How to Identify Lumber Redwood Pine Fir

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Distinguishing the wood from various tree species can be a complex process, but for a woodworker simply wanting to tell common types of lumber apart, a few broad guidelines are all that are needed. Three common types of lumber used in building are pine, Douglas fir and redwood. These are all softwoods, but with distinctive appearances. For those who regularly work with wood, a glance might be all that is needed to tell these types of wood apart. For others, the lumber can be sorted by noting a few basic differences.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass
  • Pocket or utility knife

Look at the color of your wood. Douglas fir is light colored wood, white to pale yellow. Pine is also a yellowish color, and redwood has a very distinctive color. It can be cherry-red to dark reddish-brown. Redwood can usually be distinguished from pine or Douglas fir by color alone.

Observe the grain of the wood. Douglas fir is usually straight grained, pine has a more pronounced grain, and redwood is fine grained with an even texture.

Smell the wood. If it is not newly cut, scrape a board with your knife to release the odor. Douglas fir has a sweet, resinous odor. Pine has a distinctive resinous order as well, but different than Douglas fir. Redwood has less of an odor.

Look for resin canals. You may need your magnifying glass, although they are usually visible to the naked eye in Douglas fir and pine. They show as dark streaks along the grain. The resin canals in Douglas fir are smaller than in pine. They are absent in redwood.

Combining the evidence from color, grain, odor and resin canals should enable you to tell the three species of wood apart.

References

  • "Identifying Common Northwest Wood Species;" S.A. Levengood; 1998
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