Wood species

Mountain fir - a symbol for Robin Hood and a wood with a silky sheen

One of the favourite species of the luthier is the mountain ash. And not just for its outstanding acoustic properties but also for its light colour, fine, wavy grain that gives it a silky appearance. Pruning and growth defects also contribute to natural drawing special and unique. It is frequently referred to as the singing paltin and the mystically inclined believe it can connect with the spirit world. In our mountains grow some of the most prized specimens for their specific sound. For these and other interesting reasons, the following article is dedicated to the paltin.

photo source: littleguitarworks.com

Robin Hood's tree

The best known specimen of the mountain ash is in England and has played in the film alongside Kevin Costner in Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves. There is a famous sequence there with a lone paltin between two hills. It is the most photographed tree in England and stands near Hadrian's Wall, near Crag Lough in Northumberland. The palindrome is several hundred years old and has had other siblings, but they have disappeared over the years. He has also appeared in Bryan Adams' video (Everything I do, I do it for you), and in a couple of TV shows. In May 2003 she was again heroa helicopter crashed not 100 feet from him.

In 2016 it was nominated for the Tree of the Year competition in England, along with 200 other trees. It won the competition and so entered the 2017 European Tree where he came 5th. First place in England earned him a prize of £1000 used to examine his health and protect his roots, increasingly exposed by the many visits.

Of the maple family, but also similar to the sycamore

The Latin name of the mountain hawthorn is Acer pseudoplatanus. Part of the family Sapindaceaelike Acerjust like maple. In fact, maple is also known as mangrove (Acer platanoides). In the literature you can find mountain ash under the names sycamore maple or European sycamore (English), mountain steel (Italian), sycamore maple (French) or bergahorne (German).

Native to central and eastern Europe and western Asia, the palindromes reached the north of the continent in the 15th and 16th centuries and were brought to England by the French. By 1700-1800 it was also acclimatised in Sweden and after 1800 it reached the USA. It has adapted very well to these areas and is now considered invasive in some parts. In Romania it grows in hilly and mountainous areas, reaching altitudes of 1500-1600 m above sea level.

Palms are a deciduous tree that grows 30-40 m tall, sometimes 50 m, with a diameter of 1-1.2 m. The roots are strong and deep in the ground. The stem is straight and short, with grey bark and smooth when young. After 30-40 years, the bark begins to thicken, develop cracks and peel off in irregular slabs, just like sycamore. The crown is wide and irregular. The leaves are large (12-20 cm), palmate-lobed, serrated, with narrow, pointed sinuses. On the back they are dull and hairy at first, the back of the leaf being one of the ways of distinguishing the palindrome from the maple, which has a glossy leaf on the back. The flowers appear after flowering and are yellowish-green clustered in hanging clusters. The fruits are disseminated with 3-6 cm wings joined in a pointed uncus.

Palms grow fast in the first part of life, at 30 being similar to beech at 60. After 30 years the fruit appears and is easily scattered by the wind. It typically lives to 400-500 years, but there are specimens that live well beyond this age.

Palinden wood: properties, characteristics

Palin is one of the few species where sapwood is used. In cross-section you cannot always see the difference between sapwood and heartwood. The sapwood area is broad, ranging in colour from yellowish-white to cream to golden brown or reddish. The heartwood is darker reddish brown. The annual rings are visible. The fibre is fine, uniform and straight. The most popular are those where the fibre is wavy, sometimes very pronounced. This type of hawthorn is also called curly hawthorn. The pores are diffuse, numerous and sometimes radially arranged. The medullary rays are visible to the naked eye, both narrow and wide, normally spaced. It is these that give the natural lustre specific to the palatine. The radial cut highlights the medullary rays.

Palin is the wood whose flaws are actually qualities. In addition to wavy and curly grain, the wood may contain small knots which, depending on the cut, can give it a distinctive appearance (bird's eye, peacock's tail).

The density of anhydrous rattan is 615 kg/³ and the Janka hardness 4680 N. In order to keep its light creamy-white colour, it is recommended to cut the tree in winter, cut it immediately and dry it in kilns. Otherwise the wood may stain with its own sap. Work well with both hand and power tools. Sharp tools and low speed are recommended to avoid burning the wood. Turn, carve and glue well. It is good to apply an insulator before the beating because it tends to stain. If finished clear, without staining, it tends to yellow over time.

It is not outdoor and moisture resistant. It is understandable considering that sapwood is used, with no outdoor resistance.

photo source: hullforest.com

The Romanian Paltin learn to sing la Reghin

Palin wood is used to make furniture, decorative objects or boxes. It is a valued raw material for aesthetic veneers. Palin veneer with a distinctive pattern is often used to decorate luxury cars or yachts. Because of its light colour it is used for inlays. Palint is used to make bowls, spoons and other kitchenware. It is also a very good firewood and a raw material for making paper.

The most important use of the rosewood, however, is in making musical instruments (violins, cellos, violas). From this point of view, it is a species with pedigree and is appreciated by European violin makers. It is mainly used to make the back, sides and neck of instruments. The most appreciated is the wavy-fibered rosewood for its great visual effect. But it is not only aesthetic but also has the property of propagating sounds. Wood with narrow annual rings is used for high sounds (violins) and wood with wide annual rings for low sounds (cello, double bass). Also, rosewood has the ability to enhance sounds, giving them clarity. At the Hora musical instrument factory in Reghin, Romanian rattan is used with special qualities. Find out more about Hora and the instruments made there here.

About the link between the appearance of the rattan and its acoustic and elastic properties find here a detailed study by a team of Romanian professors and researchers. One of the findings establishes the link between the undulation of the fibre and the wavelength of the sound. A fibre with pronounced undulation will have a shorter wavelength, and a more discrete undulation will have a longer wavelength.

source: hora.ro

I feel somewhat sentimentally connected to this species because it triggered my passion for wood. In the first 2-3 weeks of my employment at ICPIL (Institute of Research and Design for the Wood Industry) I saw a few samples of wood with a glossy varnish applied to it that highlighted the natural design. The samples were for a colleague's work, and I thought I had never seen anything more beautiful. The most beautiful of them were those made with curly and sweeping rosewood veneers.

I hope you find the above information useful. As usual, additions are welcome. And if you have any questions or queries, please leave them in the space below. I'm sure I'll reply.

About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.


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  • I'm getting more and more passionate about woodworking, gradually trying to buy tools, watching youtube, reading sites like this one. I don't make a living out of it, it's just a hobby.
    But , I don't want to be misunderstood, but articles like this make me feel even more confused.
    WHERE can I find wood in Romania???
    My biggest frustration as a novice amateur is access to wood essences.
    I have neither money nor what to do with cubic metres of walnut, fir, oak etc.
    At building and DIY stores you get 90% spruce and fir and the rest oak and beech ONLY as treads, risers and balusters for stairs. ATAT.
    Where can I find some "by the piece" hardwood?
    The second frustration is traditional tools. You can't find real chisels and rulers in the trade. Just cheap, stupid, unsharpened, bad steel stuff that doesn't sharpen or melts after 10 minutes.
    So interesting article, decorated with outside images. What about us?

    • I completely understand your frustration because I'm also struggling with the same thing. I use outside images because I can hardly find them here. That's what we're trying to do with the magazine. To revive the tradition of DIY woodworking, to have new information, in Romanian, about wood essences, technologies, etc. Slowly things are starting to move and it won't be long before there will be specialty stores with special wood, where you can buy small quantities. If you've read the DIY articles you've seen some of the tools we use for our projects. Some of them were taken from the flea market in Bucharest. Maybe it will help you to find the necessary tools.
      I wish you success!

    • Wood to board you can get from Holver http://www.holver.ro/They're expensive and they'll fuss if you just take a piece but they don't refuse. Otherwise you can find some at every local forestry office - logs or cut wood. Alternatively you can cut yourself with a chainsaw what you find at your friend's or relative's house, or what is already fallen.
      Good tools in Romania sell http://www.finetools.ro/ or Europe - https://www.fine-tools.com/ or https://www.dictum.com/en/.

  • Hello! You have mixed several species of wood that are also visibly different even in the proposed pictures. You have mixed sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) with different forms of maple in the pictures - they seem to be Acer saccharum Sugar Maple (the one used to make syrup) and Bigleaf Maple Acer macrophyllum or even a picture of American sycamore Platanus occidentalis. Local and regional names and the mixing of species names with morphological variant names for the same species are the reasons why it is good to use Latin names. Otherwise you waste an opportunity to clarify the situation and promote a correct use of the different wood species.

    • Thank you for the clarification. Your suggestion to use the Latin name to better identify the species is very helpful. I will make the necessary changes.

  • Congratulations on the article, but I have a question. From what I've heard the reed is used in musical instruments only as a "bottom" aesthetic part, not as a resonator. Are the small, regular annual rings you refer to from spruce?

    • The curly palisander is also a resonant wood. It is used to make stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello), but I've also read about rattles made from rosewood. In Hora-Reghin, we also use hollow palint wood.
      Thanks for your appreciation.
      All the best.

  • For years I've been looking for information about the paltin wood that I knew in my youth at CPL Arad, where I used this wood for carving. Unfortunately no one knows this species, but at one time I met someone who is a forestry engineer and to my surprise he claimed that the paltin is the same as the maple. Can you confirm this?
    And it would be very useful to put a picture of the living tree you are describing.
    Thank you very much!


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