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Forum topic by Harley001 posted 10-23-2014 02:58 PM 991 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Harley001

5 posts in 776 days


10-23-2014 02:58 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question wood species type reclaim recycle identify help tip trick

Hello to all,

This is my first post here after quite a few hours of trolling. I am a newbie to the world of hand tools and traditional woodworking. I am beginning my collection if tools and since I am deployed working on drawing up some plans for projects the wife has asked for.

Here is the question, I live near Washington D.C. locally we have a place that recycles and sells reclaimed materials from demolitions. You can find toilets, doors, counters, cabinets etc. My concern is all the wood they have. I have been down therw once last year when I was building a dining room table, the wood they have is great, beams, boards everything. I was wondering if anyone could advise on how to go about identifyjng some of this wood? The prices are much better than a big box, or a lumber yard. Plus I Luke the idea of reusing wood that is otherwise abobdoned.

I was thinking if I got a large enough piece I can be sure its the same species and just cut it to what I need. But how do I go about gathering a variety of sizes and choosing the same wood types?

I would also like to experiment with different types and this gives me a good cheap way of doing this. Aside from digging into it a fi gernail to determine hardness, I am at a loss as to how to identify it.

Any help from you all would be great, you can be sure when I come back from deployment and get building my projects will be up here for all to see.

Thanks in advance,

Harley

-- Harley


12 replies so far

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3547 posts in 1227 days


#1 posted 10-23-2014 04:22 PM

Hi Harley,
Have you asked the vendors to identify the wood? You can look at the end grain, color and wight to make some judgement in this regards. If two boards of same size weigh the same, have the same color and the rings on the end grain are spaced alike, that could be indicative of two of the same wood. If you carry a knife and cut a small shaving from the side or surface, the color and smell of the wood can serve as additional conformation.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View EPJartisan's profile

EPJartisan

1116 posts in 2585 days


#2 posted 10-23-2014 07:32 PM

Hi Harley, Welcome to the world of wood identification.. :) yeah like MrJinx above says… I carry a small carving jack in case in need to wood ID, but learning what each species look, feels, and smells like takes time and experience. Some clue to help ya.. not all trees are good for solid beams.. either not cost effective or not strong enough… if the salvage place knows the history of the beam… maybe you can figure out the date and find what wood was being used during construction at the time… Anything to narrow down the possible woods. Of course… once you do ID the wood… then you get to discover how one species can have a variety of grain and color as you seek out more of the same wood.

I guess my point is not overwhelm you, but show my excitement about how recycled woods can teach you how to ID species, why they chose that board for the design… and how economy, climate, and geography has affected our trade over the decades…I am a bit of a tree nerd.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

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runswithscissors

2176 posts in 1485 days


#3 posted 10-24-2014 02:03 AM

I love using salvaged wood. I used salvaged oak for my kitchen remodel (all upper and lower cabinets). Be aware that old time artisans often mixed wood species in the same item. In fact, I know I have both white and red oak in mine, and I intentionally didn’t stain it (which was a great shock to the counter top installer, who had never heard of such a thing).

Do watch out for nails and screws in salvaged wood. I ended up with about 16 nicks in my planer knives by the end of the project.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Harley001's profile

Harley001

5 posts in 776 days


#4 posted 10-24-2014 11:13 AM

Mr. Jinx,

I’m not sure the retailer will know where they come from, or even the history. It is sort of like a yard sale, I get the impression that when a demolition occurs instead if scrapping things this place adopts materials from all over. However your idea of comparing end grain could be very helpful. I have a carving/marking knife I could use to see the inside of the wood. I also read somewhere that bringing a block plane to analyze the ends of boards can be helpful. Is there some reference that can be used to compare end grains to get an idea of what I’m looking at? Also do you have any suggestions on how to check that it is hardwood? I know using your finger nail is a decent method. So as long as I can’t cut it with my nail it’s safe to say it is hardwood?

-- Harley

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Harley001

5 posts in 776 days


#5 posted 10-24-2014 11:19 AM

Epjartisan,

As I mentioned the salvage place likely knows little about the wood they have. I will ask if they have some indication though. I think using some of the methods yourself and Mr jinx mentioned should give me a good start. I am thinking I will try and get rather wide boards so that I can rip them into the stock I may use and am at least certain they are the same. I think I will also try and get a variety of boards to experiment with. Perhaps after the build I can post some pictures and get the expert opinions here. I can also use that opportunity to get input on my designs. I think using the knife and fingernail I should at least be able to ensure I am getting hardwood, which is ultimately the mist important thing here. Thanks for the detailed reply, if I need some additional help identifying I will shoot you a message!

-- Harley

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Harley001

5 posts in 776 days


#6 posted 10-24-2014 11:23 AM

Runswithscissors,

I am not terribly worried about finding mixed wood pieces. Much of what they have is stacked boards. The downside is that they aren’t sorted at all. Widths, lengths, typess all stacked on racks. This is where the issues start. I think mixing woods could have a beautiful effect on a piece. I am thinking of using a separate wood to pin 2 thinner boards for legs on my nightstand. This is assuming I cannot find thick enough wood. I may do it either way though. I like the idea of the pins adding a small decorative and functional aspect.

I will be on the lookout for nails and other hardware. I do not want to have to deal with dings in my plane. Thank you for the reply!

-- Harley

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

13712 posts in 2078 days


#7 posted 10-24-2014 12:16 PM

As you get started, the simplest way to choose material that may be the same is weight and color. Look at grain patterns, and try to guess at density. You’ll learn wood types over time.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View ChefHDAN's profile

ChefHDAN

805 posts in 2309 days


#8 posted 10-24-2014 01:04 PM

Harley, I work in DC & live in MD, where is this place I’d love to check it out

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View mahdee's profile

mahdee

3547 posts in 1227 days


#9 posted 10-24-2014 01:09 PM

Most hard woods have tighter grain because they grow slower compared to the soft woods. So, since these are dry woods, the weight and end grain should give you an idea of whether they are soft or hard wood. Also, since these are building material, more likely your shorter pieces are the hard woods, like bar tops and things like that. Most dimensional woods like 2×4’s, 2×6’s and so on are more likely soft woods. I would love to spend a half a day in a wood junk yard.

-- earthartandfoods.com

View EPJartisan's profile

EPJartisan

1116 posts in 2585 days


#10 posted 10-24-2014 03:58 PM

Two great books are by R. Bruce Haodley: Understanding wood … and his follow up book: Identifying woods.
Also use Hobbit House for picture references.

First thing you should get up on is terminology.. there is a lot to learn and a lot of people know far far more than I do here on LJs…. BUT… such as “hardwood” usually refers to Angiosperms (Oak, Ash Walnut, etc… but Basswood is a really soft “hardwood”) and “softwood” to Conifers or Gymnosperms (Cedar, Pine, Fur, Redwood, Spruce, etc) and most construction materials tend to be softwoods now-a-days because the trees grow so fast, but not always true for large beams.. for example in Europe hornbeam (a hardwood) was abundant and excellent for beams and other archaic uses like windmill gears… but was not so lucrative for general use across in America. Terminology really changes when talking wood sales, wood identification, tree botany or forest ecology. It gets confusing, much like learning a new language.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View SonoranCubrat's profile

SonoranCubrat

6 posts in 770 days


#11 posted 10-25-2014 04:24 PM

Harley, I remember the same frustration when I first started woodworking. I never thought I would be able to identify woods. Here’s what I have learned. Start by learning about woods that are relevant to your life. There are so many woods you could make yourself crazy by feeling you should know them all. Exotic woods play little role in my life so I started with domestic woods. Break them down by general category first: pines, oaks, maples, etc. Then you will discern the large difference between Douglas and other pines, red oaks and white and so forth. Certain groups stand out, such as fruit woods. They all share a similar look I can’t describe but that I know in an instant. And remember that different ways of milling the lumber yield different patterns of grain. You can always tell maple just by looking at the side grain, though the end grain has its own character.
I am big fan of used woods. So few people have basic skills to repair things that I salvaged three tables of the same wood type. I’m building a cabinet from them. And I just bought 25 or 30 feet of stunning walnut for less than a dollar per square foot.
Kevin

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Harley001

5 posts in 776 days


#12 posted 10-26-2014 12:17 AM

Very interesting advice fellas. I will see what I can come up with. I will hunt around in the salvage yard and see if I can’t come up with some good quality materials. Chefahdan The place is called community forklift. It is west of DC. I always have to look it up. I only went once so far. when I come back from my deployment I plan to go again. I thi k my new plan is this, I will set a budget, let’s say 150$. I will search for a variety of woods, preferably wide pieces. This will allow me to rip the pieces I need and can be certain the wood is of the same type. I can then work at identifying what I have and determining what makes them different.

Does anyone see a hole in this plan?

-- Harley

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