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Wood was harvested for different purposes. In fact the different names for “wood” comes partly from this differentiation:

  • Wood is by definition what we burn.
  • Timber is heavier stock grown longer to produce beams and planks for houses, carts and ships.
  • Poles are as the name suggests straight timbers used for tool handles (including spears), with large poles being for things like house roof beams or ship spars.
  • Underwood is the brush or small stuff that grows under the main trees and which was harvested for kindling. Larger woodlands had a man specifically employed to keep the underwood trimmed to prevent clogging the rest of the woodland; the surname of Underwood comes from this task.


The person looking after the forest / woodland for a lord or master wanting spear shafts would sort out suitable trees for that very purpose. These would be grown / trained to be straight in exactly the same way modern gardeners train other plants. Snipping off buds at lower levels prevents side branches and therefore knots forming, thus training a stronger straighter shaft without large knots (which are weak points). This work forces the pole to grow straight up.

Pages in category ‘Wood’

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