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 tree forms with the spruce fir the great forests of Scandinavia and Russia, and attains considerable size in the highlands of Scotland. The logs shipped from Stettin reach 18-20 in. sq.; those from Dantzic, 14-16 in. and even 21 in. sq. and up to 40-60 ft. long; from Memel, up to 13 in. sq. and 35 ft. long; from Riga, 12 in. sq. and 40 ft. long, and spars 18-25 in. diam. and 70-80 ft. long; Swedish and Norwegian, up to 12 in. sq. It comes also in planks (11 in. wide), deals (9 in.), and battens (7 in.). The best are Christiana yellow deals, but contain much sap; Stockholm and Gefle are more disposed to warp; Gottenburg are strong, but bad for joinery; Archangel and Onega are good for joinery, but not durable in damp; Wiborg are the best Russian, but inclined to sap; Petersburg and Narva yellow are inferior to Archangel. Well-seasoned pine is almost as durable as oak. Its lightness and stiffness render it the best timber for beams, girders, joists, rafters, and framing; it is much used for masts, and for joinery is superior to oak on all scores. The hardest comes from the coldest districts.
The cohesive force is 7000-14,000 lb. per sq. in.; weight, 29-40 lb. per cub. ft.; strength, SO; stiffness, 114; toughness, 56. The colour of the wood of different varieties is not uniform; it is generally reddish-yellow or honey-yellow of unequal depths of brightness. The section shows alternate hard and soft circles, one part of each annual ring being soft and light-coloured, the other harder and darker. It has a strong resinous odour and flavour, and works easily when not too highly resinous. Foreign wood shrinks about 1/30 in width in seasoning from the log. In the best timber the annual rings do not exceed 1/10 in. in thickness, and the dark parts of the rings are bright, reddish, hard, and dry, neither leaving a woolly surface after the saw nor choking the teeth with rosin. Inferior kinds have thick rings, and their dark portion is either more yellow, heavier, and more resinous, or is spongy, less resinous, and leaves a woolly surface after sawing; such is neither strong nor durable. Shavings from good timber will bear curling 2 or 3 times round the finger, those from bad will break off. The best balks come from Dantzic. Memel, and Riga. Dantzic is strong, tough, clastic, easily worked, and durable when seasoned.
It contains (especially in small trees) much sapwood, and large and dead knots, while the heart is often loose and cuppy. The balks run 18-45 ft. long and 14-16 in. sq.; deals, 18-50 ft. long and 2-5 in. thick. Memel is similar to Dantzic, but hardly so strong, and only 13-14 in. sq. Riga is somewhat weaker than Dantzic, but remarkable for straightness, paucity of sapwood, and absence of knots; being often rather shaky at the centre, it is not so good for turning into deals. Norway is small, tough, and durable, but generally contains much sapwood. The balks are only 8-9 in. sq. Swedish resembles Prussian, but the balks are generally tapering, small, of yellowish-white colour, soft, clean, straight in grain, with small knots and very little sap, but generally shaky at heart, and unfit for conversion into deals. It is cheap, suitable for the coarser purposes of carpentry and used chiefly for scaffolding. Balks are generally 20-35 ft. long, and 10-12 in. sq. Planks, deals, and battens from the Baltic, cut from northern pine, are known as "yellow" or "red" deal; when cut from spruce, they are called "white" deals.
Taking deals, battens, etc, in a general way, the order of quality would stand first or best with Prussia; then with Russia, Sweden, and Finland; and lastly with Norway. Prussian (Memel, Dantzic, Stettin) deals are very durable and adapted for external work, but are chiefly used for ship-building, being 2-4 in. thick. The timber from the southern ports, being coarse and wide in the grain, cannot compete in the converted form as deals, etc, with the closer-grained and cleaner exports from the more northern ports. Russian (Petersburg, Onega, Archangel, Narva) are the best deals imported for building purposes. They are very free from sap, knots, shakes, or other imperfections; of a clean grain, and bard, well-wearing surface, which makes them well adapted for flooring, joinery, etc. The lower qualities are of course subject to defects. Petersburg deals are apt to be shaky, having a great many centres in the planks and deals, but the best qualities are very clean and free from knots. They are very subject to dry rot. All Russian deals are unfit for work exposed to damp. In those from Archangel and Onega the knots are often surrounded by dead bark, and drop out when the timber is worked. Wyborg deals are sometimes of very good quality, but often full of sap.
Finland and Nyland deals are 14 ft. long, very durable, but fit only for the carpenter. Norwegian (Christiania, Dram) yellow deals and battens used to bear a high character, being clean and carefully converted, but are now very scarce. Much of the Norwegian timber is imported in the shape of prepared flooring and matched boarding. Dram battens often suffer from dry rot, especially when badly stacked. Of Swedish (Gefle, Stockholm, Holmsund, Soderham, Gottenburg, Hernosand, Sundswall) the greater portion is coarse and bad, but some of the very best Baltic deal, both yellow and white, comes from Gefle and Soderham. The best Swedish run more sound and even in quality than Russian, from the different way in which the timber is converted. A balk of Russian timber is all cut into deals of one quality, hence the numerous hearts or centres seen amongst them, which are so liable to shake and split; whereas in Swedish timber the inner and the outer wood are converted into different qualities of deals. Hence the value of first-class Swedish goods. 4-in. deals should never be used for cutting into boards, as they are cut from the centres of the logs. 3-in. deals, the general thickness of Russian goods, are open to the same objection.
Swedish 2 1/2 and 2-in. of good quality are to be preferred to 3-in., since they are all cut from the sound outer wood. Swedish deals are fit for ordinary carcase work, but, from their liability to warp, cannot be depended upon for joiners' work. They are commonly used for all purposes connected with building, especially for floors.