Building Saguaro Wood Furniture
The Saguaro is a large, tree-like cactus native to Arizona and to small portions of Baja California and Mexico. While the cactus itself cannot be used for building, it produces ribs that people have used as building materials for hundreds of years. Because Saguaro cacti are slow-growing, the U.S. limits the amount a person can collect -- the general rule of thumb is that a person can only collect as much as he can manually carry back to his vehicle in one load. Furthermore, Saguaros cannot legally be cut down for harvesting -- only the remains of Saguaros that have died of natural causes can be used. For this reason, building with Saguaro can be expensive and rare, and Saguaro ribs are used as accent pieces.
Design or purchase blueprints for the piece of furniture that you want to make. Your plans and blueprints will vary widely depending on whether you want to make a bed, bookshelf, cabinet, dining table or some other furniture.
Look for the structural lynchpins within the blueprints. Most pieces of furniture have one or two strong structural pieces that support the weight and framework of the entire piece -- in a bed, for example, this would be the two horizontal bars that run across the head and the foot of the bed, and the two perpendicular bars that run along the side lengths of the bed. On a bookshelf, this structural lynchpins would be the two end pieces.
Collect saguaro ribs by going to public land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management in an area where saguaros grow and collect wood that has died of natural causes. Federal law limits you to only collecting the amount you can manually carry back to your vehicle in one load. Alternatively, you can purchase naturally-fallen saguaro ribs from a dealer (see Resources) or purchase a bundle of saguaro ribs from general-purpose online shopping websites.
Measure the diameter of the saguaro rib that you own. You generally cannot request or attempt to purchase ribs of a given diameter; you will either collect or buy whatever has naturally died and happens to be available.
Compare the size of the rib to your blueprints. Ensure that the diameter of your saguaro rib is at least minimally large enough to fit the size of the structural piece that you need in your furniture. Use the saguaro rib in place of a thick piece of wood when following the blueprint instructions.
Kennedi Rose is an Atlanta-based journalist who began her career in 2005 as a newspaper reporter covering the education beat. She has written for a wide variety of commercial, trade and online magazines covering food, drink and the retail sector. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology.
- stately saguaro image by Paul Moore from Fotolia.com