Rob wanted to provide some insight into what to looks for and expect when it comes to color variation in a variety of the hardwood we offer. He provide some insight into the causes of color variation and how to solve for it.
By Rob Nienaber
I had been in the domestic Hardwood business for about 7 years, then took a job in sales for a Hardwood Importer.
Being young, energetic, and willing to learn, after a year I thought I could identify all the imported wood species we carried-and then some.
Then, my boss called me into his office. With him was one of our South American suppliers. After being introduced, they showed me a dozen wood samples he had on a ring and asked me to identify the species of each sample. Confidently, I took the samples and studied them. I held the purple one and said “PurpleHeart”, the yellow one and said “Pau Amarillo”, Golden brown-“Teak”, Dark red-“bloodwood”, brown red-“Jatoba” and so on. The both of them were snickering. “What?” I said. My boss chuckled and said that all the samples were “Cumaru”.
We see it with domestic Hardwoods. Southern Red Oak, Appalachian Red Oak, and Northern Red Oak look somewhat different in color, size, grain, texture, and other characteristics. These ‘traits’ depend on such things as soil, rain, temperature, climate. The lumber can and will be different depending on the region it comes from.
We import hardwoods from different regions of different continents. Some of these regions produce lumber which is more desirable than others. Cumaru from one region is almost all the light golden brown which is preferred. We buy all of our Cumaru from there. We worked 2 different incoming shipment of Sapele at the same time. We were careful to keep them separate. The material from Ghana was very light, from Cameroon it was dark. We put them next to each other and they were very different in color. African Mahogany can vary not only in color, but also in density, and grain depending where it comes from.
As an Importer, Thompson Mahogany takes pride in buying from regions which produce the most consistent and best quality woods for our customers.
As a Manufacturer/Consumer you must be aware that the same species may have a somewhat different appearance or qualities depending on where it comes from. Especially when matching an existing job, be sure to ask: “ is this from the same mill or region as last time”. If you get some material you either like or dislike, be sure to find out “where” it is from. Therefore you can specify what you want.
If you have any questions about lumber color variation or color matching feel free to ask below in the comments.