WoodSkills Issue 02 - Page 105


In isolated cases, a tree with figure is processed the same as other trees in the stand where it originated. Boards from this tree are then sold through the same distribution channels as other non-figured boards. The following describes an experience of purchasing boards from a commercial outfit. While perusing maple boards at a home center, one board stood out as being highly figured. The maple board had a rich curl figure. The board was purchased at the same price as other boards of the same species and used as veneers in door panels of my furniture. Commercial lumber mills are not set up to extract boards with unusual figure. It is cost prohibitive for a mill to set up a process to isolate these logs and resulting boards. In a commercial lumber mill, figured logs are processed similarly to other logs.

Highly figured woods are prized by musical instrument makers. Figured woods are used in the fronts and backs of certain instruments. The more pronounced the figure, the higher the desirability of the board. However, highly figured logs are most often sliced into commercial veneers. The cost effectiveness of slicing multiple sheets of veneers from a log far outweigh the alternative of sawing thick boards from the same figured log. Availability of highly figured woods is often sporadic. Retailers or distributors that specialize in unusually figured woods are few. Retailers of figured woods can be found in and around major urban centers. With online retail, figured woods or veneers purchases are easier today. Most wood retailers specializing in exotic and figured woods will process and ship online orders. In the past, I have traveled to other cities to purchase figured woods. Today, although a variety of figured woods can be locally purchased, I order online when necessary. A collection of highly figured woods is always available in my wood storage. The figured woods are in the form of either sliced veneers or boards. The boards are sliced into shop-sawn veneers which are then applied to a substrate.

Clients seeking processed boards typically purchase wood for the species characteristics and are not seeking highly figured variants of boards. I was in the right place at the right time to find this gem of a board! Another variant in wood surfaces is alternating dark and light areas that are a result of different wood densities. This characteristic causes stain or finish to be absorbed differently along the surface. The result is considered blotchy wood. However, when viewed through an artistic eye the blotchiness yields a different result. Wood with this blotchy characteristic, when infused with transparent dye, exhibits an exciting color pattern. Color gradients of dye applied to the wood surface create a random colored and abstract surface.

Highly-figured Bird's Eye Maple board exhibiting dense bird's eye figure