It is how Google translates the phrase, "Wood should be scientifically identified" into Latin. Google translate can be a tricky thing, so I actually have no idea if the translation is in any way accurate.
Perhaps Ben knows.
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately (often a quite dangerous thing!), and it dawned on me that I read blog posts by woodworking authors all over the world. Also, according to my Blogger stats, this blog is read by people in many different countries and regions.
While we all may be able to follow different tools and techniques based on the photos and descriptions posted, sometimes really knowing what a woodworker is going through is difficult for the simple reason that the wood that is being used may only be identified by the author as "oak," or "maple."
Sometimes this is not so important to the story, but it can be. Take, for instance, a friend who recently told me that birch is the perfect wood to learn spooncarving, because it is so soft.
Naturally I was surprised, because my only experience with birch was a board that was so heavy and hard, that I couldn't imagine it being great for beginning anything!
It turns out that my birch board was a hunk of flame, yellow birch, Betula alleghaniensis, from the US, and the birch my friend was thinking of was likely downy birch, Betula pubescens, common here in Europe.
Just looking at the Latin, it doesn't mean much. However, it turns out that yellow birch, B. alleghaneinsis, is about 35% harder than downy birch, B. pubescens.
We woodworkers refer to a whole lot of different trees by only the common name of the genus. For example, there are some 125 species of maple worldwide, and some 600 species of oak.
|Lots of different maples. Photo courtesy LoveToKnow Garden.|
A brilliant resource for woodworkers is the website The Wood Database. This website lists photos of lots of different woods we as woodworkers are likely to come across. There are technical specifications for each kind of wood, and photos of these woods both finished and unfinished. Plus, there are some fantastic articles about identifying wood.
From now on, I will try to remember to include the genus and species of the woods I discuss here on my blog. If you want to do the same, those of us who are interested in the different species of wood will thank you.
Guidelines on proper usage of the genus and species are spelled out on National Geographic's website. Essentially, genus and species are in italics, with the genus term capitalized and the species beginning with lowercase. If you know the genus but not the species, you can substitute "spp." or "sp." to indicate it. For example, if you know a sample of wood is oak, but knot which kind, you would list it as Quercus spp.
A final word is to echo Eric Meier of the wood database, and state that it may not be possible to always be correct in identifying wood to the species, but knowing a little about where it came from may help narrow the list of possibilities down.
I'll get myself a jeweler's loupe to make identifying the wood on my rack a bit more accurate.
I am lucky to be near a lumber yard that sells wood from all over the world, and it always has a large stockpile of North American woods. Some of the woods I have discussed on this blog (or will soon):
- ash, Fraxinus excelsior
- cherry, Prunus serotina
- cocobolo, Dalbergia retusa
- ebony, Diospyros crassiflora (I am only about 50% sure about this one)
- elm, Ulmus × hollandica
- oak, Quercus robur
- paulownia, Paulownia tomentosa
- pear, Pyrus communis
- pine, Pinus sylvestris
- spruce, Picea abies (also not sure, but I based my identification of this species off of the region)
- walnut, Juglans nigra (curiously, American black walnut is cheaper here than European walnut, Juglans regia. Indeed, I believe it can be found here for less than it can be found in Ohio!)
- yew, Taxus baccata