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  • sophiaemmanuel

Precious woods

Updated: May 13, 2022

Among the most exciting discoveries while restoring the old furniture at Kambones was the provenance and sheer variety of different types of wood . Even when a particular item of furniture was beyond repair, damp and woodworm damage having taken their toll, we reused whatever parts we could salvage to make shelves or other smaller items.

Today this is called upcycling but we know that our ancestors had been doing this for hundreds of years before the term became fashionable.

Wood is found in the actual structure of the house, in large beams which hold up the ceilings and in smaller pieces which are used for lintels above doors and windows. Wood, especially large trunks which were needed for beams, was always scarce on the islands and had to be imported, often from as far away as the North of Greece.

Some of the woods we have identified:

1. Chestnut

Imported from mainland Greece and used for large roof beams and some furniture

2. Juniper (Juniperus Excelsa)

An indigenous tree producing the most durable of all woods, completely impervious to damage by damp or by wood boring insects , but rarely found in long enough pieces for beams

3. Cypress( Cupressus Sempervirens)

The Italian cypress was introduced to the islands by the Venetians and cultivated by them, hence its prevalence near old Venetian properties

4. Mulberry

Locally grown, an extremely hard wood which is excellent for furniture . Because of its density it is still the wood of choice for musical instruments such as the Cretan lyre .

5. Spruce

Imported from the North of Greece. In Kambones it was used to make the old shutters.

6. Cedar

Also used for shutters which were exposed to the elements .

7. Walnut

Locally grown though not a very common wood (presumably preferred for the walnuts!)

8. Oak

Imported from the Peloponnesian mainland or the North of Greece . The indigenous oak,

Quercus Ilex, was grown for the acorns which had two uses, the actual acorn for feeding animals such as goats and pigs, and the husks for tanning leather

9. Plane tree (Platanus Orientalis)

Locally grown and one of the few woods which can supply very large thick pieces

10. Aleppo pine (Pinus Halepensis)

The actual pine cones were an important crop , after removing the edible kernel the cones became firewood . The large Aleppo pines seen in the valley of Kambones were mentioned in women's dowry contracts as items of value

11. Olive wood (Olea Europea)

While the wood has not been used in traditional furniture making because of the difficulty of working with it (it warps very easily and is too hard to be worked by most tools) it was greatly in demand for firewood and the olive prunings are excellent animal fodder. Some of the olive trees in the Kambones valley are thousands of years old.


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