Forum > Tree, Plant and Wood I.D.

Identify wood from the end grain of a board/log

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I was participating in another thread on the forum to id a piece of wood and instead of letting the information get burried, I decided to make a new thread in here to help folks id some sawn lumber or logs by looking at end grain.

Tools of the trade:

A 10 x hand lense

A sharp utility knife or carving knife.

Take your utility knife and cut a fresh surface on the end of a board. With dense, harder wood, some fine sanding paper may help clean up the surface. Use some water or saliva on the fresh cut surface to make the grain stand out.

Getting down to it

Hard maple end grain(sugar maple and black maple): Growth rings are distinct. Pores are indistinct without a hand lens, uniform in size and evenly distributed throughout the growth ring. Broader rays visible to naked eye, as wide as the largest pores, separated by several narrow (intermediary) rays, narrower rays are barely visible with hand lens.

Yellow birch end grain: Often growth rings won't be seen without hand lens. Pores appear as white dots to naked eye, largest pore wider than large ray, uniform in size. Rays are not distinct with naked eye.

Black cherry: Rays distinct with naked eye. Pores not visible without magnification.

White Ash: Earlywood pores are large, distinct to naked eye, forming band of 2-4 pores. Latewood pores small with parenchyma forming narrow sheath around the pores. Rays are barely visible to naked eye.

A better image:

Butternut: Earlywood pores visible to naked eye, fairly uniform but decreasing in size on the outer margin of the ring, diffuse to semi-diffuse porous. Rays indistinct without hand lens, uniform width.

Just to skirt some cornfusion  ;) , my use of 'vessel' <> pore. You'll also notice that on diffuse porous wood, such as maple, the early wood is wider than the latewood. On ring porous wood the darker ring is early wood because of the larger pores making it appear darker, but it is less dense.

Also, the pores go out radially between the wood rays. In other words, a ray doesn't cut through a pore. If it looks that way, like on butternut, or white oak, that is tylosis and nothing to do with a ray.

.............or a 5 inch astronomy telescope at 150 feet.  :D

Swamp do you have a red maple or "soft" maple sample available for comparison?

Jeff, I might be able to find a sacrificial piece of red maple. Maybe a piece over at the marketing board wood yard. It's not that it's hard to get my hands on, it's that I never cut it and I'de have to kill a crop tree. ;D

OK, found this red maple that the road crew turned up on the edge of my woodlot.

Red maple (soft maple) end grain: Growth rings not very distinct. Pores indistinct without a hand lens, evenly distributed in growth ring, often present in multiples of 2 to several. Rays visible to naked eye, broadest as wide as largest pore.

end grain

split surface with characteristic ray fleck of maples.

Aspen end grain: Growth rings distinct because of darker latewood, but not conspicuous, wide. Pores are numerous, small, but indistinct without hand lens (even then it's a challenge), more crowded in earlywood, decreasing gradually in size in latewood, semi-ring to diffuse-porous. Rays are very fine and hardly visible even with a hand lens.

Rays are very faint at this magnification (~ 7x)


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