April 5, 2014

The wonderful cork and the most famous Portuguese cork oak tree


Hello Friends and Zazzlers!



I've been wanting to write more but unable to do it. This last week went by very quickly. At last I find some time to write more about cork. Zazzle has surprised us with some cork products. I liked it a lot. But for now it's just cork coasters. I hope someone convinces Zazzle to add some more!

Cork is a fascinating raw material. At least for me it is. The origins of the use of cork are lost in time. This raw material from the cork oak (Quercus Suber L.) was already in use thousands of years before Christ. Today cork is used  in endless objects but Ancient Egyptians used cork for the soles of their sandals and Romans also use it for footwear!Portuguese caravels sailed to discover new territories and also made use of cork in its construtction. But mostly cork was used to keep wine protected in containers. This started n the 17th century when Dom Pérignon made cork stopppers the perfect way to preserve his champagne.

This photo is a courtesy from Miguel Monteiro. 
Check more photos of this tree at his blog.

Cork is the bark of the cork oak (Quercus Suber L.). It's a 100% natural plant tissue. It consists of a honeycomb of microscopic cells filled with a air-like gas and coated mainly with suberin and lignin.  Cork  is  harvested every nine years, without any tree being felled during the process.

Portugal is the biggest producer of cork in the world. So let me introduce you to a famous tree. It's called "the whistler" - o assobiador. He was baptized this way by English tourists when they heard the birds singing from its branches. This particular Portuguese cork oak  is 230 years of age and can be found at Chaparral do Mendonça, Águas de Moura, in Palmela. The tree is 20.6 meters in height. The trunk reached a circumference of 5.24 meters at the base and 4.15 meters to 1.30 meters tall.The canopy has a diameter of about 29 meters and, according to the people of the village, is good luck to the newlyweds to marry under his shadow which is why this cork oak is also known as "matchmaker tree." In 1991 the tree produced a whopping 1,200 pounds of cork that originated 100,000 cork stoppers!

It takes each cork oak 25 years before it can be stripped for the first time. Only from the third stripping at 43 years of age that the cork has the high standard of quality required for producing cork stoppers. This kind of cork is known as "amadia". The first two harvests, one is called virgin cork, the second is called "secundeira" cork are used for flooring and construction, fashion and design products. The cork is harvested between May and August. Over the course of its lifetime of 200 years oak corks may be stripped 17 times.

Cork is very versatile due to its characteristics. This raw material is light, elastic and impermeable. Cork has low conductivity to heat, noise and vibration. It burns without a flame and does not emit toxic gases during combustion. Cork is extremely resistant to abrasion, very resistant. It's hypoallergenic because does not absorb dust.

This week a cradle made of cork was on the news. It was designed by two Portuguese - Sofia Chinita and karen Pereira -  for Green Furniture Sweeden Award. The cork cradle is one of the finalists' projects. 


"Sleep Tight cradle is a simply poetic design in an area seldom explored by designers. Sleep Tight cradle is made of all natural pressed cork. Using cork in new applications is a way of preserving the cork woods and handcraft as the wine industry is turning to plastic and aluminum." ( From GFS site)

But this is just one product among many surprising products made possible from cork.

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