Oak smells of vomit

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Forum topic by dpoisson posted 08-24-2012 04:26 PM 10502 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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190 posts in 2877 days

08-24-2012 04:26 PM

Hi, I’m sorry for the rather description subject, but it is what it is. I’m turning a very small piece of oak and it just smells bad. I wouldn’t go as far as say it reeks of vomit, but if that wood could talk, it wouldn’t surprise me if there is some involved.

I’ve never seen anything like it (although I’m still a newbie). Is there any wood conditions that could cause such a smell? Color and looks of the oak doesn’t look any different than other pieces I’ve turned.




22 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1739 posts in 2822 days

#1 posted 08-24-2012 04:36 PM

Some species of oak sometimes have a very sour smell. I’ve heard it may be caused by a bacterial infection in the wood. Once you’ve finished the project, including sealing with some type of finish, things should become a bit less funky.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Max's profile


56000 posts in 4236 days

#2 posted 08-24-2012 04:36 PM

Did the wood come from a pallet?? I have had wood that had a similar smell that I got from pallets. Either do to what was on the pallet or being around moisture for a long time.

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Max's profile


56000 posts in 4236 days

#3 posted 08-24-2012 04:39 PM

I have also had this occur in what they call swamp oak..

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Scsmith42's profile


125 posts in 2640 days

#4 posted 08-24-2012 05:29 PM

Bacterial wetwood in red oak will smell like this. Be sure to wear a respirator when you’re working with it. Once it is dry, it will be fine and the odor should go away.

-- Scott, North Carolina,

View chrisstef's profile


17299 posts in 2969 days

#5 posted 08-24-2012 05:31 PM

The elusive southern puke oak … very well regarded in the English Pub scene.

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

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3707 days

#6 posted 08-24-2012 10:58 PM

To me, red oak smells like that. Someone barfed German cheese and beer in a old sock, vomit. That’s why I use white oak.

View Ryan Haasen's profile

Ryan Haasen

385 posts in 2364 days

#7 posted 08-24-2012 11:20 PM

Haha, I thought I was the only one who thought this! I find purple heart also smells like vomit.

-- Ryan

View joewilliams's profile


88 posts in 2087 days

#8 posted 08-25-2012 12:13 AM

...after reading this, I wish I hadn’t eaten that last slice of pizza ):

-- Joe - - - something witty should go here - - -

View WDHLT15's profile


1729 posts in 2439 days

#9 posted 08-25-2012 02:23 AM

I am with Herb and Scott. Bacterial infection. Common in oak, especially if the tree grew in water-logged conditions.

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2653 days

#10 posted 08-25-2012 02:47 AM

I too have smelled this in red oak flooring (not all of it). Those smelly pieces were softer and MUCH more porous than the non-vomit pieces. Your description of the smell is very accurate.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View dpoisson's profile


190 posts in 2877 days

#11 posted 08-27-2012 12:46 AM

Wow, thanks everyone for your input. I’m also glad that a couple of people can confirm I’m not delusional!




View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2949 days

#12 posted 08-27-2012 12:55 AM

Most of the oak I work with is local swamp oak – black oak. Smells like vomit, everybody complains in the building when I use it.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View jeepturner's profile


939 posts in 2755 days

#13 posted 08-27-2012 01:04 AM

Red oak just has that odor. The greener it is the worse the smell.

-- Mel,

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7926 posts in 2291 days

#14 posted 08-27-2012 01:09 AM

Red oak has a pungent smell… Though I don’t find it offensive.

I’ve worked with some white oak that had a very strong ammonia smell…. I hired some help on a timber framing project years ago and one of the guys called it “Piss Oak”

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3856 days

#15 posted 08-27-2012 02:21 AM

try eating pickled eggs and gallons of draft beer, suck back a few hot Italian sausage and then vomit

oak begins to smell like a rose

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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