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.
It will be well to begin with an enumeration of the woods used in carpentry - (other woods will be found described under the arts in which they are used, e. g. Carving) - leaving such matters as relate to all woods in general till afterwards. They will be arranged in alphabetical order. The terms used in describing the characters of the various woods may be explained once for all. The "cohesive force" is the weight required to pull asunder a bar of the wood in the direction of its length; the figures denoting the strength, toughness, and stiffness, are in comparison with oak, which is taken as the standard, and placed at 100 in each case; the "crushing force" is the resistance to compression; the "breaking-weight" is the weight required to break a bar 1 in. sq. supported at two points 1 ft. apart, with the weight suspended in the middle.
This beautiful tree, of considerable size and very rapid growth, inhabits the mountains of America, from Canada to Carolina, its trunk attaining the mean size of 32 ft. long and 23 in. diam. The seasoned wood is much valued for its durability, surpassing oak. It is admirable for building, posts, stakes, palings, treenails for ships, and other purposes. Its weight is 49-56 lb. a cub. ft.; cohesive force, 10,000-13,000 lb.; and the strength, stiffness, and toughness of young unseasoned wood are respectively 95, 9S, and 92. The wood is greenish-yellow, with reddish-brown veins. Its structure is alternately nearly compact and very porous, distinctly marking the annual rings; it has no large medullary rays.
This small tree inhabits wet grounds and river-banks in Europe and Asia, seldom exceeding 40 ft. high and 24 in. diam. The wood is extremely durable in water and wherever it is constantly wet; but it soon rots on exposure to the weather or to damp, and is much attacked by worms when dry. It is soft, works easily, and carves well; but it is most esteemed for piles, sluices, and pumps, and has been much cultivated in Holland and Flanders for such purposes. Its weight is 34-50 lb. a cub. ft.; cohesive force, 5000-13,900 lb.; strength, 80; stiffness, 63; toughness, 101. The wood is white when first cut, then becomes deep-red on the surface, and eventually fades to reddish-yellow of different shades. The roots and knots are beautifully veined. It is wanting in tenacity, and shrinks considerably. The roots and heart are used for cabinet-work.
This is the celebrated citrus-wood of the ancient Romans, the timber of the gum sandarach tree. The wood is esteemed above all others for roofing temples and for tables, and is employed in the cathedral of Cordova. Among the luxurious Romans, the great merit of the tables was to have the veins arranged in waving lines or spirals, the former called "tiger" tables and the latter "panther." Others were marked like the eyes on a peacock's tail, and others again, appeared as if covered with dense masses of grain. Some of these tables were 4-4 1/2 ft. diam. The specimens of the tree now existing in S. Morocco resemble small cypresses, and are apparently shoots from the stumps of trees that have been cut or burnt, though possibly their stunted habit may be due to sterility of soil. The largest seen by Hooker and Ball in 1878 were in the Ourika valley, and were about 30 ft. high. The stems of the trees swell out at the very base into roundish masses, half buried in soil, rarely attaining a diameter of 4 ft.
It is this basal swelling, whether of natural or artificial origin, which affords the valuable wood, exported in these days from Algiers to Paris, where it is used in the richest and most expensive cabinet-work. The unique beauty of the wood will always command for it a ready market, if it be allowed to attain sufficient size.