For example, if someone posts a picture of a tool or a piece of wood, how should that be handled?

I think I recall some SE sites discouraging identification questions as too localized because they end up being only useful to the asker and are phrased in terms of, "What is this?" which doesn't help with searching.

If we allow identification questions, should each one be tagged with the answer and/or should the title be edited afterward to reflect the answer?

Example (before):

What kind of wood is this?
tags: wood

Example (after):

What kind of wood is this? [antarctic spruce]
tags: wood, wood-identification, antarctic-spruce
  • Looks like we are getting some. woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/588/wood-identification. .This needs to be a custom close reason
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:30
  • @Matt do you think that question is off-topic?
    – rob Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:44
  • It is very subjective. Yes he mentions the database and that he was having issues but I like to think that we should not pander to a grey area. I flagged it already. Also making an answer for it now.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:45
  • On other SE sites, voting to close and still posting an answer is generally frowned upon, I think because it's interpreted as self-serving.
    – rob Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:51
  • I get that. I wanted to have a post we could always reference for stuff like this. There will be more
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:53
  • In the question we voted to close, I added a comment noting why it is off-topic along with an edit suggestion to make it on-topic. Personally I think it's more constructive not to post an answer to an off-topic question until it is edited appropriately and your original reason for voting to close no longer applies. Another option is to post a community wiki answer which cannot be construed as self-serving. The problem with that is the question, if left unrevised, would still be off-topic but may be upvoted because it has an answer which is technically good but which doesn't answer the question
    – rob Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:21
  • So I I converted my answer to a wiki that would be OK? I am going to wait and see if the op changes his answer first though. I just know there will be more of these. I do like my fake internet points but im not selfish :)
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:24
  • Same reason I made my meta answer here.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:29
  • At this point I don't think it makes much difference (and I'm not that concerned about rep because we want users with high rep on this site), but I would just caution the general practice of intentionally writing answers to off-topic questions in the hope that the questions are later edited to be on-topic. Whether it's appropriate for a mod to edit the question later to fit a good answer another topic: meta.woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/54/…
    – rob Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:42
  • OK, how about I do this: I will make a question about asking for general techniques and resources that are useful in identifying a piece of wood. Then, move my answer to that.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:43
  • woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/597/…
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:58
  • Looks good to me!
    – rob Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:59
  • There that should be it for today. All moved and stuff
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:23

4 Answers 4


I would vote against "what type of wood is this?" questions. On a few of the facebook-based woodworking groups I participate in, it is a nearly endless stream of "what kind of wood is this?" posts. They're really tough to provide substantive answers to beyond "yup, looks like Fir to me"


I also vote against allowing these types of questions. I can think of a few reasons.

  1. Maintaining the title and tags with the highest-voted or selected answer is prone to fail, especially if the highest-voted or selected answer changes over time.

  2. Even if they were maintained as suggested, these questions will be of limited value to people who face the same problem in the future (e.g. looking to identify a piece of the same species). If they have no guesses as to the species, what search could they use to end up here? If they do have some guesses, there are better sources of images and information to verify their guesses than what could be provided here.

  3. Many types of species can be ambiguous or difficult to narrow down. Even if the community seems confident about an answer, there's no way for the asker or any future visitor to really verify that it is correct.


Agreed they don't belong in this Q&A environment. They cannot be easily searched since they would usually involve pictures. I would see it being only useful to the OP and not the community.

I would think we just need to have a canonical post (like this one) to refer to when using VTC on these questions.

We could pin this post, in a sense, and direct people to The Wood-Database. That entire site is devoted to this purpose.

  • 2
    I really like this idea. Are there some similarly good references for tool identification?
    – rob Mod
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 16:43
  • If identification questions become one of the top-5 reasons for closing questions, we could have a custom close reason that links to The Wood Database.
    – Jasper
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 16:53
  • I assumed that might be a possibility. Don't know if it will be like SO but im guessing those reasons will change regularly to fit the off-topic questions. Still, could be a keeper
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 17:21

If this was a normal FAQ site, "how can I identify wood" would be on topic and would have been posted fairly early.

Books, sample-card sets, manufacturer samples/photos (for flooring); someone probably has at least a partial website, maybe image-match... It would be nice to know what folks have found particularly useful when learning this skill.

And of course stain complicates matters, but I'd settle for having a better sense of how to describe appearances even if they're a well-crafted illusion.

And flipped in the other direction, knowing the appearance of at least a basic palette of woods is a sorta basic starting point for design beyond the moist basic "build it well and you can at least be proud of your work".

Unfortunately, list-of-resources questions are generally ruled out of bounds.

I could argue that this is a request for advice on tools and techniques. But I don't want to see an endless stream of "do my research for me" questions. But I'd like to see us come up with something to get them (and myself) pointed in useful directions.

  • For what it's worth, I have sometimes gotten away with a wood identification question over at the Home Improvement stack.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 18:04

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