Species of lumber?

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Forum topic by BrandonR posted 04-03-2012 03:27 AM 1552 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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64 posts in 2316 days

04-03-2012 03:27 AM

Topic tags/keywords: wood species

Hello all- I hope this topic is appropriate for lumber jocks. This weekend I picked up what I thought was an old library card catalog from an estate sale. It was sitting in a little shed behind the house and I couldn’t pass it up. (Hopefully restoring and putting in the house)
Turns out it came out of the old main st hardware store that closed many years ago… I thought it would be a beast to move, but with the drawers out each piece was easily lifted by two men. All the drawers and their boxes are hand made. The drawers are extremely light. I was thinking possibly cedar… I carved a little into it and sanded it, and it smells nothing like the cedar I normally cut.
It does have a smell though. It reminds me of cigars or a smoke shop, has almost a sweet smell. Not a smoke smell but the smell before anything is burnt. (not sure if this is coming from where it was, or the wood)

It doesn’t seem to soft, but it is also extremely old. Can anyone help with the little I have told you… :) I am guessing it is at least 50 years old and is from the St. Louis area. I am a relative youngster, 27, would anyone out there be able to identify what a piece like this would have been used for? The drawers are too big for library cards.

Here are the pictures of the unit painted, then of some of the wood in the drawers is unfinished.

Thanks for taking the time to look!

9 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4241 days

#1 posted 04-03-2012 12:54 PM

Maybe fir, but that’s just a guess.

It’s an interesting piece, though. I’d say it was probably custom made for a particular purpose, most likely records storage of some sort.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3503 days

#2 posted 04-03-2012 01:05 PM

Not sure on the wood…like Charlie said, possibly some type of pine. The smell could be the finish too, but probably just the environment it came from. Its a great piece though. I could use something like that for my credit card bills. :-)

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View chrisstef's profile


17423 posts in 3029 days

#3 posted 04-03-2012 01:07 PM

im leaning towards fir as well doesnt look like poplar which was my initial reaction before looking at pictures. That piece is gorgeous, one heck of a salvage if you ask this guy.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View poopiekat's profile


4356 posts in 3757 days

#4 posted 04-03-2012 01:45 PM

What you have there is an “apothecary”, which used to be commonly used in drugstores for storing chemicals, spices, teas, tobaccos and all sorts of powdered concoctions. Indeed, the wood has probably absorbed the scents of what the drawers once contained. The species of lumber generally would reflect what was typically available in the area where it was made. Is there a label or stamp anywhere to give us a clue where this piece came from? This was truly a great find, and I’ve seen many of these in antique shops, sometimes priced in the $thousands.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10521 posts in 3451 days

#5 posted 04-03-2012 02:00 PM

Agree on the fir/pine, at least the grain you pictured looks like that.
As to the smell, although aromas can linger for quite some time, especially in raw wood, I suspect the smells are from something stored in them after they left the hardware store. It would be interesting to know if different drawers from different areas of the piece smelled differently. Also, can you identify any residue left in any drawer?
It might be an apothecary, as poopiekat said, however the size of the larger drawers and the divided lower shelf seem to indicate otherwise….IMO. At any rate, it’s a great find. congratulations!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View BrandonR's profile


64 posts in 2316 days

#6 posted 04-03-2012 09:26 PM

Thanks for all the great info guys. I am leaning now more to the apothecary. I did get some different smells from some of the drawers. One I could definitely tell was cinnamon. The hardware store may have kept spices, medicines, etc… in it. I can’t find any type of makers mark, so like mentioned probably made for specific store or purpose. My wife also noticed there used to be a plank that rain straight across the bottom.

Any chance the wood is Spanish Cedar? I went and smelled my humidor and it is almost an exact match! It is also really cool because each box is self contained inside where it slides in. There is some vent gaps at top, but otherwise each box has its own little box. Wow what work this would have taken!!! Added some more pictures. Shows inside and one of the boxes.

Thanks for the info! Got lucky to find this and decide to buy it before someone more knowledgeable about the value got to it first!

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2287 days

#7 posted 04-03-2012 09:34 PM

I’m going to put a vote in for old pine. I have some 200 yr old pine boards that have a very similar grain pattern and, from what I can tell, color (like your 3rd pic).

Without feeling how hard or heavy the wood is, we can only guess.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3711 days

#8 posted 04-03-2012 11:45 PM

Such a cool piece and I love how the drawer was made : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View WDHLT15's profile


1747 posts in 2499 days

#9 posted 04-04-2012 12:52 AM

It is redwood.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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