How “The Wood Database” got started…

Database Creator: Eric Meier
Database Creator: Eric Meier

It all began back in April of 2007; I had recently checked out some wood identification books at the library, and I wanted a way to organize all of the most helpful data into a single reference file on my computer. After cataloging the wood’s common and scientific names, weight, approximate cost, and any other notes or observations that I thought were unusual to that species of wood, I printed the file out and used it as a reference guide in my shop. (At that time, I was involved in making psalteries—a type of stringed musical instrument.) Over time, I found myself referencing this chart so many times, and I had made so many additions and alterations to it—adding my own observations, density readings, etc.—that it became nearly indispensable. Many times when a project would come up, I would consult the chart as a guide to help me use the most appropriate wood possible.

How my wood list grew into an online project

Eventually, I realized that all of the data that I found in most wood identification books available to the public was just too vague and limited. Concerning mechanical properties of the wood, many times it would read something like this: “moderately hard and heavy, with good strength properties . . .” But I was left wondering: how hard, how heavy, and how strong was this wood? What were they using as a standard, and how exactly did it measure up to other woods that I was used to using? It wasn’t until I found a great resource called the Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material, produced by the USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory. (The book can be accessed on their site for free.) This helped introduce me to new terms and methods, such as Janka hardness testing, and modulus of elasticity, which gave an even clearer picture of the woods that I was working with. This manual, along with Tropical Timbers of the World by Martin Chudnoff (again being produced by Forest Products Laboratory: a division of the USDA), form the foundation and the bulk of the data used in this wood database. With the addition of these new sources, along with a growing collection of wood books and other sources scattered across the internet, I was able to expand my original small wood list started back in 2007 into a much larger and more comprehensive collection. And so in December of 2008, I officially launched “The Wood Database.” By getting high-resolution scans of woods when/if I had them available, and making a clean, easy-to-read user interface with informative links, I sought to take full advantage of the online medium. Being online, I could not only integrate my own experiences as I went, but I also chose the option to give readers a chance to add any further data they might have on a given wood species by allowing pictures and comments to be added for each wood profile. This would allow an almost limitless amount of data to be presented on the material we all know and love: WOOD.

How to use this site

Ultimately, how you use the site is entirely up to you! But I’ve come to realize that the possibilities of such a database are much broader than my own personal applications. By looking and learning about different woods, any woodworker or crafts-person can quickly and easily ascertain which woods to use for which projects—whether your selection criteria is based on color, grain pattern, strength, dimensional stability, durability, etc. The key lies simply in knowing how to interpret the data. If you’ve got a project, and you’re looking for the right wood, or if you’ve got a stash of lumber, and you’re looking for a suitable project, The Wood Database can help. If you’re new to this site, I’d recommend viewing any wood profile, and clicking on any/all of the data field links (such as Modulus of Rupture, Janka Hardness, etc.) to get a more thorough definition of the terms that are used throughout the database. This will help you make sense of the data, and guide you into using the right wood for the right job—making your project a success! (Future plans for the site include making each of the fields sort-able and also able to apply multiple filters based on a number of different criteria to help narrow down the various wood species.)

Contributors

In addition to my own wood collection, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the generosity of so many who have generously donated woods samples for this project. If you believe you have a unique wood sample that the site could use, please see the page on donating wood samples. The following people have contributed either wood samples or photos of finished wood products for use in the Wood Database:

Steve Earis: A professional woodturner from the United Kingdom, Steve has access to a lot of different wood species that are not seen nearly as frequently in the United States. As you can see from the list below, he has donated quite a few samples and photos to the database. Be sure to check out his turned projects on his own site, and you can see even more of his work at Steve’s Wooden Skittle Pins and Balls.

Donations: [August 2010]

Mike Leigher: Mike’s helped me out with a number of domestic woods. Located in South Carolina, he has a portable sawmill, and processes and sells a number of turning blanks. Be sure to check out his online store for some nice, hard-to-find turning blanks at great prices! Got Wood? Domestic Turning Blanks

Donations: [June 2011]

Justin Holden: Justin has donated a number of nice samples from around the world, ranging from old standbys to hard-to-find rarities. Check out his own website exoticwoodsoftheworld.com for more information on the wood that he sells, and be sure to visit his eBay store Exotic Woods of the World for some great deals on exotic and tropical species!

Donations: [July 2011]

Per Stangegaard: Per is located in the Philippines, and is the managing director of Filtra Timber, an FSC certified timber trading company. He’s been able to furnish a number of harder-to-find species (at least for those located in the United States) from southeast Asia. Per’s Danish/Philippine companies have a number of branches in the woodworking realm, including flooring, outdoor hardwoods, and wood product design.

Donations: [October 2013]

Ken Forden: Ken is located in Whitethorn, California and has a small hardwood mill that specializes in native Californian woods. He’s provided generous samples of hard-to-find woods from the west coast.  Be sure to check out Whitethorn Hardwoods to see their selection of slabs, flooring, and lumber!

Donations: [November 2013]

Don Wan: Don has generously donated a handful of unusual or hard-to-find Australian samples, particularly those that are extremely dense and hard (including a very large slab of Buloke).

Donations: [June 2014]

  • Yarran

Geoffrey Thomas: As the owner of Cascadia Forest Goods, Geoff has generously offered to donate whatever samples were needed for the website, and I was able to get a couple species used for flooring and decking.

Donations: [July 2014]

  • Pucte

Rives McDow: Rives has generously offered to donate a number of wood samples taken from logs that he was milling. His donations are far from “run-of-the-mill” when compared to other sawyers!

Donations: [March 2015]

  • Ash, Tropical
  • Carob
  • Lilac, Redheart Mountain 
  • Tipuana Tipu

Rory Wood: Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Rory started a family-owned business back in 1982 called Rare Woods. Now, Rory has established Rare Woods USA and has brought his passion for wood to the United States. Rory has generously donated some, well, rare woods from his aptly-named business—particularly some hard-to-find African species.

Donations: [March 2015]

  • Pau Rosa
  • Sneezewood
  • Stinkwood, Black

Michael Savchak: Mike is a professional engineer by day, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying woodworking and turning as well. Apparently he’s stockpiled quite a collection of exotic woods over the years, and he’s generously donated some of his pieces for the project.

Donations: [September 2015]

  • Camatillo
  • Gum, Sydney Blue
  • Jujube

Paul Fletcher: A Colorado native through and through, Paul is a luthier based out of Denver, Colorado. You can check out his website at Fletch Guitars for more information on his interesting build using only native Colorado woods. Paul has generously donated some of his offcuts from the project to the Wood Database.

Donations: [November 2015]

  • Cherry, Choke
  • Juniper Cedar, Rocky Mountain
  • Oak, Gambel
  • Pine, Rocky Mountain Bristlecone

Dick Veitch: Located in New Zealand, Dick has access to a number of woods that aren’t normally encountered by most other woodworkers. Dick has generously donated some unique species, and they’ve made the long trek over the Pacific ocean to reach my doorstep.

Donations: [August 2016]

  • Maire, Black
  • Matai
  • Pohutukawa
  • Puriri
  • Tawa

Eric Krum: As a fellow IWCS member, Eric has had access to all sorts of rare and unusual wood specimens from all over the world. He’s generously donated a handful of these species for the project.

Donations: [August 2016]

  • Amazonum
  • Bishopwood, Chinese
  • Blackbutt
  • Chamise (root burl)
  • Deep Yellowwood
  • Oak, Red (curly)
  • Parica
  • Pepper, Brazilian
  • Pine, Himalayan
  • Plum, Java
  • Plum, Mexican
  • Preciosa

Other Contributors: Over the course of the years, random people have donated wood samples (or photos) here and there to the site. Their willingness to share is much appreciated!

Randy Johnson [November 2011]

John Nephew [August 2013]

Dean Garrett [February 2014]

Dan Pape [September 2014]

Eric Bandurski [August 2015]

  • Arizona Rosewood (sample and pic)

Mike Robinson [October 2015]

  • Callery Pear (pic)
Matthew Staley [January 2016]
  • Angelique (pic)
Jim Lande [February 2016]
  • Red Mulberry (pic)
  • Pecan (pic)
  • Macadamia (pic)
 Saun Landman [February 2016]
  • Alaska Paper Birch (sample)
 Jonathan Bluestein [March 2016]
  • White Wax Wood (sample)
  • River Red Gum (sample)
  • Sissoo (pic)
 Paula Sloan [June 2016]
  • N’Calala (sample)