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Showing posts from March, 2013

Wood Science 101 (9) - More on Wood Identification: The Inside Wood Library

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Yesterday's post resulted in a note from Dr. Elisabeth Wheeler at North Carolina State University, advising me of a great wood identification resource called Inside Wood. For those of you that are into wood identification or would like to get into it, and are thinking of putting together a system similar to the Cerre system in yesterday's post, you will be intrigued to know that the Inside Wood Library has over 35,000 images of hardwoods that are searchable by menu, images, taxonomy (family or genus names, alphabetically), or by keyword. In other words, if you're trying to find microscopic detail on a hardwood, you're as likely to find it at Inside Wood as anywhere.

Since I was checking it out, I thought I would dig into an interest of mine. My favorite all-time tree is the mighty American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis. For some reason, my nose is attuned to the smell of the sycamore, and I can smell one a quarter-mile away, even in a mixed forest. So, for obvious r…

Wood Science 101 (8) - Wood Species Identification and Macrophotography

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One question that wood scientists get asked more than any other is..."What type of wood is this?" Sometimes the answer is easy, but often it isn't.

Tree identification is simple by comparison. With a tree, you have leaves, needles, and/or twigs, which are usually a dead give-away of a tree's species. Then, you have identifiers such as whether the leaves are alternating or opposite, the appearance of the bark, and even where the tree is growing. All these factors can also be referenced on a dichotomous (this-or-that) key, which asks you to compare traits until finally, you wind up with the right answer.

Wood is tougher, generally. With wood, you're usually handed a block of wood, typically finished with a stain and/or sealant, or you're asked what kind of wood is this table, or that cabinet, or this old walking stick. So references are limited to color, grain, defects, texture, and sometimes smell...and all of these can be deceiving.

For instance, most people …