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.
That portion of the Chinese province of Yunnan which lies between. 25° and 26° N. lat. produces the famous nan-mu tree, which is highly esteemed by the Chinese for building and coffins, on account of its durability and pleasant odour. It is imported into Shanghai in planks measuring 8 ft. long and 13-14 in. wide, for which the highest price is 200 dol. (of 4s. 2d) a plank.
This tree is generally found in the Pacific Islands on desert shores, or on the brinks of lagoons, where its roots are bathed by the tide. Its wood has great weight, intense hardness, and closeness of grain. It is considered a valuable substitute for box for wood-engraving. Blocks 18 in. diam. are common.
This is a common, hardy, and quick-growing Indian tree, reaching 40-50 ft. high, and 20-24 in. diam. The trunk and branches are cut into short, thick planks, much used for lintels of doors and windows. The wood is hard and durable, but attacked by insects. Its fragrant odour makes it in request by natives for doors and door-frames. It is difficult to work, takes a fine polish, and is good for joinery where strength is not demanded; but becomes brittle and liable to snap when dry. Its weight is 51 lb. a cub. ft.; cohesive force 6940 lb.; breaking-weight, 600 lb.
Wood is white, marked with satin-like specks, and is adapted for cabinet-work. Grows in South Island of New Zealand, and in Lord Auckland's group and Campbell's Island. The tree in the vicinity of Dunedin attains a diam. of 10-12 in.
The wood of this tree has been proposed as a substitute for boxwood, being extensively produced in China, and largely used at Ningpo and other places for wood-carving. It is very white, of fine grain, cuts easily, and is well suited for carved frames, cabinets, etc.; but it is not at all likely to supersede box-wood, though well fitted for coarser work.
Pear-tree wood is one of the heaviest and hardest of the timbers indigenous to Britain. It has a compact, fine grain, and takes a high polish; it is in great request by millwrights in France for making cog-wheels, rollers, cylinders, blocks, etc, and is preferred before all others for the screws of wine-presses. It ranks second to bos for wood-engraving and turnery.
The Virginian date-palm or persimmon is a native of the United States, growing 50-60 ft. high and 1 1/2 ft. diam. Its heartwood is brown, hard, and elastic, but liable to split; it has been with some success introduced into England as a substitute for boxwood in shuttle-making and wood-engraving.
This New Zealand timber is much more durable than Miro, and is used for all purposes where strength and solidity are required. Its weight is 40 lb. a cub. ft.; breaking-weight, 420-800 lb. It is a largo tree, 80 ft. high and with a trunk 2-1 ft. in diameter. The wood is yellowish, close-grained, and durable; among the various purposes to which it is applied may be mentioned piles for bridges, wharves and jetties, bed-plates for machinery, millwrights' work, flooring, house blocks, railway sleepers, fencing, and bridges. It has been known to resist exposure for over 200 years in a damp situation.