|Which wood would you
choose? When attempting to complete a wood project you must be careful
of your choice of wood. Numerous species take on different
characteristics. All are composed of 60% cellulose and 28% lignin.
These substances make up the fibrous and woody cell walls of plants
and trees and are held together by cementing properties. The
individual consistencies and colors are the elements remaining of
about 12%. Other characteristics are due to the way that the wood is
sawed and cured. There are hardwoods from deciduous trees and
softwoods from coniferous trees.
There are two basic wood grades. Select lumber is excellent quality
for use when appearance and finishing are important and common lumber
that has defects used for construction and general-purpose projects.
The grades of the select lumber are: B and Better grade, which has
minute or no blemishes; C Select grade which has some minor defects
such as small knots; D select grade that has larger imperfections,
which can be concealed by paint. The grades of common lumber are No. 1
grade containing tight knots and few blemishes. No. 2 grade that has
more and larger knots and blemishes. No. 3 grade that has loose knots,
knotholes, and other flaws. No. 4 grade that is low quality and No. 5
grade where the appearance is not important. The following are species,
their characteristics and best uses taken from Readers Digest.
Mahogany: Fine grained, reddish brown in color. Very durable
and resists swelling shrinking, and warping. Used for quality
furniture such as cabinets; boat construction; wood facings and
Walnut: Fine textured, strong, easy to work with and resists
shrinking and warping and finishes well. Best used for gunstocks,
solid and veneered furniture, novelties, cabinetry and wall paneling.
Oak: Strong with good bending qualities. Is durable and
finishes well and resists moisture absorption. Used for furniture,
trimming, boat framing, desks and flooring.
Maple: Fine textured and is fine textures. It is strong and
hard. Has moderate shrinkage and machines well. Best used in flooring,
fine furniture and woodenware such as bowling alleys.
Cherry: Close-grained and resists warping and shrinking. It
will redden when exposed to sunlight and ages well. Used in cabinet
making, boat trim, novelties, solid furniture handles and turned
Rosewood: Very hard and has a dark reddish brown color. It
is fragrant and close grained. It is hard to work and takes high
polish. Used in musical instruments, piano cases, tool handles, art
projects, veneers and furniture.
Teak: Hard and durable and resistant the moisture and rot.
It resists warping, cracking and decay. Best used in fine furniture,
paneling, shipbuilding, doors, window framing, flooring and general
Pine: It has uniform texture, works easy and finishes well.
It resists shrinkage, swelling and warping. Used in house construction,
paneling and trim. Also used for furniture, molding and boxes.
Hemlock: Light in weight, uniformly textured. It machines
well and has low resistance to decay and nonresinous. Used for
construction lumber, planks, doors, boards, paneling, sub flooring and
Fir: Works easy and finishes well. Uniform in texture and
nonresinous. Has low resistance to decay. Used in furniture, doors,
frames, windows, plywood, veneer, general millwork and interior trim.
Redwood: Light in weight, durable and easy to work. Has a
natural resistance to decay. Used in outdoor furniture, fencing, house
siding, interior finishing, veneering and paneling.
Spruce: Strong and hard. Finishes well and has low
resistance to decay. Has moderate shrinkage and light in weight. Used
for masts and spars for ships, aircraft, crates, boxes, general
millwork and ladders.
Cedar: Fresh sweet odor and reddish in color. Easy to work
and uniform in texture and is resistant to decay. Used in chest making,
closet lining, shingles, posts, dock planks, novelties and Venetian
Types of Woods
Ash: The wood of the Ash, which, from the dawn of history, has been
the favorite material for spear-shafts, now helps to soothe the savage
beast, since it enters largely into the manufacture of musical
instruments, and in many other ways helps to further the arts of peace.
For example, no other wood is so largely employed for the handles of
tools--saws, chisels, files, planes, and other hand-tools that you use
in manual training, and that the carpenter and the blacksmith use in
their shops. From Ash wood are made, by the millions, those
indispensable little tools of the household known as clothes-pins. It
also enters intimately into our play, as well as our workaday lives,
supplying us, among other things, with ball-bats and tennis-rackets;
and helping us to go places, over the deep snows in winter and the
deep water in summer, by allowing itself to be made into oars and snow-shoes.
A recent census of the wood-using industries shows that the wood of
the Ash enters into the manufacture of more than a hundred articles of
Aspen: The Aspen, the next tree that has presented itself for
inspection (although I think it really ought to have taken its place,
farther down the line, with the Poplars, since it is one of the Poplar
family), says: "It's true I'm not an important lumber tree, but
who goes farther than I do, with my winged seeds and the little flying-machines
that carry them for miles and miles, in preparing the way for other
trees? And the Aspens are the very first to spring up after forest-fires,
and after the kind of lumbering that wipes out the forests like a fire.
And look how, along with other Poplars, I'm helping publish this book.
We've become so important in the paper-making business, since we are
not only good for pulp but grow very fast, that we're being planted by
the pulp companies by the thousands to help relieve the rapidly
approaching pulp shortage."
Beech: Very hard, heavy, strong, and tough, though not durable in
contact with the soil. Chairs, handles, woodenware, cooperage,
flooring, and shoe-lasts.
Birch: The Birches are another family that are being drawn upon for
paper material these days, and every Boy Scout knows how a Birch will
help make a canoe, roof a cabin, and supply cups and pails and table
dishes; and that, in taking off the bark, he should not girdle the
tree, as many thoughtless people do, thereby killing it. Of the Birch
canoe Burroughs says: "The design of a savage, in it looks like
the thought of a poet, and its grace and fitness haunt the imagination.
It is, indeed, one of the fairest flowers the thorny plant of
necessity ever bore." One of the largest uses of this same Canoe
Birch is for the manufacture of spools. Many other things of every-day
use are made from it, including toothpicks, shoe-pegs, broom-handles,
and various household articles.
Buckeye: Pulp, veneering, candy boxes, dishes, and bowls.
Butternut. (See Walnut.)
Buttonwood. (See Sycamore.)
Cherry: The Wild Black and Wild Red Cherry supply one of our most
valuable hardwoods, strong, fine-grained, and taking a beautiful
polish. It is now very scarce and brings a high price. Used for
cabinetwork, interior finish, and furniture, instrument cases and
Chestnut: Cheaper grades of furniture, the wood being light, soft, and
coarse-grained; but being durable in contact with the soil, it is also
useful for ties, poles, posts, and mine props. Bark used in tanning.
Cottonwood. (See Poplar.)
Elm: Very heavy, hard, and tough. Implements, hubs, wagon parts,
cooperage, handles, saddletrees, and mallets. The Rock Elm is what
wood-workers call a "cross-grained" wood; that is to say,
the fibres are closely interlaced in a way that makes it less liable
Hackberry: Although it belongs to the Elm family, its wood is not
nearly so valuable. Used for cheap furniture, boxes, crates, handles,
agricultural implements, and fencing.
Hickory: Very heavy, hard, tough, and strong. Used for axe and tool
handles, agricultural implements, and hoops.
Hornbeam: But, speaking of hard woods, the palm goes to the Hornbeam,
otherwise, for this very reason, known as "Ironwood." You
remember my saying of this tree, in November, that it was "little,
but oh, how tough!" Now listen to what a student of trees many
years ago (as you can see by his deliciously quaint language) said
about it: "In time it waxeth so hard that the toughness and
hardness of it may be rather compared unto horne than unto wood; and,
therefore, it was called Hornebeam." Another writer, speaking of
the struggles of the fathers of early New England with this tough but
useful little citizen, says: "The Hornebound tree is a tough kind
of wood that requires so much paines in the riving as is almost
incredible, but is most excellent for to make bolles and dishes, not
being subject to cracke or leake." The Romans used this wood for
their chariots, and it actually rivals steel in strength and in
ability to resist strain. In the early days in this country, when
metal was scarce, the wood of the Hornbeam was used for rake teeth,
levers, mallets, and particularly for the beams of ox-yokes, just as
the Romans used it. Its chief use now is for tool-handles and mallets.
Linden: Better known, commercially, as Basswood. Is light, soft,
seasons excellently, and is even-grained and tough. Is used for a wide
variety of purposes, among which may be named: woodenware, furniture,
pails, kegs, trunks, backing for finer woods used as veneers, boxes,
crates, excelsior, and pulp.
Locust: Both the Black and Yellow Locusts are very heavy, strong, and
durable. Locust wood is widely used for fence-posts and is excellent
fuel. It is, therefore, in addition to its beauty, a very desirable
tree for the wood-lot. Most of the insulator pins used by telephone
and telegraph companies are made from it. During the World War large
quantities of Locust wood were used in connection with the building of
the wooden ships, being made into what are called "treenails",
i.e., wooden pegs and spikes, used instead of metal nails in wooden
Maple: Of the many varieties of maple, the kind the that furnished the
delicious syrup for the breakfast-cakes also ranks first in the value
of its wood. It is close-grained, hard, strong, and tough, and takes a
beautiful satiny polish. It is used in not less than 500 articles of
commerce, including furniture, flooring, cabinets, tool and broom
handles, bedsteads, dressers and other bedroom furniture, writing-desks,
and so on. The wood is white at first but takes on a rosy hue after
exposure to the light. The most prized form is what is known as "bird's-eye"
Maple, from the queer little eye-like shapes which sometimes result
from a peculiar twisting about of the fibres.
The Red Maple occasionally produces a variety of these markings, is
then known as "curled" Maple, and commands a premium. It
also sometimes turns out a "bird's-eye" pattern in its
mysterious shop among the fibres. The inner bark is boiled and used in
making a black dye. Owing to the fact that the Red Maple's is an
elastic wood, it is used for oars.
The Silver Maple, which is not nearly so strong as the Sugar or the
Red Maple, is used for pulp, berry-baskets, boxes, and many small
The striped Maple has little commercial value, but, beside being
pretty to look at and furnishing very popular meals for the deer, it
performs the important function of helping to meet the demand for home-grown
whistles in the spring; hence its two other names of Whistlewood and
Box-Elder or Ash-Leaved Maple. Found from New England across Canada to
Alberta and south to Florida, Texas, and Mexico--something like
3,000,000 square miles! Its wood is used for woodenware and pulp.
Before we pass from under the Maples I want to tell you something
about the Sugar-Maple that, as a boy, I always thought almost as
interesting as its syrup and its sugar-cakes. Let there come a cold
northwest wind and frosty nights, the very kind of weather that makes
us draw ourselves down under our coat-collars, and the sap flows best
of all! But during a warm southwest wind it will hardly flow at all.
The sap flow is also a pretty good weather barometer, always checking
up or stopping altogether on the approach of a big storm.
Sycamore-Maple wood is hard and takes a high polish and is much prized
by cabinetmakers. It is also made into bowls and into pattern blocks
for foundries. The knotted roots are converted into wood for inlaying.
Oak: The Oaks are among the most valuable of all lumber trees; and
among the Oaks, the White Oak is the most prized. Its special virtues
are that it is hard, strong, durable, seasons well, and takes a
beautiful polish. Its principal uses are for furniture, veneers,
flooring, cabinetwork, ties, and ship timber. Other Oaks used for the
same purpose are Post, Burr, Rock, Swamp White, Cow, and Live Oaks.
The Red Oak is used for somewhat the same purposes but is not as hard,
strong, or durable. This is also true of other Oaks known as Red Oaks--the
Scarlet, Pin, Black, Spanish, and Water Oaks.
The wood of the Oaks, more than that of any other, built the log
cabins, barns, mills, bridges, and forts of the early settlers and
guided them in the selection of farming land. Certain species,
particularly the White Oaks, are a sure indication, where abundant, of
fertile soil. It was for this very reason, among others, that they
were cut down so rapidly by the men who first brought the land under
the plough. Another thing that helped reduce their noble ranks is that
their acorns are so sweet and nice that they bring the same price as
chestnuts--among the squirrels, chipmunks, crows, and bluejays. They
were fast passing away until the National Government and the more
progressive States awoke to the fact and took measures to restore them
to our forests. Almost half a million White Oaks have been planted in
Pennsylvania alone within twenty years. The White Oak is difficult to
transplant and is best grown from the seed.
But just think of using up such valuable trees without providing for
the future; and of burning up thousands of acres of them by fires due,
as most of our forest-fires are, to gross carelessness! It's as
foolish as it would be to throw money away because you can buy so many
things with it!
Popular: This group, as we have seen, includes the Aspens, Poplars,
and Cottonwoods. They are trees of rapid growth, split easily, and are
valuable for fuel, and are very active and useful pioneers in
preparing the way for other trees. They not only have those far-flying
seeds, but they produce root suckers to beat anything. Most of the
Poplars and Cottonwoods grow to be big trees, but the only ones of
much commercial importance are the Cotton-woods (also known as
Carolina Poplars), that reach their greatest size (8 X 100) along the
streams between the Appalachians and the Rockies, and the Swamp
Cottonwood of the South. They are used for crates, boxes, cooperage,
and cheap lumber.
Sassafras: Not a very valuable timber tree but makes good posts and
fence-rails and is used to some extent in the manufacture of furniture
which is frequently placed on the market as Chestnut, on account of
the resemblance of the two woods. It performs a most friendly office
for all of us in keeping open house for the birds throughout the lean
months of winter. Just suppose you were a bird coming along empty, on
a bleak winter day, and you caught sight of a Sassafras Tree with its
blue clusters of berries, set out so convenient, like the menu in a
help-yourself restaurant, and with nice twig seats for all the guests.
It would look mighty good, I tell you!
Sweet-Gum: Takes a beautiful finish and is extensively used in the
manufacture of furniture, interior finish for sleeping-cars and fine
houses. It takes kindly to staining and is often used in imitation of
Oak, Maple, Cherry, Satin Walnut, Circassian Walnut, and even Mahogany.
It is one of the most important lumber trees of the South, where it
reaches its largest growth, although it ranges as far north as
Connecticut along the coast. It prefers low, moist bottom-lands.
Sycamore: Found in every State east of the central prairies. Its heavy,
hard, cross-grained wood is made into butcher's blocks, as well as
furniture, small wooden articles, and woodenware.
Tulip Tree: Also known as the Yellow Popular, although it isn't a
Popular at all, is a splendid big tree (10 X 200), which grows from
Vermont to Florida and west to Michigan and Arkansas. Its wood, while
light and soft, is of an even texture, and is used for interior finish,
boats, woodenware, and general lumber. It was much used by the Indians
for dugout canoes.
Walnut: Of the several species of Walnut, those of chief commercial
value are the Black Walnut and the Butternut or White Walnut. The wood
of the Black Walnut is light, soft, even-grained, and yields a
beautiful polish, and is used for fine furniture, cabinets, and fancy
hardwood articles. The White Walnut, although much coarser grained, is
used for similar purposes. In addition to these native trees is the
English or Persian Walnut, which has been extensively introduced in
southern California. Besides growing those toothsome and no-trouble-at-all-to-crack
nuts, they are the source of the Circassian Walnut, out of which was
made that beautiful set of furniture that Santa Claus brought mother
and which she has been showing to all the neighbors.