Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Trip to the Mountain Above Turmero

Many of the original IWCS members were prolific travelers in search of their wood specimens. Here is another fine, nostalgic description of one such member's trip to the mountains of Venezuela in 1949, published in November of that year. Volume 2, Number 11.

A Trip to the Mountain Above Turmero
by J.H. Standen


Turmero is a typical South American village, narrow streets, room for two cars only, - the houses directly lining the narrow sidewalks, the patios are on the inside. The whole town is a little shabby, but when you get to know the people, they are very friendly.

Here we leave the main road between Caracas and Maracay and start on a mountain road, more or less to the north. It isn't the kind of road you'd want to try with your car, - it is strictly for jeeps. If you meet anyone, the fellow going up the mountain has to back down to a place wide enough to pass. Fortunately, traffic, except for donkey trains, is almost nil.

We wind along a dusty valley road for several kilometers before we start to climb, but once we start, we really climb. A swift lovely mountain stream is alongside the road all the way, often a good distance down the hill.

And the number of tree species:- you'd go green is you could see. Nettle relatives with trunks a foot through (sure I know Elm is closely related, but these even have nettle-like flowers. Giant fig trees (not edible) with trunks 6 feet or more through, with buttresses, each big enough and almost thin enough for dining room table tops.

That fellow there is Homalium pittieri, named after friend Pittier. (He is in the hospital in Maracay now, recovering from a leg operation. He's in his 93rd year.) That tree with the purple flowers is Lonchocarpus margaritensis, named by Pittier.

That tree with those long pods ins't a legume, it is Capparis flexuosa, named by Linnaeus. There are more Capparis species in this country than you could shake a stick at. Lots of Lauraceae too, Nectranda, Ocotea, etc. And as for Rubiaceae, all the way from herbs to giant trees, literally dozens of genera.

For example that fellow with the older leaves red is a Cinchona pubescens sister species to the quinines. The tall treelike shrub with the colored leaflike bracts, reminding one somewhat of Poinsettia, is a Pogonopus speciosus. The one with the sparse white leaflike bracts is a Calycophyllum. Incidentally this one is a new collection for Venezuela, and will, for the time being, go out to the boys as Calycophyllum sp., until Dr. Lasser runs it down or actually names it. There's a Genipa americana, also in Rubiaceae. And as for the Leguminosae, Machaerium, Piptadenia, Poponax, Inga, Senegalia, etc., etc., etc., until you are nearly dizzy.

Now we are up to my friend, Bartolo Perez' home. He died about three weeks before I write this. Because his family know of my respect and affection for this wonderful old woodsman, I'm invited to stay for dinner. The widow weeps a little when I tell her what a fine man her husband was. She complains with some bitterness because I didn't come to see him oftener. If only I could have. We had tentative plans to go tapir hunting higher in the mountains.

The family home has mud walls and a thatched roof. There are no doors. The floor is dirt. As we eat, the pigs and chickens wander through. But the food is good and the people gentle, well-mannered, hospitable, and obviously intelligent. The son, who came up from Turmero with me, shows me some of his ceramic work. It is excellent. We make plans to collect some more specimens as soon as I can spare the time. They are so helpful that it is even embarrassing. If they had their way, I'd chuck my job and stay right there collecting wood specimens. With this idea, I'm sure, many of the Society are in vociferous accord.
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Collecting "Picturesque Woods"

The October, 1949 (2:10) issue of the Bulletin of the Wood Collector's Society was a wealth of interesting articles as shown in the last two posts. Here is a third article in the same issue that shows how rich the fountain of good wood collecting stories was in those early years of the society.

Comment by Fellow Wood Collector
Bernard G. Hildebrand

Mr. Mautz in his recent article published heretofore as part of this Bulletin, concluded his remarks with a fascinating discussion of the possibilities of collecting various unique pieces of a single species. He stressed variations of color, structure and grain and virtually suggested every wood collector should engage to some extent in collecting all available and different types of wood appearing in one or more species.

As I read his article he could have gone even further and suggested (possibly he also had this in mind) the collecting of what might be called "Picturesque Woods," or specimens made out of solid pieces which, with or without using imagination, and sometimes by the simple device of inclusion of some sapwood as well as heartwood, actually are multicolor pictures, usually of natural character. To some degree such woods resemble marquetry.

This fourth approach insofar as I know appears to be possible on a very high level only in the case of certain extremely colorful or variegated forms of woods and burls such as for instance are found in several members of the Dalbergia genus. In any event, the search for woods of this last unusual type appears to be more successful when "exploring" tropical woods. This kind of wood collecting has unlimited possibilities and furnishes a great deal of entertainment, in addition, of course, to hard work in cutting up, planing or sanding numerous pieces of wood. It also causes an element of dissatisfaction because some woods, often colorful and bright when freshly cut, lost their color and lustre to some degree thereafter, and especially when exposed to much light and very dry air.

During the past year (the project is still underway) I have been carrying on a "hunt" of this special nature using the single, generally beautiful species of Dalbergia nigra, or Brazilian rosewood, of which the writer is very fond. This wood when freshly cut (some of my pieces are not well-seasoned) flat or on the quarter or in other peculiar ways includes sometimes or in streaks or small areas all colors of the rainbow. The darker and stable colors such as black, brown, purple and red usually, however, predominate. The more delicate jewel-like and pleasant light but rare colors are pink, blue, green, orange and yellow, sometimes in various combinations. By keeping the pieces in the dark, much of this bright color can be substantially preserved for some months and sometimes longer. The pleasure one gets from this cutting right on the ground, so to speak, is beyond description and so different from viewing samples which often are old and definitely faded.

So far I have cut about 250 pieces of Dalbergia nigra samples out of boards and scrap pieces from dozens of logs and have finished in standard size about half of them. The pieces vary considerably as to structure, weight, grain and color. Identification is made quite certain by comparison of various pieces with each other and by checking of various typical samples by the Forest Products Laboratory. As to surplus pieces, the writer will be glad to exchange them for other species of the Dalbergia family.

From the foregoing pieces I have so far obtained about 25 most beautiful pieces which can be said to qualify as wood pictures. In each there are usually special grain formations with several colors which are delightful to see. These picture woods suggest often, and quite obviously, mountains, seashore and sunset scenes, etc., the outlines of the pictures generally being composed of the more stable colors already mentioned.

By using some imagination one could label some of these pieces as "Sunset," "Mountain Lake," "Cliffs," "Alpine Fir," "Storm Clouds," "Mountain Peak," "Contour Planning," " Dante's Inferno," etc. These specimens are considered by the writer as treasures and the most interesting woods in his collection.

I would appreciate hearing from any members of the Society who have or are carrying on specialized projects of this nature and would be glad to know what woods were used and the results. I would also be happy to have advice or suggestions as to the preservation of delicate colors in woods. Moreover, if any member of the Society ever comes to or near Brooklyn, New York, and wishes to see these picturesque woods above discussed, I shall be glad to exhibit them.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Wooden Rose

Another interesting pair of articles from the October, 1949 issue 2:10.


The Wooden Rose

Dactylanthus taylori Hook f. A very distinct monotypic genus, not closely allied to any other, confined to New Zealand.

A root parasite. Rhizome usually subterranean, perennial, hard and woody, rounded or amorphous, often irregularly lobed, surface rough with small tubercles or warts. Flowering stems or peduncles annual, numerous, crowded, clavate, clothed throughout with imbricate ovate or oblong brownish scales, the upper of which are larger and more closely spaced, slender, erect, cylindrical or slightly fusiform. Flowers very minute, densely packed, monoecious. Male flowers: Perianth wanting or of two minute subulate processes. Stamens 1 or 2; filaments very short, anthers didymous, 2-celled. Female flowers: Perianth adnate to the ovary; limb of 2 or 3 erect subulate segments. Ovary stipitate, ovoid-oblong, 1-celled; style long, filiform; stigma terminal; ovule solitary, apparently pendulous. Fruit minute, crustaceous.

From the above technical description of the New Zealand representative of the family Balanophoraceae few would realize that this unusual and rare plant is the cause of the famous "Wooden Rose" of New Zealand. This parasite attaches itself to the roots of trees, usually members of the Beech family. As the growth gradually surrounds the root the wood is distorted and formed into a beautiful wooden rose, completely hidden and surrounded by a shapeless mass of parasitic growth.

George L. Miller, Member #9, has collected some of these rare roses in his native New Zealand and has graciously submitted the following account of his collecting trip.

Collecting the Wooden Rose
By Geo. L. Miller

Dactylanthus taylori Hook f. is the name of a rare parasitic plant which grows on the roots of certain trees on the North Island of New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. This strange plant is becoming extremely rare, owing to the destruction of our virgin forests.

Suppose I ask that you all accompany me on this little outing, one of many made in the interest of our chosen hobby. After a hurried breakfast we finished loading our equipment aboard a small trailer. Heading due south for ninety miles we picked up a photographer friend and then continued another fifty miles before branching off for the tree and fern clad high country. This we traversed carefully as the road had given way to rough bush logging tracks.

We had the good fortune to contact a native bush worker, a Maori. This man was a great surprise and proved to be a valuable guide. Speaking his language we quickly made friends and he agreed to help us in our search.

On entering the dense brush we spread out fanlike, keeping within hailing distance of each other. After about an hour we heard a call from the Maori and converging on him found that he had located a bunch of growths, exposed some ten inches above the forest floor. We proceeded to dig up the whole growth. The rhizome was firmly attached to the host tree, in this case a Lancewood, Pseudopanax crassifolium var. unifolium T. Kirk, of the Aralia family.

After severing it with an axe all surplus dirt was removed and it was now ready for transport to the trailer, no light task as the weight was considerable. Some weighed more than 100 pounds, but others smaller and more easily handled were selected.

Back home with our specimens, the next step took several days. First each rhizome must be boiled for four hours, then scraped to remove the blood-red flesh of the Dactylanthus proper. Then and only then is the wooden rose revealed. Sometimes the work is in vain, as the rose may be decayed or distorted. But sometimes the labor is rewarded with a perfect rose flower in wood, delicately shaped and with beautiful fine lines on each petal.

From questioning my friend, the Maori, I learned that his ancestors employed these flowers in certain ancient rituals, the nature of which is a mystery. They had to make their fire with rubbing sticks, heating stones and then steaming the Dactylanthus until the rose could be removed.

In closing, I wish to mention that it was written with the wish that other members of our Society would find time to write of some of their collecting trips which would be interesting to all of us who collect wood.

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[2015 Addendum]: From Wikipedia - Dactylanthus taylorii, commonly known as wood rose or Hades flower, is a fully parasitic plant that grows on the roots of certain trees in New Zealand. The host tree responds to the presence of Dactylanthus by forming a burl-like structure that resembles a fluted wooden rose (hence the common name). Māori names for wood rose are pua o te reinga or pua reinga ("flower of the underworld") and waewae atua, "feet of gods". It is monotypic to the Dactylanthus genus. One of its most common host trees is pate or seven-finger (Schefflera digitata).

Here's an original article on Dactylanthus taylorii from the 1895 edition of the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

And here's a Threatened Species Recovery Plan on Dactylanthus taylorii authored and published by the New Zealand Department of Conservation in 2005.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADactylanthus_taylorii01.jpg


Friday, May 1, 2015

Wood Collecting Trip, Summer of 1949

Here's a delightful travel diary of a collecting trip by Harold Nogle and fellow members in the summer of 1949. From Wood Collectors Society Vol. 2, Number 10, October 1949.

Wood Collecting Trip
By: H. Nogle

This trip began by the combination of two trips. I was scheduled to go to Chicago, then fly with Hy Dentzman to go to Florida with Wib Opdyke, and later wanted Archie Wilson to go along. While this was taking form, Bill Pond was arranging for a trip through the Dismal Swamp with Archie Wilson, hoping he would bring Wib with him. All parties finally got together and made one trip, but unfortunately due to Mr. Opdyke's health, we were denied the pleasure of his company and the knowledge of his experience; therefore regretfully made the trip without him. The first get together was at Chicago, where after the meeting, Hy, Archie and myself, with Mrs. Nogle left in two cars for Cleveland. No collecting was done on the way to Washington, but there were three cars, as Ray Cottrell was with us as far as Houston, Pa., and we stopped a short time at this home there for a cooling drink, and put up at an auto court about 30 miles west of Washington. From here on it might be best to tell about this trip in the form of a diary.

Saturday, July 2: We got an early start and located the residence of W.A. Dayton, U.S. Forest Service; and at his home called Joe Stearns on the phone for directions to his place, where we were invited for breakfast. We had some trouble finding his place as the turn off the road was named wrong, however Archie came to our rescue with his psychic sight and we arrived at Joe's and had a fine breakfast, saw his woods, workshop, etc. After breakfast were were taken over his farm, and to his creek. Joe really has a fine place, the ideal for a wood collector. After that, we all drove over to Dr. Warren's house and with him as guide, went into the Pautuxent River Swamp. At the edge I picked up a large terrapin or turtle to take home to the boys, then we cut poison ivy. There was one vine about 8" in diameter but heartrotted, which was found out after cutting. Later Dr. Warren made a stick and knocked the bark off some 5" vine, which reduced it to about 3 1/2" but in collecting poison ivy, never do that, as it dries so quickly it splits all apart, but if the bark is left on its seasons perfectly. After coming out of the swamp plenty hot, tired, etc., the others presented me with 3 more turtles. Dr. Warren took a short cut to his house, got his car, and came back for us; then when we got back to his house made everyone an old fashioned mint julep. The three of us with Joe returned to his house where we had broiled steak out under the trees, plenty good and true Southern Hospitality in Maryland. About 4 P.M. we started for Portsmouth, Virginia, first having to make a back trip of about 30 miles where we had stopped the previous night to retrieve Hy's Panama hat, which he had left at the restaurant when he got so interested in that girl. [Ed. Note: Looks like some romantic intrigue was left out here...too bad] We drove about 200 miles and could not find any place to stop, all auto courts full, and finally Hy got us located at the Hotel, Suffolk, Virginia. Archie, Joe and I had one room and Mr. Dayton and Hy another.

Sunday, July 3: I think I got up first, barely daylight and got the car and went out looking for ice to put in our insulated can to cool some coco cola and beer, the beer being left over from the meeting at Wib's house, and acquired by Hy, who by the way is also a first class magician. Ice house closed, so came back to hotel and found Mr. Dayton and Hy already up, and finished breakfast, so they went back and had some more coffee with Archie, Joe and I. Hy got on a story telling contest with the cafe cashier, but we finally got him away and started out. We got lost from Archie getting out of town, but he soon found us out on the highway and we arrived at the home of Bill Pond in Portsmouth about ten o'clock. We met him and his family and took a picture of them, then met Earl Thompson and all of us went to a section of the woods adjoining the Dismal Swamp. Here we collected Viburnum prunifolium, Symplocos tinctoria, Oxydendrum arboreum, Bignonia capreolata, and Vitus rotundifolia, then back to the cars for Coke and beer. We made another trip into a different part of the woods, but I don't remember anything being collected except a quantity of Arundinaria tecta which I hope to glue into some kind of sample...then another ride to the hunting lodge over a road full of deep holes, where Joe managed to get across a deep ditch to cut a Sumac, after which we returned to Bill Pond's house where we had a wonderful fried chicken dinner. Joe had to leave early to get back and also take Mr. Dayton back, so the rest of us talked wood until time to leave for our auto court.

Monday, July 4: We went to town for breakfast, then to Bill Pond's house, where with Earl Thompson, we all went to the canal or big ditch which led to Lake Drummond in the Dismal Swamp. Earl had an outboard motor, so we rented two boats, put on the motor and took out up the ditch leading to lake Drummond, one boat pulling the other, with Earl and Bill in the motor boat and the three W.C.S. officers in the trailing boat, getting the exhaust smoke from the motor. This was a long ride of about an hour, then we came to the dam and the reddish brown water gushing out of the two escape valves, as the lake's level was 8 feet higher than the canal. The boats were put on a small truck on rails which ran down into the water under the boat, then hauled up and over the embankment and down into the water on the other side, this raised the boat 8 feet and we got into another canal at lake level. Another long ride and we finally came out into the big lake, took a cut over on one side and into a small outlet where there was a hunting house, where we tied up and went into the swamp forest. Just as we entered was a big rattlesnake, a whopper, which had been killed, as well as another big copperhead. We all got poles to stir up the brush ahead of us so we would not step on a rattler and have trouble. The wood collecting was hampered by the vicious "May" flies, which bit at us regardless of the insect repellent which helped a lot. We did not find much here, only cut a large Vitis rotundifolia, then came back for lunch at the hunting house, which had a screened porch which we got into to escape the biting flies. It was terribly hot and everyone was soaked with sweat, as no breeze at all in the dense growth. Wilson also cut a few cypress knees. We returned to the boats and started back. Took the boats back over the land down to the lower canal level, and the car ran off the track, and a little trouble was had getting it back on. On the way back we had Earl case our boat adrift, and we paddled over to the bank where there were lucious big ripe blackberries and watching out for snakes we ate plenty. We got back to the auto court about 4 P.M. and cleaned up, then visited with Bill Pond, went to town and sent some postcards and turned in early.

Tuesday, July 5: Started out about daylight and stopped after about 100 miles for breakfast. Most all day spent in riding and stopped for the day early at Myrtle Beach. After getting located we went back north on the highway into a spot of woods opposite the golf course and collected a small tree, being Persea palustris. In this place I found a large vine of Smilax wateri which could be glued into a sample. Archie and I went swimming that evening and when I came out and got in the car, I sat on my glasses and broke one lens out, so from then on had to read with one eye. While waiting for supper, I phoned Mrs. Nogle and arranged for an extra pair to be sent air mail to Gainesville, Florida. While Archie and I were in swimming, Hy saw some things around the auto court and wanted to cut down their shrubbery.

Wednesday, July 6: Started early in Florida. About ten miles south of Savannah we stopped and cut several large Daubentonia punicea and some Bacharris halimifolia and along here Archie cut a nice Wax Myrtle. A little before at 11 miles north of Washington, North Carolina, we cut a Mimosa or Albizzia julibrissum. Stopped early at Brunswick, Georgia and cut some bamboo, Bambusa multiplex and Archie got permission from the court manager to cut a Yucca aloifolia. We all ate some ice cream (finally got Hy to eat some too) and retired early.

Thursday, July 7: Left early, after an early breakfast at [a] good place adjoining the auto court, and in backing out I misjudged a parked car in the rear and hit his tail light with my head light, dented the front fender and knocked the rim off the headlight and broke the truck's tail light. We proceeded before any arguments [Ed.. ??? :-) ]  and arrived in Gainesville, Florida soon before noon, stopping at a few places to look but not cutting anything. Put up at the Florida motor court and got a nice place. Hy phoned the University and made contact and we had a date for 1 P.M. Went to town and got caught in the daily rain, mailed some postcards and picked up my glasses at the postoffice. Archie tried to buy some pants or a suit but didn't. After lunch at a drug store, we went to the University and met Dr. Reynolds B. Smith who took us down to meet Miss Lillian Arnold in charge of herbarium, and we stayed there and identified some of the things we were not sure about. We made a date to go wood hunting with all five of us the next day at 8 A.M. Left the University and had a good steak supper and retired early.

Friday, July 8: Arrived at the University on time and met all concerned and in addition Dr. W.B. Brush, who said he could go with us, and took photo of the group. We started out in both cars and went to a place where Hy cut a nice small Juniperus silicicola, and Archie climbed a tree and cut a log off a large limb of planera aquatica. It was a very hot day, but Miss Arnold had a jug of ice water with paper cups. We went in about noon to the cafeteria at the University which is a fine place, air-conditioned and good eating, also reasonably priced, where we had dinner. After dinner we took out again for a place called Devil's Millhopper being a sort of park area, where there was a big sink in the ground, and where several small streams made waterfalls running into this tremendous hole, and the water ran out of the hole to somewhere, no telling where. There was a lot of growth here, but nothing which we cut, although some discussion as to the various species of oaks. After leaving here we went out to the Forest Camp where the University maintains actual forestry conditions for training the students, including mess hall, and other houses, and where there is a deep lake. Archie and Dr. Smith went in swimming, as they were both so hot and full of sweat from helping cut a palm, Serenoa repens (some discussion about this name which we hope to get straightened out soon) and while cutting this palm met Professor Charles Geltz, Professor of Silviculture, who helped in a big way with getting these palms as had the big two-man cross cut saw to do the job. Prof. Geltz turned out to be the teacher of my friend Gene Marshall, Head of the Texas Forest Laboratory at Lufkin, Texas, when Gene attended Cornell. We returned to the University tired, hot and dirty; cleaned up at the auto court, had another steak supper same place, and Hy liked the girl well enough to see she got a dollar tip this time, because he thought she was a Republican. [Ed.: How thoughtful of Hy! :-) ] Went back to the auto court after all of us had another round of ice cream at a small place where we found was run by ex-railroad people, also Republicans.

Saturday, July 9: Early at 7 A.M., Milton Scott, from Miami drove in, as we had called him on the phone Thursday night, and we all went to breakfast. We met at the University as had been planned before, and all except Miss Arnold went on another wood hunt to a place called "Sugarfoot" on University owned land. Archie climbed a tree again to cut a large limb from a Tilia floridana which was not very good, then I found a small pole like tree which I cut and which turned out to be Viburnum corymbosum. A little later we cut another Tilia floridana which was a good one, then some Forestiera puberula and Cornus stricta. About noon we returned to College Cafeteria and had another good dinner, then started out again at another place near Gainesville, along a nice creek, and cut a nice Acer floridanum and Aesculus pavia. It was tough lugging these logs back to cars as had to climb steep hill and ford creek. After this we went out to Magnesium Springs where there is a fine swimming pool and went in swimming, all but Hy who stayed out and watched the cars. Went in and had another steak dinner but the Republican girl did not get our table, which was tough on Hy, then after dinner we went by the ex-railroad people's ice cream joint and all had more ice cream and coke. Talked wood a lot and finally went to bed after dividing a lot of the wood and packing cars. Archie sent a load back by freight from Gainesville, and also had Bill Pond ship a lot of his back by freight from Portsmouth.

Sunday, July 10: Up early and Milton Scott left for Miami and I left for Pt. Arthur. I cut a large wax myrtle 10 miles west of U.S. 90 out of Lake City, Florida. About noon it started raining and rained until I reached the Louisiana line, and I stopped for the night on north shore of Lake Ponchartrain and arrived home Monday a little before noon, after a total for my car of 4,336 miles and playing nursemaid to those 4 turtles for 1,986 miles, and while coming back thru Louisiana picked up another so arrived home with five of the reptiles. Used Monday and all of Tuesday in cutting the wood collected and labeling and putting up to dry. Archie, and Dentzman met the faculty of the University of Florida and made another collecting trip, which I assume he will add to this now.

Wood Collecting Trip
(Continued)
Additions by Archie F. Wilson

After bidding Milton Scott and Harold Nogle goodbye, Hy and I went to meet Miss Arnold and Dr. Smith. The trip planned was to the Ocala National Forest. Both Miss Arnold and Dr. Smith brough identification papers along with them which gave them permission to take specimens.

Here the terrain was entirely different, parched soil and scrub growth, but here we hit the jack-pot in desirable specimens. Among those cut were Persea humilis, Quercus laevis, Q. myrtifolia, Q. chapmani, Q. virgiana geminata, and Ceratiola ericoides. The latter was representation in a new family for us.

On the way back we stopped for a swim at another of those delightful spring-fed swimming pools. Then back to the cottage after bidding goodbye to our friends.

It was still mid-afternoon so we decided to make Tallahasee before dark. Arriving there in good time we called Bill Jacobs, Secretary of the Florida Forest and Park Association. He cam down to meet us and took us to his office. There we saw to our amazement a piece of Leitneria floridana fully 6" in diameter but nothing short of mayhem could get it away from him. He did give me a piece of Torreya taxifolia and one of the Eugenia confusa.

The next morning were were up bright and early and made Jackson, Tenn. by evening. The next day I dropped Hy off in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, where he had some business to attend to, and I headed for home and made it in time for dinner, tired but with a car trunk so full of specimens the springs were re-curved.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Wood Collector Dedication, Circa 1949

The following letter was printed in Volume 2, Number 8, September 1949. It shows to what great lengths and hardships collectors would go in those days, once they had been bitten with the wood-collecting bug. This experience is simply hard to imagine in today's context.

Excerpts From A Letter From John H. Ter Laak, #77

"At last I get a chance to write you a letter. I left Holland on October 17th and arrived in Suriname on November 29th. It was a long and varied journey. Never in my life did I have such a beautiful time. The news that I must start on the 17th came so quickly that I had no time to write all of my friends.

Before the 9th of December I had to prepare an expedition to the jungle to inspect the prospect of timbering. It was a great change for me to do this. Never did I think that this type of work would be mine but everything turned out O.K.

The jungle, the large rivers, and the bush negroes (here we call them Djaekas) made a great impression on me. I was away three weeks and came back for the Xmas holiday. The 4th of January I started again and returned on the 3rd of February.

After that I went to and from for a month and on March 8th started another trip from which I returned three days ago.

I can't tell you much in this letter. It's impossible to write in one simple letter all the impressions I got. The only thing I can tell you now is that these are hard and troublesome times for me. The jungles of the tropics are crawly. Sickness and accidents are common. The first time I went up I went without any gun, medicines or maps. The day before I left I bought clothes and compass. In truth I can tell you it was criminal to send me into the jungle.

I was the only white man and to help me understand the strange language I found a negro interpreter. So as I told you everything was O.K. I was successful and love my work. I loved the great forest with the thousands and thousands of trees. I made up my mind to stay here. Is this what I looked forward to, where I had spent the best years of my life in order to obtain a good living for my wife and children? I don't know. I can tell you this only after a few years. The only thing I can tell you is this - that the struggle for life is very very hard here. If I find a good job here then I must pay with a shorter life.

I am studying the native tongue. I am talking well and understand their speech very well. Their language is a mixture of English, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch. Very few white people understand them but if you go it alone in the jungle you must be able to talk and understand."

Wow...what a beginning of a story. So much mystery...what exactly is his work, and who pays him to do it? Does he stay there for the rest of his life? If so, does his wife stay with him? And what happens to him? I hope we hear more of Mr. Ter Laak in later issues.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What Price Hobby

The July, 1949, issue of the newsletter of the Wood Collectors Society was led off by a nice tribute to the hobby by Mr. Harold Nogle, one of the co-founders of the Society and the host of the organizational meeting at Big Cow Creek, Texas, in 1947. Here in its entirety, with a postscript by another member in the same train of thought, is that article.

WHAT PRICE HOBBY
By Harold Nogle.

Like all hobbies wood collecting is entertainment, diversion, education. It is time-consuming and can be somewhat costly at times. Hobbyists and dyed-in-the-wool workers will leave no stone unturned to help out a fellow enthusiast as can be illustrated by this experience -- I sent a woman in Washington State a few old buttons and to show her appreciation she and her husband rowed for miles across the sound to some Indian island where they secured a section of a rare tree just for me. It took them most of a week-end and I will never know what it cost them.

Making 1/2 x 3 x 6" wood specimens out of small shrubs and vines to trade or dispose of to some other wood collector who does not have them and cannot get them in his locality is an achievement which pays well in satisfaction of accomplishment. In the process of making some of these specimens from Alabama supplejack I decided to keep track of the time to see what the finished pieces were really worth. This vine when drying twists and warps very badly and as a result to build up standard specimens it is necessary to prepare a large number of small, 1/4 x 1/4" to 1/2 x 1/2" strips 6" long and glue these together carefully matching the grains to prevent the joiner from tearing some of them too badly to use. To produce 8 such specimens required 4 1/2 hours of shop work. I can keep busy all the time I have in the shop on repairs to toys, furniture, etc. and average $2.50 per hour. This would make the supplejack specimens worth, for time only, $1.40 each but they are traded with much joy for other woods, or sold for .25 cents to .50 cents each.

I am not alone in this. All the collectors I know do the same thing plus the week-end trips through rain, bogs, mire, and water, car trips, food bills, gas, oil, and hours and hours of time. Sweat pouring from every pore, hands freezing numb and the long hauls through the woods to the car is part of the life of a wood collector and all for the joy of securing a new one to take home, cut up, season, finish, and mail out to some collector or admirer. At least a years time must enter into the picture before they can be distributed.

As to the price of wood specimens, finished or in the rough, the sky is the limit and no collector knows or could accurately estimate their true worth. The price can only be measured in self-satisfaction in the accomplishment of the seemingly impossible. It is unlike other hobbies and the hidden value to the wood collector is in the knowledge gained regarding Nature and Nature's mystery of life of growing things in the plant world.

*****************************

Another member cuts in here anonymously to add a few lines to fill the page with some information and advice.

In his rather long experience as a collector he made the discovery years ago that there can be no finer or fairer type of man than a wood hobbyist. He is honest to the last degree and he will go out of his way any time to play ball with any other kindred spirit. His very best friends here and in other lands, some of whom he has never met, have been formed through the exchange of letters and specimens.

Take advantage of the rare opportunities your membership in the W.C.S. affords by contacting every one you possibly can. We can never know what a wonderful chap YOU ARE unless you do.

Well, there is some wise advice that holds up as well in 2015 as it did in 1949. - cdr

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Continuation of "My Conception of an Ideal Wood Collection"

This is a continuation of the previous post; an article from Dr. Wolfgang Mautz entitled "My Conception of an Ideal Wood Collection". The first point, "Exact determination of botanical origin" was expounded on in Volume 2, Number 5  (May 1949) of the Bulletin of the Wood Collector's Society, forerunner of today's World of Wood Magazine. The remainder of the article, reprinted here, was published in Volume 2, Number 6 (June 1949).

1 Exact determination of botanical origin.

This is one of the most difficult requirements to fulfill. Since it is very nearly impossible to verify the precise botanical origin of any specimen obtained from a lumber-yard, from the work shop of a cabinet-maker or any similar source, it means practically- especially in the view of point 2- that every sample ought to be taken from the living object. Only in this case, inasmuch as leaves, flowers, seeds and the like can be obtained from the same tree, will it be possible to guarantee an exact and scientifically correct determination. Even if the collector is not sufficiently trained as a botanist or if the necessary literature is not available he can always have the foliage specimens determined by an expert at a later date, especially if he can state where the tree came from.

Although the examination and comparison of microscopic sections usually enables the scientist to establish the exact genus, or at any rate, the family to which the specimen belongs, it is very often impossible to discriminate between species, since, in numerous cases, the structural difference between two closely related species (such as the oaks, willows, poplars, pines and the like) is less pronounced than variations in one species due to conditions of climate and soil.

2 Precise labeling.

Each specimen should be carefully and properly labeled, the label containing the following specifications:

a Common or most generally used trade name.
b Latin or botanical name.
c Locality of where specimen was taken.
d Native land or natural distribution.
(Here was attached a type-set label in very small letters---3/8xl".)

Buckthorn, California
Rhamnus californica Eschsch.
Jackson, Oregon.
West Coast of North America.

I have found it advisable to print the labels with the smallest available type and to fasten them to the underside of the samples in order not to mar the beauty of the visible side.

If one wishes to make more extensive notes on each sample, as, for instance, concerning the age of the tree or whether the specimen was taken from the base of the trunk or near the top etc. a special file can be established as a  supplement to the labels. In this case the same label should be pasted on the file card, whereas the supplementary notes can be typed or written. It is also possible to give each specimen a number, the number on the label and the file-card being identical.

3 Choice of specimens.

In order to display the characteristics of the normal grain both plain and quarter-sawed specimens should be used. One of them can include a small amount of sapwood, which, especially with nearly all tropical woods, is quite distinct from the darker colored heartwood.

(Here Dr. Mautz illustrates with three neat sketches showing where the specimens were obtained by depicting the end of a log. It will be too difficult to reproduce on this stencil. He refers to the specimens as so-called tangential-longitudinal and radial-longitudinal.)

The specimens should be selected not only in view of proper sectioning but care should also be taken that each piece is without flaws or imperfections of any kind such as cracks, knots, worm-holes and the like. The color should correspond to the coloring of healthy, mature and properly seasoned wood, special consideration being given to the fact that the sapwood is not streaked or grey, due to improper seasoning or because the sample was not cut directly after felling. Furthermore samples should only be taken from the trunk of the mature trees, not from the branches or young saplings.

[Note: the above recommendation of collecting samples only from a mature trunk, and not from branches or young saplings, has proven quite unfeasible to  most collectors over the years, I imagine. Many landowners who would gladly allow samples to be collected from branches or saplings would likely frown at the collector asking to saw down the entire tree...cdr]

4 Dimensions.

The size of the specimens depends more or less on how they can be arranged and on the total space available for the collection. It is advisable not to choose too small a size etc. etc. (Here the editor takes the liberty of calling attention to the standard size already adopted by the large majority of collectors -- 1/2 x 3 x 6" -- so in order not to confuse the members we will delete his recommendations which call for two or more sizes, the largest being 1/2 x 3 x 5".)

Since the collection should not only contain specimens of larger trees but also the wood of the smaller trees and shrubs which is very often beautiful and highly interesting. I have found it practical to choose a size of about 1/2x3x5" for the larger specimens and 3/8x1-1/2x3-1/2" for the small samples of shrubs or for specimens which were not yet obtainable in the proper size. In order to insure interchangeability within the compartments of the collection shelves (see point 6) and to allow arrangement of whatever specimens one wants to display together, the dimensions of each sample should be precise within approximately 1/64". Naturally all sides must be exactly in the square. Such an utmost precision in the all-round dimension would be in vain if the samples were not properly  seasoned and absolutely dry. Dry in this sense means that the remaining humidity of the wood specimens corresponds to the average relative air-humidity of the room in which the collection is kept. About 6 to 8% is the usual average for a well heated room. If the samples are worked down to the ultimate size too soon there is not only the danger of shrinkage (undersize) but also the liability of warping, twisting and distortion in general. Consequently subsequent to a preliminary period of drying after felling and sawing the samples should be cut to approximately the final size making an allowance of about 12% in width, 25% in thickness, and 10% in length for shrinkage and distortion. In this case the specimens should be kept in a well-heated room--better still in the same room as the final collection for at least three years before being ultimately finished.


5 Ideal surface finish.

This is one of the most important points inasmuch as every kind  of artificial finish such as polishing, varnishing, or waxing and the like alters the true color of the wood and since- especially in case of polishing- the structural details of the pores are no longer visible the samples by all means be left without any kind of artificial surface. My own long experience in wood-working has led me to the conclusion that in nearly all cases only a perfectly planed surface will bring out the true beauty of the wood to its best advantage at the same time showing the natural luster peculiar to most spp. of coniferous woods and also to a great many kinds of woods of broad-leaved trees. Naturally the planed surface must be produced by a razor-sharp very finely adjusted plane in the hands of an expert wood-worker. Although it is quite possible to obtain a perfectly even and smooth surface by sandpapering, the natural luster--especially if the sample shows wavy or so-called striped grain-- is usually lost or at least modified. Besides the process of sandpapering tends to round the edges of the pores and partly destroys the crystalline or resinous substance which the pores often contain and the presence of which is sometimes of deciding importance for later determination or comparison. In short all structural details which are of interest to the scientist are best preserved if no sandpaper is used. Unfortunately there are certain woods of great hardness and interlocking grain - such as lignumvitae for instance - as well as certain kinds of burl which do not allow a perfect finish with a plane alone and must be finely finished with the finest sandpaper.

6 Arrangement of specimens.

As mentioned under point 4 a uniform size is recommended in view of an arrangement of the specimens on shelves or in drawers of a collection case.

Such an arrangement not only provides an excellent means of showing a large number of specimens at the same time but also facilitates the manipulation of the samples without danger of damage. A handy drawer should not be much longer than 20" in all and approximately 11" deep. In this case it would contain 12 of the larger specimens. The beauty of the arrangement is greatly enhanced if a small space is left between specimens, in other words, if the drawer is divided into separate compartments for each sample. This is easily done by providing five strips of ply-wood of about 1/16" thicknees in the length of the drawer and one in the width,-- (Here Dr. Mautz shows a drawing which, again, will be difficult to duplicate here. It provides for 12 only specimens laid flat.)

These intermediate strips should be less high than the thickness of the samples which also applies to the rim of the drawer whereas the latter is slightly higher than the strips. I have found it of advantage not to fashion the bottom of the drawer from a ply-wood board but to construct a regular framework. Such a drawer will not only remain absolutely plane and straight but it also allows the samples to be removed for examination without danger of injuring them even in the case they fit rather tight into their compartment.

It is, furthermore, recommendable to choose the size of the smaller samples in such a manner that a certain number will fit into a drawer with the same outside dimensions as provided for the larger specimens. In my own collection 33 small pieces plus the width of the intermediate strips and arranged in three rows correspond to the all-around dimensions to 12 large samples arranged in two rows. This means that the drawers are interchangeable.

The specimens can either be arranged in the order of their botanical relationship or if the collector is more aesthetically than scientifically inclined, in such a manner that the most favorable contrasts are obtained. Another method is the arrangement in certain groups of woods used for similar purposes or resembling each other in respect to their physical properties.

7 Series of woods.

This last point covers a subject to which considerable attention should be given. It is a well known  fact, that, for example, the advanced entomologist is not contented with merely one pair of a certain species of butterflies but that he strives to acquire a long series in order to demonstrate the range of variation. As a matter of fact certain variations which occur again from time to time and which are know as "aberrations" have been given a specific name, proving their importance to science. In collections of woods, however, little importance has been attached to the manifold variations of color, structure and figures of grain, which can often be observed within one and the same species.  For instance every tree will produce closer grained wood under unfavorable conditions of soil and climate, whereas under the best conditions of growth the space between the annual rings becomes considerably broader. This peculiarity is a well known fact in the wood trade and differences in price and quality are often based exclusively on the spacing of the layers of annual growth. For instance the spruce used in Europe for the finest violins and known here as "tune spruce" is botanically the same species which grows all over central and northern Europe, yet it is quite distinct in structure; the annual rings being only about 1/32" apart and spaced  with remarkable regularity. It grows only in certain parts of the Alps and the mountains of Serbia, is very nearly extinct and very expensive.

As far as color-variations are concerned every cabinet-maker knows how different in color the wood of the common walnut can be and how the price can depend on this circumstance. Different color-qualities are known here in Europe by the names of French, Italian, Swiss, German, Turkish and Circassian walnut.

The afore-mentioned variations refer only to the normally grained. However the figure of the grain is subject to a considerably larger range of variation. Unfortunately the great number of possible modulations are known only by different trade-names which are more or less inadequate and are intended, first of all to impress the buyer. Of these names the designation of "bird's-eye-maple" is one of the best since it actually gives an excellent description of the figure of grain. Other expressions are striped, wavy, curly, mottled, blister grain and so on. Furthermore nearly all the trees sometimes produce a growth known as true burl or burr which is an accumulation of latent buds and us usually found at the base of the stem where the roots begin. The structural details of burly-growth are very similar, regardless of the species.

All these varieties are used in finest cabinet-making and inlay work. They are highly valued and commercially available mostly as veneers, hardly ever as solid wood.

Now according to my way of thinking the collector should strive by all means to obtain as many variations of one and the same species of wood as he possibly can. Although the private collector will hardly ever be in position to possess even approximately all the known spp. of wood he can still achieve a collection really worth while and of considerable value if he specializes on a few species and if he can finally demonstrate a complete series of these species with all possible variations of color, structure, and figure of grain.

If it were possible in future times to establish a standard size for the specimens of amateur collections and if numerous collectors all over the world would go in for specialization the time would come when enough material were available to enable the publication of a remarkably thorough and exhaustive book on the woods of the world with illustrations not only of the normal grain but also of the many and beautiful variations. In this case the work of hundreds of amateurs would not only serve for their own satisfaction but be of definite help to science as well, in much the same manner as our present knowledge in the science of entomology has been reached to a considerable extent through the collaboration of numerous private collectors all over the world."

**********************




Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On Membership into the Wood Collectors Society...and on Being the Ideal Collector

In May, 1949 (Volume 2. Number 5) newly-sworn IWCS president Henry J. Dentzman responded (interestingly enough, in all capital letters) to an issue that still remains relevant today...membership in the Society.

WORD COMES TO ME THAT A FEW MEMBERS BELIEVE WE SHOULD GO SLOW IN TAKING IN NEW MEMBERS. MY ANSWER TO THAT IS ** I INTEND TO ADHERE CLOSELY TO OUR CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS. ARTICLE 1., PARAGRAPH C. IS CLEAR AS TO APPLICATIONS FOR MEMBERSHIP AND TO MY MIND COVERS. THE APPLICATION MUST BE APPROVED BY THE PRESIDENT, VICE-PRESIDENT, AND THE SECRETARY OR TREASURER. IF, THEREFORE, ANY MEMBER IS DISSATISFIED WITH CONDITIONS, THERE CAN BE BUT ONE ANSWER. SOME OF OUR MEMBERS, WHO DO NOT HAVE LARGE COLLECTIONS ARE HIGHLY INTERESTED, AND FULLY COOPERATIVE. DO ANY OF YOU THINK THEY SHOULD BE BARRED? FOR SHAME! WE HAVE A FINE ORGANIZATION? BECOMING WIDELY KNOWN AND THOSE (IF ANY) WHO HAVE JOINED OUT OF CURIOSITY OR OTHER REASONS? PERHAPS WILL RETIRE. BUT I VIEW WITH UTTER SCORN ANYONE WHO WOULD CLOSE THE DOOR TO SOME FINE FOLKS. I COULD GO ON AND TELL YOU OF SOME FINE LETTERS I'VE READ. BUT PLEASE REMEMBER "WE WERE ALL BEGINNERS ONCE".

SINCERELY
(Signed)"Henry J. Dentzman".

Also included in this issue was an interesting letter from a Dr. Wolfgang Mautz of Germany, who offered a treatise entitled "My Conception of an Ideal Wood Collection." Although somewhat narrow in scope compared to the wide range of wood collections in existence today, it offered some pretty sound advice to beginning collectors.


"MY CONCEPTION OF AN IDEAL WOOD COLLECTION"
By. Dr. Wolfgang Mautz.

"According to my experience-which I admit is based exclusively on observations of European conditions- most collections of woods can be classified in two general types. One which might be called the "Botanical type" and which is usually to be seen in museums of natural history or institutions of forestral botany, is formed by scientifically trained botanists and is founded exclusively on scientific grounds. The other which we can term the "commercial type" is brought together by craftsmen, men of the wood producing industry and teachers of wood-working or technology, i.e. by men of more practical training; consequently, the principle aim of this type of collection is to display specimens from a purely commercial and practical viewpoint.

Naturally both types - besides certain merits - have their definite disadvantages which shall be discussed in the following chapters. Since the principal purpose of the botanical type of a wood collection is the exact determination of the botanical origin of each specimen, little value is place on appearances. The samples are generally not at all uniform in size, the surface finishing is of subordinate importance. Proper coloring, display of sapwood, difference between plain and quarter-sawed grain and observation of other details which are of fundamental interest to the craftsman and artisan are usually neglected.

The scientist, who determines his specimens first of all according to the structural details as seen under the microscope, does not discriminate between a sample coming from the trunk of a fully grown, healthy tree, properly felled and sawed, or from the branch of a dead one. It matters little to him if the color of the specimen is in accordance with the coloring of properly cured, sound timber or whether it is marred by streaks and blotches due to the fact that the sample was derived from a tree which had been standing dead in the forest for an indeterminable time or because the log was not sawed immediately after felling causing a stagnation of the sap to take place.

Furthermore, in some collections of this type only cross-sections are shown. Although of considerable scientific interest these samples can never satisfy the craftsman nor, for example, the designer of the furniture who wants to know the general appearance of the wood and to observe the beauties of the figure of grain as seen in practical examples of wood-work.

In comparison to the "botanical type", the "commercial" collection is just about the opposite. The designation of the specimens is usually merely based on current trade names, whereas the botanical origin, i.e. the Latin or scientific name is mostly omitted or at least inexact to a large extent. As far as the trade names or common names are concerned, these are not only lacking in correctness but often utterly misleading. As a typical example I can state that in Germany the well known American red gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is known commercially only as "satin walnut", causing the general public and all craftsmen without botanical knowledge to believe this wood to be a species of exotic walnut.

Apart from this drawback the specimens are mostly shown with a polished or waxed surface not allowing a close examination of the structural details with a magnifying glass. With a few exceptions the samples of all species the sapwood of which is without commercial value (for instance Brasilian Rosewood and ebony) do not display any sapwood, whereas specimens of numerous coniferous trees sometimes show the sapwood alone without calling attention to the fact.

On the grounds of these observations which I have made in the course of nearly 30 years experience in the hobby of wood collecting I have lain down for myself seven basic points which should be closely observed in the attempt to reach the utmost perfection and to achieve an ideal wood collection.

Naturally the private collector, unless he had unlimited financial means, will never be able to achieve this ideal but he can always strive at least to come as near to it as possible within the limits of his collection, be it comparatively small or extensive. The faults and drawbacks of the aforementioned "botanical" and "commercial" types should be avoided, whereas the collector should try to combine their desirable qualities. The chief points to be observed are as follows, -

1 Exact determination of botanical origin.
2 Precise labeling.
3 Proper choice of specimens.
4 Perfect uniformity of size to insure interchangeability.
5 Ideal surface finish.
6 Arrangement of specimens.
7 Consideration of variability; demonstration by a series of specimens.

...

And from there, Dr. Mautz goes on to elaborate on the seven qualities above. Safe to say these standards have changed over the years in their definition, but I would say that his list is a pretty good general list of objectives each collector should strive for to gain the maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from his or her collection.





Friday, February 27, 2015

Note by a Wood Collecting Lawyer

Species identification of commercial timbers and lumber has always been a sticky issue, especially for collectors that would like to use commercial lumber of exotic species to increase the size of their collection. In this article from Volume 2, Number 3 (March, 1949) of the Wood Collectors Society Bulletin, we get an interesting perspective that still rings true today.

NOTE BY A WOOD COLLECTING LAWYER.
By Bernard G. Hildebrand.

President Opdyke in the recent article..."America's Number One Wood Hunter" appearing in the "Profitable Hobbies" magazine for Feb., 1949, page 42, correctly emphasizes the necessity for collecting wood specimens by botanical names and the practical futility of dealing with ordinary lumber companies for scientifically designated specimens. Trade names and practices in the lumber business serve certain good purposes but they are inexact for purposes of the true wood collector. Proof of this assertion may be made simply by examining various texts or scientific wood lists.

On occasions failure to describe woods or lumber properly and unambiguously, preferably by scientific names, has resulted in serious disputes between the various parties and in some instances the courts have been appealed to for a solution of the controversy. Oral evidence to explain a contract and application by courts of various rules of interpretation to determine intention at times may produce a peculiar result, perhaps quite expensive to the party drawing the contract or relying upon its simple written terms.

An interesting illustration of failure to describe wood properly even for general trade purpose is found in the law - case of the New York Central Railway Company vs. Warren Ross Lumber Co., 190 N.Y.S. 835 decided in the year 1931. In this case the plaintiff had shipped various carload lots of lumber for the defendant and the question arose whether the freight charges should be based on a general tariff or a special schedule providing for the higher rates and relating to:
"Woods, foreign (cocobolo, ebony, lignum vitae, Spanish cedar, mahogany, rosewood, and other foreign woods except Canadian woods and Mexican pine lumber)."
According to the report of this suit the lumbers shipped were red and white luan, tangile, and other species of Philippine lumber grown in the Philippine Islands and commonly known as "Philippine mahogany."

It appears at the trial the defendant, among other things, convinced the court that "Philippine mahogany" was used as a substitute for "African and American mahogany", that the latter was about twice as expensive and that the lumber in question weighed about 3,200 lbs. per thousand feet and "the true San Domingo mahogany" weighed about 4,800 pounds per thousand feet. The court decided the issue for the defendant (I omit the court's discussion of the word "foreign") saying in part:
"...All of the woods specified, as has been noted above, are expensive commodities, the responsibility for the carriage of which would be greater than in the case of cheaper materials..."
These facts establish satisfactorily in my judgement that the wood in question was not the mahogany mentioned in the schedule quoted. What was intended is what is generally known by the name of mahogany, and that that is the kind of wood intended rather than the cheaper substitute article here involved is shown by the woods specifically enumerated in the schedule, namely cocobolo, ebony, rosewood, etc. all of which are heavy tropical or subtropical lumber of high cost. The denomination of this wood as Philippine mahogany in the trade is no more conclusive of the question than the name 'German measles' is conclusive to that disease being measles, or the name 'horsechestnut' as to that tree being a chestnut.

Or, I may add, of "Brazilian cherry" being a cherry species. We Pennsylvanians are sensitive to that one, in particular.

Families with Woody Members

One of the issues that most wood collectors eventually try to grapple with is..."How many woody species are there?" As we dig into the scientific basis for an answer, we refine our question to one that should be easier to answer - "How many families of woody plants are there?"

Even that is not exactly easy to answer.  Chuck Holder and I had a lengthy discussion last summer at the Ontario meeting whether or not palm "wood" is really wood, or not, since they have vascular bundles, but no growth rings.

Well, this general topic has been an issue of discussion for quite a while, as we learn below from the Volume 2, Number 3 (March 1949) issue of the Wood Collectors Society Bulletin (forerunner of "World of Wood").

Several months ago your president got the idea he wanted a 100% perfect (?) list of families that contain woody matter and he began with those shown in the Yale list which is probably the most complete obtainable anywhere. He consulted others who supplied family names that were included and then he ran into complications.

First we must have a definition of "WOOD". Is it anything that grows above a certain size or must it have annual rings? Many of the families collected by members include the palms (Palmaceae), the lilies (Liliaceae), the grasses (Poaceae) the tree ferns (Cyatheaceae) and others. Shall they be included? Should there be two lists containing only the Gymnosperms and Angiosperms plus another giving the palms, grasses, ferns, lilies, and most of the Compositatae, for the benefit of those who desire to collect them?

...

In a recent letter from Prof. Robert W. Hess, Associate Professor of Forest Products, Yale University, he says, quote, --

"Although we have frequently discussed the making of a list of families having woody members, I know of no such compilation. It is a very desirable task and becomes increasingly difficult in the extremities. Apparently this will be your field of specialization at least for some time."

Well, thanks to at least one dedicated IWCS member, we have moved this discussion to a more advanced stage. Bill Mudry of Ontario has focused his efforts at identifying and listing all woody species, specifically, on his excellent and useful website WoodsoftheWorld.org.
On it, he lists 413 woody families, including the Palmae (formerly Palmaceae) family. So, while the botanists among us can still debate the characteristics of a definitive "woody" plant, we collectors and hobbyists at least have a list to go by that the early IWCS members lacked.





Saturday, February 14, 2015

Suggestions for Getting Started in Wood Collecting

The first newsletter of 1948, and officially, Wood Collectors Society Bulletin No. 1, which attempted to suggest to members some basic guidelines and techniques for the hobby, was published in March of that year. While modern wood collecting is as variable as the folks who collect it, these pointers are still helpful and, at the same time, reminiscent of how simple life was relative to today's world.

I won't re-create the whole Bulletin, but here are some highlights, with some of my thoughts intermingled.


This first paragraph shows that even then, the ultimate objective of wood collecting as a scientific exercise was to determine a complete listing of all woody species and to collectively secure and document specimens of them all in collections around the world. I think it is safe to say that we are still a long, long way from achieving that objective, so the challenge remains.


I think it was a little easier back in those days to cut specimens without getting into trouble. These days, if you're planning to go around cutting branches of trees (or harvesting small trees, or shrubs, or vines) make sure you have permission of the landowner or a permit from the proper authority on public lands. Of course, there are still wide open spaces out there in the world where permission is not required, but be prudent about your collection practices.

I've observed that planning and organizing the collection is as satisfying as the collecting itself, and it adds immensely to the enjoyment of the collection over the years. Conversely, as the article says, a poorly executed effort at organizing will result in "a stupendous job" hanging over your head and will detract from your enjoyment and knowledge of the hobby. I know, walking the roadside or woods, saw in hand is more fun...but those unlabeled, unorganized, or unworked specimens can pile up in a hurry.

...

I love the sincerity in that last sentence...as much as I love the next one.

I actually think the next paragraph gets at the heart of a wood collecting fellowship...although nowadays, buying and selling specimens may be more common.


And perhaps the most important, and difficult issue of the hobby...


Finally, I'll share this entire page near the end of the newsletter. It's discussion about the cost of the hobby is a great reference for the time, and the paragraphs on new individuals who were being found in the hobby are great.


You can just feel the excitement of the anonymous author as he details these early stirrings in the life of what would become the International Wood Collectors Society.