Please go to LINKS to see Harry’s YouTube lecture about Wood and Charcoal Identification, given to The Natural History Society of Maryland.
Alden Identification Service has specialized in the scientific identification of wood for over thirty years. Our name stands for who we are and for the service we provide.
Accuracy: We offer the most accurate identifications that scientific methods will allow. Our ID’s are done empirically (the most accurate way) and not comparatively. The samples are processed using thin sections (wood) via optical microscopy, along with density, fluorescence etc.
Integrity: Our integrity has kept us in business since 1986. While we have a general appreciation of antiques, we are scientists and not antique collectors, which makes us unbiased and valuable to our customers. We “call ’em as we see ’em” under the microscope & can back up our identifications in court.
Service: We offer the fastest wood identification service available, within 1 -2 weeks of receipt of the samples & payment. Our RUSH service can get you an answer within a day or two. Our service also includes a professionally written report sent to you via email.
Our service is available to appraisers, conservators, restorers and private collectors of fine arts as well as professionals in the fields of archaeology, ethnobotany, anthropology, forest products, material science and trace evidence (forensics).
We offer the fastest wood identification service available, within 1 -2 weeks of receipt of the samples & payment. Our RUSH service can get you an answer within a day or two. Our service also includes a professionally written report sent to you via email.
To allow for an accurate identification, please follow the guideline for taking samples.
How We Identify Wood
We offer the most accurate identifications that scientific methods will allow. Our ID’s are done empirically (the most accurate way) and not comparatively. The samples are processed using thin sections (wood) and fractured surfaces (charcoal) via optical microscopy.
Sample Preparation: Specimens are trimmed to expose the radial, tangential and transverse surfaces. For each of these planes, thin (15-20m) sections are removed by hand with a single-edge surgical razor blade. The sections are mounted on labeled microscope slides in a 1:1 solution of ethanol and glycerin. Slides are heated briefly on a hot plate, to drive off air bubbles and then examined under a compound microscope (Nikon Alphaphot-2 YS2) at 40X to 400X.
Data Collection: Cell types, dimensions (in microns), cellular details (pitting, spirals, crystals, etc.) and their arrangements are recorded.
Chemical & Fluorescent Tests: For some Tropical Hardwoods, sub-samples are shaved down and placed in either water or ethanol to record color in normal light and under long-wave fluorescence of the derived solutions.
Data Processing: Accumulated data is compared to several databases of worldwide wood anatomy, including NCSU’s website where the data is processed. Potential candidates are compared to known scientific samples and our own reference collection of 30+ years.
Dr. Harry A. Alden is co-owner of Alden Identification Service (http://wood-identification.com) catering to the microscopic identification of wood from objects of fine arts, archaeological and commercial contexts. He received a Ph.D. degree (Biology) in 1993 from The Florida State University, Tallahassee FL; a Masters of Science Degree (Botany) in 1984 from the University of California, Davis, CA and a Bachelor of Science Degree cum laude (Biology) in 1981 from Millersville University, Millersville PA.
His research areas included the microscopic anatomy and identification of animal fibers and plant materials (especially wood) from fine art and ethnographic objects. Dr. Alden has published 2 general technical references on the hardwoods and softwoods of North America (FPL-GTR-83 & FPL-GTR-102), cover articles for Microscopy Today as well as articles in peer reviewed journals and magazines.
He has worked at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Center for Wood Anatomy in Madison, Wisconsin; Winterthur Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.
He has examined wood and charcoal from shipwrecks and archaeological sites; textiles from Peruvian mummies, the Midas Tumulus, rare white Coast Salish blankets made of Mountain Goat and Dog hair and the Star Spangled Banner; a time capsule from the HMS Beagle and plants collected by the Lewis & Clark Expedition. His specialty is the identification of wood and digital image analysis. http://wood-identification.com