stain is absorbed quicker in those areas than where the grain is flat and parallel to the surface.
Definitions of "grain" and "figure" are somewhat fuzzy in the woodworking industry; the two terms may mean slightly different things to different people. I use "grain" to mean patterns in the wood that are formed by the grain structure—this would include curly and quilted patterns in maple, cathedral arches in oak, and ordinary straight and parallel grain found in quartersawn boards.
"Figure" refers to grain patterns out of the ordinary (such as curly and quilted), as well as patterns not related to grain structure: color streaks (as in rosewood) and the irregular patterns in spaltcd woods, for example.
For light, close-grain woods with distinctive figure, I'll describe three methods of intensifying grain: using linseed oil, dye stain, and transparent "candy apple" colors. (See photos, below.)
The simplest way to bring out grain is to flood the wood with boiled linseed oil, let it soak in for about ten minutes or so, then wipe off any excess oil. The oil will make the subtle patterns in the wood stand out and make any curl or quilt appear deeper. It also acts as a stain by imparting a warm, amber color.
Let the oil dry for at least two days before finishing with Danish oil, varnish, shellac or lacquer. If you decide to
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