The best waning trees for wood: the tradition that gives work to the mountains in Asturias

in the mountains of Asturias There is more activity at this time than in many others. And it has to do with the moon. Because tradition rules and in rural settings and even among the majority of professionals in Asturian logging and carpentry is almost intact the confidence that the waning of January and February they are best for the most durable wood. The most resistant for constructions, the one that will “open” the least with the passage of time and drying, the one that will suffer the least from moths and any fungus. Some master horrero goes so far as to put severe objections to using any new chestnut or oak wood if it has not been cut on this specific date.

In the mountains of Asturias there is more activity at this time than in many others. And it has to do with the moon. Because tradition rules


"Yes, it is taken into account," confirms Joaquín Grana, a carpenter from Cornellana with extensive experience. “Another thing is that the activity of the woodworker allows him to take it more to the letter or less. But it is one hundred percent reliable and there are saws that maintain that tradition. And for me, when it comes to working on the pieces later, it will give me more confidence if I know that I am handling that wood cut in decline”, he assures.

“It is legend and it is reality; and we all know it”, says Santiago Somoano, from Maderas Santi, in Amieva. Despite the fact that his thing is also working with wood and not cutting down trees, Somoano assures that “every year I cut a specimen for myself and I do it on these dates”. In general, benefits are associated “with the waning of the months with 'r', but especially with the days of January and February”, he adds. And with a fundamental note: “the important thing is that the tree is cut down now; and then I'll see when it suits me to get it out of the bush, ”he says.

“The position of the moon is remarkable (...) and the waning phase is important for the duration of the cut wood, it remains longer on site and is less subject to rot”, says a French manual from the 19th century


The reasons for such confidence are already pointed out in European agricultural treaties from centuries ago and do not differ much from one country to another. Another thing is that science has not corresponded with certainty to as many expectations as tradition marks.

"The position of the moon is remarkable (...) and the waning phase is important for the duration of the cut wood, it remains longer in the work and is less subject to rot," says a French manual from the 19th century. “The sap at the moment is very low; at the root and that is optimal”, add the experts as a key to making the pieces harder, more stable and more durable.

A chestnut wood in a saw. / Angel Gonzalez

One of the sector's informative "bibles" published in recent years and turned into a bestseller, "The Book of Wood" by the Norwegian Lars Mytting, reviews the importance of the moon phase as a deeply rooted practice throughout Europe and with "a rule which is amazingly unequivocal: trees should be cut in the days following the full moon. It was said that this speeded up the drying process and that the firewood would absorb less moisture from the air once autumn arrived.” Mytting, in any case, opens the fan and recognizes that the fact that trees can have lunar cycles does not have the verification to turn it into law.

“The experiments show -explains- that for the final result the importance is not such; the changes in the wood are so minimal that they have practically no effect”. Although it leaves a margin so that they could only be relevant in wood used for musical instruments.

“It is important to take into account the decline even for firewood,” says José Menéndez, a third generation woodcutter from Cangas del Narcea, “because firewood cut in a growing trend rots sooner because more fungi enter it.


But in Asturias the belief goes elsewhere. “It is important to take into account the decline even for firewood”, assures José Menéndez, third generation of woodworkers from Cangas del Narcea, “because the firewood cut in increasing rots earlier because more fungi enter it; that wood is more open and more exposed”, he insists. Menéndez assures that from his decades of work he has a trace of experience that no one can deny him: “if I see a roll it is easy for me to know if it is cut in waning or growing, although there are stronger ones than others”. The same experience that tells him that in a noble wood like chestnut, if it is cut after the full moon “it will crack less; it will suffer fewer variations than if it is cut on another date and in the case of softwoods or walnut, it also has much less moth damage”. Menéndez warns that for him “the waning of February will be better. For several years now the trees have had more sap in January than in February or March, it is as if the cycles were delayed”.

“These are things that traditionally have always been said and those of us from the village try to continue with the tradition; I, the waning one, carried the book, the same to cut vares for the paxos than to plant. If it was always done like this, it must be for a reason”, settles Xosé María García, from Gijón, having just finished the task of “cutting vares for the baskets”.

The Moon and its powers

By Alberto Fernandez Soto

(Physics Institute of Cantabria, CSIC-University of Cantabria)

The Moon has inspired poets and lovers throughout human history. It causes, in collaboration with the Sun, intense tides in all the oceans of our planet. But there is absolutely no evidence that the lunar phase affects plants, influences our health, encourages the birth of babies, or tells us when to cut our hair or nails. As so often happens, these beliefs help some people who seek a more intimate connection with the Universe. For my part, I am satisfied with enjoying the beauty of contemplating it.

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