Oak smells of vomit

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Forum topic by dpoisson posted 08-24-2012 04:26 PM 7883 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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190 posts in 2337 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 (online now)


1569 posts in 2282 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


55996 posts in 3696 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

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55996 posts in 3696 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 2099 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


15481 posts in 2429 days

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

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

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3167 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.

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Ryan Haasen

378 posts in 1824 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 1547 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 - - -

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1565 posts in 1899 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


14932 posts in 2113 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 2337 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 2408 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 2215 days

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

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

-- Mel,

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Mainiac Matt

5957 posts in 1751 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”

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3316 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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