qualities at once. Mahogany’s warmth is a strong color in the sound profile, but that same shimmer, which immediately catches the eye, tugs at the ear as well, with a touch of koa’s island brilliance that rings through the long sustain like the lingering fruit in a fine red wine.
No other tonewood can compare in singular provenance. No other tonewood has such an epic narrative.
All wood tells a story, every tree speaks. Ancient kauri alone draws on the wisdom of the world. In its state of suspended animation, it has watched history stroll by, it has remembered everything. Ancient Kauri is filled with songs to sing. Let one of them be uniquely yours.