Your quarter master and crew would like to shed some light on the woods we have brought to your course. All the woods used at S9-113 are native to the Southeast and were cut in forest in the Huntsville and Albertville areas, with the sole exception of the first weekend Gilwell gate logs were from Camp Sequoyah.
First the Wood Badge logs and some of the staff rounds, are Osage-orange wood, It is also known as hedge apple, horse-apple, green brains, mock orange, Bois D’Arc or bodark. A small deciduous tree or large shrub, Osage orange derives its name from the “orange” scent emitted by the fruit. The native habitat of the tree includes the tribal lands of the Osage Indian People, thus the name. The fruit of the Osage orange is roughly spherical, bumpy and filled with tiny seeds embedded in a sticky, white latex sap. In autumn, the fruit turns from a dull green to bright yellow-green and emits a faint citrus odor similar to oranges. Osage orange is not related to oranges. The tree branches present large, sharp thorns. The branches are twisted and interwoven, making it a difficult tree to trim. The wood is used for making bows, furniture and musical instruments. The warm, golden color of the wood and its strength make it a favorite choice of woodworkers. Osage Orange is extremely durable and is considered to be one of the most decay resistant woods in North America. Osage Orange has a relatively low modulus of elasticity compared to its weight and modulus of rupture which helps explain why it is sometimes used for archery bows. It’s sometimes called Bois d’arc, which literally means “bow wood” in American French. The wood is also very stable, with little seasonal/environmental movement. Osage Orange has been shown in studies to produce more BTUs when burned than any other domestic hardwood.
Some of the staff course rounds are made of Persimmon. Bark is black and blocky like an “alligator hide”. Fruit is a pulpy edible berry. Trees are dioecious so some trees will never bear fruit. The wood is hard and used for turnery. The fruit is eaten by QM, birds and animals. Unripe fruit is very astringent! It is used to manufacture billiard cues and textile shuttles. It is also used in the percussion field to produce the shaft of some mallets and drumsticks. Persimmon wood was also heavily used in making the highest-quality heads of the golf clubs known as “woods” Persimmon woods are still made, but in far lower numbers than in past decades. Over the last few decades persimmon wood has become popular among bow craftsmen, especially in the making of traditional longbows. Persimmon wood is used in making a small number of wooden flutes and eating utensils such as wooden spoons and cornbread knives.
All of the participants rounds and a few walking staves are made of Mockernut Hickory. Hickory is among the hardest and strongest of woods native to the United States. On average, Hickory is denser, stiffer, and harder than either White Oak or Hard Maple. The wood is commonly used where strength or shock-resistance is important. Mockernut Hickory falls into the True-Hickory grouping. In addition to strength and hardness applications, the wood of Hickory species also has a very high thermal energy content when burned, and is sometimes used as fuelwood for wood stoves. Additionally, Hickory is also used as charcoal in cooking meat, with the smoke imparting additional flavor to the food.
The troop guides, venturing staff rounds and one or two walking staves are Southern Red cedar, which is not a cedar at all, it is a Juniper. The durable, fragrant wood is used for fence posts, railroad ties, cedar chests and pencils. The seed cones are eaten by many birds and animals. This is the wood most often used in wood badge rounds.
Now to the walking staves, I hope most of you have had an opportunity to ask the Quarter Master what your stave is made of, if not there is time. Two were listed earlier; most are Sugarberry which is first cousin to the Georgia hackberry which are all in the Elm Family. In terms of outward appearance, Sugarberry bears a close resemblance to ash; anatomically, however, it’s closest to elm , with the pores arranged in wavy tangential bands. Hackberry is reputed to among the very best woods for steam bending among hardwoods native to the United States and Canada.
Next some are Eastern Redbud which is in the Legume Family. The heart wood is dark brown and heavy. The flowers of the redbud are eaten in some areas. They may be collected and put into vegetable salads. In Mexico, it’s common for the flowers to be fried and eaten.
Some of you have American Elm staves. Heartwood is a light to medium brown, sometimes with a hint of red. Sapwood is a pale white or cream color. The wood is also used for the hubs of wagon wheels and hockey sticks, as it is very shock resistant, owing to the wood’s interlocking grain. It is also used for making bows, as it is both strong and flexible.
Some have Sassafras staves. The wood of sassafras is used in the manufacture of furniture, interior and exterior joinery, windows, doors and door frames , kitchen cabinets and paneling. It is a preferred wood used in boat building and fence posts. Sassafras is very resistant to heartwood decay, in exposed damp conditions.
There are a few Dogwood staves. Dogwood has excellent shock resistance, and is one of the hardest domestic woods of the United States. Its toughness is appreciated in a variety of applications, like Golf club heads, textile shuttles, bows (archery), mallets, pulleys, and turned objects.
There a good number of Southern Ash walking staves. Once ash was the preferred wood for making tennis racquets and baseball bats. It is also used to make hockey sticks, billiard cues, skis, oars and turnings.
The S9-113 Dave Keith mallet is made out of Osage-orange head, Mockernut Hickory handle and Dogwood wedge in the handle.
I hope this gives you some insight on the woods of wood badge.
Your Quarter Master