ideniifying the wood pile

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ristau5741

Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
Nov 14, 2013
312
70
Arborist newbie

Given that pile of mixed wood sitting there over in the corner  nice, split, aged, dried, how does one determine the type of wood that makes up the pile , be it oak, ash, hickory,  or other good smoking woods?  How does one tell weather it's a hardwood or soft wood?
 
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nivekd

Meat Mopper
May 26, 2012
156
13
West Jordan, Utah
That's a tough one. Especially with firewood. Lumber is a different story, pretty easy to indentfy milled lumber.

I would start with what you think it is then google some images and see if you're close. Post some picts here and see if anyone recognizes it.
 

radioguy

Master of the Pit
Jan 12, 2013
1,042
416
Columbus, Ohio
Look at color, bark grain pattern compare against web search. I burn a stove in the winter so I'm a bit familiar with local woods....but still learning.

RG
 

bagbeard

Meat Mopper
May 24, 2013
228
17
Scotland, Ontario, Canada
the best way to identify wood is with a jewelers magnifying glass or eye loup.  take a sharp knife and slice the end grain.  look at the pore structure , early/latewood comparison and a few other factors.  many good books use the end grain for identification.  the face grain of wood can be very deceiving. 


red oak.  notice pores and rays.


and Hickory.  very different

this is the definitive way to identify wood. 

this book is one of the best references, as a cabinetmaker, i had to learn to identify 20 species of wood from 1" cubes of wood

 
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cliffcarter

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Group Lead
Feb 28, 2010
2,272
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Old Town, Maine
 
the best way to identify wood is with a jewelers magnifying glass or eye loup.  take a sharp knife and slice the end grain.  look at the pore structure , early/latewood comparison and a few other factors.  many good books use the end grain for identification.  the face grain of wood can be very deceiving.
Very nice, but I don't think a backyard BBQer needs a loup and special training to ID proper cooking wood. A leaf actually is the best tool for identifying cooking wood IMHO.
 

boogity

Newbie
Jan 5, 2014
6
10
S.E. Indiana, USA
This is an interesting thread for me as I have a mixed woodpile that I'm burning in thr woodstove this year.  I usually do my own cutting, splitting, stacking, etc. but I've been very ill this past year and I had to purchase firewood.  I think my woodpile is about 60% oak and 40% unknown.  I have some gray smooth-bark wood that burns just fine but the Btu content must be very poor.  The silly wood just does not get hot.  Knowing what kind of wood this is would help me in future years.

I don't know if this "cool" wood would make good smoking smoke but it sure would keep the temperatures down in the smoker (for cold smoking that is).  I would like to post a picture of the wood here but I'm kind of new here and I don't want to hijack ristau5741's thread.

Watcha think?
 

nivekd

Meat Mopper
May 26, 2012
156
13
West Jordan, Utah
Just start a new thread "What kinda' wood is this?", post a picture, you'll get lots of opinions...
biggrin.gif
 

Post it in the Woods for Smoking forum.
 
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hickorybutt

Smoking Fanatic
Jan 4, 2014
436
40
Cincinnati, OH
Very cool book.

I have the same dilemma - I bought mixed hardwood back in the fall for my fireplace and have been searching for tools to help identify what can be used in the smoker.  I've been able to identify and pull our sticks of white oak based on the bark, and also any cherry logs based on color and the fruity smell.  But there are several others species I've had trouble with.

I do know that a good portion of the pile appears to be Elm from my research thus far as it is very stringy, which would be unsuitable for smoking.  
 

madman mike

Smoking Fanatic
Feb 6, 2014
314
18
Birch has a high BTU, and very little ash when its done burning. Its likely poplar or something else soft in your region. I've seen lots of wood piles padded with poplar, its a soft garbage wood. It doesn't have much heat and leaves a pile of flaky ash.
 

boogity

Newbie
Jan 5, 2014
6
10
S.E. Indiana, USA
 
Birch has a high BTU, and very little ash when its done burning. Its likely poplar or something else soft in your region. I've seen lots of wood piles padded with poplar, its a soft garbage wood. It doesn't have much heat and leaves a pile of flaky ash.
 
Boogity, could your "cool" wood be a birch?
It looks like birch to me but we do not have much birch in our area.

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It looks like Birch but it sounds like Poplar could be a good guess, too.  We have lots of Poplar around here.

You can see the gray smooth bark.  One end view is the chainsaw rough cut and one is after I cleaned up the rough cut on my belt sander.  Watcha think?  Is Poplar a good smoking wood?



 

cliffcarter

Master of the Pit
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Group Lead
Feb 28, 2010
2,272
247
Old Town, Maine
Poplar(or Aspen, actually) is a fair guess. It does not look any of the birches that I know. Given your description of the way it burns and the fact that it is the least dense of all the hardwoods, I was leaning toward it anyway. Not a very good cooking wood because of the lack of heat thing, but it won't make you sick if you use it.
 

madman mike

Smoking Fanatic
Feb 6, 2014
314
18
Definitely not birch.

This is what birch bark looks like.

Its like thin layers of paper and burns very hot and very fast. Im not sure what wood you have there, it doesnt look like anything i recognize in my part of the forest. I would guess poplar, but not Canadian poplar.

 
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