Teak wood is heavy, strong and long-lasting. It comes from a tall tree found in tropical countries, particularly India, Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The leaves of the tree are oblong in shape, up to 50cms long and 40cms wide, and they are very rough. The small flowers hang in large, loose clusters.
In Burma, teak timber was floated down the Irrawaddy River to Rangoon, the capital city. First, however, the trees had to be dried, or else they were heavier than water. A broad circle of bark and the outer sapwood was cut away, which soon killed the tree. As the teak wood in the centre dried, which could often take up to three years if the tree was large, it became evenly seasoned and lighter than water. When the tree was dry, it was cut down.
Years ago, when the teak logs had been cut they were dragged by trained elephants or buffaloes to the nearest stream, down which they were floated to market from the plantations where they were grown.
Teak wood contains a resin (basically, a form of gum) which protects it from attacks by wood borers and ants. Paint was not needed to preserve its surface even when it was used in the construction of boats and constantly exposed to sea spray, so teak was one of the most sought-after and valuable woods for shipbuilding. Teak wood does not warp, and well preserved beams of teak several centuries old have been found. Teak timber has a straight grain and is golden when freshly cut. Teak becomes dark brown after exposure to light.
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