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.