Do you consider yourself something of a DIY genius? Perhaps you’re more of a tinkerer, or a do-it-yourself newbie who’s keen to improve? Whatever your practical status, you can never know enough about the materials you’re working with.
When it comes to wood in particular, getting to know the huge array of different materials out there, along with their strengths, weaknesses, styles and unique characteristics will help make you a better craftsperson. From identifying the particular wood used in a piece of furniture you’re restoring, to choosing the ideal surface for a “from scratch” project you’re working on, there’s a lot to be gained from knowing your grains.
To help you give your wood knowledge an upgrade, we’ve taken some pointers from this extensive wood identification tool and shared some identification tips for five of the most common or most useful DIY woods out there.
Commonly used for outdoor furniture, teak is distinguished by its mid-brown or golden tone which darkens over time, its straight grain and its coarse texture. With unfinished teak, you may find that the wood is oily to the touch thanks to the natural oils in the wood. In some cases the grain seen in teak may be slightly wavy, or even interlocked, but the rough, uneven texture of the material – and its weak natural lustre – are helpful identification points.
There is a wide range of oak colours and varieties out there (including red and white oak), which means that shade is not an accurate identification tool for this wood. Instead, look for a very visible, varied grain featuring clear flecks, dark knots and semi-regular lines which don’t affect the surface of this hardwood too considerably, leaving a relatively smooth surface.
Soft wood pine, spruce or red wood are all names you’ll get for common softwood timber. They are relatively straightforward to identify. Look for a yellowish white wood (heartwood has more reddish brown tone) with an even, widely spaced grain. These are typically soft enough to push a finger nail into. Pine is cheap, easy to work and most DIY store provide a range of sizes. Watch out for distortion and twisted boards. Also check for knots.
Although also used for other purposes, hemlock is most frequently found in stair parts such as Newel posts and balusters. This is because that although it is a softwood it has low sap and turns well. Both the heartwood and the sapwood of hemlock has a natural buff colour, a straight grain and a close texture. When sanded, this wood has a silky, smooth finish,
Highly resistant to both insects and to rot, cedar is a good wood to have in your mental encyclopaedia. With a straight grain and a medium to coarse texture, the colour of this wood varies. While the heartwood of the cedar tree has a red-pink brown shade, sporting flecks of darker red-brown colouration, cedar sapwood is pale yellow-white in colour.
Robert is happy working with both wood and metal. As well as identifying woods he also likes removing rust