Mystery Urn

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Project by CharlieM1958 posted 08-29-2010 09:00 PM 3201 views 1 time favorited 46 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay, Lumberjocks, this is a participatory project post. I’m looking for your wood identification opinions.

A friend of mine gave me a four foot long chunk of ancient, deteriorated, 6×6 timber he salvaged from the demolition of a very old wooden bridge. He promised me there was surprising beauty hidden beneath the decay, and he wasn’t lying.

He is under the impression this is redwood. Having never worked with redwood, I can’t really say. I would be surprised to see a Louisiana bridge made of redwood since none grows within 1,000 miles of here as far as I know, but who knows what they did 100 years ago when this bridge was built. I’m going to have to pump him for more details about the location and history of the bridge.

The grain looks a lot like common fir to me, but it seems awfully red for fir. I have included photos of the timber, and of the unfinished urn. The only finish as you see it in the first two photos is buffing compound from my three-wheel buffing system.

Whatever it is, I can safely say this was a very old tree. The growth rings are as dense as 40 per inch in spots, and, judging from the exposed end of the 6×6, there were a heck of a lot of them in the original log.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

46 comments so far

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 4214 days

#1 posted 08-29-2010 09:06 PM

It’s obviously Cajunwood, a special species of tree that is felled and then soaked in Jambalaya for at least 30 days. After drying from the soak, no insect would dare take a bite of that wood – those that do, spontaneously combust.

Beautiful job on the urn, Charlie – it is gorgeous!


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View lew's profile


12840 posts in 4236 days

#2 posted 08-29-2010 09:07 PM

Charlie, The color is off but it sure looks like what we call Southern Yellow Pine. It has a very high pitch content could have been used in locations that were wet.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4699 days

#3 posted 08-29-2010 09:14 PM

Lew, I’m quite familiar with SYP but the color is totally wrong and there is no hint of pitch.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3587 days

#4 posted 08-29-2010 09:20 PM


View woodsmithshop's profile


1385 posts in 4026 days

#5 posted 08-29-2010 09:37 PM

beautiful urn Charlie, could it be cypress, just darkened with age?, I doubt that any fir would last long in the humid conditions you have there.

-- Smitty!!!

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4129 days

#6 posted 08-29-2010 09:49 PM

it does look a lot like douglas fir. not seeing red wood before I can’t really tell though. maybe it’s redwood-fir ?!?

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4546 days

#7 posted 08-29-2010 09:58 PM

Charlie it looks like Redwood to me. I have a friend in Northern California that sent me some old growth redwood one time and it lookd a lot like your piece. You did a great job on the Urn. I would be more than happy to “experiment” with the wood if you would have your friend send me the rest of the bridge :-)).

Take a look at the “Redwood Box ”: that I posted awhile back, looks awfully similiar to me. You are right though – it is strange that they would have used Redwood in this area for such a large project.


-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4066 days

#8 posted 08-29-2010 10:11 PM

I think this is some kind of pine say pihrana or oregon pine I have a quantity of it and it was used for just such projects .Lots of times for church seating pews and the like ,also the grain looks exactly the same and it’s reddish enough too.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Karson's profile


35197 posts in 4881 days

#9 posted 08-29-2010 11:13 PM

Great looking urn. But no guess on the wood.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4699 days

#10 posted 08-29-2010 11:17 PM

Thanks for the input, Guys.

Smitty, cypress would be a good guess because it’s common here and was often used for projects exposed to water, but I’ve seen old cypress before and none of it has been pink/red like this. I agree that fir would not have held up this well over the years.

Sharon: You’re suggesting an illicit relationship between trees of different species? :-)

Bill: Yep… it does have a similar color. WHO DAT!

Alistair, at least you didn’t try to tell me it was some obscure species native only to Scotland!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3499 days

#11 posted 08-30-2010 12:18 AM

Nice job on that “dead wood” is what it is after so many years? lol Sorry I couldn’t do better!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View woodsmithshop's profile


1385 posts in 4026 days

#12 posted 08-30-2010 01:10 AM

Charlie, if you have the book “Identifying Wood” by R. Bruce Hoadley, it may be able to id the wood, I can’t get a close up shot from your picture enough to id it.

-- Smitty!!!

View majeagle1's profile


1426 posts in 3977 days

#13 posted 08-30-2010 01:12 AM

Charlie, Coming from Northern California, the land of the Redwoods, I would say for sure that is REDWOOD…... beautiful grain and beautiful urn…

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View woodsmithshop's profile


1385 posts in 4026 days

#14 posted 08-30-2010 01:14 AM

the book says redwood has no odor,cypress has a slight to moderate rancid odor. Atlantic white cedar has a sweet and aromatic odor.

-- Smitty!!!

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4363 days

#15 posted 08-30-2010 01:59 AM

Nice urn.
Looks Old Growth to me.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

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