If you can’t remember anything in your family tree, how can you identify the best wood? You would ask a farmer or a local woodsman for the best wood, right? Then that’s when you’d get a great recommendation: “You should get a lot of redwood, especially as close to redwood as you can get,” he’d tell you as a boy. “It’s a good wood. That little red cone. The color is great. I think the texture’s really good,” the farmer or the wood maker would say. “You should get a maple, to get a soft, warm wood.”
A big part about these wood recommendations is what your children might consider as a good kind to start with: maple, redwood, cedar, etc. The same is true for people with a great interest in wood, like anyone who wants to know which species of wood is the best for their kitchen, office, or bedroom, or will be the best for their child.
What are some ways to differentiate one kind of tree from another? Here are a few:
• Differentiating varieties of a single species is the most difficult. (Remember that the color of a tree is not the same as its species.) Redwoods and red cedar are different species, but only on a molecular level.
• The hardwoods of the south and southeast are known for being very soft, light-colored, and generally light in color. While the hardwoods are called medium-to-vigorous woods, the softwoods are often called hardwoods, to differentiate between the two of them.
• The “tremulous” trees are often called “pine-woods.” And, although pine can be found in most woods, it is thought to be the only timber tree that is actually classified as a hardwood.
• Sometimes wood is labeled as “chunky”—that is, to emphasize that it’s hard and dense.
• Different kinds of wood have different properties.
• A wood with a higher percentage of wood that is susceptible to cracking (which is very hard) would be hard but very durable, the kind of wood that has to withstand the stresses and strains of a job of heavy lumber. Likewise, a wood that is softer and less resistant to cracking would be the kind of wood that is good for light-duty tools or furniture.
• Most woods have wood chips, called lignin. These lignin molecules are very light and
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