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Forgotten Woods
by Matt Bynum

We respect the grand Maples and Oaks, but what about their poorer cousins, such as Mesquite and Osage Orange?

Whether it be chairs, tables, desks, sculpture, toys, or whimsical objects, made of cherry, walnut, maple, oak, or pine, why are finely crafted wood objects so appealing? We are reminded of our thoughts about trees, remembering how we are pleased when we see them reach high into the clear sun-filled sky, and how we are awed when we see them withstand the ravaging storm. When we admire the wood grain, we see a journal of the tree's experiences - rich spring growth, summer heat, winter storms, the stresses of floods and droughts. The brown and gold colors of the wood are pleasing to our eyes, the feel of wood is warm to the touch. The beauty and unique characteristics of each type of wood is a reminder of the time when the God spoke all living things into existence, filling the earth with all sorts of things strange and wonderful. And when we see wooden objects that are finely crafted, we are reminded of God's final creation, and of how God gave Mankind the ability (and the responsibility) to fashion the earth's materials into exquisite objects, filling the earth with every good thing.

Historically, some woods have been considered to be more respected and valued than others. We are familiar with the grand Maples and Oaks, but what about the poorer cousins, such as Mesquite and Osage Orange?

Mesquite trees have been considered a nuisance to Texas landowners until it was discovered that Mesquite is a slow burning wood, excellent for outdoor cooking. But recently, woodworkers have noticed that finished Mesquite is quite beautiful, shining with a lustre without even being oiled. Now, the challenge is to develop varieties of Mesquite that grow straight and tall, so that its wood can be used to make large objects.

Osage Orange is another wood that was once ignored by woodworkers, but is now starting to attract some attention. The wood was used mainly for fenceposts, for it is a very dense wood, impervious to insect attack. But when it is finished, it too is a beautiful wood, glowing richly with an amber color.

The story of these woods sounds like a Biblical parable - that which was once despised is now redeemed. What other woods or materials are waiting to be discovered?

Last updated: 12 April 2006
Updated by: Matt Bynum