random #33: To the Xylarium!

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 02-27-2010 05:04 PM 3937 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 32: Rockler's March "2010 Master Catalog for Woodworkers" Part 33 of random series Part 34: the straw-like nature of red oak »

I’m very excited about this new word I’ve stumbled upon. This is an actual, in-use word combining xylo- from the Greek xulo- from xulon, – wood – and the Latin -arium (genitive -āriī), second declension – a place where things are kept from other things, or a place associated with a specific thing. In other words, a xylarium would be a place in which wood is stored. It seems to apply best to vault-like collections.

Here's a short, interesting article (with photo) on the xylarium of the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan, which claims they have over 23,000 samples from 8,000 species, which are available to scientific institutions, and have been used as a reference in high profile murder cases. They have the capability of identifying the woods they know from a 1mm sliver, great for figuring out wood species from ancient, priceless artifacts.

I also found a page on NCSU's site that mentions Tsukuba’s xylarium of Japanese woods, and also mentions the Tervuren Xylarium, Laboratory for Wood Biology, Royal Museum of Central Africa, Belgium, which specializes in African woods and has a collection of 48,114 specimens representing 16,245 species. I would love to see these some day. And to think that the IWCS says there are over 100,000 species of trees the world over. Amazing how so much work by field agents and donations by private collectors still yields species counts an order of magnitude below “what’s out there.”

At any rate, I think we all know what I shall be calling these things for the forseeable future…

The Xylarium of Dr. Fixler


-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

10 comments so far

View lew's profile


13488 posts in 5089 days

#1 posted 02-27-2010 05:08 PM

Holy Splinters, Batman!! To the XYLARIUM, Robin!!!!!!!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View PetVet's profile


329 posts in 4821 days

#2 posted 02-27-2010 06:25 PM

Gary, at the rate you have been collecting orphan wood, you can’t be too far behind these places… :)

-- Rich in Richmond -- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 5071 days

#3 posted 02-27-2010 06:30 PM

Thanks Gary for sharing this with us.

I recently returned from a trip to Brazil and brought back about 50 examples of different species of woods from all over Brazil. I have a few woodworking friends down there and we decided to do a cultural exchange of domestic woods from our regions. I gave them quite a few examples of our domestics along with some exotics.

My wife and I visited a wood museum in the Sao Paulo area that is nothing short of incredible.

Keep up the good work!!!!

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View mmh's profile


3701 posts in 5056 days

#4 posted 02-27-2010 11:36 PM

What a WONDERFUL word!

I’ve been reading your blogs on your wood ID antics and I was wondering where you were storing all of these finds. Now I know! Quite well stored if I may say so. I need you to come over and organize my uncut woodpile!

We have a dozen logs of maple, cherry, apple, black walnut, etcl., out on the back patio that need a good home/project. Come on over and take your pick.

Now, if we sell the house we can add Xylarium to the ammenities, no spa or pool, but I do have a 1500 gallon koi pond (stocked).

My humble indoor Xylarium:

fancy wood,exotic wood

As posted earlier – Wood Aholics Anonymous:

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


23277 posts in 5010 days

#5 posted 02-28-2010 12:07 AM

Holy mackerel, an Xylarium!! I have always wondered what to cal the wood shed ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4716 days

#6 posted 02-28-2010 02:03 AM

Rich – I know! Actually, things have slowed considerably. I haven’t hauled wood home in months, but I still have sooo much of it. I have a coworker friend who was going to call me over after Thanksgiving last year as his place was doing a bunch of tree trimming. He never called, but I actually felt a slight bit of relief.

John – Are you the fabled traveler who collects wood from afar? I’ve read about your type! I wish I could have gone on that trip, and returned with all that wood!

mmh – That is anything but humble! What a gorgeous collection. It is absolutely worthy of the name xylarium. You have a lot stickered – did you cut that stuff yourself, or are you just helping bought stuff dry out?

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4716 days

#7 posted 02-28-2010 02:06 AM

Just checked out your post, too, mmh – what a great xylarium. I bet it smells nice.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4716 days

#8 posted 03-01-2010 01:15 PM

I’m working on both, Autumn! I would say I’m a very amateur/wannabe dendrologist (tree studier), and a very fledgling wood collector. I still only have that first box of samples, but at some point I want to be sure to cut out and plane up IWCS sample-sized pieces from the woods I’ve found around here that I’ve been able to definitely ID. I’m more and more wanting to build something like a DVD wall, but for wood samples. I recognize – especially in my friends’ eyes – that this is a little crazy, but at the same time it would be a very pretty, natural installation piece, and quite a conversation piece, as well as being fragrant and a great personal woodworking resource.

I actually took a walk last night at midnight (okay, 3 hours ago :) around my neighborhood collecting more species samples. I’m now 100% sure a bunch of the trees I’ve been tentatively calling California Pepper Trees (Schinus molle) are definitely that. They should be an easy ID from now on, even while driving by them. I’m hoping they all yield pink peppercorns this year so I can wander around town and harvest enough to try whipping up a batch of essential oil and also create a few bottles of dried, usable peppercorns. Maybe I’ll even turn a peppermill for them and present the whole thing with peppercorns as a gift to my folks.

Also from tonight’s walkabout: the Chinese elms are doing something I didn’t know they did, and I’m curious to understand it further. Everywhere the long, hanging branches have leaves, which is alternatingly down two sides of each, a whole new tiny branch with alternating leaves has appeared. The original leaves have gotten hard and thick and are cracking, and snap like potato chips. However, this makes every limb on the tree look completely overdone in leaves now. They’re huge, weeping, solid masses of leaves now. It looks cluttered, but very rich and vibrant, like a jungle. What I don’t understand is how I’ve not seen this until now, and what will happen to this next level. The branches they come from may be 6’ long or more, and are literally just very long, thin sticks with rows of leaves. Now each is becoming host to another like itself at every leaf. The trees in the area are not busy with a fractal descent of weeping levels, so do these levels fall away later, or is it a particularly long cycle (7 years, e.g.?) that they do this? I don’t see how the branches can all be these very long, hair-like things (when viewed at a distance) without having grown sub-levels all the while until now. I thought at first I’d found a mutant tree, but all of them in the area are doing it, so it must be their thing. More research to follow…

I’ve also learned American sweet gums flower. They’re all getting large, fuzzy buds all over. I haven’t noticed this before, so I’m interested to see how that plays out this month. Too, I got some samples of flowers and maple-like leaves from a spindly tree I’ve been really wanting to figure out since probably the middle of last year. I’ve got all the pics necessary now, so here’s hoping. My favorite online plant/tree ID forum just had a big shakeup, shutting down and archiving forums while they shuffled around management. They did, thankfully, bring back the ID forum, but you could only post if you had over 100 posts. I have 52, of course. Tonight, however, I noticed it was 100 after February 3rd, or 40 before. I made the cut! I can still get expert help, and those guys really are experts. They’ve pretty much nailed everything I’ve shown them down to the scientific name.

I’d love to see a xylarium pic if you have one! Thanks for saying hi.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 4625 days

#9 posted 03-03-2010 05:40 PM

“To the xylarium!” – a “Young Frankenstein” reference?

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4716 days

#10 posted 03-03-2010 06:12 PM

You’re full of surprises, Autumn. Forestry sciences lab? That sounds pretty exciting right now. I’d love to see a core sampling event in action. I’ll have to look around the net. The only story I know about them so far is probably the most famous botching thereof.

I haven’t typed up a list of samples, but there are 5 pictures of groups of all of them midway down this post. If they’re hard to read and you want a list, I wouldn’t mind typing one up for you. The size I’m interested in is 0.5” thick × 3” wide × 6” long. If I were to trade unfinished pieces, I’d probably want something bigger than that so I could joint, plane, and crosscut everything to exactly the standard IWCS size, as I’m hoping to build a very uniform display out of them eventually, and having them all identical will make it look a lot prettier. Maybe 3/4”x4”x7” or larger?

I’m a little afraid of sweet gums after hearing about some horror stories. They can send roots really far, like across-entire-back-yards far. There was a home repair show that showed how one tree in a yard wrapped its roots around the house entirely and under the front driveway, and was squeezing in, crushing the entire foundation like a vise grip. The roots are thick and carbohydrate-rich (I’ve read), so cutting even the whole tree down at the base just has them send up hundreds of suckers that all need to be stamped out, too, or then you just have lots more of them. They’re like starfish!

The pics from my late-night walkabout 2 nights ago are in this set, and the sweet gum buds are here, specifically. Other users have some good shots in the wild here and here.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

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