Different Kinds Of Wood
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Woods.— An account of the qualities of the different woods may be of use to the purchaser.
Ash is rather lighter colored than oak, but is sometimes used in connection with it. It is less likely to split.
Beech, a very close and tough wood, is chiefly used for the framework of chairs, tables, and bedsteads. It is nearly of the color of birch, but rather paler, and it may be known by the presence of those peculiar little specks of darker brown, which are easily seen in a carpenter's plane.
Birch is very close-grained, strong, and easily worked. It is of a pale yellowish brown. If polished or varnished, it somewhat resembles satinwood, but is darker, and by staining is capable of being made to closely resemble Honduras mahogany. It is used in the better kinds of low-priced furniture.
Cedar somewhat resembles mahogany, though more purplish. It has no ,'curl," and is free from tendency to warp or '' cast." The best varieties have a peculiarly pleasant aroma, which is offensive to moths ; hence it is highly valued for making drawers and chests for clothing.
Chestnut is coarse-grained, strong, elastic, light, and very durable. Some of the best of the cheaper furniture is made of it. It looks so much like white oak as to be frequently used in combination with it.
Ebony is of a deep black color, and highly prized for several purposes, particularly inlaying. It is exceedingly hard, heavy, and durable, but expensive. Pear and other woods dyed black are often substituted for it ; but are not so susceptible of good polish and luster, or so permanent in color. The best comes from Africa ; a kind variegated with brown is brought from Mauritius and Ceylon.
Mahogany is imported of two kinds — Honduras and Spanish. The former has a coarse, loose, and straight grain, without much curl or wave. The latter is darker, with curl, by which in great measure its price is regulated, and with a very fine, close texture. Spanish mahogany will bear great violence ; it is also free from ally tendency to warp. When, how-ever, it is very much curled, it is not nearly so strong or so free from twist ; but this is of little consequence, as its value is so great that it is generally veneered on to some less valuable wood, as Honduras or cedar. The heaviest mahogany is generally the best.
Maple is of several qualities, the bird's-eye maple being most highly valued. It somewhat resembles satinwood, but is more buff than yellow, has more curl, and more " bird's-eye. " Maple is light and not very durable, and is used only in the cheaper kinds of furniture.
Oak. There are several varieties, of which the white oak, the red oak, and the live oak are the most important. The first is most used. Oak takes long to season, and is worse than most woods if used green. It is very hard to work. Its appearance improves with age. On account of its tendency to warp, a great deal of so-called oak work is paneled with chestnut.
Pearwood is of a light yellow color, and, on account of its even grain, a favorite wood for carving. It is often stained to imitate ebony.
Pine is used in two varieties, the white and the yellow. When thoroughly dry, these woods are very free from all tendency to warp or shrink ; but in a half-seasoned state articles made of them fall to pieces. They are readily distinguished from one another by the difference of color, and from deals by the absence of turpentine veins. When oiled and varnished, both kinds of pine look very well. It seems a sin to stain it.
Rattan, from strips of which the seats of cane chairs are made, is a small sort of cane, brought from China, Japan, and Sumatra. A very pretty and durable style of summer-chairs, lounges, tables, baskets, etc., is now made wholly of rattan.
Rosewood is hard and dark, with some little curl, intermediate in this respect between Spanish and Honduras mahogany, and of a very open grain. Most articles of rosewood furniture are veneered, but the best are of solid wood. The color, which consists of large elongated dark zones on a reddish-brown ground, is permanent, unless it be much exposed to the direct rays of the sun ; and it takes a fine polish, which is improved by slight waxing, or, better, by the French polish, which brings out the color of the wood admirably.
Satinwood is now used chiefly for inlaying, lining, and veneers. It is of a full yellowish color, with a fine grain, little curl, and a silky luster. Its toughness fits it well for furniture.
Walnut is a native wood, but is used in such prodigious quantity that it is also imported. Well seasoned it is exceedingly tough and little inclined to warp.