WoodSkills Issue 02 - Page 104


Collectively, the unique grain characteristics found in figured wood are recognized as elements. The term figured wood describes wood exhibiting an unusual grain pattern and features that distinguish it from other wood of the same species. Figured woods form a small percentage of the typical yield of a common wood. As an example, maple trees exhibiting Bird’s Eye characteristics are uncommon. Experienced loggers can sometimes identify trees exhibiting figure or flawed wood, but this is rarely the case. In most cases, a stand of trees is harvested and the lone tree with figure is then isolated after removing its bark. The tree with conspicuous wood figure is then set aside and marketed to buyers of figured woods.

The bugs often leave a colored trail. Wood exhibiting this characteristic is considered spalted. Ambrosia maple comes to mind as an excellent example of diseased or spalted wood. Ambrosia beetles leave black streaks behind that highlight the grain pattern of a board. This distinguishing effect can be a design element in a furniture piece. Injured woods such as Bird’s Eye Maple, Burl Wood, Curly Maple, Quilted Maple and Flame Birch also exhibit exciting wood grain characteristics. The suspicion is that these unique wood grain characteristics are due to injury. There exist several schools of thought explaining why the wood exhibits unique grain characteristics.



Ambrosia maple board with spalted surface and colored bug trail