Identifying Wood Species

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Identifying wood species from sight alone is virtually impossible for most untrained artists and builders. There are so many variables at play in the selection of wood species, and tens of thousands to choose from, so many are bound to resemble one another. When you factor in elements such as compression strength, stiffness, and texture, the task becomes somewhat easier.

You can use any of the reliable manuals on the market to help you in identifying wood species, either for projects you're planning or merely for your own edification. Many nature buffs are content to spot a familiar type of wood during a hike or camping trip without feeling compelled to fell the tree. In fact, the most knowledgeable wood experts tend to be conservationists more than harvesters, which makes sense given that they have such an appreciation for these natural wonders.

Identifying Wood Species for Projects

If you are in the market for lumber in order to finish that garage, gazebo, or guitar you've been working on, you'll want to be more than acquainted with wood and its sundry qualities. While a beautiful luster and grain may be pleasing to the eye, woods that have these properties may well be poor choices for building. The wood you choose may, for example, have a high blunting factor that will dull your instruments, or poor machining qualities that make turning, molding, or mortising extremely difficult.

Even if you've got a garage full of the best woodworking equipment around, handling a stiff or inflexible wood board can be a challenge you'll want to avoid. It all depends of course on what you're making. A chair, sofa, or entertainment center will obviously have far different requirements of its wood than will a model airplane. In either case, identifying the appropriate wood species is a must before picking up a single tool.

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