When it comes to wood, color change is practically inevitable. Rather than seeing this fact of nature as a negative, you can choose to look at the process as just another exciting aspect of working with this unique, organic building material. People do, however, have their preferences when it comes to the color of wood. In this second article in our series, we’ll take a look at some of the popular wood species and finishes as well as how and why they tend to change color over time.
Cherry Finishes are a Challenge
In our first article, we explored how being exposed to the elements, such as wind, rain, and sunlight, tend to weather wood to a silver color. In case you’re under the impression that simply bringing wood inside will keep it from changing color, think again. Right after a board is cut and planed, it will begin to change color in a matter of days or even just several hours. Finishes can be applied which will chemically react with the wood. Rather than simply changing the color permanently, these finishes continue to interact with the wood for continuing color variation in the future. Dark finishes – like what is typically known as a “cherry finish” – are popular, but not always easy to achieve and retain on a long-term basis.
Cherry Finishes Take Time
Those who aren’t involved in the milling of cherry wood may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t have a dark appearance when it’s first cut and planed. Instead, it’s actually more of a light, delicate pink hue. To accomplish the dark, rich red that’s typically associated with a “cherry finish” takes a special kind of chemical stain that isn’t the wood’s natural color. On its own, the wood would end up more of a conventional brown in color over time.
Due to the popularity of this finish, some unscrupulous furniture makers have started to apply thick layers of dye to different types of wood in the hopes of trying to pass it off as cherry when it really isn’t. Even genuine cherry furniture that’s been heavily dyed won’t always stay that same deep red tone over time, because of wood’s natural tendency to change color over time.
Chemical Components Impact Wood Color
From soil chemistry that surrounded the source tree for your wood all the way to the natural chemical makeup of your wood, chemical components can play a huge overall role in your wood’s color. Chemical components can also affect how the color changes in the long run. Extractives and lignins are a couple of the chemical components found in wood. Extractives are often taken out of wood to be used for other purposes. Lignins are compounds that resist moisture and help to keep wood’s cellulose fibers intact. These chemical components interact with light’s longer wavelengths that wood will normally be exposed to with indoors.
Whether you’re dealing with wood furniture or indoor hardwood flooring, extractives and lignins will play a major role in helping to determine the color of your wood. In the final article of this series, we’ll take a look at how these chemicals affect the color of some other popular wood species as well as look at possible ways to minimize the impact of wood’s tendency to change color over time.
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J. Gibson McIlvain Company
With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods. As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House and Capitol building. Contact a sales representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling toll free (800) 638-9100.