american-black-walnutAmerican black walnut is a deciduous hardwood which grows in the woodlands and forests of North America, ranging from Western Massachusetts and Connecticut in the northeast, southward to the Carolinas and westward to Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas. Its commercial range, however, is confined to fifteen Central States. Three quarters of all lumbered black walnut comes from this region. One of the tallest and largest native hardwood trees, the black walnut averages 70 feet to 110 feet in height with a 3 to 4 feet trunk diameter. The National Register of Big Trees records the biggest black walnut as 130 feet tall with a trunk circumference of 278 inches and a canopy spread of 140 feet. It grows on Sauvie Island in the Columbia River near Portland, Oregon. America loves this homegrown heartland tree: black walnut is the state tree of Iowa, grows extensively in Kansas and Missouri and has even been proposed in Congress as this Country's national tree.

Black walnut is a beautiful, highly regarded, hardwood that is very strong and durable, yet relatively light in weight. Its extensive variety of grain patterns become more pronounced when quarter sawn for lumber or sliced for veneer. Some of the many figures are: swirls, stump woods, crotches, burls, fiddlebacks, leafs, butts and stripes. It also has an unusual range of distinctive colors. The sapwood is a pale pearly grey brown; its heartwood is a deep purple brown. Walnut ranks high in physical performance. It is exceptionally stable once it is seasoned, works well with hand and machine tools and carves beautifully. It holds nails, screws and fasteners well. It takes a high polish and is satiny smooth to the touch when finished.

Along with black cherry, black walnut has always been prized as a premier custom furniture and cabinetry wood. But in the early days of this country's settlement black walnut was not nearly as precious as it is today. Given its valuable status in today's market, it is hard to believe that early Americans used it for such unglamorous needs as fencing and railroad ties! Black walnut is famous as the "gunsmiths' wood." It is perfect in every way for gun stocks and gun handles. Easy to carve, it can be worked into comfortable shapes to fit the hand or shoulder. It is lightweight yet strong. The surface will not dent or mar. It is shock absorbent, therefore has less jar and recoil than other woods. A stable wood, it won't split, withstanding the jolt of a gun being fired. Its true straight grain will not warp guaranteeing accuracy of aim. Once fastened to the metal parts of the gun, it will not loosen or fail. The careless attitude toward the bountiful black walnut tree led it to be all but wiped out at the turn of the century. But today its future is secure due to careful practices. Most walnut is still taken from forests, but now there are walnut plantations established throughout the Central States. The rich color and swirling patterns of polished black walnut insure its continued popularity. It remains in demand for veneers, paneling, fine interior applications, furniture and cabinetry. Craft-people love it and use it for jewelry boxes, fine art objects and sculpture. Its availability is good as veneer and as lumber in a full range of grades and thickness. The price range is medium to high.

aspenA deciduous tree, two species which are are important to home builders.

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) - Found in a broad belt across the northern United States, it is the tree most associated with the Rocky Mountain Region. Most aspen timber production is produced from this area. Its height averages 20 feet - 50 feet with a trunk diameter of 1 to 3 feet. The biggest quaking aspen is found in Ontonagon, Colorado. It is 109 feet high and has a trunk circumference of 122 inches.

Big Tooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata) - Is resticted to the eastern part of the United States. It grows from Nova Scotia south to the Carolinas and west to Iowa, but lumber from this species is produced primarily in the Great Lake States and the Northeast. A small but increasingly important tree, this species stands 30 to 40 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 1 to 2 feet. The tallest big tooth aspen is found in Caroline County, Michigan. It is 66 feet high with a trunk circumference of 1 to 3 feet. Sometimes aspen is referred to as cottonwood, popple and poplar. The latter is not to he confused with yellow-poplar, one of the giants of the lumber world.

A graceful, slender tree, quaking aspen is famous for its flat, paper thin leaves that will flutter in the smallest breeze, making a distinctive audible rustling sound throughout the mountain ranges. Trembling and shimmering in the light, the yellow leaves next to the stark white bark of the trunks, is a sight not soon forgotten. The wood of both aspen species is pale greyish white to light grey brown. It is straight grained with a fine uniform texture - somewhat wooly or fuzzy to the touch. Although classified as a hardwood, aspen is lightweight, soft and easy to work. An unusual feature of aspen wood is that, once it is well-seasoned, it does not impart odor or flavor of any kind so it is very practical for use in the food industry.

Both quaking and big tooth aspen are readily available as lumber in the western U.S. Because of its somewhat non-descript grain and muddy color, it is used as a paint grade hardwood. Aspen lumber is relatively inexpensive. It is rare as a veneer. It is also used for corestock particle board, crating, pallets, boxes and miscellaneous turned articles. Because of it's neutral odor and taste, it is used for food containers and other food industry needs. In recent years it has become increasingly important in the manufacutre of enginereed wood products. Wood fibers from small diameter rapidly growing aspen trees can now be turned into large strong beams reducing our need to harvest larger trees. Quaking aspen has the most extensive growing range of any tree specie in North America. Although most prominant in the Rocky Mountain States, this tree covers the continent. It can be found as far north as Alaska, as far south as New Mexico, as far west as California and as far east as Virginia.

red-cedarConifer. Height 40 to 60 feet. Trunk diameter 2 to 4 feet. Usually a small tree, it has been known to grow 90 feet high with a trunk circumference of 13 feet. Distribution; Nova Scotia south to Georgia along the Atlantic Coast west to the Mississippi River states. It is the state tree of Tennessee. The eastern or "aromatic" red cedar is the species used for moth-proof storage chests and clothes closets. It is not to be confused with the huge timber species of the west coast: western red cedar and incense cedar.

A firm, stable softwood, the timber of this red cedar is highly prized for its beautiful, warm, deep, rich, red color and its most distinctive, everlasting, aromatic perfume. The wood is light and easy to work. It has numerous knots that make a handsome distinctive pattern. Otherwise it is straight and close grained. Due to its natural beauty and scent, it is never painted or stained. The wood is enduring - it is strong and durable. Its natural oils contain the secret of its success

Where aromatic red cedar is concerned, the knottier the wood the better. The many knots indicate the exceptionally high content of the aromatic oils that distinguish this wood from all others. The more oil the stronger the scent; the stronger the scent the deader the moth! (And, of course, the more wonderful smelling the stored woolen clothes.) This same oil makes cedar decay and insect resistant and waterproof; the perfect wood of choice for long term use. The wood also has low shrinkage and is very stable once applied. Despite its relatively high cost, aromatic red cedar is worth the cost for the service it performs. It is typically available as veneer and lumber. The trunks of the majority of this red cedar are used for fence posts. The water resistant lumber is used in greenhouse construction and for window sills and small boat decks. It is most commonly associated with cedar blanket chests, wardrobes, clothes closet interiors, storage room paneling and dresser drawer linings. It is also used for scientific instruments and novelties. The pencil in your hand or behind your ear is made of red cedar woods. This soft but firm, straight, close-grained wood is designed to sharpen perfectly and easily. Also, the shavings smell nice. Isn't nature grand!

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