Once upon a time, I went on date with a guy I didn’t know very well. Somehow, it came up in conversation that his taste in décor did not include organic materials. What?! Like wood? I was incredulous. Needless to say, the relationship did not go far. Even we organic materials enthusiasts, though, can forget or gloss over some of the realities of the organic materials we love to use and see and touch. The downsides don’t eliminate the beauty, versatility, or renewability of lumber.
At the same time, working with organic materials like wood requires an understanding of how it changes and moves. Understanding lumber is not a one-size-fits-all deal, either: Species-specific understanding is key. One species with unique characteristics is Teak.
Any species of wood has a different look and feel when it’s freshly planed, as opposed to when it’s aged and oxidized. Typical changes include mellowed coloring and darkening, due to tanning in the sun. Sometimes, this process occurs virtually overnight, while other times it progresses over months or even years. Like Iroko and Afromosia, Teak demonstrates a more drastic transition, due to oxidation.
Prized for its consistent, golden brown color, Teak is often used for boat-building and decking. The carefully selected lumber can quickly undergo an extreme change in appearance when its freshly planed surfaces are subjected to oxygen and sunlight. Even when properly seasoned and kiln-dried, Teak can take on a blotchy appearance with streaks of green, brown, black, yellow, and blue. Looking more like Zebrawood than the golden brown species you carefully selected, Teak can seem like a disappointment, at first.
Patience and Understanding
For all of our e- and instant-everythings, nature simply fails to comply with our preferences, sometimes. A little patience and understanding will go a long way toward helping you appreciate the unique characteristics of Teak, as well as other lumber species and organic materials. If you’re willing to wait a few short months, the streaks and blotches on your newly installed Teak deck will fade to reveal the trademark Teak appearance that was hiding beneath the surface. A wait of even a few weeks will show a demonstrated change, and by 3 months, the fade will have completed.
What causes the temporary discoloration? Tests reveal that kiln schedules cannot determine or change this phenomenon. Temperature and time combine for proper, even drying, but even with the perfect recipe for success, Teak has a mind of its own. Oxidation causes darkening, and streaks will remain without exposure to light. This chemical reaction is probably connected to light-sensitive pigmentation, a derivative of tectoquinone. With light exposure, the darkening will fade.
Of course, this tanning process can occur prior to installation, providing builders with happier customers and a more fulfilling product.
J. Gibson McIlvain does more than fill lumber orders: We educate builders and craftsmen about the specifics of lumber species so they can better utilize the strengths of each for the applications they create.
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