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How the Redwood Lumber Industry Thrived During the 1940s

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As dorky as most old informational videos are, they’re also necessary windows into the past. This video about lumber felling and milling, for example, explains how redwood trees were turned into commercial lumber back in the 1940s.

It’s a given that lumberjacks (for lack of a better term) have a dangerous job, but actually seeing the size of redwood trees (up to 350 feet high and 20 feet thick at the base) compared to the guys chopping them down really brings that fact home. Watching the “topper,” who cuts off the top of the tree, swing an axe while basically hanging off the side of the tree by a rope harness, is genuinely nerve-wracking.

And that’s just the top! Cutting down the rest of the tree was (and likely still is) a huge operation, requiring a whole infrastructure of pulleys, cables, and donkey engines to move logs that got as big as 50 tons. The video connects the size and scale of redwood trees to their age; a redwood’s lifespan is around 2,000 years, and they’re considered young trees at 350 years. If you can ignore the narrator’s flirtation with young earth creationism (he suggests that a 2,000-year-old tree could have lived through “all of the world’s history since Christ was born”), this portion of the video is really interesting.

The logging portion of the video explains what durable redwood lumber is used for: house construction, railroad ties, and furniture. As the video details the milling process, the narrator explains that redwood lumber is prized for its natural fire, fungus, and termite resistance.

Watch the whole video below.