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  1. #1
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    Default The Aromas of Wood.

    There is an interesting article in the International Wood Collectors Society's current magazine about the odours of wood.
    In it the author points out that the odours are from volatile chemicals and so decrease with time from being exposed from cutting. He also says that what the person thinks of each odour is very subjective as some one may like one odour and another may dislike it. An example of this would be Rosewood, Dysoxylum fraserianum. The name Rosewood refers to the pleasant rose like aroma while Dysoxylum means literally, evil smelling wood. Interestingly, the categories he has divided all the aromatic woods into are; Coconut, Caramel or sweet, Spicy of clove oil, Floral, Resinous and aromatic, Cypress or [true] cedar-like, Fruity, Vegetable-like, Perfumed, Medicinal, Distinctive [hard to describe] Irritating, Unpleasant or stink.
    The reason this is a topical issue for me is that I recently cut a Rusty Tulip Oak [look under another topic on this forum] and which has a very characteristic smell [the wood is not listed in the article]. I'm not sure which of the above categories I'd put it into but one thing about it which seems special is how remarkably persistent the aroma is. I cut these logs well over a month ago and the stacked wood in a shed which is open on three sides and the aroma is still easily noticed and even if I go into a shed that is open on only one side,and there is just one piece of wood there, it can still be smelt and my neighbour confirms this as well.

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  3. #2
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    Although my sense of smell is not too flash I notice the aromas of timber more when milling green wood. Not surprisingly Apple smells like apple and Apricot smells like apricot although nectarine also comes to mind. The weirdest one has to be Marri. Young trees with lots of sapwood smell to me like Carona beer and bees will come and suck on the sapwood for hours after its been cut. Older trees smell mustier sometimes completely dominating the Carona beer aroma. The nicest aroma I experienced would have to be from a Lebanese cedar which has a very distinctive smell that lasted a long time after it has been cut.

  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobL View Post
    . The nicest aroma I experienced would have to be from a Lebanese cedar which has a very distinctive smell that lasted a long time after it has been cut.
    Agreed...Cedar of Lebanon smells amazing...one of my favourites too.
    Red Cedar is also delightful and of course Qld Maple can smell incredibly 'fruity' at times...MM
    Mapleman

  5. #4
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    Another vote for Cedar of Lebanon luckily i have a good stash and the smell in my shed at times is very beautiful.Also have a red cedar tree in the backyard and the branches dropping down smell incredible when used as kindling in the fire.

    cheers ....Roy

  6. #5
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    Western Red Cedar is one of my favourites.

    New Guinea Rosewood always reminds me of building 5 at Holmesglen Chadstone.

  7. #6
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    My most memorable experience was a piece of Red Gum that smelled like a bucket of dank urine. Really!

    It was in just in one part of this piece of timber. The rest was, well, unmemorable.

    The smell went away after some time.

  8. #7
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    Another character is the wood flavour and smell imparted to foods cooked in a smoker BBQ.
    To the members of my tribe, just about any fruit wood (pear/plum/cherry/etc) smoke is preferable to mesquite or hickory.
    The all time favorite is apple wood.

    My wood carvings in western red cedar (Thuja plicata) smell the best but it's fleeting.
    Tomorrow, it's neutral until I start carving again.
    Always reminds me of my grandfather's boat-building shed on the coast in Vancouver.

    Many carvers like the smell of Yellow Cedar (Chamycyparis nootkatensis). To me, it's a whiff of sewer gas.
    I like the smells of most other conifers, the dominant species in Taiga forests, circumpolar.

  9. #8
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    Another thing I noticed is that boards that smell "odd" compared to what the timber normally smells like often have interesting colouring or grain patterns

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by elanjacobs View Post
    Another thing I noticed is that boards that smell "odd" compared to what the timber normally smells like often have interesting colouring or grain patterns
    That's very observant elan, and I have noticed the same when cutting logs. Especially spalted or fungally affected wood. As others have also noted odour (less so colour) is a very subjective and what is nice for one can be also undetected by another or unpleasant.

    There is a good reason for that and I have been busy writing about that for the World of Wood. Grain patterns that are caused by fungus or physical pressure / irritation which can also cause the tree to respond chemically and produce these odorous or coloured responses.

    Euge

  11. #10
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    From memory, spalting has a sweet smell; I'm guessing it's from the fungus metabolising sugars from the tree?

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by markharrison View Post
    My most memorable experience was a piece of Red Gum that smelled like a bucket of dank urine. Really!.
    That's what might happen if anyone ever gets to mill the lemon tree in our back garden.

    The smell I have to watch out for is Smokey BBQ sauce flavour - that's what I smelled a few hours before I lost my sense of smell from working outside with MDF. These days even if I just think about it I think I can smell it and when I smell real BBQ sauce it gives me the herbie jeebies.

  13. #12
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    Love the smell of freshly cut wet Jarrah .
    Johnno

    Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don't have film.

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by elanjacobs View Post
    From memory, spalting has a sweet smell; I'm guessing it's from the fungus metabolising sugars from the tree?
    Spalting is induced by a very wide variety of fungal species, dependent on wood, environmental factors. Not all fungi prefer sapwood which is richer in sugars and starches. Some do and this shows in woods like Sugar Maple. BUT, many fungi prefer heartwood (eg myrtle from Tasmania, box elder and many others even dryland species).

    The smell / odours produced by spalting I believe produce chemicals that are very variable. Some perfumed, some balsam-like, some fermented-like. The Plants produces them and its specific to that plants response to that threat from a fungus or group or fungi. It remains an area of active interest to me. I hope the article I wrote on Spalting for World of Wood will explain and illustrate it more fully.

    Euge

  15. #14
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    It's been over 2 months now since I cut the Rusty Tulip Oak and until a few days ago, when ever I went into the open sided shed, the aroma is still quite pronounced. I think this persistence is quite remarkable. A couple of days ago, I went back up the hill and brought down the large stump. This isn't much good with a pipe and large buttresses that needed to be removed but I didn't want this most interesting wood to go to wasted. I brought down all of this as well as a few other smaller logs. These recent additions with their fresh aroma mean I have to restart my clock to have an idea as to how long the aroma persists.

  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Whitworth View Post
    It's been over 2 months now since I cut the Rusty Tulip Oak and until a few days ago, when ever I went into the open sided shed, the aroma is still quite pronounced. I think this persistence is quite remarkable. A couple of days ago, I went back up the hill and brought down the large stump. This isn't much good with a pipe and large buttresses that needed to be removed but I didn't want this most interesting wood to go to wasted. I brought down all of this as well as a few other smaller logs. These recent additions with their fresh aroma mean I have to restart my clock to have an idea as to how long the aroma persists.
    Hi Bob,

    Persistence of wood aroma can depend on a few things I guess, including how sensitive your nose is to those chemicals comprising the wood aroma. As well, the volatility of the substances depend on ambient temperature of the wood stack as well as the surface area and freshness of the cut wood surfaces from where odors emanate. Like water from within wood cells, the oils / volatiles also diffuse from the centre the outside surfaces from where they evaporate (most volatile first, so the smell can also change a bit as most volatile components are lost first.

    E

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