This section is from the book "The Building Trades Pocketbook", by International Correspondence Schools. Also available from Amazon: Building Trades Pocketbook: a Handy Manual of reference on Building Construction.
White, or Northern, pine is a light, soft, straight-grained wood, and is used in building principally as a finishing material where a good but inexpensive job is required. Its power of holding glue renders it valuable to the joiner.
Georgia pine, also known as hard pitch, or long-leafed, pine, has a dense dark color, and well-marked grain, on account of which it is sometimes used as a finishing material. The wood is heavy, hard, strong, and, under proper conditions, very durable, but decays rapidly in damp places. On account of its resinous nature it does not take paint well. Georgia pine is often confused with Carolina, yellow, or Southern pine, which is greatly inferior to it.
Loblolly pine, sometimes called Texas pine, has a close resemblance to Georgia pine, but is of coarser grain, softer in fiber, and grows more sap-wood. It is largely used in the Southern states for framework and interior finish.
Oregon pine, sometimes called Washington fir, while really belonging to the spruce family, so closely resembles pine thin it is so called. While nearly as strong as Georgia pine, it is much lighter in weight, and more easily worked. Owing to the long lengths in which it can be obtained it is in demand for flagstaffs and long framing.
Black spruce, growing In the Southern states and Canada, is light in weight, reddish in color, and though easy to work, is very tough in fiber. It is largely used for submerged cribs and piles, as it not only preserves well under water, but also resists the destructive action of parasitic erustacea.
Norway spruce has a tough, straight grain which makes it an excellent material for masts of ships, etc. Under the name of white deal it fills the same place in European woodworking shops as white pine does in America.
Red spruce, growing in the Northeastern portion of the United States and in Canada, is similar to black spruce.
Hemlock is like spruce in appearance, but much inferior in quality, is brittle, splits easily, and liable to be shaky. It is only used as a cheap, rough framing timber.
White cedar, a soft, light, fine-grained, and very durable wood, lacking strength and toughness, is much used for boat-building, cigar-box manufacture, shingles, and tanks.
Red cedar, a smaller tree than white cedar, similar to it in texture but more compact and durable, is of a reddish-brown color, and possesses a strong, pungent odor, which repels moths and other insects, making it extremely valuable as shelving for closets, and linings for chests and trunks.
Cypress, a wood very similar to cedar, growing in the Southern part of both Europe and the United States, is one of the most durable woods, and well adapted for outside or inside work. Special care must be taken in seasoning it, as it tends to sliver and become shaky if forced in the drying.
Redwood, the name given to one of the species of giant trees of California, grows to a height of from 200 to 300 ft., its trunk being bare and branchless for one-third of its height. The color is a dull red, and the wood, resembling pine, is used in the West the same as pine is in the East. As an interior finish it is capable of taking a high polish, and its color improves with age.
White oak is the hardest of the American oaks, and grows in abundance throughout the eastern half of the United States. The wood, heavy, hard, cross-grained, strong, and of a light yellowish-brown color, is used where strength and durability is required, as in cooperage and carriage making.
Red oak is darker and redder, coarser, more brittle, and of a more porous texture than white oak.
English oak, though similar to American oaks, is superior to them for such structural purposes as ship building and house framing.
Oak is especially prized as a material for cabinetwork, when the log is quarter-sawed. In first-class work, it is usually cut into veneers 3/16 in. thick, which are laid on cores of white pine or chestnut. The silver grain and the high polish that the wood is capable of receiving make it one of the most beautiful used in Joinery,
Hickory is the hardest and toughest of American woods, and, owing to the difficulty in working it, is very little used as a building material. Hickory is also attacked by boring insects. This wood possesses great flexibility, and hence is valuable for carriages, sleighs, and implements requiring bent-wood details.
Ash, the wood of a large tree growing in the colder portions of the United States, is heavy, hard, and very elastic. Its grain is coarse, and very much like bastard-sawed oak in appearance. Ash is sometimes used for cabinetwork, but its tendency to become decayed and brittle renders it unfit i<>r structural work. The white ash is exceedingly tough, and is largely used for interior trim. It closely resembles white oak, and when properly filled can be brought to a high polish. Black ash has a brown, cedar-like appearance.
Locust is one of the largest forest trees in the United States, and furnishes a wood that is as hard as white oak. It is composed of very wide annual layers, in which the vessels are few but very large and are arranged in rows, giving the wood a peculiar striped grain. Its principal use is in exposed places where great durability is required. As its hardness increases with age, it is used for turned ornaments and occasionally in cabinetwork.
Black walnut is heavy, hard, porous, and of a purplish color, marked by a beautiful wavy grain. Strong, durable, and not subject to the attacks of insects, it is used generally for small cabinetwork, gun stocks, and interior decoration. The knotted roots of the tree furnish material with a curly grain, called burl, which is cut up into veneers.