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Wood Basics Historically, some woods have filled many purposes, while others served only one or two. The tough, strong, and durable white oak, for example, was highly prized for shipbuilding, bridges, cooperage, barn timbers, fence posts, and flooring. On the other hand, woods such as black walnut and cherry became primarily cabinet woods. Hickory was made into tough, resilient tool handles. Black locust was prized for barn timbers and treenails. Early builders learned by trial and error which species to use, and that wood from trees grown in certain locations under certain conditions was stronger, more easily worked-or finer grained-than wood from other locations. Modern research has substantiated that location and growth conditions significantly affect wood properties, and has given us the tools