How to identify wood species: - Router Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-30-2008, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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Default How to identify wood species:

I've been collecting skids, dismantling them and inventorying the wood. Now, it sure would help if I could identify what I've got. I hear you talking about all the exotic woods you've found. The only one I've been able to identify to date has been oak. The only reason I can identify that is because it's hard; strike with hammer and it doesn't dent - hard and it's got flecks(?) in it.

I'm probably way off base but I think my methods are a little too unscientific. In the computer world we use a decision tree ensure that we don't miss anything.

What is your decision tree to identify different species of wood? What tests do you employ to determine things like hardness?

Allthunbs

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-30-2008, 05:00 PM
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Hi allthunbs

This is what I do when I'm not sure how hard the wood is..
I pickup my air brad nailer, set the presser down to very low, pop in a nail in some Oak then one or two into the stock I'm not sure about..

The amt. that sticks out will tell me how hard the wood is...the norm..
Not very scientific but it works for me..

I should also note I use a small ball peen hammer sometimes and tag it,,and check what kind of dent I put in.

==========





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Originally Posted by allthunbs View Post
I've been coolecting skids, dismantling them and inventorying the wood. Now, it sure would help if I could identify what I've got. I hear you talking about all the exotic woods you've found. The only one I've been able to identify to date has been oak. The only reason I can identify that is because it's hard; strike with hammer and it doesn't dent - hard and it's got flecks(?) in it.

I'm probably way off base but I think my methods are a little too unscientific. In the computer world we use a decision tree ensure that we don't miss anything.

What is your decision tree to identify different species of wood? What tests do you employ to determine things like hardness?

Allthunbs



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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-30-2008, 05:15 PM
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Hi allthunbs,

It's rare you'll encounter any exotic wood from a pallet. This of course is pending on what country/region the pallets come from. At work, we receive chemicals that come from Brazil. The lumber in them, (pallets), I'm not sure what type of wood they use but, it's as tough as Oak.

In addition to Bj's idea, if I have 2 similar length pieces, hold one in each hand, a more denser wood will feel heavier.

The norm, I believe is, smooth out a small area, look at the grain, color and any odors. Some woods do have a certain "smell" to them.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-30-2008, 06:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allthunbs View Post
I've been coolecting skids, dismantling them and inventorying the wood. Now, it sure would help if I could identify what I've got. I hear you talking about all the exotic woods you've found. The only one I've been able to identify to date has been oak. The only reason I can identify that is because it's hard; strike with hammer and it doesn't dent - hard and it's got flecks(?) in it.

I'm probably way off base but I think my methods are a little too unscientific. In the computer world we use a decision tree ensure that we don't miss anything.

What is your decision tree to identify different species of wood? What tests do you employ to determine things like hardness?

Allthunbs
I collect wood and use the standard sample collection size of 3" x 6" x 1/2" and have over 1000 different in my collection. It's a neat hobby because you can do it your entire life and never come close to getting all the species. You can use scrap from your projects and it is a great excuse to go to different places on vacation.

I have studied woods for 4 years and use a loop and microscope to identify the exact Genus, etc. You would be surprised to look through a loop at a freshly cut end grain. It is like a fingerprint and you just match it to existing pictures of the end grain. I have about 20 books with more than 26,000 pictures of the close up end grains.

Comparing the end grain is to an established and accepted picture of a certain species is the only true way to make sure you are correct about wood identification.

Anyone interested in a club for collecting, sharing and trading woods let me know. I am in a couple clubs, but do not participate much anymore. I would like to get back into it.

Website with almost any wood you can think and is the best site I know of:

Wood species with pictures about 26,000 pictures - Scroll down and click on the wood you want to know about.

The best books are below and are considered the bible of wood books, Hoadley is widely regarded as the leading authority and his books are by far the simplest to understand:

Identifying Wood by R Bruce Hoadley

get here:http://www.amazon.com/Identifying-Wo...8089719&sr=1-2

Understanding wood by R Bruce Hoadley

get here: http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-...8089719&sr=1-1

A guide to useful wood of the worlds by the international Wood Collectors Society, edited by James H Flynn and DR Charles D Holder

More useful wood of the worlds by the international Wood Collectors Society, edited by James H Flynn

And to start a collection and understand how to identify:

The wood Collection Volume 1
by James and John Lorette - Start Collecting Wood then click on wood book on the top.

For actually identifying woods:

For a sample identification kit that contains little pieces of wood and everything you need to identify woods, razor blades, wood, loop, etc, plus a secret list so you can test yourself, can be found here:

Actual kits to identify and test yourself

The simplest way to to start is by purchasing a bunch of pre cut to collection size pieces, go here if you are interested:

Wood Collection Starter kits

I have a better starter source too, I will post the link soon:

The Club I am in: IWCS

The pictures are of the end grain of Red and White Oak. Cut some end grain of some Red or White Oak you have and look under a 10x loupe it will look like the pictures below.

The picture with the larger holes(left) is Red oak a dead give a way. These lager pores mean Red Oak is not great where moisture is, it will suck the water up like a straw. The white oak(right) has much smaller holes which is why it is better against water penetration.

Every wood has an end grain fingerprint like this on file. At least any wood we can think of.

Hardness is usually determined by a janka test:


The relative hardness of a wood type is measured using a test called the Janka Hardness Rating. This test measures the force needed to embed a steel ball (.444 inch in diameter) to half its diameter in the piece of wood being tested, with the rating measured in pounds of force per square inch. In this rating system, the higher the number the harder the wood. A rating of 100 points more is a noticeable difference in hardness, less than 25 from each other can be considered equal.

Janka Hardness for some woods


1925 Merbau
1910 Jarrah
1820 Hickory
1860 Purpleheart
1820 Pecan
1725 Padauk
1620 Wenge
1450 Hard Maple
1375 Australian Cypress
1360 White Oak
1320 Ash
1300 American Beech
1290 Red Oak(Northern)
1260 Yellow Birch
1225 Heart Pine
1010 Black Walnut
1000 Teak
0950 Black Cherry
0870 Southern Yellow Pine (long leaf)
0690 Southern Yellow Pine(short leaf)
0660 Douglas Fir
0380 White Pine

Notice how some soft woods are harder than so called hard woods. Remember hard or soft wood really refers to needles on the tree or leaves and not the woods true hardness. Walnut is not hard although many who do not work with it may think it is because it is a hardwood. Many pines are harder than Walnut and American Cherry is really soft for a hard wood.

Ipe is form 2880 to 3000 janka that is HARD Wood!

Nick
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Last edited by dovetail_65; 11-30-2008 at 07:38 PM.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-30-2008, 07:29 PM
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In the process of trying to identify some pallet wood from Brazil I asked at Woodcraft and they pulled out an encyclopedia of wood (not sure of the title) and found one of the main contributors was named Arno, and most of my life I lived within 4 miles of him. He passed away about 4 years ago, and I deeply regret not having talked to him about different woods. The real surprise is that I bought paint from him on several occasions! To get back on track, there are many books that can help, and even if you can't identify a particular wood you can still enjoy the beauty of it.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-30-2008, 07:38 PM
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Hi Nick,

That's some very good info.

I didn't see any "Hedge" listed. When this is cured, it becomes almost petrified. You won't drive a nail in it and it holds up far better than Cedar in the elements of mother nature.

Which reminds me, I still owe Bj a piece of that wood.

Ken

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-30-2008, 07:48 PM
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Quote:
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Hi Nick,

That's some very good info.

I didn't see any "Hedge" listed. When this is cured, it becomes almost petrified. You won't drive a nail in it and it holds up far better than Cedar in the elements of mother nature.

Which reminds me, I still owe Bj a piece of that wood.
Thanks, that's just a super short list for an example. Many of the woods I use are not on the list and are up in the 2000 janka range and up.

A big problem is names are regional and marketers make up names all the time. So really I have no idea what wood Hedge refers to as if you google it at least 4 totally different woods are called that! The scientific name never changes, another reason to use the end grain and match it to picture that uses the scientific name in its identification, especially when dealing with the Australians it seems they call woods by many names within their country dependimng on where they live, even more so than in the US. They have some neat woods we can't easily get too. A good reason to make lots of friends here!

Last edited by dovetail_65; 11-30-2008 at 07:54 PM.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-02-2008, 07:38 PM Thread Starter
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Default Sorry - I didn't expect to open a can of worms.

Oh boy did I stick my neck out here.

Nick: Wow. I never figured I'd get into a completely new world.

I have to ask myself now, why would I want to know what woods are what.

Ok, the answer is to make sure that I use the same wood in a project where that would be important. For example, my wife wants a mirror frame. She would like to use the colour and figures in the wood as part of the beauty of the frame. So, do I go to the store and buy some wood that's all of the same specie or do I categorize my "collection" and use some of the recycled pallet wood.

So, where do I start?

The web site you recommend with the pictures gives 19,000 pictures of wood. The gentleman that created the site certainly created a labour of love but it is too much and too confusing for a routerist to use to identify a few sticks of wood. Do I learn how to use a router, or learn to identify wood? I'm committed to learn how to use the router. So, I need an alternative method of identifying wood. That's why I was asking for a decision tree -- a shortcut.

So, by your method, I should compare end grains. Ok, cutting my pieces of wood is easy. Next?

Now, do I start with colour? What other identifying features would I incorporate into my method of identification?

i.e.

Colour: very light blonde
Rings: quite large and unpronounced
Highlights: none
Ring Colours: very light blonde
Hardness: not very
Identification: Pine

This is part of a decision tree. Is there a decision tree for tree species? A decision tree takes out the guesswork in identifying something.

I'm really lost here. Where do I go from here?

Allthunbs
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-02-2008, 08:02 PM
 
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The US Forest Service - Forest Products Laboratory - Center for Wood Anatomy Research will identify a maximum of five wood samples per household or business per calendar year as a free public service to U.S. citizens. They have a detailed procedure for submitting samples.

The minimum posts required to post URLs prohibits me from linking directly.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 12-02-2008, 08:04 PM
 
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Hey I hit 10

USFS Wood Identification is here:

http://www2.fpl.fs.fed.us/WoodID/idfact.html
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