CHAP. 77.—METHODS OF OBTAINING FIRE FROM WOOD.
This is a method1
which has been employed by the outposts
of armies, and by shepherds, on occasions when there has not
been a stone at hand to strike fire with. Two pieces of wood
are rubbed briskly together, and the friction soon sets them on
fire; which is caught on dry and inflammable substances, fun-
guses and leaves being found to ignite the most readily. There
is nothing superior to the wood of the ivy for rubbing against,
or to that of the laurel for rubbing with. A species of wild
too—not the same as the labrusca—which climbs up
other trees like the ivy, is highly approved of. The coldest3
woods of all are those of the aquatic trees; but they are the
most flexible also, and for that reason the best adapted for the
construction of bucklers. On an incision being made in them,
they will contract immediately, and so close up their wounds,
at the same time rendering it more difficult for the iron to penetrate: in the number of these woods are the fig, the willow,
the lime, the birch, the elder, and both varieties of the poplar.
The lightest of all these woods, and consequently the most
useful, are the fig and the willow. They are all of them employed, however, in the manufacture of baskets and other
utensils of wicker-work; while, at the same time, they possess a degree of whiteness and hardness which render them
very well adapted for carving. The plane has considerable
flexibility, but it is moist and slimy like the alder. The elm,
too, the ash, the mulberry, and the cherry, are flexible, but of
a drier nature; the wood, however, is more weighty. The
elm is the best of all for retaining its natural toughness, and
hence it is more particularly employed for socket beams for
hinges, and cases for the pannelling of doors, being proof
against warping. It is requisite, however, that the beam to
receive the hinge should be inverted when set up, the top of
the tree answering to the lower hinge, the root to the upper.
The wood of the palm and the cork-tree is soft, while that of
the apple and the pear is compact. Such, however, is not the
case with the maple, its wood being brittle, as, in fact, all
veined woods are. In every kind of tree, the varieties in the
wood are still more augmented by the wild trees and the males.
The wood, too, of the barren tree is more solid than that of the
fruit-bearing ones, except in those species in which the male
bear fruit, the cypress and the cornel, for instance.