A Selection of Alternative Timbers

Author(s): John Mortimer

Trees & Shrubs | Trees & Shrubs | Forestry & Timber

The material for this book is drawn from a series of articles which first appeared in New Zealand Growing Today. There is much to interest both the grower and user of the timbers (all exotic) which are described here.


Product Information

This book should be required reading for anyone looking at planting a serious stand of trees on their property. That's not just because most of the information included was published first in columns which the author used to write for this magazine, it's because John Mortimer is without a doubt one of New Zealand's foremost authorities on trees and is happy to share his accumulated knowledge with those just starting out and uncertain of what to plant. 

In his latest book, a thin tome at just over 70 pages, he runs through a number of different tree species detailing history, timber properties, comparison of strength properties and end uses as well as giving details of where further information can be obtained.  Some of the species are the trees which New Zealanders are most interested in growing such as black walnut, Douglas Fir and macrocarpa while others have perhaps not been so popular in recent years.  These include plane, English elm and sycamores.

John makes the point in his introduction that these trees have been an integral part of natural wealth of their native countries and that should now be the case here. 

With a copy of this book in their hands and the right place to start planting New Zealanders are now able to put ideas into practice and increase the wealth of trees already grown throughout the country.    

Growing Today November 2003 

When I first saw this book I somehow knew it was going to be interesting.  Having now read it, I believe anyone who has an association with timber or things built with timber will also.  There really is something for everyone.  From processing to joinery, the book contains information that is relevant, useful and entertaining. 

The 14 chapters each cover one species making it easy to find your way around.  Its small size (A5) and 72 pages do not claim it to be a textbook, but it is a good starting point and each species has a handful of references for further reading.  Chapter 7 is the most complex and deals with 10 species of eucalypts, grouped into stringy barks, ashes and blue gums. 

The book surprises in some delightful respects. Sprinkled through the facts - the geographic origins of each species and occurrence in New Zealand, physical characteristics and timber properties  - there are a variety of other historic uses and factual snippets that are unusual and engaging.  Did you know, for example, that in Britain lintels and doorsteps were once made from sycamore in the belief that that the timber would ward off the evil intentions of witches?  And that there are 100,000 Douglas fir seeds to the kilogram, more or less!  All of this historic and trade-related information is well presented in a readable colloquial style that only serves to increase the usefulness and credibility of the book as a whole. 

Obviously written by someone with a lifetime's experience in timber husbandry, this book describes a range of timbers that are useful substitutes for native species now not attainable.

The author, John Mortimer, has been a practising farm forester for 40 years and over the past 10 years has recovered, sawn, processed and sold most of the timber species in this book.

Build Magazine June/July 2004      

General Fields

  • : 9780473094829
  • : taitnz
  • : taitnz
  • : 210mm X 140mm
  • : New Zealand
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : John Mortimer
  • : Paperback
  • : illustrated edition
  • : 674.10993
  • : 72
  • : Colour photographs