Woodturner’s Wood Identification

We’ve all been there….

You find or are given a piece of wood and you have no idea what it is. You comb through all your wood identification books, but they don’t seem to give you enough information.The wood shown is of a flat, plain looking board, the photo shows bark from the base of the tree or from a limb, or its hand drawn. The fact is as a woodturner you see more variety in wood in a month than a flat worker may see in an entire year or a lifetime. Simply stating it is red oak is not enough for some of us; we want to know the exact species of red oak.

We all have a few woods that we encounter more than others, or some whose properties stick out in our mind that we can identify outright. Yet with so many different woods out in our local area it’s hard for each of us to know every wood we come across. I propose to change that by pooling our knowledge into a series of standardized pdf’s we can collect and share with our fellow woodturners. Each document will contain a description of the tree and wood from a woodturner’s perspective. To be clear this project applies to domestic woods only.

The tree description should include any information that will help identify the wood on site:
* Description of the bark at the base vs the limb
* Basic shape of the tree Leaves,
* Other identifying characteristics

The wood description may include such things as:
* Color variation
* Smell
* Grain pattern
*Turning green vs dry
*Susceptibility to tear out
*Susceptibility to cracking
*Can the bark be incorporated into the design
*Types of turnings for the wood
*Finishing properties, etc.
*Any other useful information
*Safety concerns

While descriptions are nice, pictures are better. A few basic pictures will be needed for each wood:
*Full view of the tree
*Leaves (maybe with a ruler for perspective)
*Bark at the base of the tree (old growth) and at the limbs (new growth)

This covers the tree itself. Now for the wood. These pictures can be taken after cutting with the bandsaw or chainsaw; no microscopes for these.
*Freshly cut endgrain (transverse)
*Fresh cut through the pith (Radial)
* Fresh side cut (Tangential)
*Completed project using the wood
*Spalted (optional)
*Burl (optional)

It’s an amazing opportunity for all MCW members to participate and help each other – spearheaded by Tom Ankrum. Click here for Tom’s original description of the project.

Individual Woods

Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)