Wood changing color over time is an inevitable reality. As we mentioned in the previous articles (see Part 1 and 2), much of this change is due to both environmental factors, such as wind, weather, and sunlight, and also to chemical components like extractives and lignins. When these chemical components come in contact with the waxes, varnishes, and finishes which we apply to indoor wood floors and furniture, the chemical components can cause color changes to occur. Even when a tree is living, these chemicals, which are naturally present in the tree, are already at work helping to determine the wood’s color. Once the tree is cut down, they’ll immediately begin to react to the air and other environmental factors, causing a darkening effect in the wood.
Chemical Compounds can Impact the Mystique of Teak
The lignins and extractives we see in certain wood species are particularly noticeable. Teak, for example, has such elevated silica and oil levels compared to many other species. This is ideal for shipbuilding and other maritime uses, but it can cause consternation for interior decorators who choose teak on the basis of color. Its chemical makeup can cause it to include an unpredictable amount of varying colors and streaks, unlike the warm brown tone which many are hoping to find with this species of wood.
Looking for Dark Mahogany? Be Prepared for a Long Wait
It may come as a shock to some people, but mahogany actually begins its life as an extremely light pink colored wood. Over time, it will begin to take on a rich, brownish red color as it’s exposed to sunlight and air. It’s only from many years of chemical reaction and accumulation of dirt that mahogany finally begins to develop its signature dark color. That’s one reason why mahogany antiques are so highly prized. You simply can’t achieve that kind of color in mahogany naturally overnight or even over years of time. It can take decades upon decades to achieve that dark, majestic look.
Seek Expert Advice When Choosing Wood Species for Various Uses
Nearly every wood species out there undergoes some sort of long color variation process. And the type of project you choose to use that wood for will help to determine the color it will eventually become in the future. That’s why it’s a good idea to speak to a professional lumber dealer or furniture maker when selecting which species of wood to use for different projects. They should be able to tell you which species of wood react best under certain circumstances. They’ll also help you to predict the color changes that you can expect for that type of wood, so you won’t have too many unpleasant surprises.
Give Wood a Sunlight Treatment Before Using It
Many experts agree that putting wood out in bright sunlight for at least the span of one day is a smart move before applying any finish to it. Allowing its exposure to the light can often start the chemical process of color change, giving you a clearer picture of the change that will occur in your wood over time.
Wood’s unpredictable nature makes it both challenging and inviting. That’s why, when working with this wonderful organic medium, it’s important to keep an open mind and be ready for whatever natural changes take place regarding your wood’s color.
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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.