It has often been said that there’s a tool for every job. And I believe that that’s true.
Certain planes are made for definite surfaces and cutting, gouges for certain cuts, hammers to drive specific fasteners, saws to cut particular jobs, plus wrenches and screw drivers even.
And back when all these tools were handmade, the use of wood to be made into tools was equally as specialized.
In another article I mentioned the use of beechwood for making tools and articles for which friction endurance was required. Beech is best for planes, drawer slides, door thresholds, cog wheels, and other such parts that take a lot of wear.
Elm was used in the construction of racks, spike-tooth harrows, apple butter stirrers, shovels, pitch forks, and like items. It was also used to fashion yokes, both yokes for the oxen and shoulder yokes so folks could carry two buckets at a time.
Haymow kiln dry. To dry wood, such as elm, which had an extra amount of moisture, some folks would place it under a haymow. The idea was the hay would absorb the moisture, a type of kiln-drying for farmers who didn’t have or couldn’t afford a neighborhood lumber dealer.
Hickory was used on any item that required a bent handle. Some farmers peeled the bark off, others left it on. Well-soaked hickory retains the bend required. The bow on a wood rake and the teeth were made from hickory.
Chestnut, back when there still were chestnut trees, was used for fence rails, railroad ties and house sidings.
In the small saplings of Basswood (American Linden), with bark removed and the inner wood when exposed, there is perhaps a half an inch thick of fibrous texture. When this is soaked in hot water and pounded thoroughly, it could be fashioned into a usable brush. The native Americans and then the early colonists used this inner bark fiber to weave into cloth.
Use what had. But of course there were always those who were more practical farmer than master woodworker, and would employ whatever wood was available and seemed proper for the what was required, whether it was ash, beech, hickory, or white oak.
Soft woods, and pine especially, were used only occasionally for a stack or whenever such meager items were needed.
In my article on planes, I mentioned a wood shop near our home when I was a youngster. In this shop the truism about a tool for every job was certainly honored.
Although two saws would suffice in a shop wherein daily duties were performed, this gentlemen kept a number of various saws for very specific chores.
The shop would today be an extensive museum. I believe he may have been, as I have been, an admirer of hand tools, old and newer, and always thought he needed more, just like I do.
The saws in that shop went from the all-important bucksaw down to what was named a small compass saw, an old jack-knife filed to create teeth on the blade. This tool was used for minute rounded holes. In later years a keyhole saw served the same purpose.
Put to test. Back when wood was required for a cook stove, one large pot bellied heating stove and a large fireplace, I put the bucksaw to use many times, sometimes daily. Everyday, winter through spring, two or more wheel barrows of kindling and heating logs were required, of course less in warm weather when only the cook stove needed wood. Usually a cord or more was required weekly for the cold months.
To begin with, and in between, the one man crosscut saw also had to be employed every week or so.
I still have the one I used, some one sort of borrowed my bucksaw, however. It was thinner in width at the center due to much use.
Todays saws don’t accomplish the chores any better than the ones of yesteryear.