The grain of eac h wood species will have its influence on how a slain performs. Wood is an uneven, porous material composed entirely of soda straw-like channels that carried water and nutrients when the tree was alive (Fig. A. below). When a tree is milled and the boards are dried of excess water, these channels are left open to absorb stain. More slain is absorbed into the ends of the straw-like channels than into the sides. That's why end grain and areas where swirly grain angles to the surface will always show up darker (Photo 2). Pine, cherry, birch, and maple .ire the woods most notorious foi having grain where the channels undulate above and below the board surface. The result can be ;i horribly blotchy appearance.
On some species, uneven stain absorption can be an advantage. Coarse-graine d woods, such as oak, ash, elm, and chestnut, have different-sized channels and unevenly spaced grain due to a large difference in densilv between spring- and summer-growth wood (Photo 3). I^irge c hannel openings, sometimes called pores, in the fast growing spring-wood retain a lot of stain and become quite dark. The denser, slower growing summer-wood does not retain much stain, so it stains lighter. Slain will accentuate the differences between the spring-growth and the summer-growth in these woods. (For more see "Finishing Oak" p.43)
Dense, fine-grained woods, such as maple, birch, cherry, poplar, alder, and gum. pose a problem if you want to make them dark. The pores are too sn ail for many stains to color these woods well.
Medium grained woods, such as walnut, mahogany, and teak, are the easiest to stain evenly because their pores are of fairly uniform size, evenly spaced, and large enough for all stains to be effective. The limited amount of blotching that occurs in the se- woods is usually considered to be attractive.
Some woods, such as curly and bird's-eye maple, as well as crotches and burls of various species, have a swirly grain of uneven density that is not only attrac tive but eagerly sought. The natural beauty of these woods can be enhanced with stain.
A wood's natural color will also affect the hue vou gel after staining. For example, walnut is already quite dark, so slain has less effect on it than it would on a light colored wood such as maple. Mahogany and cherry have a natural pinkish to reddish coloring, which makes these woods come out tedder than vou would expect from the colot of the stain. The heartwood of poplar is greenish in contrast to the* sapwood, which is nearly white.
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