What happens to wood as it ages?

Oxidation is the natural process that wood undergoes as it ages. Over time, exposure to oxygen and ultraviolet light from the sun causes the board to brighten or darken, depending on the type of wood. Repeated changes in humidity and exposure to elements such as wind and rain can also accelerate wood aging. Aged wood, unlike fine wine or whiskey, generally doesn't improve with age.

As a rule, the mechanical properties (strength) of wood show little change over time. All hardwoods undergo the natural aging process and change color over time with exposure to ultraviolet light and oxygen. In general, while lighter woods tend to become a little darker and richer, woods that begin to darken become lighter. We all know and love the cherry tree as a rich red-brown color.

However, freshly cut cherry planks have a light color much more like straw. At Chilton, personally, we love the look of this first stage of wood, but the surface is so light that it's often mistaken for maple. In a few weeks, the change is noticeable, as touches of red begin to appear, although the wood is still clear. Depending on exposure to light, it will take between six and 12 months to achieve that intense dark tone that so many people expect from the cherry tree, and this reddish tone will only intensify as time goes on.

We love the warm, natural texture of all wood species, as well as the quality of life offered by each type of wood as its patina evolves. Organisms that live in and digest wood leave cavities and tunnels, and these voids within the cellular structure of the wood are then filled with water from the surrounding environment. Natural wood furniture, which was once a living, breathing tree, will continue to evolve even after sanding the last edge and finishing the corners.

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