Hardwood not hard, softwood not soft! (necessarily)

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Doug Miller wrote:
(Snipped)

Ok. I quit. You win. You're the best. I recognize that you are correct, probably are the head of the American lumber association, a master of intelligent debate, modest and easily accept when you make a mistake, always have been and always will be correct, master of the world, leader of free men.
Feel better now? Umm, that's a rhetoric question, since I withdraw.

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Ahh, I see you finally understand your errors now. Glad to help.

Promise?
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

Eucalypts are evergreen, and temporate zone, and hardwood. Almost no deciduous trees in Australia. Confers are rare here, except plantation stuff.
First define the geographic range of "lumber industry"...
...Brock.
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Hmmmm. I don't agree with that comment Brock. We do have lots of plantation conifers but we also have some wonderful and very plentiful (even if commercially insignificant) native conifers.
Think of last time you drove through the Pilliga Scrub. Lots and lots of conifers. And, being in Qld you should still see lots of Auricarias about. I love Auricarias.
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Farm1 wrote:

I live in the southeast, so the coastal "pines" are long gone and the others have very limited ranges. I see them as occassional street trees (Bunya's cost the local Council a fortune in de-nutting each year).
I can't think ever seeing a native conifer in the wild in the Southeast, feral plantation pines yes...
...Brock.
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wrote:

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know squat about Australian flora, and only a little bit more than that about your fauna... but you've hardly managed to contradict the statement that "most temperate-zone evergreens are softwoods".
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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He didn't even try to contradict your claim. He added information that you could have taken into your store of knowledge about temperate-zone trees that are hardwoods, not softwoods.
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Houston wrote:

Uhh, density equates pretty much to hardness. And hard or soft is not a botanical classification.
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No, it doesn't. Examples: lead is quite a bit denser than steel; liquid water is denser than frozen water. If you think about it a little bit, I'm sure you can come up with more on your own. Maybe even enough to convice a dedicated pedant that there isn't really any relationship between density and hardness.

Technically, no, it's not, but the hard-vs-soft classification is exactly interchangeable with a specific botanical classification and is therefore functionally identical with it.
--
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

Try sticking to wood not different materials

Well if you agree that technically hard and soft are not botanical classifications, why do you keep saying "botanically?"
You keep saying they are equivalent, but it isn't true. What is true is that some groups may define hard/soft as being equivalent to some botanical classification. That definition is not universally accepted and it is certainly not accepted by botanists.
Now can you define "misnomer?" That is exactly what hardwood is if one uses it interchangeably with angiosperm.
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difference, I thought it would help if I picked examples in which the difference is obvious. If that only confused you further, my apologies.

You're being waaaaay too literal. I recommend Metamucil.

"Hardwood" and "softwood" are lumber industry terms, so it's hardly surprising that those terms are not accepted by botanists.
However -- they are *exactly* equivalent to terms that *are* accepted by botanists.
So what's the difference, in practical terms?

Metamucil, George.
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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Doug Miller wrote:

You can't be that dense!
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You said that "density pretty much equates to hardness." And that simply isn't true.
So who's the dense one?
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Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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I. SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON WOOD:
Q: A Softwood is a soft wood and a Hardwood is a hard wood. Right? A: False. A softwood is the wood of a conifer (or a Ginkgo), a hardwood is the wood of a dicot tree. The hardest hardwood is some three times as hard as the hardest softwood, but the hardest softwood is some four times as hard as the softest hardwood. The softest woods in the world are hardwoods.
Q: A Conifer, that is the same thing as a Gymnosperm. Right? A: Not quite: there are four groups of Gymnosperms, of which the Conifers (with some six hundred species) are the biggest and most important. Ginkgo (one species) is another such group. The remaining two groups don't yield anything that could be regarded as timber.
Q: A wood with "cedar" in the name will surely be a softwood. Right? A: False: "cedar" is a word that does not mean anything except a wood with a certain type of fragrance (if that). Going only by frequency, "cedar" in the US most often will be "Western Redcedar" (Thuja plicata), followed at some distance by "Eastern Redcedar" (Juniperus virginiana) also marketed as "Aromatic Cedar" [these are both softwoods]. A "cedar" from Central America will usually be a Cedrela species; from SE Asia usually a Toona species [these are both hardwoods]. Etc, etc [list goes on at considerable length].
Q: Slow-grown wood is harder than fast-grown wood. Right? A: By and large, this is true. It will depend on the wood concerned. The age-old canon is "A slow-grown softwood is harder than a fast-grown softwood, while a fast-grown hardwood is harder than a slow-grown hardwood." Curiously, this is also true, up to a point. It will not be true in the tropics, but will in most of the US and Europe. The point is that throughout most of the US and Europe the most used hardwoods will be ring-porous (such as Ash, Elm, Hickory, Oak). A ring-porous tree will start every year by forming a ring of very big pores (easily visible to the naked eye) and only make mechanical tissue (for support) later in the year. This means that in a short season the tree will not have time to make a full growth ring, but stops after making only very little of this mechanical tissue: slow-grown wood exists mostly of the rings of big pores. As pores are big air-filled spaces slow-grown ring-porous hardwood is quite soft. In a long season the tree will have the time to make a full growth ring with a great deal of mechanical tissue. As the latter is hard, a fast-grown ring-porous hardwood will be hard and strong. For softwoods and diffuse-porous (non-ring-porous) hardwoods a slow-grown wood will be harder (and more decorative) than a fast-grown wood.
Q: "Cherry" is the wood from the Cherry tree. Right? A: Not really. The tree that cherries grow on does yield a classic wood, called cherry, but this has always been fairly rare (these days cherry trees are planted in a stunted form for pickability of the fruit). There is a US timber tree ("Black Cherry", more or less closely related) that yields a look-alike wood almost as good, and certainly a lot more available. This is called cherry for convenience.
Q: "Brazilian Cherry "is a kind of cherry. Right? A: False. The nearest wellknown relatives of "Brazilian Cherry" (Hymenaea), more properly known as "Red Locust" or "Jatoba", will be Purpleheart (Peltogyne) and Bubinga (Guibourtia). The closest relatives in the US will be "Honey Locust" (Gleditsia) and the "Kentucky Coffetree" (Gymnocladus). A (much) more distant relative is "Black Locust" (Robinia).
Q: What wood to use for a cutting board? A: Maple, or something similar (any lightcolored hardwood, with a high density and a fine structure, e.g. beech, birch, etc). Not to be recommended are exotic hardwoods: their high degree of durability is because they contain significant concentrations of exotic substances lethal to lots of organisms. These substances are best avoided in food. The issue is especially relevant when cooking for guests or children.
Q: A Live Oak is an oak that has not been cut down yet. Right? A: False. A Live Oak is another name for an evergreen oak (OK, sometimes a "subevergreen" oak). Evergreen oaks occur where the temperature allows, in a belt all round the world. Going by the wood, there are three categories of genuine Oak (Quercus), found all over the Northern Hemisphere: White Oaks, Red Oaks and Live Oaks. The woods of these three are not closely comparable in any respect. Characters that are shared by all three woods are prominent rays and a dendritic arrangement of pores. All in all there are some 400 species of genuine Oak. In addition there are any number of woods called Oak, for whatever reason strikes the fancy of a wood trader.
Q: "Phillipine Mahogany" is mahogany from the Philippines. Right? A: False. It may or may not be from the Philippines (probably not), but it won't be Mahogany, ever.
Q: "Honduras Mahogany" is mahogany from Honduras. Right? A: Depends. It could be, but usually is not (from Honduras, that is).
Q: "African Mahogany" is mahogany from Africa. Right? A: Just about. The wood of Khaya is from tropical Africa and is usually assumed to be a Mahogany.
Q: "Rhodesian Teak" is teak from Rhodesia. Right? A: False. Baikiaea plurijuga is not teak, but a member of the Pea family. It grows in several countries, one of which used to be called Rhodesia.
Q: "Nigerian Teak" is teak from Nigeria. Right? A: Right. Plantation grown. Not that anybody would want to use it.
Q: "Java Teak" is teak from Java. Right? A: Right. Plantation-grown, from the days the Dutch were there. High quality.
Q: Teak is a really hard wood. Right? A: Depends. Teak (Tectona grandis, family Labiatae) varies from soft as butter and pale yellow to fairly hard and dark brown. Depends on provenance.
Q: Steel is stronger than wood. Right? A: Depends. A piece of steel of a certain size will almost always be stronger as a piece of wood the same size. A steel rod of a particular length and mass as compared to a similarly sized rod of wood ...
* * *
II. SOME USEFUL SITES:
FPL: - intro-page of the Forest Products Laboratory: http://www2.fpl.fs.fed.us /
- technical properties of wood http://www2.fpl.fs.fed.us/TechSheets/techmenu.html including two downloadable books on US-Woods
- the FPL "Wood Handbook. Wood as an engineering material" (downloadable): http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr113/fplgtr113.htm (Hardcopy at Lee Valley, Canadian version, i.e. paginated)
- common and scientific names of wood (best database around, with a fairly low level of error): http://www2.fpl.fs.fed.us/CommNames2000.html
- silvics of US trees http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/table_of_contents.htm
or http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/tmu/publications.htm
OTHER SOURCES: - "The American Woods": http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/specialcollections/forestry/hough (pictures only; a similar set is now in print as "the Woodbook")
- lots of pictures (fun), but short on accuracy and real information full version (slow): http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/personal/woodpics/indextotal.htm small version (faster): http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/personal/woodpics/index.htm
- even more pictures, with even less information (lots of typo's) http://www.rarewoodsandveneers.com/pages/specimens/rarewoods/rarewood01.htm
Some more pictures (very little information; not free of typo's) http://www.woodworking.org/WC/woodsampler.html
a preliminary page on purpleheart (the wood of the genus Peltogyne, family Leguminosae): http://www.organicsculpture.com/Purpleheart.html
a bird-eye's view of dangers: http://www.city-net.com/albertfp/toxic.htm http://www.ubeaut.com.au/badwood.htm
for a more extensive link-page see: http://www.nehosoc.nl/paginalinks.htm
under reconstruction: http://www.woodcollectors.org /
availability of wood (US) http://www.woodfinder.com /
* * *
III. BOOKS: Good entry-level books on wood are "Wood for woodturners" by Mark Baker (a bright book) "Good Wood Handbook" by Albert Jackson & David Day (cheapest and best, but out of print. Still available in the (British) original which is called "Collins good wood guide") "Woodworker's Guide to Wood" by Rick Peters ('passing grades')
An interesting book on a different way to obtain wood: "Harvesting Urban Timber" by Sam Sherrill
An artsy book on American Wood with some really great pictures: "The Woodbook" by Leistikow (ed.?) Not cheap.
Adult books on wood are "Understanding Wood" by R. Bruce Hoadley "Identifying Wood" by R. Bruce Hoadley
For those not shying away from a thick book: "Holzatlas" by Rudi Wagenfuhr
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snipped-for-privacy@vcoms.net says...

Not exactly correct. One of those remaining groups is (or should be) podocarp. (Almost) endemic to New Zealand with some members in Australia and Fiji.
Podocarp includes the NZ Kauri tree which is one of the nicest softwoods to work with, ever - straight grained, knot free, easily cut in any direction ... in the 19th century most of Sydney and San Francisco houses were built with Kauri framing. Many sailing ships had masts made from young Kauri trees. Sadly, because of the rampant exploitation _new_ Kauri is as rare as hen's teeth these days. A lot of Kauri is recycled from demolished houses these days. The wood has a beautiful inner golden glow that gives the impression you can look into it when polished. Generally quite soft.
Same family yields Rimu, which is still available - hard, ornery, poisonous (wear respirator and protect eyes when working) with a grain that can be as attractive and vivid as the very best of them (walnut, tupip wood). Heart rimu is so hard you can't nail it. Many old houses in New Zealand were built from rimu framing because borer does not like it. Still in use for veneers for interior doors, cabinetmaking ...
Totara - a reddish pink wood with white sap. Also contains a natural perservative, more or less immune to fungii and bacterial rot. Looks very pretty and is nice to work with but 'blooms' under just about any varnish so it's not used much in cabinet making and such. (I've heard that it will not bloom when French Polish is used). Farmers used to use it for fenceposts that would last up to 70 years in the ground without any chemical treatment whatsoever. Works well, similar to Kauri.
Kahikatea - early settlers used to call it 'yellow pine' and it tends to be buttery yellow in colour when freshly planed. Good to work with, doesn't shatter like Rimu, has a lot of spring. Sadly does not hold up to weather at all, even when treated. Makes nice timber for shelves etc though. NZ butter used to be shipped in boxes made from Kahikatea because it is flavour neutral. Hard to obtain these days, but not for lack of trees.
there are a few more members of the family ...
-Peter
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snipped-for-privacy@this.address (Peter Huebner) says...

Great article, Peter. Could I ask you to please repost it to alt.forestry? The guys there are always interested in information like that. I read it through twice (a rarity on usenet) and will go back and read it again.
In fact, I may try to obtain some podocarp seedlings, since the climate at my place is very similar to parts of New Zealand. This area is already using NZ radiata pine for plantations. I have a small plantation going. It unfortunately seems to fall prey to the same tree pests that have almost wiped out sugar pine in this area.
Just as a side note, I would like to point out that wood hardness and wood strength are not the same thing. An example is Douglas Fir (actually a larch - pseudotsuga menziesi), which is softer than red oak, but structurally stronger in horizontal supporting member applications. A Douglas Fir 2x12 floor joist will support more weight than a red oak 2x12. The oak is a much harder wood, but not stronger.
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Larry Caldwell wrote:

You must be thinking of something else, as Douglas fir is not a larch. The common name "larch" (also called tamarack) is usually applied on to the genus Larix. Douglas fir trees are nothing like larch trees.
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Here in Tennessee we have a lot of both hardwood and softwood. But if your half drunk and try to drive on our winding roads at 60 MPH you will nine times out of ten find that both are pretty hard when they pry you and your vehicle from around their trunks. Happens all the time. Some just never understand that those softwoods are hardwoods too.. Jack
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Ummm, not sure I could agree with your wood skills there Larry. In "Design Values for Wood Construction" (supplement to the National Design Specification for Wood Construction, which is the backbone of structural wood design & a referenced standard in the IBC & IRC) Douglas-Fir is listed as "Douglas-Fir-Larch" (American), "Douglas-Fir-Larch (north)" [Canadian] and "Douglas-Fir (south)" [American].
Douglas-Fir-Larch is the strongest of the Doug Firs.
Dennis
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Dennis wrote:

Whoa, think you are a bit mixed up. I don't have a book to reference the strengths of hardwoods so this is just for conifers. First, Douglas fir is the common name of the tree species Pseudotsuga menziesii. Tsuga is the genus of hemlock, so Pseudotsuga means false hemlock, but that name is based on tree aspect and not on any lumber characteristic. So Larry just mixed up larch with hemlock.
Lumber from conifers is often put in categories that combine more than one species. You have apparently not paid attention to the dashes in the categories as you have them wrong and made wrong conclusions. There is no dash between Douglas and Fir. The two strongest woods are Douglas fir and Larch which are combined into one general category "Douglas fir-Larch" (note the dash placement which applies to all the other categories you gave). Some other categories are Hem-Fir meaning hemlock and fir, Engelmann Spruce-Alpine Fir which is self explanatory, etc.
Your statement, "Douglas-Fir-Larch is the strongest of the Doug Firs," doesn't make sense. What can be state is that the Douglas fir-larch category of lumber is the strongest category and is comprise of a mix of Douglas Fir and Larch. The Douglas Fir South simply recognizes that lumber from Douglas fir trees growing further south tends to be a bit weaker than lumber from that species growing further north.
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