Nicasio Woodworks: Wedded Wood™ means unsurpassed beauty and symbolism


From their small workshop in Marin County, Northern California husband and wife team Patrick McDonnell and Barbara Contini generate remarkable hardwood products that blend artistry, functionality, and sustainability. All the wood they use is reclaimed from trees that are lost during storms or removed for purposes of local land management, landscape upgrades, or orchard recycling.

Patrick and Barbara's focus on visually unique wood has led them to the creation of a unique product line called Wedded Wood™, which is produced from sections of grafted walnut trees where two varieties merge. The Claro Walnut, a California native, is well suited to our local soils and climate but it produces a very hard and undesirable walnut. The European Walnut, which does not do well in California, produces a lovely tree with excellent nuts. Over 100 years ago these two varieties were successfully grafted together. The result was a tree that now covers 400,000 California acres and produces 99% of the nation's walnuts.

The wood of the Claro Walnut is often richly colored and highly figured. Older European varieties can also produce deeply figured but lighter wood. The merging of these trees results in complex and beautiful patterns near the graft line. The primary pattern arises from their different growth rates as the trees unite. Because the Claro rootstock grows much faster than its European top, each year's growth ring at the graft must curve more and more dramatically to find its partner. Wedded Wood™ products have become extremely popular wedding and anniversary gifts since each piece so visibly demonstrates the best aspects of a good union: "that together the individuals can achieve much more than they could do separately, that each continues to grow in a manner consistent with its own heritage, and that the visible bond between them celebrates the complexity, beauty, and strength of that union."

The raw material for Wedded Wood™ products comes from the replacement of ancient walnut orchards, originally planted with varieties that are now seldom used. For Patrick and Barbara it is a treasure hunt to discover these old orchards as they are being replanted. New varieties are much less figured, so Wedded Wood™ is a diminishing resource that they hope connoisseurs of fine wood will enjoy as long as it remains available, and for as many years as their durable products are designed to last.

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