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Differences Between Hard Maple and Soft Maple

ad by Eric MeierPerhaps you've seen a type of lumber for sale known as "Soft Maple," and were wondering: what's the difference between between this Soft Maple and Hard Maple? Just how soft is it? Why does it cost about half as much as Hard Maple? How can I tell the two apart?Well, here are the answers: What's the Difference? Hardness of Maples Compared Telling the Two Types of Maples Apart  What's the Difference?First of all, the term "Soft Maple" does not refer to any specific species of maple, but rather, it's a broad term which includes several different species of maple. The term "Soft Maple" is merely used to differentiate these species from Hard Maple.Hard Maple, on the other hand, typically refers to one specific type of maple species: Acer saccharum. Hard Maple is also known as Rock Maple or Sugar Maple, (this is the same tree which is tapped to get maple syrup). Besides this one species of maple, the only other species that is sometimes considered in the grouping of Hard Maple in the United States is Black Maple (Acer nigrum). Black Maple is so closely related to Hard Maple that some even consider it to be [...]

Wood Identification Guide

ad by Eric Meier When attempting to identify a wood sample, it's important to keep in mind the limitations and obstacles that are present in our task. Before starting, please have a look at The Truth Behind Wood Identification to approach the task in a proper mindset; I consider the linked article to be required reading for all those visiting my site with the intent of identifying wood. 1. Confirm it is actually solid wood. Before proceeding too much farther into the remaining steps, it's first necessary to confirm that the material in question is actually a solid piece of wood, and not a man-made composite or piece of plastic made to imitate wood. A solid piece of Cocobolo: note how the grain naturally wraps around the sides and endgrain of the wood. Can you see the end-grain? Manufactured wood such as MDF, OSB, and particleboard all have a distinct look that is—in nearly all cases—easily distinguishable from the endgrain of real wood. Look for growth rings—formed by the yearly growth of a tree—which will be a dead-giveaway that the wood sample in question is a solid, genuine chunk of wood taken from a tree. [...]

Top Ten Softest Woods

by Eric Meier The most common test for testing wood hardness is known as the Janka hardness test. The actual number listed in the wood profile is the amount of pounds-force (lbf) or newtons (N) required to imbed a .444" (11.28 mm) diameter steel ball into the wood to half the ball’s diameter. Janka hardness testing While most people would be looking for the hardest wood, just out of curiosity, here's a list of the ten softest woods on the site. Keep in mind that five out of these ten woods (including the three softest) are considered hardwoods. This just goes to show that the terms hardwood and softwood merely refer to the botanical classification of the trees as either conifers (softwoods) or angiosperms (hardwoods). There's no guarantee that any given hardwood will actually be hard!   Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) 350 lbf (1,560 N) This softie is a common soundboard material on guitars, though it's softness makes it a challenge to properly handle without denting or gouging it during construction.   Black Cottonwood / Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides and P. trichocarpa) 350 lbf (1,560 N) These two woods are closely related and have the same Janka hardness values. Aspen [...]

Fluorescence: A Secret Weapon in Wood Identification

by Eric Meier While certain woods can appear basically identical to one another under normal lighting conditions, when exposed to certain wavelengths—such as those found in blacklights, (which are mostly invisible to the naked eye)—the wood will absorb and emit light in a different (visible) wavelength. This phenomenon is known as fluorescence, and certain woods can be distinguished by the presence or absence of their fluorescent qualities. One of the best examples of fluorescence is found in Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), which is very similar to Mulberry (Morus spp.) in both appearance and weight. But one way to easily distinguish the two is by observing them under a blacklight; Black Locust will emit a strong yellow-green glow, while Mulberry will be non-reactive. The process of detecting fluorescence in wood samples need not be intimidating or limited to the scientific community—blacklight bulbs are available in many hardware stores for only a few dollars and can be used in standard lamp sockets. (These bulbs should never be confused with germicidal ultraviolet bulbs such as those used in UV sterilizers, which emit UVB or UVC  light, which can pose serious health hazards.) ebay Even though the process of detecting fluorescence is very simple, [...]

Distinguishing Brazilian Rosewood, East Indian and Other Rosewoods

by Eric MeierIn the world of acoustic guitars, perhaps no other tonewood holds the same respect and downright mystique as Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra). Yet paradoxically, the wood has been virtually loved to death: since 1992, it's been on the CITES Appendix I, the most restrictive category of endangered species, (even finished products may not cross international borders). Because of these protective measures, several substitutes have been used in recent years, primarily East Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia). Hence, for a multitude of reasons, differentiating between true Brazilian Rosewood and many of its close cousins can be very useful.Brazilian RosewoodvsEast Indian Rosewood Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) East Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) Color: Tends to be more variegated, and more on the reddish side. (Can also exhibit a figure in the grain similar to Ziricote that is known as "spider-webbing."Color: Tends to be a dark chocolate or purplish brown.Average Weight: 52 lbs/ft3 (835 kg/m3) The two weights are so close, for all intents and purposes, density is identical.Average Weight: 52 lbs/ft3 (830 kg/m3) The two weights are so close, for all intents and purposes, density is identical.Scent: Has a distinct, rose-like scent when being worked.Scent: Has a distinct, rose-like scent when being worked; some find its scent less pleasant than [...]

Top Ten Hardest Woods

ad by Eric Meier The most common test for testing wood hardness is known as the Janka hardness test. The actual number listed in the wood profile is the amount of pounds-force (lbf) or newtons (N) required to imbed a .444" (11.28 mm) diameter steel ball into the wood to half the ball’s diameter. Janka hardness testing  In practical terms, a helpful question to ask would be: hard is hard enough? A lot of times, especially on floors, the finish will get scratched, when the wood underneath is perfectly fine. (This obviously excludes dents.) In all practicality, a great number of hardwoods are "hard enough" for nearly all residential applications. But, if you've simply got to have the hardest lumber around, then this list is for you! Cebil (Anadenanthera colubrina) 3,630 lbf (16,150 N) Also known as Curupay or by the exaggerated name Patagonian Rosewood, Cebil is not a true rosewood. It has a highly variable streaked appearance not too unlike Goncalo Alves.   Katalox / Wamara (Swartzia spp.) 3,655 lbf (16,260 N) Some pieces can be just about a dark as true ebony, while others are a more reddish brown with black streaks. So much depth in the [...]

The Truth Behind Wood Identification

by Eric Meier After having personally worked with hundreds of wood species, (obviously some much more than others), and having read a number of books and articles on wood identification, I've come to an unsettling conclusion: it seems that the more I learn and discover, the more I realize how very little I know. The more accurate and thorough my identification process becomes, the more certain I become that I really cannot guarantee that I am correct. So just what is the truth behind wood identification? The truth is, it's a crapshoot. Probably the most common means of identifying wood among woodworkers is to simply eyeball the facegrain of the wood sample, and allow some sort of unspoken instinct or imperceptible intuition to just pop into our heads with the right answer. Using this quasi-magic "second-nature" method to accurately identify wood down to a genus and species level is not only unscientific, unhelpful, and unteachable, it's a crapshoot. Roll the dice: wood identification is not too unlike a game of craps I know, that's not what you wanted to hear. You wanted me to tell you that with all this data, with all these pictures, facts, and identification techniques, surely there is a foolproof method of identifying a [...]

Amazon Rosewood

Amazon Rosewood (Dalbergia spruceana) Common Name(s): Amazon Rosewood Scientific Name: Dalbergia spruceana Distribution: Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia Tree Size: small to medium tree Average Dried Weight: 68 lbs/ft3 (1,085 kg/m3) Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .89, 1.08 Janka Hardness: 2,700 lbf (11,990 N) Modulus of Rupture: 16,950 lbf/in2 (116.9 MPa) Elastic Modulus: 1,870,000 lbf/in2 (12.90 GPa) Crushing Strength:  8,400 lbf/in2 (58.0 MPa) Shrinkage: Radial: 3.6%, Tangential: 6.4%, Volumetric: 10.0%, T/R Ratio: 1.8 Color/Appearance: Amazon Rosewood tends to be an orange or reddish brown, with darker contrasting streaks. Lighter yellowish sapwood is clearly demarcated from heartwood. Overall, Amazon Rosewood bears a close resemblance to Brazilian Rosewood, both on the facegrain and also the endgrain. Grain/Texture: Amazon Rosewood has uniform, medium texture with open pores. Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; large to very large pores in no specific arrangement; solitary and radial multiples of 2-3; heartwood deposits present (both amber and dark brown); narrow rays not visible without lens spacing fairly close; parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates, banded, vasicentric, unilateral, and aliform. Rot Resistance: No data available, though being a dense rosewood, it's most likely very durable. Workability: Amazon Rosewood can be fairly difficult to work on account of its density, which is very close to that of Cocobolo. (It also needs to be glued with care—as [...]

Finishing Exotic and Tropical Hardwoods

by Eric Meier Have you ever had a project that was coming along nicely up until the finishing step? You apply the polyurethane to the wood, and wait for it to dry. And wait. And wait. And finally, days, weeks, (or even months!) later, the finish has still not dried. What went wrong, and how do you solve this problem? This high-gloss, mirror-like finish on Cocobolo was achieved with great care. Before proceeding much farther, you should ensure that you are using a fresh and well-stored finish. Very old or improperly stored finishes may have difficulty curing. Also, many complications can arise between low-quality wood stains and polyurethane, so be sure to test on a scrap piece before any large project. If the finish seems to be drying on most regular wood surfaces, but it will not harden on an exotic wood, consider the following: Why oil-based finishes do not dry on many exotic woods Unlike many of the comparatively tamer domestic hardwoods that woodworkers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom are used to working with, many trees in tropical climates have unique chemical compositions in their heartwood extractives. Many of these compounds are readily [...]

Distinguishing Red and White Oak

ad by Eric Meier The typical smart-aleck response might be: "well, red oak is red, and white oak is white. . ." Not so fast. There are all sorts of color variations seen in oak lumber, depending not only on the exact species of oak, but also from the growing conditions from tree to tree. From first glance, just going by color, (especially if the wood has a stain applied to it), it can be difficult to tell the two apart. Red Oak (Quercus rubra) White Oak (Quercus alba) So, how do you tell the two apart, and why would you want to? First I'll cover a few quick ways to tell the two groups apart, and then I'll describe the working properties and characteristics of each group. But before we start, let's take a look at the two groups, and which oaks fall into which groups: Red Oak Group White Oak Group Red Oak (Quercus rubra) Black Oak (Q. velutina) California Black Oak (Q. kelloggii) Cherrybark Oak (Q. pagoda) Laurel Oak (Q. laurifolia) Pin Oak (Q. palustris) Scarlet Oak (Q. coccinea) Shumard Oak (Q. shumardii) Southern Red Oak (Q. falcata) Water Oak [...]

Chechen

Chechen (Metopium brownei) Common Name(s): Chechen, Chechem, Black Poisonwood, Caribbean Rosewood Scientific Name: Metopium brownei Distribution: Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Guatemala, Belize, and southeastern Mexico Tree Size: 50-115 ft (15-35 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter Average Dried Weight: 62 lbs/ft3 (990 kg/m3) Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .78, .99 Janka Hardness: 2,250 lbf (10,010 N) Modulus of Rupture: No data available Elastic Modulus: No data available Crushing Strength: No data available Shrinkage: Radial: 4.1%, Tangential: 6.7%, Volumetric: 10.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.6 Color/Appearance: Heartwood color is highly varied, with red, orange, and brown contrasted with darker stripes of blackish brown. Color tends to shift to a darker reddish brown with age. Well defined sapwood is a pale yellow Grain/Texture: Grain is usually straight, but may be wild or interlocked. With a uniform medium to fine texture and good natural luster. Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; medium to large pores in no specific arrangement; solitary and radial multiples of 2-4; tyloses and other heartwood deposits abundant; growth rings indistinct; rays not visible without lens; parenchyma vasicentric, and aliform (lozenge). Rot Resistance: Rated as being very durable, and moderately resistant to most insect attacks. Workability: Fairly easy to work, but tearout may occur when machining pieces [...]

Endra endra

No Images Available Common Name(s): Endra endra, fantsinakoho Scientific Name: scientific_name Distribution: Endemic to Madagascar Tree Size: 65-100 ft (20-30 m) tall, 3-6 ft (1-1.8 m) trunk diameter Average Dried Weight: average_dried_weight_(lbs) lbs/ft3 (average_dried_weight_(metric)  kg/m3) Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): basic_sg , 12%_sg Janka Hardness: 4,360 lbf (19,390 N) Modulus of Rupture: 26,160 lbf/in2 (mor_(metric) MPa) Elastic Modulus: 3,000,000 lbf/in2 (moe_(metric) GPa) Crushing Strength: 14,530 lbf/in2 (crushing_strength_(metric) MPa) Shrinkage: Radial: radial_shrinkage %, Tangential: tangential_shrinkage %, Volumetric: volumetric_shrinkage %, T/R Ratio: t/r_ratio Identification | More images Color/Appearance: Heartwood varies from pale pink to a golden brown, with paler yellowish gray sapwood that is clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Grain/Texture: Grain is straight to wavy, with a uniform medium to fine texture. Good natural luster. Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable regarding decay resistance, with good weathering properties and good resistance to insects and marine borers. Workability: Very difficult to work on account of its density. Endra endra has a high cutting resistance, as well as a pronounced blunting effect on cutting edges. Turns well. Odor: Has a distinctive and strong odor which has been compared both to turpentine and also sandalwood. Allergies/Toxicity: There are no official reports on endra endra (most [...]

Brazilian Rosewood

> Hardwoods > Fabaceae > Dalbergia > nigra Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) Common Name(s): Brazilian rosewoodScientific Name: scientific_name Distribution: BrazilTree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) trunk diameterAverage Dried Weight: 52 lbs/ft3 (835 kg/m3)Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .68, .84Janka Hardness: 2,790 lbf (12,410 N)Modulus of Rupture: 19,570 lbf/in2 (135.0 MPa)Elastic Modulus: 2,020,000 lbf/in2 (13.93 GPa)Crushing Strength: 9,740 lbf/in2 (67.2 MPa)Shrinkage: Radial: radial_shrinkage %, Tangential: tangential_shrinkage %, Volumetric: 8.5%, T/R Ratio: 1.6 More images | Identification Color/Appearance: Brazilian rosewood can vary in color from a darker chocolate brown to a lighter purplish or reddish brown, with darker contrasting streaks. The black streaks can sometimes form a unique grain pattern that is sometimes referred to as "spider-webbing" or "landscape," very similar to ziricote. Lighter yellowish sapwood is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.Grain/Texture: Brazilian rosewood has a uniform, medium to coarse texture with medium-sized open pores. The grain tends to be straight, but can occasionally be interlocked, spiraled, or wavy.Rot Resistance: Heartwood is rated as very durable to decay resistance, and is also resistant to insect attack.Workability: Easy to work with both hand and machine tools, [...]