Understanding Lumber Color Change - Part 3
If you’ve begun to understand the color-changing process of wood, in general (see Part 1), and Cherry, in particular (see Part 2), you won’t be surprised about the variation among species. After all, part of the beauty of natural building materials is that there’s so much variety both among and within species. Often, the differences are attributed to the amount of Lignins and extractives naturally occurring in the wood.
Due to the same attributes that make the color changes in Cherry so significant, species such as Purpleheart, Teak, and Mahogany exhibit distinctive and rapid color change.
Freshly milled Purpleheart has a unique purple hue that fades into a brown as its extractives react to heat, air, and light. As you might imagine, the color change can be disappointing to those who choose the species due to its unique coloring.
Teak has become infamous for its color change, which is due to two extractives: silica and oil. Those same aspects make it ideal for marine applications as well as frustrating for designers after that honey-brown hue.
Fresh out of the planer, Teak’s look is as streaky and seemingly chaotic as a toddler’s finger-paint project. Those purples, greens, and grays may not seem like it, but they will fade into an even honey brown, over time.
Mahogany, long known as an ideal species for furniture makers, begins as a light pink that deepens into a reddish brown. While the chemicals continue to react as time goes by, the wood never quite achieves the same depth as museum-worthy antiques until chemical reactions and the accumulation of dirt work together over decades.
Regardless of the color changes, restoration can occur by hand planing or sanding. While the natural color-changing attributes of wood can be frustrating for those wishing to match another piece or achieve a particular color, the natural beauty and time-oriented change can be exciting, too.
You can give your wood a sun tan before applying finish; in fact, furniture makers often place pieces in bright sunlight for a day. Such an idea may be unrealistic for a larger project such as flooring or trim, and the varying amounts of exposure to sunlight throughout a house may produce uneven color change, over time. (For a glimpse at how drastic that can be, simply peek under an area rug that’s been in place for some time.)
While we can try to understand what makes wood color change and hurry or alter the process a bit, at the end of the day, it’s something that’s beyond our control. We have a choice, as we do with any natural changes that are beyond our grasp: Try to change it, grow frustrated with it, or wonder and delight in its unique beauty.