This led me to conclude, that in woods the figures of which resemble the undulations, or the ripple marks on the sands, that frequently occur in satin-wood and sycamore, less frequently in box-wood, and also in mahogany, ash, elm, and other woods, to be due to a cause explained by fig. 11, namely a serpentine or (guilloche form in the grain; and on inspection, the fibres of all such pieces will be found to be wavy, on the face, at right angles to that on which the ripple is observed, if not on both faces. Those parts of the wood which happen to receive the light, appear the brightest, and form the ascending sides of the ripple, just as some of the medallic engravings appear in cameo or in intaglio, according to the direction in which the light falls upon them.

Fig. 11.

Ornamental Characters Of Woods Section I Fibre Or  1009

The woods possessing this wavy character, generally split with an undulating fracture, the ridges being commonly at right angles to the axis of the tree, or square across the board; but in a specimen of an Indian red wood, the native name of which is Caliatour, the ridges are inclined at a considerable angle, presenting a very peculiar appearance, seen as usual on the polished surface.*

In those woods which possess in abundance the septa or silver grain, described by the botanist as the medullary plates or rays, the representations of which as regards the beech tree are given in fig. 3, p. 14, another source of ornament exists; namely, a peculiar damask or dappled effect, somewhat analogous to that artificially produced on damask linens, moreens, silks, and other fabrics, the patterns on which result from certain masses of the threads on the face of the cloth running lengthways, and other groups crossways. This effect is observable in a remarkable degree in the more central planks of oak, especially the light-coloured wood from Norway, and the neighbourhood of the Rhine, called wainscot and Dutch oak, etc, and also in many other woods, although in a less degree.

In the oak plank, the principal streaks or lines are the edges of the annual rings, which show, as usual, parallel lines more or less waved from the curvature of the tree, or the neighbouring knots and branches; and the damask pencillings, or broad curly veins and stripes, are caused by groups of the medullary rays or septa, which undulate in layers from the margin to the center of the tree, and creep in betwixt the longitudinal fibres, above some of them and below others. The plane of the joiner, here and there, intersects portions of these groups, exactly on a level with their general surface, whereas their recent companions are partly removed in shavings, and the remainder dip beneath the edges of the annual rings, which break their continuity; this will be seen when the septa are purposely cut through by the joiner's plane.

Dr. Royle favoured me with this curious specimen.

Upon inspecting the ends of the most handsome and showy pieces of wainscot oak and similar woods, it will be found that the surface of the board is only at a small angle with the lines of the medullary rays, so that many of the latter "crop out" upon the surface of the work: the medullary plates being seldom flat, their edges assume all kinds of curvatures and elongations from their oblique intersections. All these peculiarities of the grain have to be taken into account in cutting up woods, when the most showy character is a matter of consideration.

The same circumstances occur in a less degree in all the woods containing the silver grain, as the oriental plane-tree, or lace-wood, sycamore, beech, and many others, but the figures become gradually smaller; until at last, in some of the foreign hard woods, they are only distinguishable on close inspection under the magnifier. Some of the foreign hard woods show lines very nearly parallel, and at right angles to the axis of the tree, as if they were chatters or utters arising from the vibration of the plane-iron. The medullary rays cause much of the beauty in all the showy woods, notwithstanding that the rays may be less defined than in the woods cited.*

In many of the handsomely figured woods, some of the effects attributed to colour would, as in damask, be more properly called those of light and shade, as they vary with the point of view selected for the moment. The end grain of mahogany, the surfaces of the table-cloth, and of the mother-of-pearl shell, are respectively of nearly uniform colour, but the figures of the wood and the damask, arise from the various ways in which they reflect the light.

Had the fibres of all these substances been arranged with the uniformity and exactitude of a piece of plain cloth, they would have shown an even uninterrupted colour, hut fortunately for the beautiful and picturesque such is not the case; most fibres are arranged by nature in irregular curved lines, and therefore almost every intersection through them, by the hand of man, partially removes some and exposes others, with boundless variety of figure.

* The Cuticaem branco, from Carvalho da Terra, Brazils, and Cuticaem vermo, brought over by Mr. Morney, (Admiralty Museum,) show the silver grain very prettily; the first in peculiar straight radial stripes, the other in small close patches. The Rexa-rewa, (Knightia excelsa,) from New Zealand, is of similar kind; all would be found handsome light-coloured furniture woods.

If further proof were wanted, that it is only the irregular arrangement that causes the damask or variegated effect, I might observe that the plain and uniform silk, when passed in two thicknesses face to face, between smooth rollers, comes out with the watered pattern; the respective fibres mutually emboss each other, and with the loss of their former regular character they cease to reflect the uniform tint.*

To so boundless an extent do the interferences of tints, fibres, curls, knots, etc, exist, that the cabinet-maker scarcely seeks to match any pieces of ornamental wood for the object he may be constructing. He covers the nest of drawers, or the table, with the neighbouring veneers from the same block, the proximity of the sections causing but a gradual and unobserved difference in the respective portions; as it would be in vain to attempt to find two different pieces of handsomely figured wood exactly alike.