THE DURABILITY OF BLACK PINE.
To the Editor. Sir, —l notice in your report of the last Agricultural and Pastoral Association’s meeting that Mr. Silcock, in speaking of the durability of certain timbers, avers that his statement as to the non-durability of black pine could be easily verified by a walk through the bush, where a person would never see a fallen pine that bore evidence of having lain any length of time. Now, while there is nothing like leather to the one who sells it, and while I am an agent for the sale of both black pine and totara, I believe, with him, that totara is the most durable. I think, however, that he is rather hard on the pine species, as I could show him black pine trees which have been lying exposed to the ravages of both insects and weather for the last fifteen years—and, for aught I know to the contrary, far longer—and are as yet undecayed; and not only so, but they are harder now than they were the day on which they were felled, and, to all appearance, bid fair to retain their firmness, durability, and pine-like nature when their doughty superior’s sap shall have dried un, and his trunk have withered and decayed, and perhaps have gone to form the component parts in the growth of some young pine. If anyone doubts it, let him invest in a good American axe, and let him follow me to the time-honored trunk, and apply himself vigorously thereto, and he will soon find that the black pine is not so soft nor full of vanity after all, even though it may be full of years. That it is a durable timber, no one who has had a large and long experience in its use can deny, oven though he beanative. At the same time, that timber of the same species grown in certain districts, and under certain conditions will last for long no one will admit. There are a great many things to be taken into account in connection with the durability of timber as in all other organisms. There is, for instance, the nature of the soil—-as to whether it contains the necessary chemical constituents in order to produce that qualification. Then there is the quality of the soil—as to whether it contains these properties in sufficient quantities in order that the cellular tissue of the tree may be natural, compact, and strong, and so be able to resist the action of external influences. Then there is the condition of the soil— as to whether it is wet or dry ; the former of which is the cause of the fatal objection being lodged against the use of white pine which grows chiefly in humid, wet soil, and in consequence of which is of a soft, spongy nature, and becomes brittle when dry. This is not the case, however, with all white pine, as that which grows on dry soil is very durable, being hard, wiry, and tough in the fibre, and capable of bearing heavy strains. Then there is the age of the timber, the time during which it is felled, and many other things which tell on its enduring properties. Instances of
the durability of black pine in Canterbury arc not rare, but are many. There is one instance now brought to light, viz., that of piles which have been buried in tlie ground for the last fifteen years, and are now being withdrawn with very little decay, and are fit to be again used for the same purpose.
Of the durabilitjr of totara there is no doubt. We have of late had an instance reported from the north of totara piles being withdrawn after having been in water and earth for upwards of a quarter of a century, and still some parts of it quite sound. It is a pity, I think, that this timber is not more largely used in places whore durability is the main feature required in it. Mr. Gundry, in the same report,, in referring to this timber said “he thought it was brittle.” There is no doubt but totara is brittle, but not so very brittle as is generally supposed. Some of it has a very tough and flexible fibre, and iscapable of bearing heavy strains, and being durable will carry greater weight in the long run than many other timbers used for strain bearing purposes, the latter being so soon liable to partial decay, and therefore loses its strength. Apologising for trespassing on your space—l am, &c., Timber.
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