A Shade Away...
I love working wood, from the feel and the weight of the rough stock coming off a truck and into my shop to the smell of the fibres as I rough plane and cross cut the planks to a more manageable size appropriate to the piece that I'm building. The feel of the surface as I bring it from it's saw milled state to a silky finish that greets the hand and welcomes the touch. The color of the wood, the shades of blond and brown, red, yellow and pink hues; all of these elements are what makes wood unique. These colours, grains and textures are what gives a specific species of wood it's charm. After talking to a friend and fellow woodworker recently, I realised that the majority of people out there have no idea what I mean by the colour of wood. The real colour of wood. The natural, unchanged colour of wood. Sounds strange but that is the truth. My friend said he had recently finished a Maple dining room table for a client and had to take the piece back to his shop due to the fact that the colour was not to their liking. He used an oil based stain followed with varnish and wax. So my point here? Why was the client disappointed with the colour? What colour were they hoping the table was going to be when they ordered the 'Maple Table'. At least through my eyes Maple is a lighter tone wood that can go from blond to medium browns, with high lights of yellows, sables and well, maple...think of maple syrop. mmmmmmm...maple syrop. Hey, we're in Canada eh?
This is not the first time I've heard from someone, "I'm not happy with the colour" Why are we so determined to change the colour of wood? If you want a dark table, build it out of Walnut or maybe a Black Cherry? If you wanted a piece that was light, use a Birch, Beech or Maple. I sometimes laugh to myself when I walk through the big-box style stores and see a piece of furniture with a finish called say, "Cherry" and when I look at the finish it's so dark that you can barely see the artificial wood grain they have generated into it. Stains and dye's, oils and pigments; the market is flooded with hundreds of magical mixtures to alter and change the natural colour of wood. Sometimes I wonder why we're so quick to try to change something that I believe is so perfect to begin with.
Not to be a narrow minded purist, I do see a place in stains or dye in wood working. Sometimes a highlight here or a shade or two there, but really; if it's Walnut you want then build the piece out of it, not out of a white Birch and then spend days and days trying to darken the Birch to some ridiculous colour it was never intended to be. Maybe I'm crazy but I like the colour of Birch; I also like the colours of Maple, Walnut, Cherry and Oak. Poplar with it's yellows and Oak with it's browns to reds. Any North American domestic species of woods can offer up a full range of colours and shades to the woodworking palette. If it's something more extreme you need then a quick look at some of the more exotic woods out there which have become quite attainable reveal an entire rainbow of colours. So with that I say before you start trying to change the natural colour of the wood your using, ask yourself if you're using the right wood.
Adam King said...
I have to say, I certainly agree here, Tom. It simply comes down to the fact that people do not know any better. All they see are pieces offered by retail outlets that have nothing but under-built and over-designed pieces that cannot last more than a decade at best. Thanks for such passionate writing. Keep it up!