Wood Identifiers: Grains, Deposits & More

Wood Identifiers: Grains, Deposits & More

Many people can name different wood types. They have likely been introduced to oak, maple, pine, etc. But most of them could never actually identify various wood species by their unique identifiers. This is because wood identifiers are rarely taught in school.

But fear not, wood enthusiasts! We are going to go through some of the most common wood species and break down some key wood identifiers.

Keep in mind that no two wood types are the same (not even those with similar names). You can expect grain variation and color change when you're selecting anything made of natural wood.

For example, as certain wood ages, it can darken when exposed to light. In other cases, wood changes color when exposed to harsh chemicals, moisture or extreme heat. Each wood species has its own characteristics, whether they differ by species or from the environment the tree grew.

With all of that said, lets get started!

Natural Wood Identifiers

Mineral deposits, knots, sap runs, pin holes and wormholes are the most wood identifiers that you will find. Let's look at various wood species and how they compare and contrast.

Oak Characteristics

Oak wood is a strong, open-grained hardwood ranging in color from white to pink and reddish tones. Mineral deposits seeping through the roots often leave streaks of green, yellow and black. Oak may contain wormholes and various grain patterns. These distinctive grain patterns are one of the more desirable qualities in oak. You can see the differences in the images below.

Hickory Characteristics

Hickory is a sturdy, heavy hardwood known for its distinctive grain patterns. Two of the most frequent wood identifiers of this species are random knots and wormholes. Hickory is known for having a dramatic color scale, as it can go from white to dark brown within the same piece of wood.

Alder Characteristics

Alder has a straight, fine textured grain similar to cherry and maple. Although it is classified as a hardwood, it's moderately lightweight and significantly softer than many other hardwood species. Tight pin knots, sap runs, and grain/color variations are common wood identifiers in alder wood.

Maple Characteristics

Maple is a close-grained hardwood that is predominately white to cream-white in color, with occasional reddish-brown tones. It's texture is typically uniform, but characteristics such as fine brown lines, wavy and/or curly grain patterns, bird pecks and mineral streaks vary among maple trees.

Cherry Characteristics

Cherry wood is characterized mostly by its red undertones, but is known to vary in color from white to a deep rich brown. It's uniform texture is similar to maple wood. However, pin knots and curly graining are two of cherry wood's main distinguishing traits. The fact that its color darkens due to light exposure over time is one sought-after quality of this beautiful wood species.

For more on wood coloring, read Wood Colors: A Quick Guide For Your Next Reclaimed Wood Installation. If you're looking for treatment options for these wood species, check out our post Preserving Reclaimed Wood.

Want a further explanation on the wood identifiers mentioned in this post? What did you find the most interesting? Which wood species would you like to learn more about? Reach out in the comments and let us know. We love to hear from and interact with all Modern Timber Craft fans!

Photo Credit: Wood-Database

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