Return to the Woodworking Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Can you help me identify this wood?

Posted by kerrygw (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 23, 09 at 19:27

I'm trying to ID the wood used in the trim for my early 1900s house. Here's a piece I'm trying to work with...

(It's on our workbench, so it runs a bit into that on the right side of the picture.) Any insights would be appreciated - trying to figure how to deal with it and what might match with it would be easier if I knew what it was! Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Red oak.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Looks like oak. For what it's worth, the pores (picture a bundle of drinking straws) of red oak are open (ie, let air through), and white oak are closed. If you want any easy test, suck on the end of the board... you'll get air through red oak.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

I would say ash (stained) or chestnut. If you show a pic of fresh cut end grain in close-up, we will know for sure.
You can sometimes only distinguish oak from ash through what the end grain reveals. Ash does not have the "ray" structure of oak, which can be positively seen in end grain.
Ash will be white when freshly cut. Chestnut will be the color that it is in your photo.
So, to sum up, if it has rays, it's oak; if it lacks rays, it's either ash or chestnut. If it's white, it's ash.
Casey


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

So, I don't know if these pics will help - but here's trying:

Pic1:

Pic2:

It definitely doesn't look white to me-tan or very light brown sure, but not white. Thoughts?

Thanks so much!


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

No rays there, as I thought. Too dark for ash, which leaves... Chestnut.
Casey


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Thanks. Is chestnut lighter in weight than oak? I was surprised when I picked the piece up how light it felt - I would have thought it was heavier.

Are there any stripping methods we should be avoiding while cleaning up all of this woodwork? I just don't want to damage the wood.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Looks like oak to me!!
But chesnut looks a lot like oak....it rather depends on where in the country you live. The chesnut blight took a lot of trees during that era and in some places chesnut was a major building wood....other areas not so much so.
Linda C


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Yes, chestnut would be at least 30% lighter than oak.

FWIW, all wood has rays, it's just a question of whether they're big enough to be obvious.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

I'm in the NYC area - would chestnut be likely around here? From what I've read it sounds like this area was the origin of the blight, but I haven't read a lot on how prevalent the wood was around here. Linda C - does the end grain look like oak to you? Will oak and chestnut both strip and stain about the same way? I'd love to know for sure what it is, but I guess if I need to handle it the same way then it really only matters for my own curiosity/knowledge. Thanks!


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

The only difference you'll see with stripping methods relates to the density of the wood. If it's lighter then it's softer, and will be easier to gouge or abrade with whatever tools you use. Just handle it carefully - look closely at the results of your first attempts, and you'll quickly get a feel for what you can and can't get away with.

It's hard to tell for sure, since neither your saw blade nor the picture is very sharp, but that doesn't look like oak to me.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Chestnut grew in every temperate forest type area in the US until 1938 when they were wiped out by the blight. They were among the most valuable of trees, for beauty, timber and food.
Casey


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Well, I guess unless I find out (for sure from someone local to me) differently I will assume the trim is chestnut and treat it accordingly. I'm testing out some different ways of stripping it down and am hopeful that we'll be able to get good results. Thanks so much for all your help!


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

My in-laws in northern New Jersey have an older house and it has beautiful wide chestnut trim.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Hopefully this one will clean up nicely as well! One more question - for the rooms that don't have the chestnut trim (there was an addition done in the 50s, plus the area we are adding on now) - I am assuming oak would be the closest match? Red oak or white, or does it not really matter if it's being stained? I'll check into pricing reclaimed chestnut, but what I've seen would probably blow the budget clear out of the water.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Ash, stained, could be a better match than oak. IMO.
Casey


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Absolutely, ash would be the better choice. Cheap, too.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Definitely Chestnut. Most older hjomes on Staten Island had beautiful Chestnut trim. I occasionally see it in my work travels.

I've faked Chestnut with white oak to replicate missing trim when I couldn't find a quantity of Chestnut (tip: you have to be real careful to select boards of the right graining and color).

You can still get Chestnut. Try Ebay...also there is a Chestnut supplier in Jersey somewhere.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Thanks everyone - sounds like it's time to start just playing around with boards and stains - I appreciate the help!


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

If anyone is still following this... silly newbie question for you. A friend in the same neighborhood with a similarly aged house was told (by whom, I'm not sure) that her trim (which when stained looks similar to mine) was douglas fir. How can I tell the difference between douglas fir and chestnut? I looked online at different examples, but to someone who doesn't really have a clue (that would be me), a lot of the examples look similar and don't have a lot of explanation. Help is appreciated!


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

See how the grain areas of your chestnut have little pores in them? Well, softwoods, fir included, do not have these pores.
Casey


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Identifying wood can be tricky, so don't feel bad. We can usually make decent guesses, because only a handful of the hundreds of species of domestic trees are commonly used for lumber, but some woods can be almost impossible to ID without a microscope. In any case, low-res online pictures are not very useful for such comparisons. If you put doug. fir next to chestnut, the difference would be immediately obvious.

What we know for sure is that you've got a ring-porous hardwood, with fairly large pores and no visible rays. That really cuts down the possibilities.

Might also be worth mentioning that the trim piece you photographed is flatsawn, which means that the surface of the board is tangential to the annual rings of the tree. A quartersawn (face of the board perpendicular to the rings) slice of the very same tree would look dramatically different. Also, the environment where the trees grow has an impact; if the tree grows slowly in a mature forest then the annual rings are thinner and the graphic pattens on the boards can be busier. If the tree grows quickly in a young, recently logged area then annual rings are fatter and the patterns on the board are simplified. Species isn't everything, so don't beat yourself up trying to find a perfect match.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Thank you both very much - great info, and I'm feeling a little less clueless!! (We'll see how long that lasts...) :)


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Loads of good comments on this post. Some references here to houses in northern NJ.

That lumber could be oak, and I have little experience with chestnut, but it could be that, chestnut.

Years ago, I lived in NE NJ. The town of Ridgewood has a collection of "Peterson-built" houses, located in a few of the most desirable locations. When I was a teen, a friend of mine lived in a "Peterson" house. All the trim was said to be chestnut. All 1920's stuff, and all very upscale.

Your sample pic looks like the trim in his house.


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Red Oak


 o
RE: Can you help me identify this wood?

Found this for you at DIY:

"The best site Ive found for quickly identifying wood types is unexpectedly found at www.antiqueclockspriceguide.com. They have two different pages for picking out your wood type based on description and appearance. They have common wood types and exotic wood types. They dont have every kind of wood (that would probably be next to impossible to categorize), but they have everything youll ever need to identify the wood types of older pieces of furniture."


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Woodworking Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here