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Make the Most of Figured Maple

The right orientation adds shimmer and pop to your work.

by George R. Walker
pages 18-20

The barn loft was hot and dusty – and especially so after digging through piles of rough lumber for wide cherry boards at the bottom of the stack. We took a break outside for some fresh air and sat on a pile of firewood. I didn’t notice it right away, but the surface on the freshly split wood was deeply corrugated like a washboard and, to my horror, the whole woodpile was curly maple – wicked-good curly maple. The farmer seemed as disgusted as I was, but for a different reason. He held up a chunk of it and said, “This junk is a beast to split, burns good, but hardly worth the trouble.”

I’ll be the first to admit that figured maple, which includes tiger, curly, quilted and fiddleback grain, is ornery. The wavy grain and hardness is a challenge to split, carve or smooth with cutting tools. On top of that, the figure can be elusive: wild in one section of a board then suddenly going dead with no apparent reason.

Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
In our store:Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings,” DVDs by George R. Walker (Lie-Nielsen).

Staining Wood 101


A primer on coloring.
By Bob Flexner
Pages: 60-62

From the December 2010 issue # 187
Buy this issue now

A wood stain is a colorant (pigment or dye) and a binder (some sort of finish) with a lot of thinner added so the excess stain is easy to wipe off. This leaves some color in or on the wood.

A stain can also be just dye and thinner with no binder added.

Pigment is ground earth or colored synthetic particles, so it requires a binder to glue it to the wood. Pigment settles to the bottom of the can and has to be stirred into suspension before use.

Dye is a colorant dissolved in a liquid, so dye penetrates along with the liquid and doesn’t need a binder. Coffee and tea are examples of weak dyes.

Article: Learn how to properly sand to prepare your wood for stain.
To buy: Bob’s new book, “Flexner on Finishing,” includes 12 years’ worth of updated finishing columns.
Web site: Read more of our finishing articles.