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.
The timber trees of Cape Colony and Natal are chiefly evergreens. Their wood is dry and tough, and worked with more or less difficulty. Owing to the dryness of the soil and climate, it is very liable to warp and twist in seasoning. Some descriptions shrink longitudinally as well as transversely, and with few exceptions the timber is not procurable in logs of more than 12-15 in. diameter. The Cape woods principally used for waggon-making, mill machinery, fences, posts, etc, are assegai wood, essen wood or Cape ash, cedarwood, red and white ironwood (excellent for spokes); and melk wood, red and white, for felloes of wheels. These are principally brought to the market in convenient scantlings fur the purposes for which they are required, and are all rather tough than hard to work. They have considerable specific gravity, and at first an English carpenter finds it difficult to do a satisfactory day's work with them. No European wood can stand the heat and dryness of the Cape climate as these woods do.
Assegai-wood, Cape lancewood, or Oomhlebe weight, 56 lb. per cub. ft.; cost of working 1 • 5 times as much as fir; colour, light-red; grain, like lancewood; very tough and elastic; used for wheel-spokes, shafts, waggon-rails, assegai-shafts, turnery.
Cedar boom weight, 41 lb.; cost of working, 1.25; used for floors, roofs, and other building purposes; grain not unlike Havannah cedar, but of a lighter colour; will not stand exposure to the weather.
Doorn boom, Kamcel doom, Makohala or Motootla weight 40 lb.; cost of working, 1.25; several varieties afford small timber available for fencing, spars, etc, and are also much used for fuel, charcoal, etc.
Els (white) or Alder; weight, 38 lb.; cost of working, 1.25; used for palings, posts, and ordinary carpentry.
Els (red): weight, 47 lb.; cost of working 1.6; grain, colour of red birch; used for waggon-building and farm purposes.
Els (rock) : a harder and smaller variety of the last.
Essen hout, Cape ash, or Oomnyamati weight, 48 lb.; cost of working, 1.30; used for common floors, palings, etc.; is a tough and valuable timber, somewhat resembling elm; can be procured up to 18 in. sq.
Flat crownwood cost of working, 1.30; grows in Natal to 2 ft. diameter; the wood is similar to elm, but of a bright yellow colour, with a fine and even grain; used for the naves of wheels.
Ironwood (black), Tambooti, or Hooshe : weight, 64 lb.: cost of working, 2.0; the grain fine, like pear tree; used for waggon axles, cogs of machine wheels, spokes, telegraph poles, railway sleepers, piles, &.c.; is very durable, and can be obtained in logs up to 18 in. sq.