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Wood Characteristics and Variations

by Jake Park 

If you're considering a purchase or have purchased a reclaimed wood item, such as a fireplace mantel or floating shelf, have you thought about the wood characteristics found in natural wood and barnwood products?

Today we are going to cover some of the characteristics and variations you may find in the natural wood products you buy. If you read our last post, many of these were mentioned within the characteristics of each type of wood. Since not everyone is a wood expert, we're here to break them down for you!

Mineral Deposits & Mineral Streaks

A mineral streak will typically appear in a black, gray or green line within the wood. It develops when the tree absorbs and deposits minerals from the soil. You will find mineral streaks in lighter wood grains such as hickory, cherry and maple.

mineral streak

Worm Holes

A worm hole is a hole created by larva while burrowing through a piece of wood. Typically, worm holes will only be found in groupings in certain areas of a piece of wood. A lot of reclaimed wood pieces will have wormholes as well.

worm holes in wood

Nail Holes

Reclaimed barn wood will often have nail holes of varying sizes and quantities. In the history of barn wood, there is a well-documented evolution of nails that can be used to date beams.

nail holes in wood

Sap Stains

Sap stains are caused by a fungus that feeds on the sap created by the tree. The fungus does not live inside of the tree due to lack of oxygen. Because of this, it does not affect the structural integrity of the wood or count against it in the wood grading process. Sap stains will most commonly be found in maple and pine wood.

sap stain in wood

Wood Knots

Wood knots are most commonly found in softwoods like pine. Pine trees are a coniferous tree and are known for having lots of branches that grow along the length of the trunk, creating knots. The portion of the remaining branch receives nourishment from the stem for some time and it ultimately results in the dark, hard rings often seen in natural wood. Knots can enhance the appearance of a usually plain timber once finished and many find the look appealing.

wood knot

Images: Blender Stack Exchange

Jake Park
I am a timber expert and serial woodworker dedicated to helping you get educated about the finest woods and materials in the world. Join in my journey on the Modern Timber Craft blog.

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