Wood IDs #2: A look inside the second mystery branch

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 03-09-2009 12:17 PM 2376 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: 2 species of branches found in my green waste bin - what are they? Part 2 of Wood IDs series Part 3: Another found ornamental tree, with a mystery hole »

It would seem Rob (user: socalwood) nailed another species down for me in my previous post – the Pride of Madeira – going off nothing more than one gnarled limb (which turned out to be the whole trunk and some branches of a small plant) and some withering leaves. Great job, Rob!

I looked a bit more into one of the few branches of the second mystery species, and found a yellowy, eccentrically-ringed wood that seems to love to split along its length down its ring and ray lines. I’m hoping it’ll dry out and harden up so that I may use it in my mini lathe. If it stays this prone to splitting, however, the best I may be able to do is turning it carefully in a chuck, as the pressure of centers could split it apart. Here are some pictures inside a thin limb of about 1” and under in diameter. I have another one that’s more in the neighborhood of 1.5”.

I cut it up with a Japanese flush cut saw from Rockler. I love the finish sawing with that thing leaves, and it flushes things so perfectly – pegs, pocket hole plugs, etc. – you can’t feel them. I’ve even used it to do the work of a laminate trimmer. It cuts very fast in all the woods I’ve tried it in, and with no effort at all:
mystery limb cut up into possibly-usable pieces for turning in my mini lathe

Note the eccentricity – the rings are anything but centered in relation to each other:
cross sections showing great eccentricity of the rings of this mystery limb

The eccentricity reminds me of a certain Hollywood Juniper limb I cut down last year, the pieces of which are still drying in my shop, for use eventually on the mini lathe. I keep thinking that eccentricity like this is just a hallmark of a lot of fast growing species. The rings in this are pretty far apart in some areas – 1/4” or more – and that seems like fast growth to me. Maybe not.
closeup of mystery limb cross sections

Mineral stains reminded me a lot of poplar I’ve seen, and for all I know it could be any of the related poplars or tulip woods. It really likes to split along its ray and ring lines. The splits were already there, or appeared in pieces that fell to the floor (not sure if that caused them, though). I didn’t cause any splits with my sawing:

mineral stains and split in end grain cross sections of mystery limb

There’s a kind of fiery sunburst around the outer edge, inside the outer bark. I researched for awhile, but still can’t tell my vascular cambium from my secondary phloem, so I’m useless to explain what I’m seeing here, other than that it looks neat. It seems online you either find colored microscopic slides of cellular level things, or illustrations of the larger stuff, but no actual labeled real photos of a variety of tree and limb cross sections to really give you a better sense of what you’re seeing. This doesn’t match up with pretty much anything I found:

mystery limb cross-section showing fiery starburst pattern around the outer edges

This piece was already split, so I cut around it, but it’s pretty detailed inside, with another internal split, mineral stains, wood in various states of dryness, what almost appears to be rot, or spalting (though I don’t think it is), and much else. It was fun to just wander around it with my eyes, trying to understand everything inside:

split piece of mystery limb, showing lots of things going on inside

I haven’t room in my shop to build tables, couches, beds, or rowboats, but I also have a real love of tiny, detailed things, so these little limbs, which can be turned into very tiny things (hopefully) are still rather delightful to me. With the fractal nature of trees, all of the hallmarks of woodworking are still found in miniature in these tiny ‘logs,” so in a sense, I almost feel like I’m doing regular woodworking, but as a giant :)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

2 comments so far

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4227 days

#1 posted 02-26-2010 09:29 PM

Interesting growth rings. How hard is this wood? Does it shape well?

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3886 days

#2 posted 02-27-2010 12:38 AM

mmh – The pieces you’re seeing here are about as thick as my middle finger. I was going to try to do something with them, but eventually got tired of moving the little plastic shopping bag all around the garage out of my way and dumped them in the green recycling bin. They weren’t really hard. They were still kind of close to new/green plant growth, really. They had a stinky smell, like salt and brackish water. I did turn one on my lathe out of curiosity, and it just looked like yellow/white wood. The cool patterns at the end didn’t translate to a pretty turning. Never did ID it. The gardeners threw it in my green waste bin, but it’s not from anywhere around my property. They must have had a branch stuck to their truck or in the bed when they arrived and just threw it in my bin, where I discovered it later. I’m much less excited about ‘sticks’ these days, as I’ve since found lots of piles of respectably sized logs to play with here in west LA :)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

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