Tahoe Wood Maps creates detailed, 3-D maps of the jewel of the Sierra
By Annie Flanzraich
There’s a feeling I get when I first see Tahoe on the drive over Mt. Rose or Spooner Summit. It’s as if I can breathe in the peace. Like the sight of Tahoe’s cool, blue waters wash over the ragged parts of my spirit and make me a little more whole again.
I love that feeling. And for four years, I was lucky enough to feel it every day when I lived at the lake. Now, I live in Reno. And while the 40-minute drive is well worth it for a moment of peace, visiting Tahoe isn’t always on the day’s agenda.
Photos suffice, but they fall short. There’s no depth. No tactile experience.
Building each map is part art, part science.
The closest experience I’ve found is running my fingers over the precise cuts of a 3-D wood map of the lake, created by Tahoe Wood Maps. Roger Floren and his team make each map by hand, and nestle Easter eggs for the observant (or those who made it this far in this article). There are “beers” (bear+deer=beer) situated at the location of each state park around the lake, because hey — that’s probably where you’d like to drink a beer. On the larger map, which is 31 inches by 24 inches, each street and chair lift is etched out to scale.
“If you have people visiting, you can actually use this map to show them where places are in Tahoe,” Floren says.
Floren started making the maps in 2015, on a small laser cutter out of his home. The original maps measured 13 inches by 17 inches, and Floren first sold one at a time at 22 Bistro in Squaw Valley. Then, Trunk Show out of Tahoe City began selling the maps. By December of 2015, Floren could barely keep up with the demand.
Now, he and his team build Tahoe maps and maps of other cities out in Artech, an industrial space west of Reno’s downtown where entrepreneurs and artists create.
To truly capture the depth of Tahoe’s blue layers, Floren created a proprietary dye to stain the Baltic Birch. Each map is carved from indigenous wood, made in the Reno/Tahoe area and assembled by hand.
“Some people find a knot in the wood of their map, and I say it’s organic material, it’s part of the charm, it makes it unique,” Floren explains.
Building each map is part art, part science. To create an accurate map with marks for different depths, altitudes, towns, roads and parks, Floren’s team created software to interpret data from the United States Geological Survey and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The software works with one of the two laser cutters Floren also built that carve each stratum of each map.
“Even though the lasers cut it, each map has to be built by hand,” Floren says.
The result? A map you can’t help but touch, examine and explore. Mine’s hanging in the living room. Now, I get a glimpse of peace every morning.
Where to find Tahoe Wood Maps
A variety of stores in the Reno/Tahoe area sell Tahoe Wood Maps. Or find them online at tahoewoodmaps.com
Trunk Show tahoetrunkshow.com
*First location to carry and distribute these artisan pieces.
Pacific Crest Gallery pacificcrestgallery.com
Nevada Museum of Art nevadaart.org
The Melting Pot World Emporium meltingpotworldemporium.com