By Matt Warnock

What is life like for the multitude of species that have been featured in the monthly Wood of the Month feature? For most species, life is nothing like it used to be.

Being classified as a Wood of the Month is a distinction that wood species from all over the world vie for constantly. For some woods, it can bring untold fame; others carry out their tenure as a Wood of the Month with quiet distinction; while still others have a difficult time handling the new-found attention they receive.

Wood & Wood Products spoke with some of the former Woods of the Month to see how they dealt with the honor and to see how it has affected their lives since. While their tales do not always have a happy ending, the knowledge that comes from such experience is valuable for any species.

The Mighty Oak

The Wood of the Month feature first graced the pages of W&WP in June 1986. The honor of being the first of many woods to come went to Red and White Oak. With more than 200 species worldwide, oak is typically a family divided.

“When I got the call that I had been chosen, I was just sitting down to dinner,” says White Oak. “I was shocked and so excited, but then they said I would be sharing it with Red Oak and I felt a little let down.”

“White Oak and I had been having a little feud for a couple years, so when I got the call and they said I’d be sharing it, I almost declined,” says Red Oak. “The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the perfect time to bury the axe, so to speak.”

The two agreed to be featured, and a new department came into being.

“I still remember the opening line, ‘The mighty oak from a little acorn grows, and grows and grows,’” adds White Oak.

Both Oaks agree that, after being in the magazine, their renown grew, for which neither was ready.

“All of a sudden, we didn’t have to wait to get into the botanical gardens and greenhouse parties any more,” Red Oak explains. “On the flip side, everyone was suddenly an oak expert. Granted, I’m a hardwood, but I have a soft side too.”

The two say they used the article to quickly build up a large fan base, but eventually grew tired of the notoriety and constant encounters with the paparazzi.

“By the beginning of 1987, people had moved on to other woods, and that was just fine with us,” says Red Oak.

“We wanted to go back to the quiet existence we knew before,” agrees White Oak.

While both species have appeared several times since in the pages of the monthly feature, they now enjoy a more private life.

“I won’t turn down an appearance in the feature,” says White Oak, “but I’ll let the fame go to the new guys.”

The Not So Sweet Life

“I wasn’t ready to handle the fame of being a Wood of the Month,” says Pear, who appeared in the feature in October 1991. “I was used to the attention from the agricultural industry – that was all about the fruit – but being known for the wood itself was a new experience.”

According to the feature, Pear comes in a number of varieties and is a good wood to use for lumber and veneer. However, the article claimed, pear trees can be especially susceptible to parasites and diseases.

“Some of those comments really hurt,” adds Pear. “I might be susceptible to the bugs and germs of the world, but if properly taken care of, I can produce some wood that ages well and improves over time.”

Eventually, the notoriety went to Pear’s head. According to Pear, it started hanging out with the wrong crowd and paid less attention to proper maintenance.

“Someone gave me some bad fertilizer, and before I knew it, I had an outbreak of fire blight and an infestation of stink bugs. I usually don’t talk about that time in my life too much,” says Pear. “When I finally got it all together and got clean again, the world had moved on.

“It was rough at first, but I got over it. I still look fondly at my framed copy of the article from time to time and wish that I had done it all a little differently,” Pear adds.

The Un-Wood

“It is an honor to be ranked among the rest of the woods, especially when technically I am a member of the grass family,” explains Bamboo, who first appeared as a Wood of the Month in December 2002.

Bamboo was chosen because, among other things, it has such a wide range of uses, grows quickly and is considered a green product. According to the article, Bamboo has been documented growing as quickly as 36 inches in 24 hours.

“I’ve been dealing with different amounts of fame coming from so many different sources for so long that the Wood of the Month thing didn’t make a huge impact on my life,” says Bamboo. “I understand that it’s an honor, but at this point, my philosophy is ‘grow with the flow.’

“I’ll look at some of the woods that I’m in contact with from time to time — some that have made the cut and some that haven’t — and I can’t help but notice the rivalries and jealousy between them. That’s not what I’m about. I heard about what happened to Pear. That’s unfortunate, but it would never happen to me.”

Bamboo has become a more widely used option for furniture manufacturers, cabinetry and flooring. As more time passes, there are more uses found for the plant all the time.

“I’m most interested in promoting a healthy environmental strategy,” explains Bamboo. “When someone does bring up my Wood of the Month designation, I like to point out the fact that I’m about as ‘green’ as they come, despite my light, yellowish color.”

The wood-like grass is considered a green product because it can be harvested in as little as six years, and once cut, more will grow in its place.

“I’m also easy to work with,” Bamboo adds. “I machine easily, sand well, my end grain seals and fills easily, and I can be finished well.”


New to Degame 

Degame, also known as lemonwood, was selected as Wood of the Month in April 2007 and is still relatively new to the renown that comes with it. “I had no idea it would all be so great,” says Degame. “I’ve been getting calls left and right to take part in this project or that.” 

Degame is known for its use in making bows for archery because of its ability to bend without breaking. The wood’s uses go well beyond that, including billiard cues, flooring, interior joinery, cabinetry, shuttles and other parts for the textile industry, measuring instruments and shoe lasts. Degame also can be used for woodcarving and making organ parts. 

“I always knew I was useful in a variety of applications,” Degame explains. “Being a Wood of the Month has really helped people to understand all that I can do."

“I would look at the other woods that had been featured, and wonder when my time would come,” Degame adds. “Well it’s here, and the sky’s the limit.”  

Illustrations by Chris Nititham.

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