I've heard older chippies refer to a wood called "deal". (Maybe it's
deel or dele - never seen it in print.) I got the impression that
it's just another name for pine but maybe it's more than that - like a
particular low grade of pine. Or maybe it's any kind of wood he got
a "deal" on? Is there someone out there with a definition?
Any more, just like our construction lumber, SPF. Spruce/Pine/Fir.
Woodworkers would recognize pine, casual folks not, so it spilled either
This place extends it to any conifer, apparently.
On 16 Nov 2004 01:42:54 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org (Mike Girouard)
They must have been old ! It's a term that's far from in favour these
It originally referred to "deals" which were scantlings; timber sawn
to standard sizes, squares or narrow boards. These were sawn near to
its production and then traded in these sizes, in contrast to most
timber which was shipped as logs or sawn boards, then cut to size as
The term dates from around the beginning of the 18th century (John
Wood, a Description of Bath, 1749), when fabric or paper wallhangings
began to replace full-height oak panelling in fashionable houses.
Walls were still panelled to protect the hangings from furniture
damage, but this was just dado rails or half-height wainscotting.
These were now _painted_, rather than left as natural wood. Because
they were painted, the timber used could be lower grade and easier to
work. With the expanding Baltic trade, this began to be imported
softwood, most of which was imported pre-sawn as "deal". This was
also the beginningsof the confusion between "deal" (the pre-sawn
scantlings) and "deal" (as meaning a softwood species).
Deal was also used for flooring, typically oak floors in the parlour,
deal in the bedrooms, the servant's garrets in elm and the dairy or
scullery paved with stone or brick.
Deal has long been identified as different species of timber, either
white/yellow deal or red deal, but softwood tree identification has
never been a strongpoint in the UK.
"Fir is generally applied by builders to Baltic timber; what they
call pine generally comes from America",
Loudon, An Encyclopedia of Cottage, Farm
and Villa Architecture, 1833
Even today, "whitewood" will be spruce or hemlock and sold as "pine"
(it's very rarely pine) and "redwood" will be fir but never sequoia
(and still often sold as pine, or even "red pine"!)
In the Victorian period, Bristol was a large deal importing city with
a large Baltic trade. In most old docks though you can find a quay
known as "Baltic Wharf" and even today there's likely to be a timber
yard on it. Bristol's Baltic Wharf still maintains a rarer feature -
instead of a sheer dock wall where ships could be brought alongside
and unloaded by cranes, there's a shallow slope. The ships used might
have side doors (ships on this trade were often pensioned-off from
other trades, particularly tea clippers) and they were unloaded by
"deal runners" who carried bundles of timber by hand along sloping
plank walkways directly from the hold. Obviously you can only do this
with sawn deals, not whole logs.
[snip for length]
Thanks for the story. Well written, too. I will say that as I was reading
it (here in the US), I wasn't sure if it was simply a set-up for a pun
punchline -- a la "My Word", from BBC radio, (or, "My Wourd" (half-way
between "word" and an "wood"), as it is introduced, making me think back to
how Alfred Hitchcock might have pronounced it). No pun found, so I believe
it is a true story. Again, good reading all the same. I just wish I had
sat down with my coffee. -- Igor
Ships used in the lumber trade often had a port cut in the bows, to
allow loading long lumber and/or logs straight into the hold. While
putting a barn door in the bows usually wouldn't be good for the
sea-worthiness of a ship, those in the lumber trade were often near
the end of the their careers, and it's all but impossible to sink a
ship full of wood anyway.
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