As we do not add color on top of our woods, we have to be careful picking boards for a piece that match one another. No two boards are exactly alike, even if they are from the same tree. Therefore, there will always be a small amount of color and pattern variation across a piece. We consider this to be a beautiful feature of solid wood furniture, and carefully strategize how different boards are put together.
Vital to this natural variation within a board is the difference between heartwood and sapwood. If you were to look down at any kind of tree trunk, you would see a darker circle in the middle with a lighter ring around the perimeter. The darker center is the heartwood and the lighter perimeter is the sapwood.
Different species tend to have different proportions of heartwood to sapwood. Walnut, for example, is usually almost all heartwood. Maple, on the other hand, is mostly sapwood.
Certain species are typically picked for the heartwood or their sapwood. Furniture made from Cherry, for example, usually has had the sapwood cut out, and all you see is heartwood. Furniture made from Ash, on the other hand, usually has the heartwood cut out, leaving it consistently light. In some species the variation from heartwood to sapwood is dramatic, and in others quite subtle.
As you might imagine from the previous paragraphs, we covet this variation between heartwood and sapwood within many species, and sometimes recommend to our clients that we use it rather than hide it. Especially on tabletops or headboards, the variation can render an excellent piece of furniture extraordinary. Depending on the piece and the context, it also can be too visually active. To facilitate a careful decision, many of our wood samples contain some heartwood and some sapwood. In most species, one or the other can be cut out if desired.
Changes over Time
It is also important to know that with exposure to ultra-violet light over time, different woods darken to varying extents. Cherry, for example, can darken significantly in the maroon direction. Mahoganies can as well. Maples and Ashes tend a little toward gold. Birches and Sycamores tend a little more towards gold. Zebrawood and Lacewood are stable. Walnut can lighten a little or stay the same. These changes are accelerated if the sun directly hits the furniture. We have aged samples of most species, if a customer is particularly concerned.
We encourage our customers to choose wood species’ that can be obtained from sources with good environmental records. Several major species are conspicuously absent from the wood samples we propose, either because we are a little bored with them, or we object to their harvest on environmental grounds. We are happy to work with many other woods that a client might specify, and will price pieces out upon request.