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IS AMERICAN WALNUT COMING BACK?
The Supply is Abundant and Sufficient for Present Needs---The German Markets Overstocked With It---Can New Interest Be Created in the Wood? By GEORGE D. CRAIN, JR.
lumber, seems to show that they have a high regard for the wood, considered with reference to its intrinsic qualities alone, and as the Germans are among the leading
cabinet-makers of the world their opinion on the matter is not to be lightly regarded.
It is true, also, that one cannot get big walnut logs. The manufacture of furniture, if solid tops and panels were used, would be rendered difficult on account of the narrow lumber and the large amount of gluing up which would be necessary. But there is no reason why walnut veneers should not be used, as this would both result in a better appearance, and would conserve the supply of the wood. The practical details are not at all difficult. A furniture manufacturer who announced himself as being in the market for walnut lumber and veneers would soon find that he could get the material and that he could keep on getting it.
The situation in the lumber business, as far as walnut is concerned, shows graphically the possibilities of the wood, and seems to eliminate the theory upon which furniture manufacturers have been working heretofore, that the supply is not sufficient to "make a market" for the wood. In other words, many furniture men, who appreciate the intrinsic value of walnut, have not used it, first, because they believe that it is too difficult to restore a vogue for a wood that has gone out, and second, because they believe that the supply is insufficient to enable any general use to be made of it.
Touching on the second point first, it may be observed that millions of feet of walnut logs are held in this country at present because of the fact that the German market, which takes most of the walnut produced, is overstocked. An American lumberman, representing a large mahogany concern, said that on a trip to Germany a few months ago he saw 17,000 walnut logs piled up in one yard. The Germans are overstocked, and lumbermen in the United States, who have made a point of selling both their logs and lumber to concerns exporting to Germany, are holding their stock on account of the lack of demand and the correspondingly reduced prices which are being quoted.
As a matter of fact, there is a large supply of walnut timber. It is not big enough in the sense that the supply of mahogany, oak and gum is big; but it is ample for the needs of the trade. Should furniture manufacturers in this country decide to give American walnut a place in their operations, they would find it possible to get all the walnut they need. In nearly every lot of hardwood timber sold these days, one learns that it contains a considerable amount of walnut; and every fence-corner on the farms through the Middle West and the Central South gives up a tree now and then and makes a contribution to the supply. Thus, while there are no big forests of walnut, there are enough trees growing now to indicate that the supply is far from exhausted.
Furniture men have been talking about walnut being exhausted for fifteen years, and yet all during that time the Germans have been getting millions of feet a year from this country, and will continue to get that amount unless domestic manufacturers decide to use it themselves. The fact that the Germans are paying transportation, brokerage, yardage and other costs involved in getting American walnut to them, both in the form of logs and
Some factories which were making walnut at the height of the demand for furniture of that kind are still turning out walnut furniture. That is to say, they have been taking care of at least a small and well-defined demand for the material, so that it is not fair to say that walnut, as a furniture material, has been entirely out of the market. These factories, which are small in number, have been making a real contribution to the trade by keeping alive the idea that walnut can be had, and that it has not become obsolete.
This has a bearing also on the point suggested above, that it is difficult to restore a vogue which has gone out. Furniture manufacturers have told the writer that they would rather take a wood like figured gum, which is new and has some talking-points not before stressed, than to attempt to revive a dead proposition, such as they consider American walnut. Their attitude is that to follow the line of least resistance is the best policy, and that the public wants something which it has not had before.
This sounds very well, and would apply to fashions in women's clothes, for example. But considering the comparatively narrow range of woods available for the cabinetworker, and to be had in commercial quantities, it would be decidedly illogical to insist that something new be brought out with the frequency, say, of fashions in women's dresses. As a matter of fact, novelty of design and finish are the strongest points of appeal which one may use in building up a furniture demand; and while figured gum, to refer to the wood suggested by the manufacturers has enough good qualities to justify a permanent place in furniture manufacturing, that place will be gained and held not merely because of its being new and unused, but rather in spite of this fact.
It might almost be suggested that the same manufacturers who object to using walnut, on the ground that they cannot handle a worn-out proposition of that kind, likewise oppose using a new wood like figured gum because they dislike to run the risk of having the public refuse
to take hold of a new wood with which consumers are not yet familiar. The point is that oak and mahogany are the only staple materials for the furniture manufacturer, and that any other woods put on have either gone out or are just coming in. This does not take account of Circassian walnut, which for obvious reasons has never cut much figure, as far as the vast bulk of the furniture produced is concerned.
The present seems to be a particularly good time for the revival of walnut. The condition of the market on that wood, with prices lower than they have been and the supply much larger than it ordinarily is, would give the furniture trade a chance to take hold without running the risk of bulling the market and forcing prices up to a prohibitive degree. In fact, such a move would be welcomed by the lumber trade, inasmuch as competition for the wood would improve present conditions, a few large export houses now operating practically undisturbed in the walnut end of the business; and the return of the furniture manufacturers to the use of American walnut could not be regarded other than as a healthy sign.
Again, the changes seem to have been rung in about every possible way on the staple woods referred to. Oak has been finished in every possible way, from golden oak at one end of the line to fumed oak at the other; and mahogany has changed from the highly figured types which were wanted a few years ago to the quieter and less extreme effects produced in most of the high-grade mahogany furniture seen today. There is little left, as far as novelty is concerned, in either of these woods; and the introduction of something new would not hurt oak or mahogany very much, since both by reason of intrinsic qualities and large supply are certain of permanent and uninterrupted use, but would merely add a fillip of interest to the line of the manufacturer now restricting himself to these woods.
It seems hardly necessary to call attention to the qualities of walnut. It is famous all over the world for its workability, its durability and its excellent finishing characteristics. It wears better than any other wood, probably, and walnut furniture of a generation ago, restored to use by those who love the quaint and the unusual, looks as good and is actually as serviceable now as it was then. Walnut is really the aristocrat of domestic hardwoods, and those who have seen the continued shipments of the wood to foreign lands, and the disuse into which it has fallen at home, have been inclined sometimes to resent the lack of judgment and appreciation of American manufacturers, distributors and consumers.
The "horrible examples" of finishing such as prevailed when walnut was formerly used generally will probably not be duplicated if it comes into its own again. Instead of a high polish, obtained by the use of varnish so heavy as to obscure the beauty of the wood itself, a rubbed finish, bringing out the quiet elegance of its appearance, is required; and this, undoubtedly, is the treatment it will receive at the hands of discriminating manufacturers.
Some Disadvantages of the Rich
HE mere expenditure of money for things, so I am told by those who profess to know, soon palls upon one. The novelty of being able to purchase anything one wants soon passes, because what people most seek can not be bought with money. These rich men we read about in the newspapers can not get personal returns beyond a well-defined limit for their expenditure. They can not gratify the pleasures of the palate beyond very moderate bounds, since they can not purchase a good digestion; they can not lavish very much money on fine raiment for themselves or their families without suffering
from public ridicule; and in their homes they can not go much beyond the comforts of the less wealthy without involving them in more pain than pleasure. As I study wealthy men I can see but one way in which they can secure a real equivalent for money spent, and that is to cultivate a taste for giving where the money may produce an effect which will be a lasting benefit.-John D. Rockefeller.
Preserving the Polish
HAVE often been asked the question by dealers as to what is the best method for preserving the appearance of the polish on the pianos which have to stand in their showrooms. The question is not an easy one to answer offhand, since so much depends on the quality of the polishing in the first instance.
Inferior polish is without doubt a frequent cause of the troubles which dealers have to encounter in this respect. The secret of polishing is a good foundation. If the foundation is finished off too quickly and not allowed to stand long enough trouble is eventually bound
Different woods vary, of course, in the amount of polish required; some soak it up so thirstily that until they are really full up with polish the latter cannot stand.
But even when the polish is perfect it is bound to sweat under certain circumstances, and a few general hints, therefore will not be out of place.
To keep pianos or any polished work in good condition it is very necessary to maintain the showrooms at an equal temperature and to avoid as much gas as possible; the fumes of the gas are damp, and in condensing deposit carbon on the surfaces of the goods exposed in the shape of an oily substance, which takes up the dust, etc., and in time becomes hard and difficult to remove.
Great care should be taken in dusting to use a very soft cloth in a very light manner (in fact it would be better to blow off as much as possible), so as to take the dust off without scratching; it is then sometimes found that the surface is clammy and requires reviving, which can only be done by practice, which is easily gained in a short time. Should this treatment not be successful a good reviver is the only thing to bring it up to its natural state, but if a professional polisher is going to touch it up he would use oil and spirit. This can only be successfully accomplished by an expert
Speaking of revivers it is well to note that we do not mean that revivers should contain wax, turps and such like ingredients, as they are entirely opposed to the nature of the materials used in polishes, which is shellac, etc.The Music Trades Review, London.
The Quality of Human Interest
VEN the most unresponsive and callous individual is mellowed when convinced that you are genuinely interested in him and his welfare. In employment work we repeatedly find this true. Seemingly stolid, taciturn and unresponsive men, from whom their foremen can secure scarcely more than a grunt, come to one of our assistants who has previously shown interest in him, and pour out their very souls in confidence.
The quality of human sympathy is indispensable in dealing with others. We often criticize others harshly and unjustly, largely because we are unable to put ourselves in their place. In dealing with others, one of the cardinal principles in salesmanship is to secure the name of the person and remember it so as to address him by name when next you meet him. This is only one indirect way of showing the quality of friendly interest and sympathy.-Doctor Katherine M. Blackford.
SCIENTIFIC SEASONING OF LUMBER
The Theory on Which the Kratzer System is Based as Explanet a be Annual Meeting of National Hardwood Lumber Mannfarmers Assaic
factor of set entered-the bent plow handle, the bent top of the walking stick, the bent shafts of the buggy, the bent portions of certain spindle chairs, the scythe handle, and a host of others.
They all exhibited this factor of set, which in the case of the plow handle resisted even constant exposure to the weather. In every case the bent part held its shape-held it tenaciously.
Then I had an inspiration (I'm taken that way quite often, and they are not induced, either.) Why wouldn't the same stuff handled in the same way, but bent straight, have the same characteristics? "Sure," said Friday. And then began a most interesting series of experiments. I soon found that steaming in loose steam did not reach the center of inch lumber quickly enough; so why not try steam under pressure. Well, I'll not weary you with a recital of trials and tribulations. Suffice it to say that after several months I was doing stunts that were surprising, and in every case the lumber was "set"-straight and holding its shape.
So now on to Washington for a patent on the greatest discovery of the age! I had the world by the neck! Mind you, this was ten years ago-and the world's neck is still free.
Well, in Washington they were very polite, very nice and, oh! so sorry; and they shoved a patent on the process of steaming lumber under pressure, under my nose, that was dated 1859. 1859! Thirty years before I was born! Have you ever had a favorite mother-in-law die on you? I felt as though all three of mine had died!
And again a host of instances came to my notice. George D. Emery of Boston had been steaming ordinary mahogany under pressure twenty-five years before and selling it to the Pullman company as emery wood. Today a prominent manufacturer of fancy woods is delivering dry mahogany in six hours from the saw.
Only a few weeks ago a practical veneer manufacturer and scientist, a Russian, told the National Veneer & Panel Manufacturers Association about this process as applied to vencer logs, and stated that it had been in use for over thirty years in Finland. So-and-so had used the process in such-and-such a year, and so-and-so at suchand-such a time, etc., ad nauseum.
Well, after all, I could continue to use it in my business, and I worked up quite a local fame for it. Anyway, I could handle any kind of lumber, no matter how green, and materially straighten out the crooked. In short, kilndrying troubles no longer existed for me. My product stood the gaff under all sorts of conditions; heat or cold, wet or dry, it was all the same to it.
A famous five and ten cent store concern has my material in over a hundred stores: from New York to Kansas City, and from Duluth to Frankfort, and I'll defy any one to find a trace of shrinkage. Kiln-dried oak in seventy-two hours! Kiln-dried birch in thirty-six hours! Kiln-dried poplar in twenty-four hours! Easy as falling off a log.
One day a recollection of the sawmill came, and with it the thought, "If this is so huge a success on lumber that is at least partially air-dried and has already suffered its deterioration, why not treat lumber fresh from the saw before this degrade has occurred, and air-dry it?" Why not?
I experimented in a small way on what green material I could get in Chicago, and the results were so good that I bought a mixed car of southern hardwoods (from the same mill, by the way) and had it shipped green from the saw. Most of this I treated and piled in the yard for air-drying, and on the rest I experimented with the kiln. The results attained on green lumber in the kiln were not
very satisfactory; but, say, the product resulting from steaming, air-drying and subsequent kiln-drying was so surprising that even I was astonished. To this day my former foreman dilates on that fine oak of 1904. He never could be convinced that the treatment was responsible, but insists it was a special growth of trees that had furnished it.
Crooked lumber? Not on your life! A number of other desirable features also developed, of which more anon.
And then I got chesty and advertised. In June, 1904, the American Lumberman gave me a flattering write-up, a copy of which is still preserved in the archives. And people came from near and far and marveled-came from a distance of five miles and a distance of a million yards; some even came from Memphis. I talked till I was blue in the face, and the more I talked the more they marveled. As I look back upon it now I strongly suspect they marveled at me. As they walked away they seemed to shake their heads, and I was reminded of the farmer who saw the giraffe for the first time and, even after he had seen it move and eat, turned away and said, "Oh, shucks; they ain't no sich animile; but that danged slick talker of a keeper 'most made me believe they wuz." And nothing came of it for years.
I continued to use the process with better and better results. Today I would not use a foot of good lumber for cabinet work that at some point in its drying period had not been properly subjected to steam under pressure.
I'm almost "saturated" with steam under pressure. know that lumber treated in this manner is a joy, just as all of you know that the boiled, baked or fried potato is palatable and a joy, while the raw potato-well, presumably, in case of a pinch one might live on it.
And the theory of it all? It is always more satisfying to achieve results first and then try to adapt a theory. It is still more satisfying to be able to say: "To the divil with all theories; here's the result." So here are some of the results of steaming under pressure:
If properly handled after proper steaming, lumber will dry straight and flat, to less weight, in less than half the time required for ordinary wood; shrinkage will be less than half; borers will not damage it; case-hardening is prevented; hollow-horning is prevented; checks and endsplits minimized; stain is prevented; the color is diffused and livened; working qualities greatly improved; the lumber will hold its shape after being milled; its strength will be greater.
Now I'd like to take a crack at the expression, "common sense," or "horse sense." In some horses horse sense means a disposition to kick one in the slats, and often common sense means piling lumber so closely that air cannot possibly circulate. In this connection I quote from a recent pamphlet of mine on
THE ORDINARY PILE
The present and universal method of piling lumber effectually retards the circulation of air. All the layers are horizontal sidewise, and most lumber is piled with small spaces between the boards. In addition, the piles are covered with a water and practically air-proof roof; consequently, the circulation upwards is entirely prevented. Moreover, the piles are placed closely together, which still further retards circulation. Woods that have a tendency to crook are now piled with a greater number of stickers, which also retards circulation; so that lumber as now piled is hampered in every way for drying and slowly dries in spite of all obstructions.
The best evidence of stagnant air is furnished by the temperature between the piles of the yard. Always the air is considerably cooler between the piles, and always it is quiet.
With the present practice of pitching the pile lengthwise, the sawdust and dirt gradually move down to the
SCIENTIFIC SEASONING OF LUMBER
The Theory on Which the Kraetzer System is Based as Explained at the Annual Meeting of National Hardwood Lumber Manufacturers Association
By ALBERT KRAETZER
'M GOING to talk on a subject that is as old as the "Hills" (meaning Sam Hill and "Yim" Hill). Let me first draw your attention to the deterioration or waste that occurs during the period
that elapses between the time good lumber is taken from the chains and poor lumber is taken down from the pile. To the average sawmill man this is not so apparent, because he is used to it, while an observant outsider may see it instinctively. The sawmill man will try to save ten cents per thousand in the cutting of his lumber; I am concerned in reducing his loss in degrade during the drying period. I'm concerned in cutting down this loss from $1.50 to 50 cents. In 1912 over thirty billion feet of lumber was produced. Suppose only 50 cents per thousand of degrade on only ten billion feet of this had been avoided; five million dollars would have been saved. Let's try to save some of this for ourselves.
pared with pine, and I often wondered how a sawmill could possibly produce so poor an article-how it could possibly lead its saws around the curves.
Not all improvements originate from the inside, but when they originate from the outside they are mostly due to the desire of the originator to make some money for himself thereby. Occasionally an improvement is suggested by an outsider, on the spur of the moment, without expectation of an emolument.
A case in point happened to me. For a number of years a period I'd like to forget-I was engaged more or less unsuccessfully in trying to amass a competence by the manufacture of interior trim. One day an acquaintance, a music teacher, came in to have a special music rack made. He had a sketch that looked like a cubist picture of the bray of a donkey, and as we were very busy finishing up a sixteen-flat building, I tried my best to turn him away, but he stuck. Finally I offered to get out the necessary strips for him, and this he met by the flat-footed assertion that he could not drive a nail straight. So the easiest way to get rid of him was to make his contraption.
While this was being done he wandered around to where a couple of workmen were assembling the first of sixteen rather elaborate sideboards. He watched them for a minute or two and then called me over. "Say," said he, "why don't these fellows put that thing together this way?" I looked at him just as most of you would look at a stranger that presumed to criticize your methods; but I had sense enough to give him a second thought, and, sure enough, what he had seen was true, and we saved over a dollar apiece on fifteen sideboards. Of course I appreciated his suggestion and to show my appreciation I charged him $1.25 for his rack instead of $1.00, which I think was letting him off very reasonably. My plant was located in a distant corner of Chicago, and our product for years consisted of pine finish. The cork pine of those days was easy to work; was straight and easily dried; so when our trade gradually required more and more hardwoods, our troubles increased. What struck me most was the crookedness of hardwood as com
Then a chance presented itself to visit a southern sawmill, and when I saw the beautiful lumber that came from the chains, I said to myself: "Aha! I've discovered something. This isn't the kind of lumber I've been getting. I'll just wait till they begin to saw the crooked stuff." But they kept on sawing the same beautifully manufactured boards. Then I interviewed the sawyer. I complimented him on the excellence of his product and asked him: "When are you going to saw some crooked stuff? I am curious to see how you do it." He was a big, burly guy with large, competent hands, and when he stopped his carriage and looked at me in that tone of voice I was instantly reminded that I had pressing business elsewhere. So I wandered out to the yard. There I saw the kind of lumber I had been getting, coming down from the pile. Just then the yard foreman hove in sight and I tackled him. Said I: "Mr. Smith, where do you keep your straight lumber?" I just knew from his looks that he wondered who had left the gate open. "I mean the kind that is coming off the chains now." The same expression that had been on the sawyer's face came over his, but as he was a rather small man I stood my ground. "This is some of it," he said, and added belligerently, "What's the matter with it?" Dubiously I walked away from him. Was I seeing things? Or was he so obtuse that he could not see the enormous deterioration the lumber had suffered in its progress from the chains to the dry state? Honestly, he hadn't noticed it. Nobody connected with the institution had particularly noticed it. It seemed to be taken for granted, at least, that this big loss could not be avoided, or rather they did not seem to know there was a loss. They didn't even want to waste time enough to talk about it; on the contrary, they talked me into buying a carload or two, and so I dismissed the subject.
Some time later I had occasion to make some bent oak pieces for covering the caps of a lot of iron columns in a certain building. Nearly all of us have a "man Friday" around the place, and my man Friday got this job. The stuff was 14" x 4" oak, bent to a 7" radius. (The pieces were ripped from a green plank procured from a neighboring shipyard.) He made a small steam box and steamed these pieces-in loose steam, of course-and then bent them around forms. This was all comparatively new to me and I watched the operation like a hawk.
Overnight these bent pieces had dried and had set in the bent shape. (Please remember the word set, for I shall refer to it again.) The pieces were dry, they were set in their new shape-very obstinately so-were of a rich color, and the working qualities were so much better than on ordinary oak that I marveled. Then a. number of similar cases came to mind, and in every one the