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Matai

Matai makes an excellent flooring timber, and is suitable for exterior window sills and doors.

Description

Matai B_90The tree trunk is a bluish-grey colour on the upper bole, but dark purplish brown at the base.

The bark sheds in large flakes to give a hammer-marked appearance, and this shedding reveals a bright red inner bark.

Matai heartwood is golden yellow when freshly cut, darkening to a deep red-brown on exposure to sunlight. The sapwood is white.

The timber is similar to rimu at first glance, but has slightly more distinct growth rings, and no intermediate wood zone. Matai is also very malodorous when freshly cut.

Matai grows throughout the lowland forest areas, to an altitude of 600-700 metres. Mature matai is one of the finest native species, renowned for high yields of clear heartwood timber of excellent finishing grades.

The tree grows up to 20-25m in height with a 1.3m diameter at breast height. The sapwood is well defined, and of a minimal band.

Most of the timber is heartwood, of straight grain, easy to split with a fine uniform even texture.

Older matai found in most central North Island podocarp forests have significant incidence of internal rots and decays, therefore their selection in sustainably managed forest need to ensure only sound logs should be selected.

Matai information (.pdf)

Botanical name: Prumnopitys taxifolia

Other common names: Matai

Strength: The high dimensional stability and hardness make it excellent as a floor.

Durability: The in-ground durability (though once thought to be as good as totara) is only 5-10 years, and is not suitable for posts and piles. It is suitable for exterior purposes such as sills and doors, with an equivalent Hazard class of H3.1

Finishes: Care needs to be taken in coating due to the high extractives present. Matai is difficult to coat and stain. It can, however be highly polished to a sheen gloss.

Working properties: The timber is easily worked with both machine and also hand tools, and has excellent wearability and hardness. Matai peels well into veneer, and can be easily steam bent.

Appearance: Matai heartwood is golden yellow when freshly cut, darkening to a deep red-brown on exposure to sunlight. The sapwood is white. The timber is similar to rimu at first glance, but has slightly more distinct growth rings, and no intermediate wood zone.

Properties

Matai is slow growing, durable, and high in extractives, which make it useful for exterior applications, but difficult to coat and stain. It can, however be highly polished to a sheen gloss.

The timber is easily worked with both machine and also hand tools, and has excellent wearability and hardness. Matai peels well into veneer, and can be easily steam bent.

Care needs to be taken in coating due to the high extractives present.

The in-ground durability (though once thought to be as good as totara) is only 5-10 years, and is not suitable for posts and piles. It is suitable for exterior purposes such as sills and doors, with an equivalent Hazard class of H3.1.

The sapwood, however, is very prone to borer attack from the Anobium beetle.

Matai has a density of 610kg/m3, and is hard wearing. It exhibits fairly low shrinkage, from green to 12% moisture content is will shrink 3.5 % tangentially, and 1.9 % in the radial direction. The high dimensional stability and hardness make it excellent as a floor.

The strength and stiffness characteristics are slightly lower than rimu, with a modulus of rupture of 76 MPa and a modulus of elasticity of 8.1 GPa.

Uses
The properties of hardness, wearing ability and dimensional stability make it very attractive for high-end uses.

The peak period of matai milling was in the 1950s where it was used for bridges, construction, framing, weatherboards, and bed plates for heavy machinery. The hard, reddish-brown wood also made excellent flooring timber and window sills. It has been used for public halls, dance floors, theatres and skating rinks until relatively recently.

Maori have also traditionally used the timber for carving, the berries for food, and used the gum as a lashing sealant and binder for attaching spear points to handles.

The thin wiry juvenile timber branches were used for eel pots, and in traditional herbal remedies (rongoa) where it is regarded .

Availability

Limited supplies of Matai may be available. Refer to the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association website for information regarding local timber suppliers.