You Collect WHAT??
That is a frequent response that I have when I tell others that I collect woods from around the world. People are
so surprised to hear that there is anyone who would collect ---- Wood! --- But when you think of it, it is strange
that wood collecting is not more of a hobby and personal endeavor. Wood comes from trees and we are
surrounded by both trees and wood practically every day of our lives. People collect coins, stamps, sports
cards, dolls, antiques, artwork and even more unusual things like buttons, hubcaps, bottles and cans.
....Then, why not collect ---- wood!
Collecting all kinds of wood is far from a new concept.
Universities and forestry research institutes around the world have been collecting samples of all plant
materials worldwide including wood as far back as the 1700's. These collections actually are extended to all
types of living things and are the essential foundation from which life in every form is studied. Professional
wood collections usually are backed up with keeping leaves, fruit, seeds and other parts of each plant,
including samples of each wood itself, so that the accuracy of each can be checked over the years as needed.
Such sets of plant materials are called "vouchers" and are kept in drawers in large rooms called "herbariums".
The world's largest wood collection is at the Forest Products Lab in Madison, Wisconsin. They have 100,000 wood samples.
Less known are those who have realized that having a collection of wood is practical and a most enjoyable hobby.
I first thought of the idea of collecting woods from around the world while in woodworking shop in Junior High School
many years ago. I thought, though, .... "how can I possibly travel all around the world, into jungles, swamps, deserts,
mountains and some of the most inhospitable areas of the world? How can I know how to identify the thousands of species
that are woody?". To amass a large collection of woods, well beyond just the area a person lives, indeed can present what
may seem like impossible barriers.
Dedicated collectors can actually do fairly well by also seeking out different woods from the rich and diversified
stocks of companies that sell lumber and wood products such as flooring and sometimes from government and
forestry offices around the world. However, the more people that can help collect various woods from the many
countries and regions around the world, the better chance you can have of growing a wood collection. This is where
having an organization for the common purpose of wood collecting becomes indispensible.
Wood Collecting Organizations
There are two organizations within the world that are dedicated to promoting and assisting wood collecting. One
has the short form name of NEHOSOC. It is totally in Dutch and centered in the Netherlands. The other is The
International Wood Collectors Society. It is incorporated in the United States but has over 1,200 members spread
around the world in over 30 countries. IWCS (for short) has existed since 1947. Many members' interests are
concentrated more in crafting although there is a percentage of members that uphold academic collecting of wood.
Various members over the years have and still do field collecting in the many, many areas around the world and
then offer not only crafting quantities of wood but wood samples in a standard size for sale and trading with
It is this cooperation of many people around the world, each collecting and trading wood from where they are,
that has made wood collecting truly viable. In the 70's decade, after collecting 3,000 different woods (actual
wood pieces), the going got tough to get others. Now with the communications revolution of the Internet and
with many new tropical forested areas being opened, there are collectors that have been able to get as high as
4,000 to even 5,000 species. One IWCS member in the UK in his 90's has a collection of around 6,700 different
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