These trees are hand picked and harvested for their unique features. They are considered nuisance trees for area ranchers, they grow on grazing land and are difficult to cut. The thick fibrous bark and twisted shapes make them much more difficult to work with. They require much more individual attention and cannot be made on an assembly line. The age and vitality of the wood determines the eventual colors see in the finished piece. These are slow growing trees, so most of the pieces we choose can be hundreds of years old. Click here to learn about the oldest juniper tree in the US!
Juniper trees have been described as looking like "polka-dots on the hillsides". Western juniper populations have expanded and contracted over the last 7,000 years. Within the last 150 years or so, the population and acreage covered by western juniper has increased three- to ten-fold. This expansion has many ranchers and resource professionals concerned about juniper's impacts on range land conditions. Juniper are known to out-compete surrounding vegetation for already scarce water resources. An area with relatively high juniper densities often has little to no under story vegetation.
Western juniper heartwood is highly durable (similar to redwood and cedars) and has aromatic properties like its close relative eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). The color of the wood varies from milky white to deep reddish-brown and has large, swirling grain patterns and bands of heartwood mixed with sapwood, similar to eastern red cedar. Tests have shown juniper wood to machine, glue, and finish well. Once dried, juniper wood shrinks and swells less than many other Pacific Northwest species such as Douglas-fir, Ponderosa pine, and western red cedar. Juniper has some unique bending properties. After being soaked in hot water, thin (1/32"-1/16") samples have been tied into intricate knots without splitting.
Juniper wood is slightly more dense than Ponderosa pine. The wood is also quite hard for a softwood: about 35% harder than Ponderosa pine, but only about ½ as hard as red oak. Juniper is about 70% as stiff as Ponderosa pine, and 85% as stiff as incense-cedar, meaning the wood deforms relatively easily under loads. The table below compares some of the mechanical and physical properties of western juniper with other commonly used woods.