What Does the Color Coding Mean on the End of Lumber Mill Cut Wood?
posted on April 1, 2008 by Richard Jones

Q. I recently had the good fortune of obtaining a nice supply of various hardwood cutoffs and am puzzled by the colors painted on the board ends, such as red, blue, green, black and orange. I am sure they are a code to identify the wood species.

Is there a source of information that explains the code, as I sometimes have a bit of a problem distinguishing red from white oak, birch from maple, etc.? It would be a great help in determining how to work with each type of wood.

Colored ends on cut lumber Lumber mills used to seal the ends of lumber when drying it, but that is no longer the case.

A. This is a good question and one that I have not heard before. It would be nice if our industry was coordinated enough to color code by species; unfortunately, this is not the case. The end coating used on lumber was originally used to seal the ends of fresh cut lumber before being put on sticks for air drying prior to kiln drying. This reduced the chance for splits during the air drying process due to lumber drying at a faster rate on end cuts than on the surface. Today, with pre-dryers, this is less of a reason for end coating, although it is still done. Usually a mill or vendor chooses a corporate color and endcoats all the species it produces with that color.

This helps a mill identify its production once it goes out into the marketplace. A one color choice is also more efficient than the multiple colors needed if each specie had its own color. Imported wood from countries other than the U.S. is slightly different. While South American woods will also have mill-specific colored end coating, the material may be further spot painted or stripped over the original end coating to indicate port of shipment. One way to upgrade your abilities in wood identification is to purchase the Woods of The World CD-Rom, which is available at posted on April 1, 2008 by Richard Jones

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- Orval - 08/07/2012
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