basswoodCommon names: basswood, linden and American lime. In the lumber industry this tree is referred to by the common name, basswood, only. It is an abundant, deciduous hardwood that grows throughout the eastern half of North America from the Canadian Provinces, southward to Florida. Most basswood lumber production, however, comes from the Lakes States, Central States and Middle Atlantic States. Found in open, moist areas of hardwood forests, it is a large, shapely tree that forms a cylindrical tower with a conical top. Because it is so stately, it was traditionally used to line the long drives of 18th century Colonial mansions. Today, it is a universal American city and town tree. Known to grow as high as 124 feet, basswood usually grows to 50 to 80 feet high with a trunk diameter of 2 to 3 feet. The National Register of Big Trees identifies today`s largest basswood as growing in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and it stands 94 feet high with a trunk circumference of 292 inches and a crown spread of 91 feet.

The wood of the basswood tree is lightweight and fairly soft, but is a true hardwood. It has a fine even textured grain; straight with few character marks. The sapwood is creamy white and merges so gradually with its pale brown heartwood that it is difficult to tell the difference. Shrinkage is great when it is first cut but after seasoning it is very stable. Basswood boards never twist, split, or warp in use. It glues very well and is famous for its carvability.

The combined softness of the wood with the regularity of its fine grain has made basswood the wood of choice for wood-carvers throughout the centuries. The undisputed master of woodcarving is Grinling Gibbons who worked in London from 1670 to 1710. As premier decorative furniture and interior panel carvers, Gibbons and his followers worked exclusively in basswood. Because basswood has no odor or taste at all, it has traditionally been used in the food industry for tools, utensils and containers. Beehives, Venetian blinds and ornate picture frames were, and still are, made from basswood. Basswood is a useful wood because it is simultaneously light in weight, and strong, stable and dependable. It is available as veneer and as boards in a full range of grades and thickness, in a low to medium price range. Modern furniture manufacturers use basswood in large items to help reduce the weight. It is also commonly used for interior sash, door frames moldings and woodwork to be painted. Its carvability makes it a first choice for engineering patterns and for hat and shoe blocks.

balsa wood 02Tropical Height 80 feet to 90 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 12 to 14 inches. A medium-tall, thin tree, balsa grows extremely fast. It is ready to harvest in 5 to 6 years from planting. The best balsa wood comes from younger rather than older trees. Balsa trees are widely distributed throughout Central and South America, from southern Mexico to southern Bolivia and Brazil. Ecuador, however, has been the principal area of growth since the wood gained commercial importance. It is often grown there in 5,000 acre balsa tree plantations with on-site milling and production facilities.

Balsa takes the blue ribbon for the lightest weight wood in the world - only 6-9 pounds. per cubic foot. It is not only the lightest, but also the softest and most porous wood in the lumber industry. The wood color is pale white to pale pinkish white or pale grey. It has a straight open grain with noticeable pores. Its fine, silky texture has a unique distinctive 'velvety" feel to the touch. Balsa has excellent strength and stability in relation to its weight. Balsa is very easy to work and sand. It is best cut with very sharp hand or power tools and knives. It takes nails and screws, but due to its softness, gluing is more effective and permanent. Balsa is almost never painted or stained as it absorbs most of what is applied.

The attributes of hardness, denseness, and heavyness are typically the most important aspects of hardwoods such as hickory, mahogany, and teak. In fact, however, there is an equally important market for very soft, very lightweight, very porous wood. Balsa`s unusual characteristics make it desirable for a wide variety of commercial uses. It is buoyant, a good insulator against heat and cold and absorbs sound and vibration well. A very surprising feature of balsa is that it can withstand some corrosive chemicals better than stainless steel! Balsa`s value is chronically underestimated because of its association with model building and novelties - most familiarly that most wonderful toy from our youth, the model airplane glider. In fact, only 10% of balsa production goes into models and novelties. There are 20 grades of balsa wood; the price varies with the grade. Balsa has a long list of very interesting uses. Due to its buoyancy it is primarily used in floatation devices, life preservers, rafts, boat hulls and speed boats. Due to its light weight it is used in aircraft flooring, recreational vehicles, off road vehicles and subway cars. Also, in artificial limbs, bathtub and shower stall bottoms and theatrical props. Due to its porosity it is used in insulation, cushioning, sound proofing, vibration modifying and other musical and theatrical needs. Due to its combination of lightness and ruggedness, it is used by the U.S. Army for combat-ready cargo containers and for chemical containment tanks. In its veneer form it is used for the familiar novelties, model airplane gliders and other model building needs.

bald cypress1A deciduous conifer. Height 120 feet to 140 feet. Trunk diameter 4 feet to 5 feet. Distribution: as far north as the Pine Barrens of New Jersey south throughout the southeastern United States. Primarily found in the swamps and coastal tidewaters of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and Mississippi. Related to the California redwood, bald cypress is a very big tree and exceedingly long lived. One in Mexico is estimated to be approximately 7,000 years old. Just when you think that you`ve got nature all compartmentalized and tidied-up, along comes a tree like the bald cypress. It is a conifer but loses its needles every winter, which makes it also deciduous! In the spring it produces new tender green needles that grow and darken all summer. In the fall they turn autumn colors and fall off, again.

The bald cypress thrives in swamp water and tidal flows preferring to be submerged at least part of the year. The huge trunks yield large quantities of moisture-resistant timber. It is a soft wood, not very strong but the lumber is very durable. It has a uniquely high resistance to insects, dampness and fungal decay. It is a reliable wood, stable with little shrinkage. Bald cypress machines well with proper tools. It finishes, stains and holds paint well and can be easily glued. It has an irregular but attractive grain Cypress wood is a beautiful warm brown color-more red from the coastal trees and more yellow from the inland trees. It is often described as salmon colored.

Because of its dampness tolerance, bald cypress is a more popular choice in the Southern states than in New England. As its durability is legendary, it is an excellent choice wherever insects and humidity are a consideration. Bald cypress is available in many grades. "Pecky cypress" and the better grades are sold for decorative and interior applications -molding, doors and other millwork. One grade known as "board and batten" grade is ideal for exterior siding. It is also suited for structural uses. It is readily available as lumber, limited as veneer. Its price range is average but the cost fluctuates depending on the season and the rainfall. Because it must be harvested in the swamps, it is easier and less expensive to cut in dry seasons. Correspondingly, in heavy wet-weather years, it is harder to get to the good supplies so the price goes up. Bald cypress is one of the most versatile woods grown in the United States. Because of its affordability, it is a good choice for both decorative and practical reasons. In wet climates, it is used principally for building construction: posts, beams, siding in warehouses, factories, docks, bridges, houses, porches, greenhouses, cooling towers and stadiums. It is also used for tanks, vats, refrigeration and cooperage. Because of its handsome color, the finer grades are used for interior applications such as flooring, paneling, trim, sash, doors and blinds. It also has a market for outdoor furniture and swings.