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Since the days of clipper ships and the spice trade, shipbuilders have cherished teak as seafaring wood for decks and trim. Yet, any sea story featuring teak pales before the remarkable tale of how this hardwood arrives in the hands of craftsmen.

For much of the world's finest teak, the journey to market begins deep in a Southeast Asian rain forest. Workers girdle selected trees with a cut through the sapwood. Then the trees die and, so that the dense and heavy green wood becomes dry enough to float, they are left to season on the stump for up to three years.When it's time to log the trees, elephants play a major role.

At the river, too low to float logs except during the monsoons, the teak lies for months. When pouring rains finally fill the river banks, loosely knit log rafts begin their float to a major port or city. Because of the seasonal river levels, the logs' trip from the interior may take five years.