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1st September – Club Challenge and John Bennett

19 September, 2014

With quite a few members away on holiday attendance was rather disappointing with just 40 voting for the challenge. We had just 8 entries from 7 members but what was lacking in numbers was compensated for by outstanding quality.


Mike Haselden’s superb bowl of balls of various wood was first choice. The balls were hiding a lovely burr elm bowl.

Inventive as ever, Denis Hilditch entered a ring with a handle with a choice of balls to run round the inside. The trick was to move the ring smartly in a vertical plane to get the ball revolving without falling out. There was a certain knack to this which nobody mastered for more than a few seconds. Denis’s entry got second prize.

Denis demonstrating

Third went to Phil Hill for his amusing toy tortoise whose legs were balls and the shell was a larger ball which rotated backwards as the creature was pulled along.

Pictures of all the entries are on the website.

Mike H 1st prize  Denis 2nd prize  Phil H 3rd prize

During the counting we had an illustrated talk from John Bennett a local ex-teacher and no mean expert in wood.

He explained that hard and softwoods are distinguished by the cell structure and perversely some hardwoods are soft (e.g. Balsa) and some softwoods are hard (e.g. Yew). Hardwoods lose their leaves in winter whereas softwoods are evergreen and are also coniferous. That is except Yew which doesn’t have cones despite being softwood and Holme Oak and Holly which keep their leaves although they are hardwood. Got that?

The way to tell the age of a tree is to cut it down and look at the ring structure. Of course this doesn’t do the tree much good. Rings are caused by variable rate of growth during the season. The outer rings conduct nutrients to the tree and are called sapwood. The inner rings are older and lose this function but are essential to support the considerable weight of the tree. They form the heartwood. The sap and heart woods exhibit quite a different appearance in some trees like Yew and Laburnum whereas in others it is difficult to distinguish between them. Around the outside is the bark beneath which is the growth material. At the centre is the core or pith.

The rings are not necessarily circular. Growth on one side is frequently greater than the other depending on weight if the wood is not vertical and prevailing weather conditions.

Some wood has radial marks called medullary rays. These can be prominent in Oak and London Plane (Lacewood). The latter is quite a plain wood except when quarter cut to display the rays.

Another interesting and bizarre phenomenon is the case of the Lignum Orientalis Varigatus tree the section of which, if carefully cut at the correct angle has a pattern of contrasting squares. This is sought after for manufacture of checker boards.

John regrets that you probably wouldn’t be allowed to wind-up students like that these days.


Does that about cover it John?


Oh yes there were a few other things, like Lignum Vitae being the only wood known commonly by its Latin name which incidentally is one of the very few woods which sink being denser than water.

Woodworm love sapwood because it is softer and tastier than heartwood but the waterborne Toredo beetles like it all and bore great holes in wooden ships unless thwarted by copper sheet. Hence the expression “copper bottomed”.

John B talks to Jack M in crit

Fascinating stuff and I apologise if I haven’t got it all right or if I’ve missed something important. Perhaps you’ll let me know?

Dave Gibbard

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