help with identifying wood

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Forum topic by bygrace posted 10-02-2014 03:54 PM 1631 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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198 posts in 3312 days

10-02-2014 03:54 PM

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!

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

26 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


9136 posts in 3920 days

#1 posted 10-02-2014 04:02 PM

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.

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 3110 days

#2 posted 10-02-2014 04:32 PM

Looks like cherry which is odd. It should be maple.


View Woodknack's profile


13586 posts in 3723 days

#3 posted 10-02-2014 04:37 PM

Top pic looks like soft maple, probably red maple.

-- Rick M,

View bygrace's profile


198 posts in 3312 days

#4 posted 10-02-2014 04:45 PM

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!

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3941 days

#5 posted 10-02-2014 04:45 PM

looks like maple to me too.

View bygrace's profile


198 posts in 3312 days

#6 posted 10-02-2014 04:48 PM

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

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

View LiveEdge's profile


600 posts in 2963 days

#7 posted 10-02-2014 04:58 PM

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?

View Woodknack's profile


13586 posts in 3723 days

#8 posted 10-02-2014 05:06 PM

Silver maple is very soft.

-- Rick M,

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 2864 days

#9 posted 10-02-2014 09:33 PM

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.

View ScottM1's profile


135 posts in 2926 days

#10 posted 10-02-2014 10:35 PM

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?

-- Scott Marshburn,, FaceBook,, Twitter,

View mporter's profile


253 posts in 3921 days

#11 posted 10-02-2014 10:35 PM

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.

View JFred's profile


230 posts in 2888 days

#12 posted 10-02-2014 10:50 PM

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.

View WDHLT15's profile


1819 posts in 3819 days

#13 posted 10-03-2014 12:49 AM

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.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View bygrace's profile


198 posts in 3312 days

#14 posted 10-03-2014 01:13 AM

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.

-- Andy, Waxahachie, Tx.

View firefighterontheside's profile


21560 posts in 3199 days

#15 posted 10-03-2014 01:47 AM

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.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

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