Wood Is Wood Is Wood – or is it?

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Wood Is Wood Is Wood – or is it?

By Ellen Sharon

The early colonists in New England and elsewhere were probably giddy over the vast virgin forests they found. Wood had become scarce in the ‘Old World’ as old-growth forests had long ago been havested for housing, furniture and fuel.

Old growth, or trees that had grown slowly over a hundred or more years, are distinctly different than trees from today’s tree farms, where wood is harvested in ten or twenty years.

A tree growing in a forest is crowded and competing for light. This causes it to grow slowly, and the growth rings are packed tightly as a result. This creates wood that is denser, more rot resistant, and inherently more stable. If you’ve ever had a bookshelf that sagged, a drawer that sticks, or a table that warped, you’ve seen first hand what happens when a modern tree farm selects fast growing species and grows them in open air.

Progress has provided more challenges to new growth – – climate change, pollution, and acid rain all make for weaker woods.

Today’s hardwoods are soft compared to old growth hardwood used to make the furniture in the first half of the nineteenth century and earlier. Even a softwood like pine from 150 years ago is typically harder than many new growth hardwoods of today. Just one more reason why antique American furniture passes the test of time!