Classifying materials from their appearance is challenging. Impressive results have been obtained under varying illumination and pose conditions. Still, the effect of scale variations and the possibility to generalise across different material samples are still largely unexplored. This paper (A preliminary version of this work was presented in Hayman et al. [E. Hayman, B. Caputo, M.J. Fritz, J.-O. Eklundh, On the significance of real world conditions for material classification, in: Proceedings of the ECCV, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 4, Springer, Prague, 2004, pp. 253-266].) addresses these issues, proposing a pure learning approach based on support vector machines. We study the effect of scale variations first on the artificially scaled CUReT database, showing how performance depends on the amount of scale information available during training. Since the CUReT database contains little scale variation and only one sample per material, we introduce a new database containing 10 CUReT materials at different distances, pose and illumination. This database provides scale variations, while allowing to evaluate generalisation capabilities: does training on the CUReT database enable recognition of another piece of sandpaper? Our results demonstrate that this is not yet possible, and that material classification is far from being solved in scenarios of practical interest. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.