Information on Types of Wood

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 every-day use.

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 clocks.

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 to split.

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 ships.

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 household articles.

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 Moosewood.

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.

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