As we make our official transition into another calendar year, maybe it is an appropriate time to think about mellowing. It is reassuring to know that many things in life sweeten and become more beautiful with time. Wood can be one of them.
I primarily work with green wood, so I can’t discount the advantages of freshness and newness. The crisp smell and coolness of a just-split green log are wonderful sensations, and the wood is a joy to work. But the journey of a newly finished piece has only just begun.
I saw this clearly as I finished a small goose-inspired bowl this week. Some woods, such as cherry and walnut, feature a distinct color difference between the sapwood and the heartwood. I sometimes use sapwood as a design element or, in the case of the goose bowl, because the branch is nearly all sapwood. At first, the color difference is quite sharp, but over time, things mellow.
The other two bowls in the photo have been part of our household; both cherry also. The one in the background was made about a year ago. The heartwood has deepened in color and the sapwood has begun to become more subtle. The smaller bird bowl in the lower right was made in 2009. The sapwood has taken on a rich brown tone, more in harmony with the heartwood.
Storing (aging) logs for some months before use, can help to mellow the wood, making it less brash and more relaxed. At least it seems that way. I like to think of it sort of like a ripening process. It is not necessary, and for decay-prone species it may mean rotten wood. But if you haven’t gotten to that log yet, it might be good news. I have also noticed that the sapwood takes on a hint of color similar to the heartwood if in storage long enough. Keep the moisture in the log, though.
Happy mellow new year!