Have you ever thought about what leads to (or away from) experiencing contentment? Many philosophers and writers have described it as “the expectation gap.” The very same relationship can easily exist between high-quality lumber and an uninformed customer. Often, customers expect lumber to look and behave like mass-produced, manufactured products; as the ultimate “green” building product, lumber simply won’t fit into such a mold.
However, with education comes legitimate expectations, and with expectations appropriate to real wood, customers can grow quite content with the amazing example of natural beauty that lumber so radiantly displays. Throughout this series, we’ll be looking at how various aspects of real wood can be quite different from manufactured products; the first aspect we’ll explore is that of color.
Unlike manufactured products that are dyed to match, each piece of lumber is a unique natural work of art. While boards that are the same species will have certain characteristics in common, each will display its own color and grain pattern as well as character markings. Some boards show such extremely different traits that even the most experienced lumber expert would have trouble identifying its species. Several influences affect the color of any given board. Here are a few of them:
• Local climate in which the tree originated
• Timing of harvesting
• Sawing and drying methods used
• Timing or presence of milling
• Storage method and duration of storage
Decking lumber is the category in which we notice the largest degree of “expectation gap” — which translates into customer dissatisfaction. Blame Pinterest and Houzz photos of seasoned, perfectly matched decks (that are, in all likelihood, altered digitally) if you want, but the problem is very real. Because decking lumber is not a finished product, the issue becomes even more confusing. Tropical decking species from South America, such as Ipe and Cumaru, often display an especially high degree of color variation.
Grain also plays a major role when it comes to lumber color. Grain variation explains why boards cut from the same tree (on the same day) can display vastly different colors. The combination of the type of cut and the board’s location in the tree helps determine the way that board will exhibit grain. And grain, in turn, determines color.
What the issue really comes down to is density. Depending on the density of any given cross-section of a log, the surface will reflect light differently, changing the color that’s reflected. If all trees had perfect, straight grain, all wood fibers would be parallel; however, I think we’d all agree that such lumber would lack the allure that real wood holds.
As we continue this series, we’ll explore the main variables that affect grain. Continue with Part 2.
Read the Series
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 1
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 2
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 3
• Why Color-Matching Lumber Is Nearly Impossible, Part 4
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. 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, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a sales representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling toll free (800) 638-9100.