Few persons having their dwellings comfortably fitted out with some old, solid, and yet elegant mahogany furniture , have the remotest idea with how much labor and hardship the cutting of the mahogany tree is connected. To prove the correctness of Mr. Squier's remark in his “ Travels through Central America,” that “ of all the out-door works, the cutting of the mahogany is the most laborious and the roughest,” we will give a brief sketch or how the work is done, having been associated with that kind of business for several years. The countries where most of the mahogany trees grow are principally S t. Domingo and the Central American States. British Honduras, Guatemala, and Honduras furnish a superior quality, as also the largest logs. Th e latter are mostly shipped to England, while the smaller logs, say from three to six feet in diameter, are shipped to the United States under th e name of “ Yankeewood." The cutting of the mahogany trees is conducted as follows : The tract of land selected for the works must be so situated that it is easily accessible through rivers, creeks, or canals, whi ch run into a sh elteri n g bay or harbor, where the vessels can lie and receive the wood. The lands are leased from the government for a certain number of years, for which lease the manager has to pay annually a certain sum of money— some two hundred dollars or more, according to the land he occupies and to the circum st ances under which he m ake s the bargain. For every log which he ships he pays from five to ten dollars—the different S tates varying in their taxes. The number of workmen necessary to carry on the business on a large scale is about one hundred, who belong to different nations—Caribs,' Sambos, Indians, and Spanish Americans. They are engaged for ten months, as no work is done during December and January, on account of the heavy rains. The m en receive from ten to twelve dvllars per month, payable half in goo ds and h al f in cash, besides their weekly rations, consi st in g of s even q u art s of flo ur and four pounds of salt pork. Whoever has once witnessed the scene of paying out the rations will never forget it. It is always a scene of tumult and general dissatisfaction which often ends in a re« ,olt, Tho cause is that the workmen always pretend that © 1869 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. OCTOBER 30; 1869.] Jeitutifit Jimmatt 279 the flour was not properly measured or the meat not properly weighed. This giving out of rations is always and everywhere the work of Sunday mornings, and it is therefore so mucJt more painful to a man who remembers the peaceful : Sunday mornings of a northern home. Each nation has, of course, a distinct language,!and as all speak at once in the most vociierous manner, the scene often resembles a second Babel. . The workmen are divided into “ gangs,” according to their i nationalities, and the work which they “are required to accomplish. The heaviest work is done by the Caribs and Sambos ; the Spaniards have the charge of the cattle, while the Indians are used as carriers, hunters, etc. All the laborers are under the inspection of a captain or overseer, under whose command are two or more foremen or second captains. As soon as the men are thus organized the work begins. First of all roads have to be made, in all directions, leading towards the water's edr-e. At four o'clock in the morning a : shell is blown by order of the foremen as a signal that it is time to get up. The men then prepare their hasty, frugal breakfast, consisting of a piece of boiled pork and a dumpling made of flour and water and boiled with the meat. At a second signal they have to appear before the captain's hut armed with their hatchets, etc. Wften the names of those present have been called out, and the missing ones noted down, the captain marches them off, and sets them at work. This is no small job, as the work in these countries is only done by tasks and not by the hour. The captains have, therefore, to measure and mark each separate task, and in the evening it is their business to see if the tasks are all properly finished. In making truck paths and other roads, twenty-five to thirty feet are called a task. The work consists of clearing away trees and bushes. As it often happens that one has, in his distance, many large trees to cut down, while the next one has nothing more than bushes, of course a great deal of grumbling and dissatisfaction is manifested, but they have to manage that between themselves and help each other. Very often they finish thpir task by ten o'clock, and they have thus the rest of the day for themselves to cultivate their gardens or corn patches around their huts, or to go hunting, as many of the laborers have wives and children with them, and the usual rations would not be sufficient for the wants of a family. The different nationalities keep apart from each other, and the little colony is divided into settlements. The animosities existing between the different inhabitants greatly augment the trials of the manager. "While some of the workmen are thus preparing the roads several explorers are sent out in different directions through the almost impenetrable wilderness, to hunt up and mark such mahogany trees as they think are good and sound. Many of the larger ones prove to be hollow, which, of course, is loss to the owner if time is expended in cutting them. The hunter is paid from twenty-five to fifty cents for each tree which he marks. He has no compass or meals to sho,” him his position in this vast forest, his only guide is the sun, and often he is obliged to climb on a tree in order to see it. The cutting of the trees is an interesting and aimost a dangerous process. As the roots of the mahogany tree project sometimes more than ten feet above the ground, It sort of scaffold has to be erected at the hight where the trunk of the tree commences. This scaffold is simply made of creepers, about half an inch in thickness, fastened around the nearest trees. The cutting is done with the ax in the hands of the Caribs, and it is a most exciting sight to look upon these men as they stand barefooted on a single limb and swing their axes with all possible ease. If one of them loses his equilibrium, which seldom happens as they consider it a dishonor, it always causes a great deal of merriment among his fellow workmen. The actual felling of the trees depends very much 0n the wind and wtather. If the wind is contrary to where the trees are intended to fall, they have to wait for another chance ; neither ought the trees to be cut while the moon is increasing, as the wood would not be so valuable for future use. There are not more than four months in the year when the actual cutting can be carried on, and it is therefore necessary that everything should be prepared and in good working order when the right time arrives. The trucking and sleighing of the trees down to the river or creek forms another imporiant operation. Every tree is rolled into the water amid the loud cheering of the laborers. Fourteen cattle are usually yoked to a truck, but if the tree is one of the largest, twenty-eight cattle are used. Generally three, but sometimes only two trips are made in a day, each trip with a different set of cattle. It is almost impossible to give the reader an idea of: the difficulties and tediousness of the trucking; it can only be partly imagined what an immense trouble it is to make fourteen or twenty-eight half-wild oxen work together or to guide them. As soon as the rains have set in, the sleighing commences ; mud here taking the place of the snow of northern climates. The loss of cattle is al ways very great, caused by the carelessness of those who have the charge of them, or by many other unavoidable circumstances, Many straggle off into the woods, where they are often attacked and ldlled by tigers, always to be found hovering around the cattle-yards ; while others get into the swamps, in search of water, from whence they are unable to extricate themselves, and as there is no possibility of helping them out they are ldt to die. Half of the oxen are always on the sick list, disabled by over-work, or some other casualty. In this condition they aie driven to a place where they find their own food, while those that are in working order are kept in a yard and fed with the leaves of the bread-nut tree, which the Indians have to cut down for them. As soon as the rivers and creeks are swollen by the heavy rains, the rafting begins. If the owner loses the opportunity of floating down his wood during the hig4 water, he will have to wait till the. »ext year for another chance, This work re quires a great deal of attention and calculation ; if the rafts are not properly “ boomed,” it often happens that the wood is floated off and wash ed into the sea, where it rarely can be fished up again. As soon as the rafts approach the bay or harbor they are moored, and the trees are drawn out of the water on some level piece of land, where they are squared, measured, and cut in logs of suitable length for shipment. We have only given the roughest outlines of how the work is carried on ; but we have said but little of the many trials which the manager, who is in most cases a foreigner, has to undergo. If he is a man of education and cultivation, his sufferings are endless, and yet it is absolutely necessary that he should be on the epot, to keep order and superintend the business himself. Though his hut may be somewhat better than those of his men, yet he can have but little comfort; he is, like all the rest, whether indoors or outdoors, besieged by hosts of scorpions, tarantulas, frogs, snakes, rats, and numberless other animals which make his hut their habitation. The climate, the surrounding swamps, and the rank vegetation, are the causes of fevers which attack him. These are, however, only bodily sufferings, to which human nature can get more or less accustomed, but the mental trials a,re still greater, .Every extra stroke of work must be paid by a drink; and should the owner neglect to have a supply of rum un hand, the most serious consequences might follow. If he is not fortunate enough to secure a reliable captain he is constantly cheated, but is powerless to prevent it, as he can only be at one place at a time. The owners and the captains are always prepared for an attack from the workmen, and never go out without guns or pistols. We have seen mahogany captains covered with as many wounds and scars as a veteran soldier. Another great trouble to the manager are the “ runaways.” He is more or less in subordination to his men. The laws of the mahogany works are such that he is obliged to pay his men two or three months in advance. With this advance money they go off to some neighboring works and engage again under some other name. This changing of names is quite a peculiarity among the cutters; with every new master they adopt a new name. If the former master is lucky enough to find out where the runaways have gone he can only claim them when the time for which they have engaged with their second master has C)xpired. Then he can only force them to work out their advance pay, but this does not indemnify him for his loss, for often the few working months are passed and his allotment of trees have not been brought out. These troubles are almost daily occurrences in all the ma hogany works, and are considered a necessary evil. The .government is obliged, by the annual tax paid by the owner, to afford him all possible protection and aid in the recapture of the runaways, or to punish any disobedience, etc.; but it is always much better for the superintendent to avoid, if possible, recourse to the public authorities, as it causes him extra expense and loss of time, losses nowhere so much felt as in this business. We have thus far only described the dark side of the life in the mahogany works, let us look, therefore, upon a more agreeable pieture. Passing through the different settlements during an evening, we shall find, in spite of the.warmth of the clime, large fires blazing everywhere, to keep away all animals that usually sneak aroun d at night, and drive off the swarms of insects that fill the air. Men, women, and children are grouped around these fires, giving the scene a gipsylike appearance. Let us pass through the Carib settlement ; it is particularly lively here. They always have some kind of a genius among them, who takes charge of the evening's entertain ments. We see him balancing himself on the trunk of a fallen tree or on an empty flour barrel, and he is delivering a speech amid many gesticulations. We understand little of their jabber; the words “father” and “mother” are often repeated, and are ever received with loud acclamations from the attentive and appreciative audience. Parental love is a marked feature in the character of this people, and the most of the haranguing which they greatly affect is based on this subject. Upon the whole they are exceedingly boisterous in speech and action. The stranger is often induced to believe that they are quarreling or ready for a fight, when a sudden outburst of laughter will convinee him of his mistake. As we proceed a little further in our evening ramble, we meet an entirely different scene. We are among the Spanish speAing people ; they are much more quiet. We stop to listen to the monotonous melody of some Spanish ditty, sung in a falsetto voice 1.y a native, and accompanied by the guitar, There is not much music in their songs, but they are melancholy, and therefore touch the heart. As we turn again towards our own gloomy hut, the desire and hope of a prosperous season in our mahogany business is greater than ever, as it will afford us the happiness of returning to our former home and associations. GREAT FIRE AMONG THE SHIPPING AT BORDEAUX.—The particulars of the great fire in the shipping at Bordeaux, in France, on the 28th of September, have reached us, and show the very great danger of permitting petroleum vessels to moor alongside or even in proximity to other vessels. This fire originated in the sudden explosion of a lighter laden with petroleum. The lighter was lying at anchor in the harbor, near Lormont. The petroleum casks, wafted by the tide, communicated the fire with frightful rapidity to the vessels moored to the quay. The conflagration lasted the whole night, and between twenty and thirty large vessels were de- stroyed. The amount of the loss is as yet impossible to esti- i mate with anything like certainty, but seventeen vessels were totally destroyed, and many others injured, How to Build a Corduroy !'toad. The border settlements of our country have frequently to resort to the construction of corduroy roads, these roads remaining for years in some cases before a better road can be constructed. The proper construction of such a road is therefore a matter of no small importance to these settlemants. Properly laid down, a corduroy road is not so bad a thing as the improperly constructed ones, which have, at some period in the experience of most Americans, tried their patience to the utmost, would lead them to believe. On the contrary, we have ridden over a road of this kind which was a very comfortable road, and in nowise destructive to team, vehicle, or temper. Mr. T. F. Nicholl, a civil engineer and contributor to a spirited paper published in Chicago, called The Land Oum,er, gives the following rules for laying such a road, which, if followed, we know from experience, will make a very good road, until the surface becomes uneven through decay the timber. ” In marsh, or bog lands,” says Mr. Nicholl, “ where the bog is not deep, and where timber can be obtained, the roadbed may be formed at the least expense by what is known as corduroy, which should be constructcd as follows : first lay all small poles or brush transversely and across the road ; next take long trees—the smallest ends being at least of 10 inches diameter—and lay them longitudinally along on these poles and brush, in two rows, 8 feet apart from centd' to center, making the ends at the junction of each piece lap each other, at least 3 feet, breaking joint on either side, and placing under these ends large logs, of sufficient length to extend across the road, and 2 feet on each side of these stringers. Cover these stringers with transverse logs, 12 feet long from scarf to scarf, and at least 10 inches in diameter at the smallest end, fitted close together, on the straight portions; the logs alternated with a large and small end ; and on the outer side of curves all the large ends, which will assist in the curvature of the road, and the gravity of the vehicles. Next adze off the center ridges of these logs to a face of about 3 inches for a width of 9 feet in the center of the- roadway, and cover this 9 feet with gravel to fill in between the logs and give a smooth surface. The best timber for this purpose is cedar, tamarack, etc., usually found in these localities. Two stringers are preferable to three, as in case of sinkage of either of the outside stringers, the cross-pieces would ride and rock on the center stringer, and, consequently, the whole road- bed become displaced. ” A very desirable plan is to lay on the top of the road thus formed, poles of 5 or 6 inches diameter, spiked down on each side of the track, every 10 feet, with oak pins, to prevent, in frosty weather, the lateral sliding of wagons." Purifying and Bleaching Oils. An invention has been patented in England, which consists in the purification, bleaching, and saturation of animal and vegetable oils, also of gums and resins. as well as of such liquids as oil of turpentine, spirits of turpentine, and methy 1- ated spirits, by means of ozone, whereby much time is saved and greater purity obtained than by the methods at present in use. The substance to be acted upon, if liquid, as in the case of oils and spirits in their usual state, as well as the gums and resins in the melted state, is placed in a suitable vessel, and streams ot ozonized atmospheric air or ozonized oxygen are forced through the substance. It is advisable to keep the liquid in motion, so as to bring its particles in contact with the ozonized air or ozonized oxygen, and thus expedite the process of ozoniza.tion, or the liquid substance may flow through a vessel possessing a large superficial area, and into which ozonized air or ozonized oxygen is passed. The great extent of surface permits the ozonized air to act readily upon the liquid and ozonize it. Or animal or vegetable charcoal in fine powder is saturated with ozonized air or ozonized oxygen, and the oils are exposed to the action of the , ozonized eharcoal. In the case of the gums or resins in their usual solid or unnielt- ed state, the inventor exposes them in fine powder to the action of ozonized air or ozonized oxygen. By the continued action of ozonized air upon oil or spirits of turpentine, the latter becomes so saturated with ozone as to become a vehicle for the conveyance of ozone to other substances. By ozonized air or ozonized oxygen is meant atmospheric air or oxygen ozonized by any artificial means. The Albertype. A recent number of the London Paotograpaie Dews contains a fine example of this new style of photographic pictures. The process is as follows : A plate of glass is covered with a solution of albumen, gelatine, and bichromate of potash, dried and exposed to light until hardened. It is then again covered with a solution of gelatine and bichromate of potash, and when dry exposed under the negative, and the film is then found to possess qualities analogous to a drawing made with fatty ink upon lithograph stone. All those por- tians of the film that were acted upon by the light will refuse water and take printing ink, while those portions which were protected from light by the negative will take water and refuse ink. The ink and water will be absorbed by the film just in accordance with the gradations of light and shade in the negative. To produce a picture. wet the surface of the film, then apply ink, lay on paper and pass through a press; the operation be ng substantially the same as lithography. The processs is said to be rapid, and excellent pictures of all sizes may be printed in admirable style. To think properly, one must think independently, candidly, and consecutively; only in this way can a train of rea soning be conducted successfully, © 1869 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC. 280 wmrim. [OCTOBER 30, 1869. Improvement in Turbine Water Wheels. The class of water wheels known as turbines has been steadily growing in favor ever since the true principles of their operation have been thoroughly understood. Their general adaptation to all heads, their power of running under as well as above water, their compactness, and their power of utilizing the mechanical power of falling water, have given them the first rank among water wheels. There have been, liowever, some drawbacks which it is the object of the improvement under consideration to remove, as well as, at the same time, to increase the utilization of power in such wheels. The nature of the improvement will appear from the following explanation referring to the accompanying engravings ; Fig. 1 being a top view, and Fig. 2 a vertical section of a turbine wheel thus improved. In both figures, A represents portions of the wood-work surrounding and supporting the working parts of the wheel. B is the shaft supported by a step, C, as shown in Fig. 2. The internal or chute-chamber, D, Figs. 1 and 2, is supported from the top by an outward Jange or rim, E, which rests upon the top of a cast-iron breast, F, but is not bolted to it. The breast, F, is supported by the wooden framework, A. The chute-chamber, D, not being bolted or otherwise attached to the breast, F, may revolve, should a stone or other obstruction engage between the outer lip of any of the chutes, G, and the inner lip of a bucket of the wheel, whereupon the wheel speedily comes to a stand-still, and the obstacle which might, on many forms of turbines, have caused serious breakage, only causes, with this wheel, a temporary stoppage. This vertical rotation of the chute-chamber also allows the chutes to be so placed in relation to the buckets of the wheel proper as to secure the maximum effect of the water. The chutes are shown at G, Figs. 1 and 2. The gate II, is of hoop form, and is shown closed in Fig. 2. It is opened by simply raiding it by a system of vertical rods, and may be placed under the control of a governor to secure a uniform motion of the wheel. The revolving part, or the wheel proper, is shown at I, Figs. 1 and 2, and the curved buckets of the wheel are seen at J, in both figures. Thus it will be seen that a very simple wheel has been secured, having but few parts, and so arranged that obstructions cannot break it. With regard to its power of utilizing the mechanical effect of water, we can only form a personal judgment from its construction, which seems based upon correct principles. The inventor claims that it will utilize more of this effect than any other' wheel in use, and he has shown us very flattering testimonials, from parties now using the wheel, corroborative of his personal testimony. > These testimonials indicate that the performance of the wheel is not excelled, if equaled, by any other wheel. Patented, August 4, 1868, by Isaac S. Roland, whom address, for rights or other particulars, Reading, Pa. parts resting on the sleeper, H. These parts thus bound together are secured to the sleeper, H, by wooden pins or treenails, D. The advantages of this system have been already partially set forth in the introductory extracts above, but we will, in addition, give the advantages claimed by the inventor—a gentleman who has had twelve years' experience in the construc- Fir,.! bring combined in one continuous beam will grearly counteract the heaving of the track by frost in winter as no short undulations can be formed on the line. Thus a track in every respect superior to the ordinary road is attained ; safer, smoother, more elastic, containing fewer pieces per mile, and every joint combining to assist the others in their respective functions; and the reduction of the expense of repairs, both of the way and the rolling stock, will pay ample interest on the additional cost. Patented through Scientific American Patent Agency, September 14,1869, by Charles G. Wilson, of Brooklyn, N. Y., who may be addressed , for further information. ROLAND'S TURBINE WATER WHEEL. tion and maintenance of railway tracks. It is claimed that a railway thus constructed possesses greater strength and gives a better support to the rails. The extended and continuous bearing of the rail prevents' its mashing into Improved Method of Constructing Railways. The Report of the State Engineer of New York on rail. roads contains the following statement: “ The desirableness, if not the necessity, of increasing the durability of our railway tracks, even to meet present demands, is the truth of all others that our railway managers do not require to be told.” And again: “ There is a growing conviction among engineers that the longitudinal system will become standard. It offers from 2 to 3 times as much bearing for the rail as the cross sleeper system. The whole strength of the longitudinal is added to the strength of the rail, considered as a beam to carry the load. The strength of the cross sleeper in this direction is wholly wasted. The longitudinal is almost certain to prevent the displacement of a broken rail." These quotations show the importance of any judicious attempt at devising a perfect longitudinal system. Such an attempt is the subject of the present article, and the nature of the improvement is fully shown in the accompanying engraving. In this engraving, A is a Bessemer steel rail, resting upon tVo side rails of iron, B, theforms of which are fully shown in their sections. These side rails fit upon the inner edges of two collateral wooden supports (oak scantlings), C, in the manner shown, and the whole combination thus formed rests upon a longitudinal sleeper, H. At proper intervals' tie rods, E? bind the opposite sides of the track, being firmly held by lining or wedge keys at G. These wedge keys bearing upon the graduated cast-iron washers, F, also serve to clasp lLnd bind together all the the wood. By means of the tie-bars, spring keys, and graduated washers, the track is easily kept in gage. No accident can happen through a broken rail. No part of the track is liable to shake loose, as no fishplates, bolts, nuts, spikes, chairs, or wedges are used. Cross sleepers are entirely superseded. A large reduction of expense in the main- CHAS. G. WILSON'S PERMANENT WAY. tenance of way is attained, and there will be less decay of sleepers, as less surface of wood is presented to the ground. There are no elbow joints in curves, as only one fifth of the rail is at any point non-continuous. The iron rails, if made of good materiltl, will last so long that only their first cost need be practically considered, and the steel rail may wear off as low as the flange of the wheels will permit, and be still as safe to run upon when first laid, The rails and sleepers Why Do Railway Carriages Oscillate? There is so prevalent an idea that the unpleasant, and, to the nervous, injurious oscillation of railway coaches is due to the axles being too wide for the line, that the following explanation, given in the Times, by Mr. Charles Fox, is of much importance, both to the public and the companies “: ” The oscillation of railway trains, more especially at high velocities, producing what is ordinarily called ' gage concussion,' is a very serious source of wear to the permanent way and rolling stock of railways, and, as a consequence, of great expense, to say nothing of the discomfort it occasions to passengers, and is, in my opinion, caused, in very great measure, by the use of wheels, the tires of which are portions of cones instead of cylinders. ” It is well known to engineers that the tires of railway wheels are generally coned to an inclination of onein twenty. It is considered that these were first introduced by Mr. Geo. Stephenson, in the expectation of facilitating the passage of vehicles round curves by their adapting themselves, through their various diameters, to the different lengths of the two rails on which they were running. This, however, is not the case in practice, as any one will find upon carefully investigating the matter, inasmuch as, in a vehicle passing round a curve, the Jange of the off fore wheel will be found close up to the outer rail, while that of the aft near wheel will be found running with its flange close up to the inner one, so that no benefit whatever accrues from the use of the cone, even in going round curves. ” The, question of passing with steadiness over straight lines seems to have been altogether overlooked in the introduction of coned wheels, for it will be obvious that with the inch ' play' allowed between the tires and the rails, unless one-half of such play be constantly preserved on each side of the way, two wheels, staked upon the same axle, will be running upon different diameters, and, consequently, a struggle arises which cannot fail to result in oscillation, inasmuch as the moment one of the flanges touches a rail, that wheel, becoming larger than the opposite one, turns it off from the rail, only to make the opposite one perform, in its turn,the same operation, when serious oscillation is the result. ” As I have already stated, no advantage is found to arise in the use of conical wheels in passing round curves, and as much evil results therefrom, on straight lines, I have constructed upward of 250 miles of railway abroad, in the rolling stock of which I have departed from the usual form of wheel, and have used only cylindrical ones, and have, as I expected, been gratified with the satisfactory reports I have received of the steadiness of trains supplied with them. ” Now that main-line companies are running their express trains at such high velocities, this oscillation is becoming a very serious matter, not only as a question of safety, but also one of great discomfort to the passengers, to say nothing of the enormous cost occasioned by this destructive action. I would, therefore, venture to recommend, that should any one desire to test the correctness of the principles here stated, he should select a carriage known to be most subject to oscillation, and place under it four cylindrical instead of conical wheels, and let this carriage run in an express train, care being taken to avoid the oscillation of the two adjoining carriages with conical wheels being communicated to it, which would be effected by the introduction of two coupling links, say ten feet long, instead of the shorter ones in general use, and he will at oncIl perceive the advantage of using cylindrical wheels. ” I have a form of tire which I find to answer the purpose very well, a section of which I should be happy to send to any one who may think it worth while to ask for it." A COLLECTION of twenty-five pins, very well maile, has just been placed in the Louvre, Paris. They were found in the subterranean vaults of Thebes, and were made more than three thousand years ago, showing that the modern invention is only a reinvention, © 1869 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
How Mahogany is Obtained
This article was originally published with the title "How Mahogany is Obtained" in Scientific American 21, 18, 278-280 (October 1869)