Properties of Wood
For custom woodworks, the specific wood properties, texture, color, and form are of utmost importance. Most of these attributes are genetically determined by the tree species. However, significant variation occurs within each species as a result of the environmental and growth conditions.
The first thing that someone notices at CS Woods is the unique color, texture, and figuring of each piece of wood. Color varies greatly between species; however the color also varies within an individual board. The darker wood is typically (not always) the heartwood and the lighter colored wood is the sapwood. Although some species such as maple produce a very low percentage of heartwood, the wood of most species, such as walnut and cherry, is dominated by heartwood. Larger percentages of heartwood will be found in older trees and those grown at slower rates. This is because the tree needs to transport larger volumes of sap through its sapwood when it is growing fast which occurs both during the intermediate years of a trees life and when it is grown in open, sun-filled conditions, such as a plantation.
The texture of the wood refers to the grain, or growth rings of the tree. Each year, a hardwood tree will put on one new ring of growth. The light-dark variation within each ring is caused by the different cell sizes that are produced throughout the growing season. In the spring the tree produces large cells with large pores in order to transport water and nutrients to the upper tree and flush out the leaves. This is called early wood or spring wood. Later in the growing season the tree produces cells with a relatively thicker cell wall and less internal open space to provide more structural support. The cells produced continue to be smaller and smaller as the summer passes into fall until the tree drops its leaves and goes dormant for the winter. This wood produced in the second part of the growing year is called late wood or summer wood. Trees grown in plantations have faster growth rates with a wider grain spacing which produces a more open looking wood texture than trees grown in the shaded conditions of most forests which have slower annual growth rates. Higher latewood percentages produce a wood with a higher structural integrity.
Figuring is an unpredictable aspect of wood that varies from species to species, tree to tree, and even within each piece of wood. Very little is known about what causes a tree to produce figuring. Although figuring often appears to be a crunched, compressed section in the wood there isn’t a structural or size change in the cells of the wood, like in the grain. This “chatoyancy”, shimmer or shine, is suspected to be caused by a variation in the mineral content within the tree.
Here at CSWoods, we select each tree for a wood with the richest color, texture and figure, with the highest structural integrity to produce our live edge slabs. There’s always a mystery as to what will lay within the bark, and we’re always amazed at the beauty that comes with each piece of wood. In the end, it is this mystery that makes wood one of the most unique products to work with.
by: Aaron Hendricks - CS Woods Sales Staff