Moon Phase Harvesting

TimberOn Deer Island, Bonavista Bay, it was common practice for boat builders to harvest their timber according to phases of the moon.

“Everything is governed by the moon,” says boat builder Sam Feltham, “You wouldn’t cut timber when the moon was wasted; you would cut on a new moon. If you cut it after a full moon the wood shrinks faster.”

Jack Casey from Conche, on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula, also abides by the cycle of the moon when cutting wood for his boats.

“You always cut timber on the rise of the moon. You wouldn’t cut it when the moon was going out. Same with animals. You wouldn’t slaughter an animal on a waning moon because the meat would shrink.”

Known as moon phase harvesting, this ancient practice has been used worldwide to naturally preserve harvested wood. Like the ocean tides, the moon plays a role in the rise and fall of sap in the wood. Cutting during hibernation months in the fall and winter on a waxing cycle of the moon, when the sap is low, produces better quality timber.

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8 thoughts on “Moon Phase Harvesting

  • August 1, 2016 at 8:54 am

    My late father swore by this principle. He was never a man to BS, but he said he witnessed it first hand. He said he witnessed a pig slaughtered during the waning of the moon, and roasts and chops would shrink away like crazy when prepared

  • May 17, 2019 at 5:37 am

    “If you cut it after a full moon the wood shrinks faster.”
    is that true?
    omg. I just know.
    thanks a lot for the knowledge..

  • December 10, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I am an architect that has been practicing moon phase harvesting for the last 14 years since I learnt about it from a Japanese scientist who presented a poster at the 2005 Tokyo sustainable building conference. They had slides showing how the level of sap changes at different cycles of the moon and yearly cycles, so it’s not some old wives tale, it’s genuine indigenous knowledge that’s been backed up by hard science.
    The secret with moon phase harvesting if you want it for building construction timber is to cut your timber when the sap is at its lowest level which is in the last 72 hours before the new moon in the autumn phase – i.e. the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. If you cut on or after the new moon it will be too late. Its as if trees have an in and an out breath that corresponds to the moon cycle and for construction one wants to cut your timber at the end of its out breath. One leaves the crown of the tree in tact and as many of the branches as practically possible and then leaves the cut end of the timber at a higher point than the rest of the tree. The result is a way superior timber ….with much less cracking and warping and of little interest to insects and fungus. Because the timber is pretty much immune to insect attack, one can leave the timber in the forest to cure for a few weeks to months and so when one takes it out and tranport’s the timber it is already much lighter and so one can load more on ones truck. I have used this technique with numerous projects now and can attest to this as a truly amazing technique. All the joiners and tree fellers I have worked with start out completely skeptically and end up being major fans. We have even had a joiner make use timbers like black wood, which is normally not much good for anything other than firewood and use it for intricate cabinetry work. Once you start to work with this kind of timber you will not want to use timber that is harvested at the wrong time of year any more.

    To read more follow this link to an article on our web site: http://www(.)ecodesignarchitects(.)

    For further info you can also purchase our timber manual from our on-line store:

    Note: remove the brackets to activate the links.

    • July 23, 2022 at 5:13 pm

      I work restoring classic Barns here in New York State where the Delaware River borders Pennsylvania. My wife and I have spent parts of the last fifteen winters in an off the beaten track fishing village on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The woods there are amazing and I’ve met and talked with many local wood harvesters and craftspeople that swear by the moon phase method of cutting. Down there the rule of thumb is “dos dias antes and dos Dias despues Luna llena” (2 days before through 2 days after the full moon) Perhaps this time frame is a regional variation due to the climate ( there’s only 2 seasons, the rainy and the dry) and proximity to the water and tides where it’s often a 10’ swing around the new moon. They say there’s much less chance of insects and better rot resistance. It’s so interesting to see this corroborated from other parts of the world…thank you


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