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How to identify wood types

Discussion in 'Commercial Tree Care and Climbing' started by pecker, Sep 17, 2005.

  1. pecker

    pecker ArboristSite Lurker

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    Hi what's up! I am wondering how do you identify the type of wood or tree? A friend of mine works construction and used to cut firewood. On occassion he comes accross trees that he takes down in the course of work. He turns me on to it because he knows I love to smoke meat often and I keep different types of chunks on hand for different flavors. So far the only wood I've mastered in identifying is pecan. Of course its easier to identify a tree when its standing but I can tell pecan just by the texture of the bark.

    I know most pros can identify wood by experience, but there seems to be some discrepancy with this. Recently, I picked up a few logs of what my friend said was Hickory. When I got is home and started hacking it up, my neighbor who used to grind stumps said it was definitely not Hickory and that it looked like an oak - Red or White oak he thinks but can't tell. I too am doubting its Hickory because I lit some on fire and it didn't smell like Hickory; plus there's a Hickory tree in the woods by my house that I get Hickory nuts off of and the Hickory bark looks darker than this stuff. And last year I thought I had some genuine Red oak and had it half way cut up when I had an arborist come look at taking a tree down. He noticed my handy work and asked why I was working so hard on that Cotton wood :angry: He got a ood laugh. Maybe he was jealous because I really did have some Red Oak. But I think he was right and I threw it all in the woods and it did degrade awefully fast for Red Oak.

    Anyhow, my friend means well I do have faith in him, but who do I believe? Everybody is an expert but me! :p I live in northwest Louisiana to give you an idea of the wood types near me. What do ya'll recommend to me? Is there a book or a place on the net with pictures and info?? Help :cry:
     
  2. Husky288XP

    Husky288XP AboristSite Guru

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    The best way to id wood is with microscopy,

    If you cut a radial, tangential, and cross section of a piece of wood, under a microscope you can see resin canals, cell wall thickness, abrupt changes from earlywood to latewood, etc. These are all finger print aspects of hardwoods and softwoods that are used to id a tree species from a block of wood.
     
  3. pecker

    pecker ArboristSite Lurker

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    Cool, thanks for the info. I don't have a microscope. Is there any kind of spectacle eyepiece I could pick up for this? Also, what do i use as a guide for pictures, etc.? Thanks.
     
  4. Dan F

    Dan F ArboristSite Operative

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    Don't know if it would be any use for you for smoking, but the latest issue of TOH has a blurb about a new book- "The Real Wood Bible: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Choosing 100 Decorative Woods" by Nick Gibbs.

    It's more for woodworkers, but might be useful to you. They say it retails for $29.95, and to check out http://www.fireflybooks.com for retailers.

    HTH. FWIW, I've never ID'd any wood by microscopy. I think it would take a while to learn it. Probably faster to learn the bark/buds/leaves/smell, etc. But that's just me.:)


    Dan
     
  5. Husky288XP

    Husky288XP AboristSite Guru

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    A cheap old 10x hand lens would work to see grain, growth ring, variation, etc.

    The microscope would be if its just a piece of wood with no bark. But if they are just logs try to id the bark and heartwood color. Like on Black cherry the heartwood is darker than the sapwood and has a reddish/orangish color to it. The bark is black and flakey like layered burnt potatoe chips, if that makes any sense.
     
  6. smokechase II

    smokechase II Addicted to ArboristSite

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    What I recall from my wood ident class over 30 years ago was everyone had a little 10x or similar hand piece. That hardwoods are actually easy to ident, for the most part do not attempt softwoods. That our instructors were constantly warning us to not put our knives and lens in the same hand. When you go to look through your eye piece, the knife pokes you in the eye. Place the knife in the hand with the wood, that stays further from your face.
    College students are a thread I think we should avoid.
    When identifying, the end grain is the most valuable. Your very sharp knife is needed to cleanly expose the end grain. (Some woods like oak can be relatively easily picked out based by its appearance and all the furniture we see. Oak has strong lines that cross the rings etc.)
    With just a little self study you can pick up on a dozen or so common hardwoods. Enjoy.
     
  7. pecker

    pecker ArboristSite Lurker

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    Cool. Good stuff. Keep it coming :)
     
  8. scottr

    scottr Addicted to ArboristSite

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  9. pecker

    pecker ArboristSite Lurker

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    Thanks Scottr, Thats exactly what I was looking for. . .
     
  10. scottr

    scottr Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Smoker

    You're welcome . Have you tried the pecan wood to smoke a turkey ?
     
  11. treespec

    treespec ArboristSite Lurker

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    Leaving for MS. 10-9 from Bradenton FL., provided that I can get more than $6.50 a yd. Have worked hurricanes last 2 yrs. in VA.,NC., and FL. last year. Will be hauling only. Anyone interested traveling along,contact Ken Green 941-746-2670
     
  12. pecker

    pecker ArboristSite Lurker

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    No, but I've smoked chicken, pork tenderloin, steaks, beef ribs, baby back ribs, squash, etc. on Pecan and it is wonderful!
     
  13. geofore

    geofore Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Smoking meat

    Try apple for a milder, less bite, smoke. You still get the smoked flavor but with less bite.
     
  14. pecker

    pecker ArboristSite Lurker

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    I've actually got some apple wood but have been reluctant to smoke it becaues it is an odd type of apple the tree produced. When someone says apple, I think of a big juicy delicious red or granny apple. This tree is definately an apple tree, but they are really small and I think it is native to my area.

    I've also got some plum but haven't tried it either.

    Question: Is there any wood that will make you sick if you use it for smoking foods? I feel pretty safe experimenting with the fruit trees because my logic says if you can eat the fruit you should be able to ingest the by-product of its wood. I just don't want to learn the hard way. . .
     
  15. scottr

    scottr Addicted to ArboristSite

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  16. Tree Wizard

    Tree Wizard ArboristSite Operative

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    A good source for identifying wood species is the forestry textbook, "Textbook of Wood Technology" by A.J. Panshin & Carl De Zeeuw McGraw-Hill Book Co. It has pictures of both the end and side grains of many, many species. You probably can find it used on Amazon for $15 or less.
     
  17. TreeMike

    TreeMike ArboristSite Lurker

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    I've heard cherry will make you sick
     
  18. kf_tree

    kf_tree Banned

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    i don't see what the fuss is about, i just look at the tags.
     
  19. Jim1NZ

    Jim1NZ AboristSite Guru

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    I was wondering if a fruit tree that has been sprayed all its life would store toxins from the spray in the heartwood. Or if a fruit tree had been recently sprayed, it was cut down and there was still toxins from the chemicals in the phloem? What effects would this have in use with food?

    I know how well London Plane street trees remove pollutants from traffic etc, but the thing is, these toxins cant just disappear they are stored in the dead cells aren't they?
     
  20. Ekka

    Ekka Diploma Horticulture + Diploma Arboriculture (Leve

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    You are right Jim, Thats why many sprays etc state not to spray within a certain period of picking fruit or vegetables... especially systemmic sprays.

    Regarding polutants my assumption would be that trees grow from the inside out, they shed there outer bark as they expand, the inner heartwood was never exposed to the raw elements as the bark covered it ... similar to a snake shedding its skin, theres a new one beneath. So the probability and intensity of pollutants remaining would be localised to defects and areas where penetration of the bark occured.

    There's also another possibility that pollutants which were transported in the vascular system left residuals. Some of the pollutants may have arrived via the leaves and others via the roots. So these pollutants may have been stored with the sugars and water in cells. As these resources are used and renewed continually the only remains I see are those those residual chemicals that adhered or at leeched cell walls.

    So, a good soaking and flushing will not remove old toxins encased in the heartwood of the tree.

    What do you reckon?
     

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