The Real Wood Bible, by Gibbs, Nick
- ISBN: 9781770850132 | 1770850139
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 1/12/2012
Excerpted: Introduction and How To Use this Book
Most woodworkers have a "palette" of woods that they favor, experimenting with alternatives for a specific purpose, or perhaps because they come across or are given a new board or veneer, cabinetmakers choose stable boards for panels, ideally quartersawn, that will not bend and buckle, or they glue decorative veneer to man-made sheets. chairmakers select strong, long-grained woods for the legs and rails, but more decorative, softer lumber for the seat. Though carvers like ornate wood, and can carve almost anything with modern rotary tools, they prefer it to be even-grained to reduce the risk of tearing. Woodturners, though, will use almost anything, particularly if the grain and color are distinctive and will enhance the perfectly formed curves of their bowls and boxes.
Whether forced by the requirements of a particular project or just because of boredom with what is in the workshop, every woodworker comes to a point when it's time to try a new type of lumber. Today, thankfully, there is plenty to choose from. Veneers and turning blanks are easy to source and purchase by mail order, from a catalogue or over the Internet, and even boards can be ordered this way.
Each mood has its own distinctive characteristics, though of course many share similar colors, grain patterns or textures. Hardwoods are favored for their strength, decorative effects, wide range of colors and durability. Softwoods tend to be cheaper, and are often seen as functional materials for building and construction.
THE IDEAL LUMBER
Somewhere out there is the perfect lumber that is easy and pleasurable to work while also being visually interesting, the ideal lumber will also
THE FAMILY OF WOODS
Look through the list of woods in this book and you mill notice that some botanical and common names keep cropping up. There is an oak on almost every continent; indeed, that wood has been a giant of the lumber world for centuries. Other species that have dominated furniture making include the temperate hardwoods elm, ash and beech, and from the tropics, mahogany, teak and rosewood.
It is possible to argue that nearly all other woods are merely alternatives to these favored few, with lesser-known species gaining in popularity because of shortages or changing tastes. Woods of the genus Acer -- maple and sycamore -- are preferred for their close grain, ease of use and pale color, while cherry offers some of the qualities of mahogany but comes from a more trustworthy source. The huge number of tropical hardwoods now available perhaps reflects the attempt to find weather-resistant species to replace endangered woods such as teak, or furniture-quality species to replicate mahogany. Often they are poor imitations -- in terms of color, figure and ease of use -- of the originals, and that perhaps explains why temperate hardwoods like cherry have become so popular. Of course, tropical hardwoods are still favored in many cases for windows, doors and other joinery.
The most exotic species, such as rosewood and ebony, are now very expensive, and tend to be used only for decorative effects or as veneer. A by-product of the environmental movement has been the introduction of small quantities of previously unheard-of woods, many of them harvested by communal forestry enterprises in the tropics. Some of these are exquisite in color and figure, but as yet hardly used.
HOW TO CHOOSE WOOD
There are many factors to consider when choosing wood, If there is a strict budget to watch then price is a significant issue, and the degree of wastage may also be important. The structure of the piece way limit the range of options, depending on whether the design needs hardness, strength or a bit of give. A solid tabletop is best made from woods that are not likely to move, as are drawer components, which need to fit well for years.
Color may be important, either to match existing furniture, or to enhance the specific design. Stains and dyes can help, though many woodworkers prefer the integrity of an unadulterated finish. You may need to consider grain pattern and figure. Though it is often tempting to use the most decorative woods you can find, sometimes intricate designs demand less sophisticated surface effects. In contrast, a simple design can be raised to new heights by a unique piece of lumber.
Texture can be used as creatively as color and figure. Coarse-grained species like oak and elm can be sandblasted or wire-brushed, and then limed or stained for dramatic effects, while highly polished rosewood is spectacular for more formal work. Species with contrasting colors, textures and patterns can be juxtaposes successfully, but usually needs some form of visual buffer between them, and great care needs to be taxes when attempting to form unlikely partnerships.
SEVEN STEPS TO CHOOSING WOOD FOR A PROJECT
When working with wood, always take precautions against accidents with machinery. Use ear protection and eye shields, and a mask or respirator to keep dust from your nose and lungs. Some species are hated for the noxious power of their dust, which causes respiratory and skin problems or exacerbates existing allergies.
Make sure to investigate the health hazards before using a particular wood. Specific species have not been noted as harmful because reports are anecdotal, and evidence linked to particular woods hasn't been found. It would be irresponsible so list harmful woods as some harmful species may inadvertently be missed. Woodworkers should be cautious and make a note of any effects they may suffer from wood they are using. See a doctor if symptoms appear.
Eye, nose and mouth protection is always sensible (as well as protecting ears from high noise), but you should also limit the amount of dust you produce so a minimum. This can be done by avoiding sanding operations as much as possible, and by connecting all machines and power tools to extraction systems. You can also acquire ambient dust filters that remove the finest particles.
How to Use this Book
While a book of this size cannot cover all the wood species in the world, it features the lumber that are of value to woodworkers the world over. Some are more readily available than others, and some are beautiful enough to be worth seeking out.
Principal Woods features lumbers that are valued for their adaptability or commercial availability. In this section, too, you will find woods of great beauty, many of which, though rare and precious, are rightly considered the jewels of the lumberyard.
Secondary Woods features lumbers that are less popular with woodworkers, but still warrant inclusion in this book. Many of these woods are of limited availability and some are of little commercial value. Others are simply of less importance or interest to the woodworker.
Special Effects features the woods in which factors such as disease, defects, grain figure or processing method can produce beautiful visual effects.
The Wood Selector, starting on page 37, is a visual index to the woods described; browse here to find the wood you want, then refer to the Wood Directory for a more detailed description.
HOW THE ENTRIES WORK
Each wood is described under a series of subheadings that provide the essential information for anyone planning to buy and use these species for woodworking. Many of the headings are self-explanatory; some require clarification, which is given below. Note that these headings have been compressed for the less-used species.
- Type: Species are identified as softwoods or hardwoods, and also indicated is whether the trees grow in tropical or temperate regions.
- Other names: To aid identification, the entry lists the full range of names that are commonly used to describe a particular wood. The list includes botanical synonyms and alternative common names
- Related or similar species: The related species are mostly those not listed in this book, but which you may come across in lumberyards or when you refer to other reference sources. Though a wood may have many related species, those included are closely related, but otherwise not featured. In some cases, the similar species mentioned is one with which a wood may often be confused, but to which it is not actually related.
- Alternatives: This heading introduces alternative species with similar characteristics.
- Sources: This heading relates to where species are grown extensively, rather than where they might or could be grown.
- Color: Woods vary so greatly in color from one board to another that descriptions of color are general. However, color is the first key when you are trying to identify a species.
- Texture: Lumber can be coarse-grained, like oak, in which case the pores are wide and open, or it can be fine-grained, which means it is very smooth. Even or uniform texture is consistent throughout a board, whether it is coarse or fine. Uneven texture is usually the result of a contrast in the density or texture of the earlywood and latewood bands. Coarse grain is also known as open grain. Fine grain is also known as close grain.
- Grain: This heading describes the straightness of the grain, or whether it is wavy or interlocking. The easiest woods to use are straight-grained, but the most interesting are often wavy. Interlocking grain is often invisible until you try working it.
- Hardness, weight, strength: Here is described the basic characteristics of a wood, but remember that there can be wide variance in all three within a species depending on how it has been seasoned and the location where it was grown.
- Seasoning and stability: This heading indicates the ease and speed of seasoning, and the degree of movement once the lumber is dry. It is the latter feature that will be of much interest to woodworkers.
- Wastage: The amount of lumber you buy to make a project will depend on the degree of wastage you expect per board. If you buy boards ready planed or surfaced, the wastage should be relatively low, but some species are more liable to defects and color variations that might affect how much you can obtain from a particular board
- Range of board width and thicknesses: Commonly available softwoods and hardwoods are usually available in the full range of widths and thicknesses. Species that do not grow very large may produce a smaller range of board sizes, and the supply may also be more limited for imported exotics. A restricted range may have an impact upon wastage, which is an issue when the lumber is expensive.
Durability: Species vary greatly in durability, their resistance both to insects and to rot. For most woodworkers creating projects for their homes, this is not a key factor in their choice of lumbers. For those who want to use wood outside, the species that are naturally durable are identified.
There are some hardwoods that will take preservative, but only to the sapwood, so they have to be used in the round as a log or branch. Very few hardwoods will take preservative to the heartwood. Highlighted are species that are not durable but can take preservative. Also identified in this entry are softwood species that can be treated easily.