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help with identifying wood

1923 Views 26 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Yonak
A good friend of mine passed away a little over a year ago. We had always talked about refinishing his dining room set. I decided to go ahead and do it for his wife. The table is red oak, this I'm sure of. But when I sanded down two of the chairs they are something different. The wood is softer than oak, sands easily, and the grain is very faint. I'm pretty sure its not cherry, just finished a table for another friend that was cherry. I'm concerned about how the wood will react when I stain it.

This is a special project, so any help is greatly appreciated!
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Bottle Glass bottle Alcoholic beverage Fluid Wine

You're wise to worry about the stain reaction. Maybe use the
conditioner and practice on parts not seen and see how
the stain reacts.

HTH and good luck now.


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Looks like cherry which is odd. It should be maple.
Top pic looks like soft maple, probably red maple.
waho6o9 - I'll definitely be using a wood conditioner. Used Charles Neil's on the cherry table I just did. Got a little impatient and only used one coat conditioner and then stained it. Whoops, had to sand it all back down and put on two coats conditioner like Charles suggested!
mrjinx - I think its too soft to be cherry, you might be right about the maple, just a different maple than I've used before.

Rick - soft maple sounds like it could be the one, Thanks
If it's too soft to be cherry it's also too soft to be maple. Red maple, bigleaf maple, they all have a hardness at least as hard as cherry. (Though I agree it looks a little like maple).

Could it be Alder?
Silver maple is very soft.
I agree it's likely some kind of soft maple. It could also be birch, if it's got a faint grain. In the bottom picture, however, some of the character makes me think of beech. ..Kind of hard to tell, though. It's a bit out of focus. It wouldn't be unusual for a commercially-made, stained chair to be made out of different, similarly colored woods.
My first impression from the greenish hue and the description of the softness of the wood I would say that it is poplar. Poplar will stain similar to cherry but you may have to use a toner first to get it to a base color that resembles unfinished cherry. The problem that I have come across with trying to match woods like oak and maple and even poplar is that you will have to stain a sample of the oak and then by blending and/or using toners and maybe layering different colors of stains. For example you might use a reddish orange stain first let that dry then apply a darker stain over that. What type of application method are you using i.e. wiping or spraying on the stain?
I disagree with Rick M fully, silver maple is hard, not very soft. It's almost as hard as hard maple.

It looks exactly like a cheap species of mahogany to me. I can't think of the species now but menards sells it. Looks exactly like it. Similar to Luan.
I agree with Scottm1, it sure looks like poplar. It's a way manufacturing companies could cheet by using good hardwood for table tops then use a cheaper wood for secondary pieces. then they would spray a stain-sealer-top coat on thick to blend the wood tones. If you notice the underside of the table or chair or any piece of furniture you can see where it was sprayed on. And poplar being a soft hardwood and the grain pattern and color leads me to believe that is very well may be.
I also think that it could be yellow poplar. Much softer than soft maple. But, it could be soft maple, too. Kinda hard to tell from the pics.

Red maple is the common soft maple in the Industry. Red maple and cherry are pretty close in density and hardness.
Thank you all for your input. ScottM1, I may go ahead and stain the table first and then try and match the chairs to it the way you described. I was gonna do the chairs first to get the hard part out of the way, but staining the table first sounds like the way to go.
I've used both silver and red maple recently. Silver is like using poplar and it's quite soft. Red maple is very similar to hard maple. You can tell just by holding it in your hand.
I disagree with Rick M fully, silver maple is hard, not very soft. It s almost as hard as hard maple.

It looks exactly like a cheap species of mahogany to me. I can t think of the species now but menards sells it. Looks exactly like it. Similar to Luan.

- mporter
You may have confused silver with sugar maple. Sugar maple is the hard maple, silver is the softest maple. But neither one look anything like mahogany.
A lot of commercial manufacturers use poplar.
The way that I would go about this is to Find me some poplar that is a good match to the chairs. Then before staining the oak top try to match the color of the stripped oak on the poplar sample. After I have a good match on this then I would proceed with staining the oak top. The key is to tone the poplar to mimic the stripped oak then go from there. We recently came across a similar situation with a gun cabinet. The customer stored it under a open shelter and it got some water damage to it. We had to replace the base section with new construction. After we stripped the finish off we used some spray toner to give the new oak a aged/weathered look to match the stripped oak then we were able to stain the entire piece. With no obvious difference. The difficult part about your project is that you need to turn poplar into oak. This is almost imposable to do with the grain but you can with some trial and error get an acceptable color tone to match.
ScottM1 - Thanks for the advice. I understand what you're saying. I guess it doesn't really matter what kind of wood it is, It's just getting it to look like oak, and then staining! Thanks so much.
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