Pine, red and yellow fir, or "deal," as it is commonly though incorrectly called, is obtained from the northern pine, a fir-tree which is grown a little in Scotland, but chiefly in Norway, Sweden, and Russia. It is either of a red or yellow colour, very full of resin in quickly grown stuff, works easily, and is used for all ordinary purposes in this country, whether for joinery or carpentry. The ordinary trees are cut up into widths of 7, 9, and 11 inches, by 2 1/2, 3, and 4 inches in thickness, and in from 20 to 25-feet lengths, according to district; but the best and largest trees are converted into " balk timber," which commands a higher price, owing to its scarcity, and varies in size from 12 to 18 inches square, and up to 35 feet in length.
White deal, cut from the spruce fir, has not the strength and durability of the red or yellow kind; it is of a very dry fibre, full of loose dead knots, and only fit for painted work in common joinery.
Fir, of whatever kind, has very indistinct medullary rays, and the closer the annual rings the stronger it is; though, at the best, it has very little bearing strength, or power, or resistance, owing to the trees being felled before they have arrived at the age of maturity.
Balk timber is imported chiefly from the ports of Memel, Dantzic, and Riga on the Baltic; while the planks, deals, and battens - as the 11-inch, 9-inch, and 7-inch widths are respectively called - come from Norway, Sweden, Northern Russia, and Finland, countries where the coldness of the climate does not allow of the trees growing to a size suitable for balk timber.
Memel balk timber is of a coarse nature, neither of slow nor quick growth; and only suitable for carpentry and engineering purposes, owing to its coarse grain, and the large quantity of resin which it contains.
There are two or three qualities of this variety, and it is generally considered the strongest timber in the market, on account of its straight fibres and freedom from knots and shakes.
Dantzie balk timber is chiefly grown in Prussia, and is of a more knotty nature than Memel, though harder, cleaner, and closer in the grain; but it is nevertheless considered inferior.
Riga balk timber - almost unknown now in the market - is similar to the other two qualities, being of a very straight growth, comparatively free from sap, but rather shaky.
Norwegian planks, deals, and battens are distinguished by the blue stencil marks on their ends. They are either white or yellow, and not of a very first-class quality; being only fit for carpentry and scaffolding, though a large quantity comes into this country converted into floor boards, match-boarding, etc. Drammen and Christiania are the chief ports of shipment.
Swedish planks, deals, and battens are imported from Gefle, Soderhamn, Stockholm, and many other ports, and are distinguished by a red stencil mark on their ends. They are superior to Norwegian, the best qualities being very sound, even, and comparatively free from sap. They are used chiefly for carpentry, floors, etc.
Russian planks, deals, and battens are more of the red quality, far superior to either the Norwegian or Swedish, and used chiefly for joinery; being harder, brighter, cleaner, stronger, freer from sap and knots, and of a kinder nature to work. The Petersburg, Archangel, Onega, and Uleaborg (Finland) are the best kinds, and are distinguished by marks cut in the ends by a branding hammer.
Fir, of whatever kind, weighs on the average about i ton per 50 cubic feet.
The working stress of good Memel, per square inch of section, is about 12 cwt. in tension, 10 cwt. in compression, and 12 cwt. in bearing; compared with 10 cwt., 7 cwt., and 7 cwt. respectively for the ordinary inferior qualities of fir.
America and Nciv Zealand both grow trees of the pine class, but the wood they produce is inferior to that from the Baltic in strength; though it is freer from knots and other imperfections, kinder in nature, of wider width, and more suitable for joinery and cabinetwork. The chief kinds are : the Canada red pine, which bears all the usual qualities, except that it is inclined to be knotty, and is not very wide. American yellow pine, though expensive, is an invaluable wood to joiners in this country, as it has all the good qualities of a joiner's wood, with a kind nature, bright, close, and easy grain, comparative freedom from knots, and can be procured in very wide widths, so that it is excellent for panelled work. It is not very strong or durable in this climate, but passable when painted.
Pitch pine is grown in the Southern States of North America, the best coming from the neighbourhood of Savannah. It is a very red wood owing to the large amount of resin it contains, and consequently is difficult to work, as the viscidity soon affects the joiner's tools. Its hardness makes it a valuable wood for wear, while some of it has a most beautiful appearance, which renders it suitable for best varnished work, It is heavy in weight, but very durable and strong, though subject to shakes and sap. Its annual rings are very conspicuous, its grain straight, and comparatively free from knots. On account of the resin it contains it will not take paint properly, nor yet creosote. It is imported in logs of 12 to 18 inches square, and can be procured in very long lengths, sometimes as long as 70 feet.
Oregon, Quebec, and St. Johns pine are other names given to North American pine, distinguishing the districts whence it comes.
Kawriepine, found in New Zealand, is a hard, pink-tinted wood, with a very close, even grain, free from knots and other defects. It can be procured in very wide widths, will take polish well, and is most suitable for table tops, cabinetwork, etc.
Elm comes from a British-grown tree of the same name, can be procured in wide widths, and withstands damp, though not alternate wet and dry atmospheres; its grain is very coarse and tough, shakes are almost unknown to it, but rotten holes are often met with; it is of warm brown colour tinged with purple, and the sap of a light cream. Elm is chiefly used for piles and similar work exposed continually to wet, and in damp situations, pump-planks, stable divisions and doors - the latter on account of the dislike that horses have to biting it; and its great resisting power renders it very useful for curbs, bumping-blocks, etc.