It is well known that our old growth timber was cut indis-criminately long ago, and is either too scarce to cut now, or protected in preserves. Why was this wood so much better? The answer is density and rate of growth. The trees in climax forests that we now call “old growth,” grew slowly, and grew to tremendous heights competing for sunlight in a crowded forest. The wood was dense, with tight grain and an even amount of summer vs. winter wood. Lumber today is still graded from the mill, but it’s been years since I’ve seen anything labeled “marine grade”— which, when I first started boat building, we considered knot-free Douglas fir with a straight grain and more than 30 annular rings per inch. Some pieces needed a magnifying glass to see the grain.
Second or third growth forests produce fast growing trees with low density, wide summer grain and very few annular rings per inch. 2x4’s cut from tiny trees tend to have the “bullseye” at the center, and you are lucky to find more than six or eight rings across the whole width of the 2x4. Economy 1x4’s often have wane (bark or lack of wood at the edges) when cut from the log’s surface.
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March - April 2020