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.
A beautiful tree with trunk 15-20 ft. high and 12-20 in. diam. Wood has similar properties to ash, and is used for similar purposes. Its toughness makes it valuable for wheels, coach-building, etc. Grows in the North and Middle Islands of New Zealand, not uncommon in forests.
This tree is a native of Bengal and other parts of India, where it is highly esteemed for joinery and furniture, measuring sometimes 4 ft. diam., and somewhat resembling mahogany. Its weight is 35 lb. a cub. ft.; cohesive force, 4992 lb.; breaking-weight, 5G0 lb. It is found in abundance in Queensland, on the coast and inland, reaching 100-150 ft. in height, and 24-76 in. in. diam. The wood is light and durable; it is largely employed in furniture and joinery-work, and beautiful veneers are obtained from the junctions of the branches with the stem. Its value runs from 1505. to 170s. per 1000 ft. super. In Assam this timber is reckoned one of the most important, and is employed for making canoes and furniture. It is highly spoken of for making tea-chests in India and Ceylon, being light, strong, clean, non-resinous, not attacked by insects, and giving no unpleasant odour or flavour to the tea. It grows to an immense size; one tree alone has been known to yield 80,000 ft. of fine timber. It stands the test of climate well, and does not require the same amount of seasoning as blackwood; it is of a much softer nature, but takes a very fine polish, and is suitable for dining-room furniture, etc.
This tree is fairly abundant in the North and South Islands of New Zealand, reaching 80 ft. high and 2 1/2-3 1/2 ft. diam. Its wood is easily worked, straight and even-grained, warps little, and splits very clean and free; but it is brittle, apt to shrink if not well seasoned, and subject to decay in the heart. It is used generally for joinery and house-building. Its weight is 40 lb.; breaking-weight, 5701b. The timber is reddish-coloured, and much employed for telegraph poles; it is extensively used in Wellington for house-building, piles for marine wharves, bridges, railway sleepers, etc. When felled during the growing season, the wood resists for a longer time the attacks of teredo worms. It is durable as fencing and shingles, post and rail fences made of it being expected to last 40-50 years. The Maoris made their largest canoes from this tree, and the palisading of their pahs was constructed almost entirely of it. Timber from trees growing on hills is found to be the more durable.
Towai or Red Birch (Fagus Menziesii) is a handsome tree, 80-100 ft. high, trunk 2-3 ft. diam. The timber is chiefly used in the lake district of the South Island of New Zealand. Durable and adapted for rnast-making and oars, and for cabinet and cooper's work. Grows in the North Island on the mountain-tops, but abundant in the South Island at all altitudes to 3000 ft.