This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
This species is a native of the Swiss and Italian Alps, Germany, and Siberia, but not of the Pyrenees nor of Spain. The Italian is most esteemed, and has been considerably planted in England. The tree grows straight and rapidly to 100 ft. high. The wood is extremely durable in all situations, such as posts, sleepers, etc, and is preferable to pine, pinaster, or fir for wooden bridges. But it is less buoyant and elastic than Northern Pine, and boards of it are more apt to warp. It burns with difficulty, and makes excellent ship-timber, masts, boats, posts, rails, and furniture. It is peculiarly adapted for staircases, doors, and shutters. It is more difficult to work than Northern Pine, but makes a good surface, and takes oil or varnish better than oak. The liability to warp is said to be obviated by barking the trees while growing in spring, and cutting in the following autumn, or next year; this is also said to prevent dry-rot. The wood weighs 34-36 lb. a cub. ft.; cohesive force, C000 -13,000 lb.; strength, 103: stiffness, 79; toughness, 134. The wood is honey-yellow or brownish-white in colour, the hard part of each ring being of a redder tinge, silky lustre.
There are two kinds in this country, one yellowish-white, cross-grained, and knotty; the other (grown generally on a poor soil or in elevated positions) reddish-brown, harder, and of a straighter grain. It is the toughest and most lasting of all the coniferous tribe, very strong and durable, shrinks very much, straight and even in grain, free from large knots, very liable to warp, stands well if thoroughly dry, is harder to work than Baltic fir, but the surface is smoother, when worked. Bears nails driven into it better than any of the pines. Used chiefly for posts and palings exposed to weather, railway sleepers, flooring, stairs, and other positions where it will have to withstand wear.