Softwood vs. hardwood?

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Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Per unit mass, not volume, the nod goes to the conifers because of the resins in the resin ducts in the wood. For years now, the Scandinavian countries have been buying "unit trains", a mile in length, of SPF wood pellets (spruce pine fir) and shipping it home all the way from BC for power generation.

I could have bought fire pellets made from straw, corn cobs and hardwoods. They don't have the energy value of the locally produced SPF wood pellets. I burned 100,000 lbs over the years. I have a good idea what it takes to heat a good Canadian house in winter. Friends tell me that the Douglas-fir pellets are ever so slightly better again but for the cost difference, the SPF worked out just fine.

Conifer woods have been used here for more than the last 15,000 years for cooking fires. Seems to work OK.
 

Silverclaws2

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Dec 30, 2019
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Soft wood I have always considered came from fast growing coniferous tree and hard wood from slow growing deciduous trees, where when I consider woods I use weight as an indicator in addition to spacing of grain.
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Soft wood I have always considered came from fast growing coniferous tree and hard wood from slow growing deciduous trees, where when I consider woods I use weight as an indicator in addition to spacing of grain.

There are too many exceptions for that to be a general rule.
 

Laurentius

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 13, 2009
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Soft wood I have always considered came from fast growing coniferous tree and hard wood from slow growing deciduous trees, where when I consider woods I use weight as an indicator in addition to spacing of grain.
Willow is classed as a hard wood and it grows ridiculously fast.
 

Laurentius

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Aug 13, 2009
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As I have understood the Sutton Hoo ship had basically the same shape as viking ships and a construction method quite close. If I remember right planked wooden boats have been found very much older in many places in northern Europe and as the basic technique of plank splitting was developed I guess ships came readily after that. I don't remember reading how ships were made in the Med.

People were limited by tools and technology not wit. Of course technology cumulation is much slower before written records came to the use.
The Viking ships did not spring fully developed from nowhere, they had a long heritage. The Egyptians, Greeks and Carthaginians were building ships millenia before that but they always hugged the coast, whereas the Viking ships were capable of crossing the open sea.
 

Robson Valley

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Growth rates are no useful criteria to judge the mechanical and non mechanical properties of any wood. Really fast growing conifers look good to the greedy but it's crap fiber. The individual wood fiber lengths are nearly too short to be useful pulp for anything.

If anything, you just can't have, don't have and will never have much of a softwood fiber crop.

The best spruce conifer pulp with the longest fiber comes from the district around Prince George, British Columbia. With three mills producing more than 4,500 air dried tons per day, the fiber length is essential for the web strength of papers running through presses at more than 60 mph.

Even seasonal growing conditions also proved a great deal of the tone wood that you see in better quality instruments such as good guitars.

Actually, the price for 1,000 bd ft of SPF 2x4 has tripled from less than $400 to nearly $1,100 in the past few months. American supply dropped a lot with the pandemic and they have been really slow to ramp up again, if they ever will.

But call it what ever you like. The Wood Data Base is the usual defining criteria.
 

TLM

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Nov 16, 2019
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Vantaa, Finland
I use the FPL wood HDBK whenever I need to look for North American woods. Clearly written. Only down side is the the tests for wood are in many cases not quite adequate, ok for building purposes but not for something like bow building.
 

Robson Valley

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There is a very clear distinction in cellular wood anatomy which separates the angiosperms ( the hardwoods) from the gymnosperms (the softwoods.)
Generally, the woods are as species-specific as fingerprints.
Sorting out the spruces and sorting out the pines is a bugger of a task.

Besides the 40 woods of economic importance in North America, I have prepared microscope slides of another 250+ woody species. Some used in paleo times for such things as arrow shafts and bow drill fire making kit.
 
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Robson Valley

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I am one of the identifactors.
It's apparent that many shrubby woods were pruned to yield crops of arrow shaft woods. Must be called "coppice" elsewhere?
The most common (or at least the one most commonly found in museum collections across the Great Plains) was "choke cherry" (Prunus virginiana) . Next was Saskatoon berry/Service berry (Amelanchier alnifolia) This is a puzzle, I have at least 3 subspecies growing in my garden in the west slope of the Rockies. So your guess is as good as mine, the wood anatomies look so much alike but the size, the appearance, the growth habits are so different.

I believe they hunted people in war and shot small game. Only ever in dry weather. You are not going to walk up to a Plains Bison and stick a little wood and flint prickle in their side. Buffalo jumps and hardwood, flint tipped spears to kill the wounded and injured was the best method.

Here, take a look. They are fabulous critters to eat. I've eaten 6-7 of them over the past 20 years.
 

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TLM

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I think I saw a few in Detroit zoo a few ages ago and some ranches have small herds here, the european version is smaller though still quite a sight.

So the plains people were using shoots for arrows. How about the west coast forest people? We have only one native, Prunus padus several imported Amelanchier species grow fairly well mostly ornamental but some for berries too.
 

Broch

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Out of interest, what species were used?

In Northern Europe, including Britain, the most prolific arrow remains from Mesolithic/Neolithic are Viburnum. In the UK the only native species of Viburnum are V.opulus (Guelder Rose) and V.lantana (Wayfaring Tree). However, arrows have been found made of Alder, Ash, Birch, Dogwood, Hazel, and even Honeysuckle.
 
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TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
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Vantaa, Finland
V. opulus grows here and is even fairly common in the south but hardly ever straigth or long enough for arrows. Here the problem is lack of finds, as far as I know none. Crossbow bolts were made out of birch.

Aren't there arrows out of some Populus in Mary rose (non neolithic)?
 

Broch

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V. opulus grows here and is even fairly common in the south but hardly ever straigth or long enough for arrows. Here the problem is lack of finds, as far as I know none. Crossbow bolts were made out of birch.

Aren't there arrows out of some Populus in Mary rose (non neolithic)?

Sorry, my studies end at the Iron Age (Britain) :)
 

Robson Valley

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Paleo arrow shafts are pretty easy to make. Just about any heat source is enough to plasticize the non-cellulosic components of the fresh wood so the shaft can be bent to straighten and cooled in restraint. Not much to it.

Our hardwoods dry and really stiffen up. Almost boney. The local conifers, all of them, the branches never lose their springyness.
I can load my diamond willow walking canes to 70 lbs (5 st) and the shafts do not bend at all. I think it's safe to assume that hardwoods everywhere can do that.
 

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