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Petrified wood:

Posted by Don Webb  
Don Webb June 26, 2005 05:16PM
I just recieved a sample of Petrified Palm Tree from the Holy Land (whose Holy Land I have no idea). I have no idea what a Petrified Palm Tree looks like but it is never the less interesting. The ends appear to look like Star Burst with thousands of them side by side. This is the ends of the petrified fibers. You can see the fibers along the sides which as you know makes up the tree truck of a palm tree. It is similar to a fiberglass rod except this is solid rock. In these samples there is a small piece that looks like it may have been tumbled. It appears to look like some type of crystal that has been polished. There is not much of a color. It is like a light lemon yellow tint and is transparent to a point.
I understand this material was recovered near the Jordan River.
I am going to cut a small slab with my diamond saw and see if the star burst can be retained. They are retained when material is broken but on the polished piece they are not.
What does anyone recommend I do-cut it or leave it alone?
Don Webb
TJ June 26, 2005 09:15PM
Well, I think you owe it to yourself to bite the bullet and give it a cut, otherwise, you will always wonder what it would have looked like. Know what I mean?
Dave June 27, 2005 01:46PM
Agates, petwood and similar materials often have a weathered, pitted surface or a rind. Cutting and/or polishing often is the best way to display their inner beauty. I have a tree limb that is shot thru with worm holess that have been filled with colored quartz. I will cut it to show the wood grain as well as the true colors.
Don Webb June 27, 2005 04:16PM
Thanks for the advice. Gonna cut it.
Don Webb
Greg Williams August 03, 2005 11:00PM

I have a large piece of palm root from Southern Cal. and I can tell you that it cuts and polishes quite well!
Vlad March 17, 2006 05:20AM
There is no way to tell the name of the original wood, the only thing with petrified wood you know - it was wood 100-200 mln years ago.
Seth March 25, 2006 03:35AM
Can someone tell me how to cut petrified wood that is about 5 feet long and 1 1/2 - 2 feet in diameter? I recently bought a house and there are two pieces of petrified wood in the back yard that are to large and heavy to move. Any advice would be appreciated.
Robert Meyer March 25, 2006 06:32AM
Your palm wood should be quite interesting when cut. I would use caution if it is not compact and fairly solid, though. It might fall apart. I have samples of petrified palm trunk from Texas and California. The material is quite distinctive and interesting. You should see that it is made up of vascular or fibrous bundles, rather than the structure you would see in wood. I also have petrified palm roots from California.

The comment earlier about being unable to identify petrified woods and other fossil plants is incorrect, if I read it correctly, as is the comment about general age given. The species of wood can often be identified, just as specimens of non-fossilized wood can, by people who have studied the cellular structures of plants. Some fossilized plants are of species that are still extant today, while others are extinct, but have been characterized to some extent. There is a good body of literature on the subject, and there are scientists and hobbists who study fossilized plants in depth. The general method of identification is to examine under magnification a sample cut into an xyz cross-section (transverse, tangential, and radial cuts), which is usually cube-shaped, with a cut perpendicular to the up and down direction of the trunk, another that crosses the grains, and the final cut, which sort of follows a ring. Sometimes the exact species can be determined with such a cross-section, while a microscopic examination of a standard transverse slice might be able to narrow it down to a family.

The age of petrified plants also varies greatly. For example, my home of Washington State has ample deposits of petrified wood, most of which date back to 11-25 mya, while the Petrified Forest National Park and environs date back some 225 mya.

To Seth, I am not sure if you simply want to remove the pieces, or if you have plans to slab your logs up. If you plan the latter, then you should have someone in your area who knows petrified wood take a look at them. A lot of petrified wood would not be suitable for cutting into slabs. They might be fine for outside display pieces, but are not solid and unfractured enough to survive the cutting process. They might also not be sufficiently colorful or interesting to be worth the substantial effort that would be involved in cutting them up, not to mention the polishing process. If they pass the above tests, then someone with a huge diamond saw could slice them up for you. The largest typical diamond saw with a round blade is about 36" in diameter. With such a saw you could cut a log that had its narrowest diameter--about 14-15"--it could be wider side-to-side (sort of a flattened log, which is not atypical). If it is much bigger, then a reciprocating saw with a long flat blade is used. Most of the time, these saws are not commercially made, but have been mocked up by someone who is really into petrified wood. Either way, it is going to cost a small fortune to have it cut up. If it is nice stuff, you could probably cut a deal where you give the wood away and keep one slice, usually your choice, of each log.

Steve Eshbaugh March 25, 2006 02:24PM
I don't recall where I read this but someone published an article a few years ago that said under IDEAL CONDITIONS- wood can become petrified in about 5000 yrs. The implication is that just because you might have a piece of petrified wood- it doesn't neccesarily mean it's millions of years old, but rather recently.
astronut 2008 March 25, 2008 11:58PM
i found a 3 to 4 inch thick, by 5 inch (not round) rock that appears to
have outside texture like a tree. it is rust/orange and black streaked and
is solid agate i assume from what i can tell, very heavy. i broke off a corner
and it broke similar to flint. its color is rather like tiger eye in its
luster and the colors go for long distances thru the material. very pretty
and like i said, seems to be solid all the way thru. i wanted to cut it but
not sure, since i just started rockhounding, which way one should cut
petrified wood assuming its is wood. the internal colors do flow thru it in
the direction it would if it was wood. it has the nice glassy look of agate.
any suggestions what it could be if not petrified wood and any suggestions
which way one should cut it. thanks

joe b. April 07, 2008 02:40AM
I also have a lot of petrified wood,dug up through minning process.It was 50 to 60 feet deep.about a eighth of a mile from the James river in an area below Richmond,Virginia.I also am thinking of cutting some of it,but without costing so much.I'll let you know what happens.
susan May 29, 2008 02:36PM
I read with great interest your blog about petrified wood slabs.
I would very much like to make a countertop out of such a slab and wonder if you could give me advice how to find someone who either sells previously cut slabs or would sell me an uncut piece which I could do. thanks, susan reply here
jim mccutcheon June 09, 2008 01:02AM
Found appr. 50# trunk and branches, from 1 1/2" to 5" diameter in volcanic ash deposit in central ca. western foothills, Mt. Ranch, Calaveras Co. It is opalized dark brown, with fine grain. Bark is very distink fine,broom swept paturn,and vertical, light gray in color. Shape resembles Bristle cone pine. Looking for age and type of wood. can supply E- Photos.
Robert Knox June 09, 2008 09:57PM
Hi Jim,
Dating and species identification of petrified wood can be a frustrating adventure, but perhaps I can help a little. I don't know the exact location in Calaveras co. where you found the p-wood, but I believe that various fossils from differing times in the cenazoic era(65 million years ago) have been found in that county. Specifically from the miocene(23 mya), oligocene(40 mya), and the eocene(60 mya) epochs. As for the species...thats a little more difficult. Species identification is made from 2 or 3 slices cut from the same material, at specific but differing angles to the direction of growth. Once polished, the different kinds of, and positions of the cells are matched with the arrangements for a known species. This process can only work if the level of preservation is very high! If you can't see the identification is possible except in the most general way, based on structural features like the bark or rings. This means that if your bark is similar to bristlecone pine, you could identify it as "Conifer-species" or just "Conifer", but you shouldn't use "bristlecone pine" unless the cells match up.
Two resources, if your interested in narrowing down the age or species identification, that may be helpful are: one of the local rock/fossil clubs in your area, or a local college geology/paleontology dept. I hope this has been of some help.

Corie Mattar June 10, 2008 02:31AM
after you helped me with a specimen of Petrified Palm, I mentioned to a woman who owns a rock shop in Holbrook, that I had found a piece of it nearby. She told me that what I 'really' had was diseased petrified wood, because she had been collecting in the area for 40 years and hadn't found any palm. :LOL

Just thought I'd share a laugh!
jim mccutcheon June 13, 2008 05:38PM
Thank you Bob. Am, have been, pursuing all your suggestions. I need a paliobotonist. Have been checking U.C. Berkeley web. Going to cut/polish shortly.
Ray Hill June 14, 2008 06:57PM
All this talk of petrified wood brings back fond memories of collecting petrified wood in Jamaica many years ago...most petrified wood that I had seen previous to this was, is very hot places...washington and other states whose summmers can be blazing. In this instance, I was collecting with an ex-pat Canadian who had started the Blue Mountain Gems shop near Montego Bay. We started off early in the morning from Montego Bay and in short order were deep into the back hill country and going across the mountains to the area of Mandeville, noted by Jamaicans to be the coldest part of the island. We were searching for pieces in a wonderfully cool and refreshing river with palms hanging over the banks for shade. The temp was no more than 75 and there were absolutely no bugs...I had collected quite a few pieces of agate and was about to give up on finding any wood when I stubbed my toe on what seemed to be a fallen limb section. The outside just looked like bleached out wood but it was very heavy. Once I picked it up and saw the cross section on the end, with wonderfully accurate preservation of growth rings and tubes I was ecstatic. I slipped it into my backpack. After quite a number of finds, my host asked me how was I doing...was I finding anything? Of course, I replied...but he asked, if so, where are you putting it? In my pack, like I always do when I am field collecting!!! What do you think Delroy is here for, he is our porter. Just give him all the rocks and he will carry them for you....I was in shock...perfect weather, lovely petrified and agate pieces, no bugs AND I don't have to carry anything. This is a field trip made in heaven.

By the end of the trip , Delroy was carrying over 250 pounds of specimens on his head and all I was carrying , was my geologists pick and a bit of a sunburn, but oh how glorious that day had been. Haven't had a day since to match it for perfection, when it comes to collecting in the field....
Carlos Bates September 05, 2009 12:10AM
I found a piece of petrified wood, and I would like to know who do I go to to get it sliced. The size of it is approximately four and a half foot long and twenty -two inches round. I found it in Ringgold, Louisiana about about four years ago. Can anyone help me.
Rock Currier September 05, 2009 02:36AM
You might find an old rockhound guy near you with a saw big enough to cut it, but your best bet might be to take it to a company that makes granite counter tops or perhaps better yet makes tombstones and monuments. They should have saws big enough to handle your piece and the equipment to polish it as well, but it probably won't be cheap.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
gypsy November 12, 2009 07:45PM
thanks for all the info on cutting. I'm interested in how to go about polishing it. Simply and non- mecanized -if at all possible. Gypsy
Rock Currier November 12, 2009 08:11PM
There is no simple non-mechanized way to polish hard materials like petrified wood and other quartz family minerals. Theoretically you can do it by hand, but it is a little bit like the story about a guy making a pair of knitting needles for his mother with a file and a crowbar. The down and dirty way to simulate a polish on petrified wood and other hard massive silicates is to just paint them with lacquer. If you use the high gloss variety and really glop it on, it will dry hard and shiny and it will impart a polished look to the specimen. The problem is that the finish is hot as hard and durable as a real polish would be. Also if the specimen is porous, the varnish may absorb into the stone without leaving a "polished" look and you may have to apply another or several coats before you get the desired polished look.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
dalcat August 04, 2010 04:25PM
Hi. I saw your post looking for petrified wood to make a counter top out of. I have a piece that is about 6'long and 2.5'wide. I have not weighed it but guess it to be between 2000# and 3000# . I will take $5500.00 for it. It is located close to Galveston Tx and I would deliver locally free or longdistance for a per mile fee.
Gwen January 29, 2011 07:34PM
Am wondering how to find out if a person has good or bad petrified wood? Father-in-law found some in eastern Colorado 40-50 yrs ago. The largest one is 82 lbs, next 21 and then18
open | download - 1-24-2011 001.jpg (313.2 KB)
Kristopher Dingfield January 30, 2011 10:40PM
I knew some paleo nuts (friends) in the houston gem and mineral club that where good at identifying by specie wood that club members collected around texas. I am not a pro at this, but you can probably contact the hgms club and get good answers from them. Also I think cutting it would be a good idea I have seen some great looking slabed and polished petrified palm wood. And I would agree wityh the fiberous nature that it is indead palm.
Ron Norbut February 19, 2011 05:39AM
These aren't great pictures but I brought the pieces of petrified wood in n calfornia Total weight 4 to 5 Hundred lbs. I have a Hobbiest picking up one to cut and polish the other to one real large about 36 in curcomfrince about 150 lbs. We are all working together and are on an adventure.The Hobbiest has about 2 tons of it on his propetry and is an expert. The seller says his parents travelled in The west collecting and that pieces were getting stolen so he wanted to get out. Sight unseen does less than a dollar a lb sound good?
open | download - !CB3hq!w!mk~$(KGrHqN,!hkE0fey6Q9+BNJP1m!H7!~~_14.JPG (1.6 KB)
open | download - !CB3wZCQCGk~$(KGrHqMOKo4E0WWw-6LiBNJQo7Gbww~~_14.JPG (1.3 KB)
Adam Kelly February 19, 2011 11:57PM
Rock Currier February 20, 2011 12:12AM
The images are too small to make out.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Missy September 27, 2011 10:37PM
My grandfather found a petrified log in the coal mines over 50 years ago. After he died it was given to me. It's gray in color and you can see the tree back etc. Would this be worth cutting open? Just curious. It's not to pretty to look at from the outside just wondering if it looks better on the inside. If that's a possibility I'd love to cut it - what could I use to do so?
Rock Currier September 28, 2011 10:23AM
The ends of the log must be broken off and will probably show you the structure of what is inside the log. Take a picture of the ends and then make them wet and take another picture(s) and attach them to your reply and perhaps we can advise you if it is worthwhile to cut and polish the log.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
jason c May 29, 2013 05:03PM
Found this on an oilfield location where they had dug through a sandy location to lay a gad pipeline...its locationis in Putnam...texas.. what could a peice like this be worth...its about 2 and a half foot long and about 35 inches in diameter.
open | download - IMG_20121128_162431.jpg (880.7 KB)
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