This section is from the book "A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction Vol2: Masonry. Carpentry. Joinery", by The Colliery Engineer Co. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise On Architecture And Building Construction.
Cherry. The wood of the wild-cherry tree is a moderately heavy wood, hard, and very durable. The annual rings are wide and even in their structure, while the medullary rings are fine, numerous, and of a light-red color, giving the wood a close, fine grain, of a brownish-red color, which is susceptible of an exceedingly high polish, and is, therefore, much used in cabinetwork.
The close and even grain in cherry makes it particularly adaptable to imitations of more valuable and less abundant woods.
Cherry stained black to imitate ebony cannot be detected from the genuine material except by scraping off the polished surface; and as a substitute for mahogany and rosewood it makes a fair imitation. For this reason it is largely used for piano cases, book shelves, furniture, and other general cabinet work which is turned out in quantity and afterwards stained to imitate various other materials.
Cherry does not respond as quickly to changes of tempera-tiire or dampness as do most other woods, for which reason, it is, in many instances, more serviceable as an imitation of ebony, mahogany, or rosewood than would be the genuine material.
57. Birch is a wood strongly resembling cherry in its texture and, in some of its species, also in its color. Black, or cherry, birch furnishes the best lumber, and most strongly resembles the cherry in color, texture, weight, and strength, but it is not as durable, and is much more affected by atmospheric influences.
White, ox paper, birch is chiefly noted for the quality of its bark, which can be stripped from the tree in long, paper-like sheets. It was extensively used by the Indians to thatch the roofs of their huts and to construct their canoes. The wood is used principally in the manufacture of wood-pulp paper, though small turned articles, such as spools, cups, spoons, etc. are manufactured from it.
58. Maple is a large-sized timber tree, which furnishes a light-colored, fine-grained, hard, strong, and heavy wood.
The annual growth is narrow and close, but, scattered through it, small vessels may be seen on careful examination. The medullary rays are small and distinct, giving to the quarter-cut lumber a clearly defined silver grain. Two other characteristics of the grain are observed, especially in old trees, and are known as curly maple and bird's-eye maple. The former is a waviness of the grain similar to the burl obtained from the root timber of the walnut tree, while the bird's-eye is an effect produced in old trees by the circular inflexion of the fibers. In appearance the plank is covered with numerous small spots, similar to minute knots, and strongly resembling bird's eyes, whence it derives its name. Though both the curly maple and the bird's-eye are practically distorted fibers and materially reduce the strength of the wood, they are highly prized in the cabinetmaker's art, as they lend to the polished surface a variegation and impart a beauty equaled by few other materials.
59. Chestnut, a large forest tree common to the eastern part of the United States, produces a comparatively soft, coarse-grained wood, which, though very brittle, is exceedingly durable when exposed to the weather.
It will not stand variations of slowly evaporating moisture as well as locust, and is, therefore, not so well suited for fence posts and sills laid in contact with the earth; but for exposed structures and sleepers laid in concrete or sandy soil, it affords a material much more easily worked than locust, and nearly as durable as cedar.
At the age of 50 years the tree is in fine condition for cutting, previous to which the wood is likely to be composed of large cells filled with moisture, which do not dry out without impairing the quality of the timber. On the other hand, if the tree is not cut at 50 years, it is almost sure to become decayed in the heart wood, and thereby rendered unfit for use.
60. Butternut is a small species of walnut, whose wood is of a light color, and possesses a strongly marked grain. Its lumber can be secured only in short lengths, and though soft and easily worked with edged tools, it will not split easily, resists moisture, and remains comparatively unaffected by heat until the wood begins to char. It is not suitable for a framing material, but is sometimes used in cabinetwork on account of its susceptibility to an extremely high polish.
61. Beech is the wood of a large forest tree growing in the eastern part of the United States, and in Europe. It is used but slightly in building, owing to its tendency to rot in damp situations, but it is often used, especially in European countries, for piles, in places where it will be constantly submerged.
It is very hard and tough, and of a close, uniform texture, which renders it a desirable material for tool handles and plane stocks, a use to which it is often put.
It is occasionally used for furniture on account of its susceptibility to a high polish, but is too brittle for very fine work requiring strength.
62. Whitewood, so called from the purity of its color, is the lumber of the tulip tree, a large, straight forest tree abundant in the United States. It is light, soft, very brittle, and shrinks excessively in drying. When thoroughly dry it will not split with the grain, and in even slight atmospheric changes will warp and twist exceedingly. Its cheapness, ease of working, and the large size of its boards cause it to be used in carpentry and joinery, in many places where it is utterly unsuited.
63. Buttonwood, also called sycamore, is the name given in the United States to the wood of a species of tree generally known as plane tree. The wood is heavy and hard, of a light brown color, and very brittle. Its grain is fine and close, but, though susceptible of a high polish, it is not much used in general carpentry or joinery, as it is very hard to work and has a strong tendency to warp and twist under variations of temperature. In damp places it will soon show signs of decay, and is, therefore, unfitted for any but the most protected positions.
64. Apple and pear trees furnish wood much used for tool handles, plane stocks, and small turned work, but neither is much used in building.
The irregular-twisted branches of the former are sometimes used in ship building, from which to saw the ribs of a boat, taking advantage of the natural bend of the wood to form the rib, but for other building purposes it is rarely-used, as the lumber runs in short, irregular pieces, with a crooked and twisting grain.
Pear wood is sometimes used for carved panels in cabinetwork, on account of its yielding so easily to edged tools.
65. Boxwood does not, as its name might imply, enter in any way into the manufacture of boxes. It grows in Europe and Asia, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is close-grained, yellow in color, and very desirable, on account of the absence of shrinking or warping tendencies, for small carved or turned work, such as spindles and chessmen, and is particularly useful in wood engraving, for which purpose it has no equal. As a building material it is very rarely used.
66. Basswood is the name given to the timber of the American linden tree. In color, texture, and general appearance, it strongly resembles pine, but is much more flexible. On this account it is sometimes used for curved panels in furniture and interior decorations, as well as in carriage manufacture for the curved surfaces of various vehicles.
It has a great tendency to warp, and will shrink both across and parallel with the grain, rendering it undesirable in building, unless strengthened by battens or a hardwood lining.
67. Mahogany is the wood of a large, handsome tree which is a native of the West Indies and Central America. Its color, grain, and hardness vary considerably according to the age of the tree and the locality of its growth.
It is a wood of great commercial value, on account of its great strength and durability. The straight-grained varieties do not warp or shrink materially with atmospheric changes, and are used extensively as frames for fine machinery, work benches, etc.
The cross-grained species, on the contrary, warps and twists to a remarkable extent, and though highly prized as a material for panels and furniture, it can be used to advantage only when veneered upon some more reliable wood. Ordinary straight-grained mahogany is not a very hard wood, and when freshly cut, its color is a light, yellowish tan, but with age it becomes darker and exceedingly hard and brittle.
68. Rosewood is the heavy, hard, and brittle product of several trees native to the tropical countries. It has a beautiful grain, alternating in dark brown and red stripings, which, when subjected to a high polish, make the surface one of the handsomest products of the vegetable world. The solid wood is used for handles to fine tools, but for few other purposes. As a veneer, it is applied to all kinds of cabinet, furniture, and joinery work, where richness, elegance, and durability are desirable, regardless of expense.
09. Ebony, a dark, almost jet-black wood, native in the East Indies and parts of Africa, is a heavy, strong, and exceedingly hard wood, with an almost solid annual growth. It takes an exceedingly high polish, and is used mostly for small turned and cabinetwork, though its veneers are applied to interior work, and also to fine furniture. It is not used as much for general interior trim and paneling as formerly, on account of its expense, and the somber appearance that a black surface must necessarily lend to a room, and besides this, the imitation of it in stained cherry is much cheaper and so like the original that it would take an expert to detect the difference.
70. lignum vitae is another exceedingly heavy, hard, and dark-colored wood, with an almost solid annual growth. It is very resinous, difficult to split, and has a soapy feeling when handled.
Its color is dark brown, with lighter brown markings, and it is used mostly for small turned articles, tool handles, and the sheaves of block pulleys.