This is the fifth in a series of posts by Jordan River (of The Fragrant Man website) about the myths and legends of sandalwood, as well as day by day coverage of the 2013 Santalum albumsandalwood harvest currently taking place in Australia. There are links to the previous posts at the foot of the article.
Yesterday we looked at the harvesting process. Today we are finding out what to do with the sandalwood logs.
A traditional method of sandalwood oil production is burying the cut logs in the ground so that white ants eat the outside wood leaving the oil carrying heartwood uneaten as its fragrance is repellent to them.
These days the next step is sawing and then grinding off the sapwood to reach the oil rich heartwood which is in the roots as well as the trunk and branches. The sapwood can be used for ornamental carving, altars, and furniture.
Tropical Forestry Services has a Primary Processing Centre (PPC) where logs are graded, sorted and prepared. The PPC produces cleaned logs ready for wood export and for oil distillation at the Mount Romance facility in Albany.
Australian worker with sandalwood log cross-section showing heartwood and sapwood. This is the size used for carving.
In-line desapping processor.
Sawing sandalwood logs to spec.
Cross-section of sandalwood logs showing heartwood development.
The heartwood is ground into chips in Albany for steam distillation which separates the oil from the wood. We will look at this process tomorrow.