Color-matching Enhances. It Does Not Control.
Most finishers perform color-matches. But they all qualify the results. And, they’re right; the finish varies due to wood’s inherent characteristics:
- Sapwood vs. heartwood: Sapwood (the outer layer of the tree) is lighter than the heartwood (the inner layer filled with natural, darkening deposits).
- Environment: Grain is tighter on trees growing on a northeast slope as opposed to those growing on a southern slope.
- Absorption rate: Species absorb stain differently due to their unique cell structures. A specie even absorbs it differently within the same wood (e.g., maple).
- Specie variations and mineral: A specie might be white, red, or it might pick up visible mineral content (e.,g., oak)
The devil is in the details… and the panel.
Sometimes, a combination of veneer flitches produces distinct light and dark patterns. They might even create an image. Years ago, a Midwest distributor responded to a complaint and found a door panel clearly resembling the image of the devil. That’s difficult to ignore. The distributor happily replaced the door. But devil images aside, wood lovers expect and enjoy wood’s natural variations.
Gene Wengert, columnist for CabinetMaker FDM, added another variable to the color- matching confusion: viewing angle. He said, “The angle that you view maple from, especially soft maple, will result in [a] different color. That is, if you rotate a piece 180º end-for-end (or even 90º) and view from the ‘other side,’ it will appear different. This is a characteristic of maple.”
What does stain color-matching accomplish?
First, it enhances what mother nature produced: a beautiful, natural, and varied wood surface. It gives it hue and color; it magnifies the grain’s clarity. Second, it closely matches the existing material in order to repair, remodel, or reproduce. It does not control the four qualifications. You want absolute control? Paint it.
Midwest Prefinishing’s automated production process assures an even application of the custom color on doors and mouldings. Its ProFinish process applies a wiped solvent stain, a sealer, and a catalyzed lacquer topcoat. Cut corners with tinted topcoats or by reducing steps, and your color match will suffer. Color-matching can be successful and beautiful when applied correctly and with an appreciation for the uniqueness of wood.
Tell your story. Any unusual images or problems with color- matching? Do you see wood’s variety as a problem or an attribute?