This is an extremely useful substitute for ordinary pine, and has come much into vogue within the last few years. It is somewhat harder than pine, is of a very uniform texture, and of a lightish yellow colour, sometimes nearly white. It is often obtainable in great widths, is remarkably clean, and free from knots, as well as reliable and sound. Apart from its appearance, it has every attribute that can render a timber valuable as a furniture wood. It is generally sold at very low prices, being often obtainable for lower figures than prime pine. It ebonises well, and when suitably stained bears a very close resemblance to American walnut. Owing to its plainness, it does not make such a good imitation of mahogany. It may be used without hesitation either for making furniture of a cheap kind entirely, or for the secondary portions of better articles.
Sequoia, or Californian red pine, has also been much used of late years for inside work instead of pine, and is specially applicable to drawers, where the appearance of a white wood might be objected to. It is reddish in colour, and slightly resembles pencil cedar, being fine and silky, and, like it, splits easily. For this reason, as well as its remarkable softness, it is not so useful as it otherwise would be, and it may be well to note that it is quite unsuitable for general construction. It is very clean, and often runs to enormous widths. It is probably the softest wood known, too soft and spongy to be altogether pleasant to work.
Many other kinds of timber might be mentioned, but to do so would serve no good purpose, as those already enumerated are the principal used in cabinet-making. Speaking generally, every kind of timber may be used, but in practice very few are, and others which have not been specified are of such comparative unimportance that to find them in furniture is quite exceptional. There are certainly some which are used only as veneers, but they will be found mentioned elsewhere. Of course, I do not wish any reader to understand that no others than those named can be used for furniture; on the contrary, there are very many which are equally suitable, only they are either not obtainable regularly, or, what is much the same thing, their advantages have not been sufficiently recognised to lead to their general adoption. Thus there are the Kauri pine and other woods of New Zealand, many of which are admirably adapted for furniture, but are only occasionally seen in this country. Therefore, if the reader finds any timber which he likes the look of, and it seems suitable, there is no reason why he should not use it.
In practical handbooks it is often customary to say a good deal about the shipment and export marks or brands whereby the merchant can recognise certain kinds, and the reader may expect that something of the kind should be given here. I may as well explain that this is not a treatise on the timber trade, and that the cabinet-maker need not concern himself about such details, nor with the measurement of timber in the log. These concern the timber merchant and large consumer principally, so that the space at my disposal may be more appropriately occupied with such information as is likely to be useful to those for whom this book is primarily intended. What affects them as cabinetmakers will be found mentioned, it is hoped, with sufficient explicitness. For those who can use it in sufficient quantities, timber bought in the log will often be the cheapest, but the saving, unless there is considerable experience on the buyer's part, will be inconsiderable, and involve a good deal of trouble in getting the stuff cut up.
I may explain that 'stuff' is the conventional or workshop word which is used when speaking of wood in a general sense, and though it may not be very elegant it is thoroughly well understood among cabinetmakers, so that there can be no objection to using it here. The buyer of logs must have them cut up at the sawmills, have the timber properly stacked, and then wait till it is ready for use, which will probably not be till many months have elapsed. All this involves a considerable amount of labour and loss of time, so that the small consumer will find it, on the whole, more to his advantage to get his stuff in usable quantity and workable condition as he wants it, even though he may have to pay a higher price. In every town of any size timber merchants or dealers will be found who sell the timber in convenient sizes, and in such small quantities that the small consumer need not lay in a big stock. Of course, he must expect to pay rather more than the large buyer, but the difference will not amount to much.
It may be expected - I know it is by some amateurs - that some 'wrinkles' should be given by which the novice may pose as an experienced buyer, and so obtain what he wants at the lowest or wholesale prices. Well, all I can say to those who think thus is that it cannot be done. Want of knowledge cannot be concealed from those who know their business, whether this is selling timber or anything else. The best way to avoid imposition is to buy from a respectable dealer, and by paying fair prices the purchaser will have no difficulty in getting good stuff. If he wants only the lowest priced, then he must not be disappointed if it does not turn out as well as he would like. The small consumer will, in the long run, gain nothing by buying mixed lots at a low figure, for there is sure to be a good deal of waste. The large consumer may occasionally find it to his advantage to do so, for what would be waste to the other may come in for odds and ends.
When buying from a timber-yard, it is seldom that a piece will be cut of any special length that may be wanted. If it is the buyer must be prepared to pay a considerably increased rate. Of course, retailers who lay themselves out to supply amateurs will do this, but their rates all round will be found comparatively high, though perhaps reasonable enough under the circumstances, for it must not be forgotten that to cut to given lengths means inevitably a quantity of unsaleable short pieces left on the dealer's hands. For these he must be compensated, and it will be found, in practice, better to buy a length, even though it may be more than required for immediate use, than to get just what may be wanted. Of course, if the timber is an exceptionally valuable one the case may be different, but the purchaser may be safely left to form his own judgment when this happens. In large towns, where there is a choice of dealers, it may be well to know that those yards where builders' timber is principally sold are not the best for furniture woods. Some dealers, in fact perhaps the majority, sell all kinds, but in London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, and other large centres, there are plenty of dealers who make a speciality of furniture woods and sell it in small or retail quantities. If to be cut into particular thicknesses not in stock, they will undertake the sawing at very moderate prices, selling the piece selected, and charging a rate per foot for sawing. This will save the cabinetmaker a considerable amount of hard labour, which it would not pay him to incur, as the sawing is done at the mills by steam power. Those who live in country places where the better kinds of furniture wood, mahogany, walnut, etc, are not obtainable on the spot, can have it sent from one of the larger centres at very moderate rates for carriage, as the conveyance of timber is not costly. Pine and other common stuff can be got almost anywhere from builders' yards, though when he can do so it will be better for the user to deal direct with a timber merchant. The conditions of trade have so much altered of late years with the increase of transit facilities and the establishment of sawmills, that many of the difficulties which formerly stood in the way of the small consumer have been considerably reduced.