Wood Identification: Level 1


a group of people studying timbers

Learning to identify wood species is an indispensable tool, whether you are trying to sort through a stack of mixed-species timbers for a new project or trying to evaluate the strength of an existing timber building or bridge. In this course, participants will gain skills needed to identify woods no matter what the sample size, be it a board, a log, or a splinter. The class will focus on common hardwoods and softwoods of North America. Skills learned can be applied to the identification of non-native species as well.

Participants will learn to identify woods by studying both macroscopic and microscopic anatomical features. A great deal of information can be obtained simply by observing the structure of the wood viewed on the end grain with a hand lens and referring to Bruce Hoadley's book Identifying Wood. However, that doesn't always suffice so additional tools will be presented, such as the use of other reference books, samples, on-line databases, and the microscope. Participants will receive a packet of reference materials to take with them, including samples of North American woods, a hand lens, tree and wood identification references, and other resources.

Two men showing a piece of timber at the front of a classroom with a screen behind them.

There will be hands-on exercises throughout the class, and students will work with the wood samples and hand lenses provided to help gain confidence and proficiency in identifying macroscopic diagnostic characteristics. At the end of the class, all should be ready to put the knowledge gained into immediate practice. Participants will:

  • know which physical characteristics can be used as clues to species identification;
  • have a basic knowledge of wood anatomy on a macroscopic and a microscopic level necessary for practical wood identification;
  • understand what to look for when examining wood in hand, using handheld magnifiers, and using the microscope;
  • have knowledge of good reference materials, including on-line resources, for wood identification;
  • be able to identify many hardwood species commonly encountered in North America as well as several softwood species; and
  • be able to apply wood identification techniques to an unknown wood sample.

Wood identification requires a combination of practical skills and scientific knowledge and, like any craft, requires practice to master. Participants will be well on their way after this class. The Level 2 course in wood species identification builds on skills learned in the Level 1 class and extends those skills to use of the microscope.

Participants are requested to bring a razor-sharp knife, a sharp block plane, their own copy of Hoadley's Identifying Wood, and a small sample (under 1 pound) of an unknown wood of North American origin. Utility knives will be provided for those traveling by air.

Aug 23, 2021 - Aug 23, 2021 $350

7 spots remaining.

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