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American Woods - Preface

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This book is designed to be a source of information regarding the more interesting and outstanding characteristics of a selected list of American trees. The natural growth range of each tree, the properties, figure, color, and workability of its wood, and its common uses and products are discussed, with particular emphasis on the use of the wood in the home workshop. Identifying photographs of many of the trees are included.

It is my purpose to present the beauty and utility of a number of our finest American woods in a way easily understood by any woodworking hobbyist. In so doing, I hope, as a wood enthusiast myself, to arouse a keener interest in the woods of our country, particularly some of the uncommon species which deserve more extensive utilization by home craftsmen and student in manual training.

From my collection of wood specimens in natural finish, color plates of a few of the woods I am discussing have been made and included to herein. The geographical range of each tree is given to indicate the section of the country in which it may be found. Only those woods which are found in sufficient abundance to warrant their use on a wide commercial basis are available in our usual lumber markets. Relatively few of our most beautiful and colorful American woods are found in local lumber yards or are obtainable from dealers who make a specialty of providing woods for the home workshop. Consequently, many wood, desirable for their color and grain but limited by geographical range and scarcity, must be collected from farmers woodlots, along streams, or be found intermingled sparsely with the common trees of the forest.

Although there are over 1,100 species of trees found in the United States, only a selected and representative list comes within the scope of this book. Throughout, an attempt has been made to include woods which illustrate differences in such characteristics as hardness, softness, color and figure, both in the conifer or softwood and in the broadleaf or hardwood groups. For example, in the United States, there are 35 native species of pine, some of which may be found in almost every State. Only a selected list of pines, chosen on the basis of variations in color, texture, and grain, is discussed. Likewise, there are 61 native species of oak throughout the country, but it is possible to include only a few which are representative of the white and red (or black) oak groups.

This book is being written from a non tech-technical point of view. It is based upon practical knowledge gained from years of work with the United States Forest Service and from considerable personal experience with a woodworking hobby. Such knowledge of the beauty and workable characteristics of wood can be shared by any hobbyist. For those who are just beginning, the common American woods will doubtless be the first to challenge their skill. To the more experienced, it can be a new source of satisfaction to learn of and use the less familiar yet accessible and beautiful large shrubs and trees we have and to experiment with them in home workshop projects which feature unusual grains and figures.

The collection and preparation of specimens of our American woods is itself a fascinating hobby. It was my own work in this respect which prompted me to write of the extraordinary number of woods in our country which can be of particular interest to the home craftsman.

An international organization called the Wood Collectors Society was organized in 1948 by Harold Nogle, Port Arthur, Texas. Some of these wood collector hobbyists have accumulated as many as 2,800 to 3,000 specimens from all over the world.

The illustrations, other then the plates of the wood specimens where not specifically acknowledged, were with few exceptions obtained through the courtesy of the United States Forest Service from their photographic collection.

I was greatly encouraged in the preparation of this book by many professional foresters now in Federal and State forestry work. I am very grateful to them. I particularly wish to express my appreciation for their constructive criticism and suggestions to the late H. Basil Wales, former assistant Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service and co-author of The Conservation of Natural Resources; to Calvin B. Scott, technical forester, and to Vico C. Isola, Assistant Regional Forester, both of the U.S. Forest Service.

The works of such eminent scientists as Sargent, Sudworth, Jepson, Britton, McMinn, Brown, Gibson, Hough, and other included in the bibliography, were heavily drawn upon for factual technical descriptive data regarding the tree characteristics, geographical range, wood properties, et cetera. I am indebted to them beyond measure. I appreciate also the use of the United States Forest Service Check List of tree names.

Most of the wood specimens used here, especially the unusual types, were obtained from foresters, lumbermen, wood hobbyists, and wood collectors throughout the country. It is impracticable to make individual acknowledgement to them all, but I do express my gratitude to each one who has so kindly and generously assisted me in the preparation of this book.

Shelley E. Schoonover.

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