Wood Identification Question

I would like to find a good way to ID the different kinds of wood. I am just starting out in woodworking.

Michael Dresdner: Whoa – déjà vu! When I first started out (more than 30 years ago), I decided to do the same thing – learn to identify every kind of wood. That lasted until I discovered that there are over 75,000 different identified species of woods, of which fully one third (25,000) are appropriate for woodworking. I eventually contented myself with learning the ones I work with and see the most, and got good reference books to look up the others.

World Woods in Color by William Lincoln is one of my favorite books, because the pictures are full-size, so the grain looks right, but it is only one of several good wood ID books on the market. Another avenue is the International Wood Collectors’ Society, a group that collects and identifies wood species. One of the better visual online sites is at the Yale library. It has pictures of 275 different commonly used wood species, three shots of each – flat grain, quartered, and end grain.

Rob Johnstone: I agree with Michael: better to learn the species that you will be most likely to see and use. This does bring to mind a personal story .(A not uncomon situation.) Because my profession has been related to woodworking for as long as my children have been around, they have had a marginal interest in wood. When they were young, I used to play a game with them based on wood idenification. (I know that this solidifies my geek image completely.) And let me tell you that they became quite good at the process. All this came to a head when my daughter Molly was visiting Italy after her sophomore year in college and was touring a furniture shop historically famous for its intarsia work. As the guide was explaining the various species of wood used to make an image, he stumbled and was stumped by a certain veneer. “It’s Carpathinian elm burl” was Molly’s offhand response. The guide and her fellow students were impressed.

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