Different wood species have very different looks and are suited for different applications. Learning to identify wood by its grain and color will help you make good choices for your projects and also help you to know what you are getting when you purchase lumber or furniture. Unfortunately, there are so many types of wood that you'll never learn to identify every single species. However, by learning the look and feel of the more commonly used woods and wood types, and keeping a reference book on hand, you can effectively identify most woods by their grain and color.
Establish That the Wood is Real
Take a careful look at the piece of wood. Study the end-grain. If the end-grain does not match up with the grain on the top and sides of the the wood, it is probably a veneer or artificial wood. When you look at the largest surface of the wood, see if the same grain pattern repeats several times. If so, odds are that this is a veneer. Veneers are very thin sheets of real wood glued onto melamine or plywood.
Analyze the Condition of the Wood
Look carefully to see if a finish has been applied to the wood. Also see if the wood is weathered. Wood in either of these conditions can be more difficult to identify, so know that they will be darker than their freshly milled counterparts.
All woods can be broken down into one of two types: hardwoods, which come from angiosperm trees, such as oaks or maples (often but not always deciduous), and softwoods, which come from coniferous trees, such as firs and pines, and are usually evergreen. Soft woods tend to be lighter in weight, less dense and don't have visible pores. Unfortunately, these are generalizations, not rules --- maple, for example, is a hard wood without visible pores. Two by fours and plywood are usually made from soft woods.
Oak, one of the most common woods used in hardwood flooring, has a very distinct tight grain with open pores. It comes in many colors but is commonly available as red oak or white oak. Red oak has a pinkish tint before staining, much like cherry. Cherry, however is very distinct from oak in grain. It has a wider, freer, curvier grain. Generally, hard woods take stain better than soft woods.
Spend Time Looking at Different Woods
A trip to your local lumber store is a good way to familiarize yourself with common wood grains and colors. Pull pieces of lumber off the shelf and compare them. Notice the differences in color, weight, softness, grain and pore structure. Compare them to the wood samples in your veneer book if you have one. Look at the woods around you --- on your floors, in your furniture, even in your firewood pile. Try to identify them or look them up in your veneer book. You will find that you can learn to identify most common woods quickly and easily even if they are stained.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
- The Woodbook: The Complete Plates; Romeyn B Hough; 2007
About Faux Wood Grain
Do you ever wonder about wood graining when thinking about decorating a room in your home or office? What is wood graining?...
Description of Oak Wood
Oak is the most common of all the hardwoods. Its familiar grain pattern has become so popular that oak furniture, particularly antique...
How Can You Identify Different Wood Types?
Identifying the type of wood used in the construction of a piece of furniture or a structure that you didn't build can...
How to Identify Walnut Wood
Learn about Black walnut, it's color, grain patterns, common applications, hardness, and how to purchase it.
How to Identify Oak Wood
Oak wood is generally considered one of the strongest,most hard-wearing materials available to the building trade and DIY enthusiasts. It can be...
How to Identify Wood by Grain Patterns
With so many varieties of wood species available, positive identification of wood by grain pattern alone can be difficult. To the untrained...
Different Types of Wood Grain
There are three basic types of wood grains produced by different methods of sawing wood. Beyond that, there are as many different...
How Different Woods React to Stain
Poplar good for painting, but not clear coat finish. Learn wood staining tips from a pro in this free woodworking and wood...
Raised Grain When Staining Wood
Minimize raised grain by conditioning wood first. Learn tips for getting a smooth finish for your wood grain in this free woodworking...