How to Determine Different Types of Wood

Written by jeffery keilholtz
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How to Determine Different Types of Wood
Wood is best examined by looking at its core. (newly cut wood image by Alison Bowden from

Determining different types of wood is important when considering any range of wood design projects. Wood varies in strength and age and must be examined thoroughly to understand its health and overall condition. Understanding varieties of wood allows you to determine which type of wood may be used for certain creative activities. Using a strong oak, for example, to construct a dining room table may prove to be a safer and more reliable option than using a fragile maple.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Wood logs
  • Saw

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    Determining Different Types of Wood

  1. 1

    Pick up a saw by the handle. The teeth of the saw must be facing down to ensure a correct grasp. Place the teeth of the saw against the bark surface of a wooden log. Slide the saw back and forth until the log is cut in half.

  2. 2

    Look at the centre core of the log. Examine the rings around the core surface. Wood rings are two toned---light and dark---and alternate in degrees of thickness. Count the rings. The number of rings within the core indicates the age of the tree. If there are 75 rings, for example, the tree is 75 years old.

    Every ring reveals the way the tree grew during different seasons of each year. Thin, light-coloured rings, for example, are a display of early wood. Early wood indicates springtime growth (when the tree was the most hydrated). Thick, dark-coloured rings, for example, are a display of late wood. Late wood indicates summer time growth (when the tree lacked a proper amount of water).

  3. 3

    Notice the overall shade of the wood. Darker shades usually indicate exotic woods. English Brown Oak, for example, is a chocolate brown with caramel-toned swirls. Brazilian and East Indian Rosewood are streaked with dark-brown shades. North American maple, on the other hand, is often an even-shaded beige or tan in overall colour.

  4. 4

    Examine the direction of the wood grain. Even, parallel lines indicate a strong and durable wood. Wavy lines indicate a less-stable wood grain. Knotted wood---wood with oblong, dark-coloured, circular formations throughout the wood---indicates suspended growth, and is the least strong.

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