Any interactive wood identification databases on the net?

All of the wood ident sites that I've found on the net up to this point are merely big repositories of pictures and info, but with only a big page of links to each wood's page. Click on "Elm" and it takes you to a page with lots of info about elm. Click on "Beech", and you get all you ever wanted to know about beech.
But what if you don't know WHAT you've got? What if you're trying to "identify" the wood?
Well, the only resource I have that comes close to that is a book called "What Wood is That?". It's the only one I know of that lets you look at the properties of what you're trying to identify and then look in the book for some clues as to what it is.
What color is it, white, yellow, grey, brown? Is it two colors or one? What's the second color? How distinct are the rings? Are the medulary rays well-defined or not-so? Are the pores visible at all? If not, are they in rings, or diffuse throughout the sample?
The only problem with this book, however, is that you have to do a lot of flipping around to check each property of the wood... and you need a piece of paper to keep track of all of the woods as you rule some out with each next property of your mystery wood.
What's really needed is an online database where you could enter in all of the info about the rays, the pores, the rings, the colors, etc. and then the database would find the likely suspects for you.
I can create something like this myself... but, before I do, I figure I should ask: Does anybody know of something like this already out there?
- Joe
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Joe Emenaker asks:

No. And it might well be very useful.
Charlie Self "Wars spring from unseen and generally insignificant causes, the first outbreak being often but an explosion of anger." Thucydides
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Just a suggestion for anyone who attacks this problem -
I just got a copy of Hoadley's "Understanding Wood". Chapter 3, "Wood Identification" has a partial "typical identification key" in Table 3.1. It is essentially a binary tree with each node asking a question about the wood, the answer sending you to another, specific node until you reach a point where the wood is identified. I'm envisioning something similar to the decision tree for dating Stanley Bench Planes found at
    http://www.hyperkitten.com/tools/stanley_bench_plane/dating/dating_flowchart.html#Types%201-20
However, before much effort is put into writing the program for a tree structure (which shouldn't be too difficult with an OOP approach) and collecting the information necessary to formulate the questions, you might consider why the word "typical" is used in the example in the book. That's a strong indication, to me, that there are several such constructs already in existence. I haven't DAGS, but it might be a worthwhile exercise to avoid reinventing the wheel.
(This is not specifically directed to you, Charlie, it's just that yours was the message open when I hit the "Reply" button)
Tom Veatch Wichita, KS USA
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Well, there are a lot more woods than Stanley planes, and I think that something like this would prove a little simplistic.
I *did* find this: http://woodsearch.tfri.gov.tw/wood/t2.aspx
Which is more along the lines of what I'm looking for, but this seems to be aimed primarily at the woods of Taiwan and I'm not that impressed with the interface.
I was thinking of having an interface similar to it, however, where you'd indicate the various characteristics of the wood that you can figure out *and* how certain you were of them. For example, the specific gravity or density of a non-square piece of wood can be difficult to figure out without submerging it in a liquid, which most people aren't inclined to do with their wood.
Another reason to have a "degree of certainty" input, is because many characteristics of wood are subjective. Does it have an aroma? Are the rings "pronounced"? Are the rays diffuse or ringy? These are all questions that, given the same piece of wood, could field different answeres from different people. So, I'd want to incoporate some fuzzy logic so that the database could find stuff that's "pretty close".
Amongst other data about the wood, I think it might be helpful to include the typical price of each wood. If I have a big log of some wood in my garage and I run it through the indentifier and it comes up with two woods... and one of them is about $50/bf... then I'd strongly suspect that I had a log of the *other* wood. :)
- Joe
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snipped-for-privacy@emenaker.com (Joe Emenaker) wrote:

Well, here's a functional prototype....
http://fruitpie.blastpoint.com/woodsearchform.php
It's only got 8 woods in the database right now, but it gives you an idea.
Right now, I'm envisioning two major improvements. First, instead of a one-page form with all of the questions on it, I'm thinking of having one question per page, where you go through them one at a time. The advantage here would be that each page could have some images which describe the question. For example, there could be a set of images that indicate what is meant by "faint rings" versus "distinct rings", etc.
The other improvement that I'd like to make is to make it easy for a set of users of the system to be able to add new woods but, more importantly, to give their vote on the properties of existing woods. Then, the system would average everybody's votes to arrive at a value for that wood.
And a third idea that I just had is to have the user indicate whether they're trying to identify a veneer, some flatsawn, or some quartersawn wood, since the presence of rays, rings, and pores could be different between these different cuts for the same wood.
Any other suggestions for moving forward with this? Some additional questions to add to the database, or some other UI ideas?
- Joe
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I once did lots of work with binary identification trees. I offer a few observations.
A "confidence" number won't help. A "pronounced aroma," for example, isn't a fuzzy term in context. At that branch in the tree, that's a well-defined character. You have to learn the various characteristics used by the key's author. By the time you've learned all that, you're pretty well on the way to becoming an expert.
Different authors use different characters, usually around the twig level. Everybody uses the big cleaver characters at the start. There may be a couple of perfectly good ways to make the first cuts; your experience with the first key you learned doesn't necessarily transfer to the next author you turn to. So you learn some more, and get closer to being an expert.
If you're digging really deeply, you may find entirely new keys, which are specific to that one twig. Now you have a whole new area of expertise to acquire.
By the time you are proficient in using the various keys you'll turn up, you'll be pretty good at identifying a sample on sight. So you don't need a key...
IMHO, keys are a great way to learn about a clade. They suck as a tool for a newbie (in whatever field) to identify a blurfl.
Finally, compare the National Geographic field guide to North American Trees to Peterson's Trees. NG is a whole lot easier to use for almost everyone. NG has color pictures. Peterson's has keys.
I don't want to discourage the OP from attempting this worthwhile task. Just keep expectations modest.
--
"Keep your ass behind you."

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+ + + Sure, try Google, can't miss it, big as houses. This won't help you if you don't know what you are doing. The book by Hoadley is as good a place to start as any. PvR
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Another book is the one by Edlin. It contains samples of 40 different woods along with a description of the tree and the character of the wood.
Dick

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+ + + I rather like the book by Edlin, but I would not go so far as to recommend it. I will stick with "The Good Wood Handbook" at the entry level, or the book by Hoadley at the intermediate level PvR
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