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I feel incredibly stupid asking this.But how do I identify wood?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by JoshF, Sep 7, 2008.

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  1. JoshF

    JoshF New Member

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    I have permission to cut up tops and leftovers from my neighbors property that was logged about 3 years ago. There is a lot of wood and most of it is quite dry. The bark is off or falls off as soon as you touch it and much of it is starting to develop splits in it from drying.

    But I dont know what kind of wood it is or how to tell. None of has any sap or pine smell so that is encouraging but I hate to put a lot of work into cutting wood that should not be burned in my furnace.
    Im not even sure how how much it matters what wood I burn.

    Can anyone offer me some insight as Im confused.

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  2. sgcsalsero

    sgcsalsero Feeling the Heat

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    decent site below, Abor Day has a pamphlet (good for carrying) that ids common trees by Q&A;method (if compound leave turn to page 21; are the margin smooth? if so turn to pg 37, etc, etc.)

    http://www.oplin.org/tree/
  3. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    If it is good and dry any wood will burn well. I dont know of any wood that is bad to burn if its less than 20-22% moisture ( other than pressure treated). even if its pine. Pine just burns faster than a hard wood would. If burned properly and not dampered down to the point of smouldering, pine wont leave creosote any more than any other wood will.Pound for pound any wood is as good as any other. Dont get too hung up on the exact species at least this first season. Dry wood is the key to good burning wood. If you will be burning this winter get all the well seasoned wood you can get and then get selective for the upcoming seasons. If equally dry, the heavier wood is denser and therefore more BTU's(heat). But heavy wood might just have more moisture in it if you dont know the moisture content.
  4. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    Oh one more thought....if the woods was logged and these are the tops I would thing that it is mostly hardwood. Loggers wouldn't be after junk when they cut the logs for the mill/veneer so the tops are prolly oak,maple,walnut. Cherry tops dont last long on the ground and rot pretty fast. after 3-4 years cherry tops would be pretty punky. Most pine that are cut dont have "tops" as such like hardwoods, and would hold some needles/be punky also I would think. What is growing in the area? I would think that the trees remaining were like the ones cut. So I would say get all you can and no worries. Even "junk" trees in loggers eyes make great firewood. Thinking hickory, beech, ash they dont have big $$$ veneer value but are tops for firewood. Even arborists would have trouble identifying 3 year down tops.
  5. BurningIsLove

    BurningIsLove New Member

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    Does anyone know a good site that's similar to the above, but categorizes by grain, color, and bark type? Most arbor sites use "live" signs to indicate the species of tree, like leaf & fruit type. But when I get a grapple, all the branches/leaves have been removed as well as other indicators used by most sites.
  6. 3fordasho

    3fordasho Feeling the Heat

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    Try this one: http://www.forestry.umn.edu/extension/forest/firewoodID.html
  7. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    If it looks like wood and is dry it should burn like wood. I gather whatever I can and it keeps my family warm.

    If I pick up a few pieces of pine I just need to add a few more splits to the stove over the night.

    Matt
  8. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    Thanks very much! That's sure what I've been looking for. I had a lengthy go-round about whether I'd been given a half cord of Honey Locust or Black Locust. Had just about decided I had the Black variety. But now these photos of the heartwood and the great descriptions make it look like I have a thornless variety of Honey Locust. But mine differs from both pictures on the site. Confusing.
  9. savageactor7

    savageactor7 Minister of Fire

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    Josh a good rule of thumb is that if the dead wood still has some heft when cut into rounds chances are it'll make good firewood. But if you're scrounging any wood is better than no wood.
  10. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    Why would you need to know whether firewood is honey or black locust? Are you wanting to know just to learn different species or is there some wood stove technology that needs the correct species to burn at 100% eff-ency or something? The reason that most publications only identify species by bark AND leaves and not wood grain and heartwood is because that is the only real way to do it.You can guess at it by looking at the bark only or grain and heartwood but that's all it will be is a guess. And wood that has aged enough to loose the bark is even more difficult. Many species have the same bark pattern and can only be identified by subtle leaf and bud differences. I would like to meet the guy that can identify many ash, oak, elm, chestnut species just from bark/wood grain alone.
  11. caber

    caber New Member

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    I scrounge a lot of fallen trees which are nearly impossible to ID because most don't even have the bark. I have always broken them down to hardwood or softwood.

    Heavy = hard, Light = soft

    Then I burn all of it, but I like to have 2 piles, hard and soft, so I know what to burn when.
  12. downeast

    downeast Guest

    Come on Downeast ( or anywhere) and walk some woodlands. Most loggers, arborists, firewood harvesters I know, and me, can identify by bark, by grain, by location in the woodlot ( dry, wet feet, open,etc....) , by smell, and how the wood cuts. Add to that that we cut mostly in the winter without leaves. Canopy shape is another identifier. There are some easy to use identifiers ( guidebooks) of species using " terminal buds": another technique, although most tree buds are too damn high up to see closely.
    Just takes some time working the woods. After awhile it is not a big deal.
    What is difficult are closely linked species such as the Ashes: White, Green, Brown/Black. Once you've cut some oaks, you know the pissy smell from yards away. Even long dead standing oaks smell like warmed over _____.
  13. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    The book, "A Reverance for Wood" by Eric Sloane (funk and wagnels) has many descriptions of wood variety, including color pictures of wood grain. It is not the end all- be- all, but it maybe be helpful, plus it is great reading.
  14. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    Yep, points well taken. Well, I'm just trying to learn. As it is, I'm pretty sure I have some type of Locust, but still not positive. But it was very heavy, even after three months+ on the ground and I'm pretty sure it is thornless Honey Locust. After 18-24 months seasoning, it will burn real good in my stove.

    I see your point, there are some trees we are not going to be totally sure about the type, but they will burn just as good regardless. And if they are heavy, they are hardwood and have more BTU's. If they are lighter, they are soft wood like Pine or Poplar, and they have only about half the BTU's.

    I was very happy and excited to get the Locust because I'm a noob and I'm still learning about everything. Free Locust is a good score, lots of BTU's. ;-)
  15. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    Yes cluttermagnet, locust is a fine burner, none better for those long night time burns. Its always good to learn which wood you are cutting and which ones burn better, which are better for shoulder season burns which are easy to spit and which are a bear. I was just saying that its gonna be real hard to differentiate species of oak or ash from one another from a long cut tree top or for that matter, grapple loads.

    To answer you, Downeast are you telling me you can tell the difference between Shingle Oak, Laurel Oak, Burr Oak, Blackjack Oak, Basket oak, Nuthall Oak, Shumard Oak, Black Oak, Post Oak, all of which grow here in Michigan to some extent. not to mention red and white oak(those are pretty easy) and prolly another 1-200 more in the usa just by looking at the bark and shape of the tree? wow guess you folks down east are better at identification than us guys here in Michigan. Now I could swallow you can tell an oak from an ash from a maple in the woods,or maybe even a red oak from white or shingle oak.... but not be able to identify the EXACT species like a Shemard from a blackjack oak just from looking at the bark. same Be it for all the ashes, all the elms, the oaks, or the chestnuts. It just cant be done just from the bark or shape of canopy. Heck I can show you 20 different shapes and bark forms of the same species of tree, the exact same species, they are that broad in shape and color, bark form, all depending on growing conditions,wind, water, soil ect. ect.
  16. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    Oh, for anyone who wants to learn more, pick up an audubon field guide to eastern trees(or western trees for you folks out there.)its small and sturdy. And I think the best field guide out there. Keep it in the glove box of your wood getter. and then when you take a break, pull it out and do some field study and see whats growin.(and better yet, whats gonna be burnin') its a good book with color pics and great discriptions for identifying a lot of common species. Helps you learn the many differing species of trees and go one step up from " that is an oak and that is a maple". to that is a black oak and that is a sugar maple.
  17. downeast

    downeast Guest

    Who the hell cares about Shingle, Laurel, Blackjack or any species particular to your lot. We ain't there, we're here. A cutter wants and needs to know what is vital to the job, not some kind of computer oneupsmanship or virutal game. In Forestry we can always look it up if , and only IF, you have that need to be correct and academic for your little area. We are not impressed. Name one other pro in Michigan....one.
    Stop swallowing...you could hurt yourself. We ain't got no stinkin "...20 different shapes and bark...." And we don't give a ____.
    What the H is a "Shemard" ? Sounds like a USB .
    JMNSHO
  18. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    Ya, I thought as much, have a nice day.........
  19. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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    Oh and for everyone that wants to learn, Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) Genus is Quercus (means oak) Species is shumardii(guy who named it, Mr. Shumard im guessing) Shumard oak is one of the largest SPECIES in the southern red oak group. It is used widely for commercial lumber and other non vital things.It ranges from the mid-Atlantic coastal plain south to northern Florida and west to central Oklahoma and Texas. It is occasionally found as far north as southern Michigan or Pennsylvania.But for those forester's, Arborists and lumber men that really dont need or want to know, Its just another one of them thar pissy, smellin' oaken trees. Ain't they all the same?
  20. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    Well, a huge old Red Oak was what started this whole wood burning adventure for me. We had one killed off by excavation, during the building out of the neighbor's lot next doors. Took it around 15 years to succumb to pests and disease after having its roots extensively damaged. Tough old tree. And yes, it smells a little skunky until it is completely dried out. Not a hateful smell, though, just a smell with a 'lot of character'. Heats my house real good. I can see how there must be a whole bunch of varieties within each major type, to really confuse things. At least in this case I'm quite sure of it's type (genus), if not the exact variety (species). I used to rake up its leaves in the fall. That tree was around 3-4 decades older than me when it came down, and it lived an interesting life along a rural farm lane at the edge where pasture and forest meet. Now I'm recycling it. I like the 'carbon neutral' aspect of that. And the heat! Who knows- maybe it's one of those shumardii. I live in the mid-Atlantic coastal piedmont region.
  21. downeast

    downeast Guest

    I have Shumardii envy. Gee, who woulda known. Wowwww........
  22. downeast

    downeast Guest

    Two classic guides that we use for understanding AND identifying trees and used in Forestry science:

    Illustrated Guide to Trees and Shrubs ( ....Northestern US and Canada ) Arthur Graves
    Detailed guide to all factors for ID, winter and summer

    A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs George Petrides (....all trees, shrubs, and woody vines in the northeastern and north central US and southeastern and south central Canada ).

    Concentrate on the major, needed species first, then the more exotic, esoteric species in your woodlot. Saplings can look like shrubs, and vines. There are many pocket guides for both winter and summer ID usually sold at Audubon or other nature stores.
    Most Quercus ID concentrates on differenciating the Reds and Whites only; all those others are smaller variations of these. Too small and rare for sawlogs, firewood, veneer.
  23. BurningIsLove

    BurningIsLove New Member

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    Some of it is just plain curiosity. Some of it is knowing when I have bucked the tree into rounds knowing how easily it will split. Or how many BTUs it will produce when seasoned (yes, I know you can tell a great deal of that by its weight)

    Another big part is conservations/future planning. If I get a grapple or a tree from a nearby property, and that particular variety is consistently diseased/rotted, then when I am planting/cultivating trees on my own property to replace those that I cut down those are the species I'm not going to favor in my own property. there is no sense cultivating or planting a species that is succeptible to various pests, soil conditions, etc locally in my neighborhood/property. Or if its a pain to split, then also not likely going to be a favored species.
  24. Cluttermagnet

    Cluttermagnet Minister of Fire

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    I appreciate all the book suggestions in this thread- thanks! I'm going to start looking and see what I can find. I do want to get a close look at any book before buying. The ones that focus only on foliage miss the mark. I want one that also shows some of the variations in the bark patterns and some cross cut shots, too. Bonus points for discussions about variations within species, uses of different tree types, and such. Sometimes the bark and leaves are long gone, but maybe the wood itself could still provide a positive ID. Will probably give myself at least one book for a Christmas present this year.

    Most important, is it hardwood or softwood? Weight alone often tells that. Then, an ID allows a better guess about what seasoning time is needed (allowing for status: live cut, standing deadwood, etc.) Third is a truly specific, positive ID, even if it's only of academic interest. Most important is simply how to stay warm, of course. But I'm a curious type, too.

    I'll be getting a moisture meter real soon. Should be a real useful tool, and they're pretty inexpensive. Higher internal moisture can fool you, especially with Oak, I hear.
  25. glacialhills

    glacialhills Member

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