Allegheny Forest

Natural Variations Found in North American Hardwoods

 

As woodworkers, our materials are inseparable from the environment. There is no substitute for the character of the wood that comes from a mature tree. Each is a product of its unique habitat, and the grain, color, markings, and variation are a roadmap of the tree’s story. No tree, board, or piece of solid wood furniture is identical to the next. Here are some of the characteristics found in the wood we use at Thos. Moser.

 

Missouri and allegheny plateau

Primary HARDWOODS found IN THOS. MOSER FURNITURE

CHERRY AND WALNUT

 

In 1976, cherry became synonymous with the Moser style. Today it remains the most popular North American hardwood we use when building our furniture. The black cherry tree thrives in cooler, northeast-facing environments with well-drained, fertile soil. With its gentle sloping hillsides, the Allegheny plateau provides the rich, well-drained soil and consistent moisture needed for a cherry tree to send out a pioneering taproot and grow to be nearly 80 ft tall.

 

Being the only dark wood native to North America, black walnut covers an impressive swath of land extending from southern Ontario to South Dakota, northern Florida, and eastern Texas. Our walnut trees come from the banks of the Missouri River. Here the acidic and loamy soils produce trees that can grow upwards of 2ft a year and be over 120ft, with an equally impressive canopy when fully mature.

Three Thos. Moser Continuous Arm Chairs showing the aging of wood

color and aging

When freshly cut or sanded, cherry is pale tannish pink. But the wood is rich in resins, particularly prussic acid, which rapidly reacts to sunlight and oxygen. Through oxidation and UV exposure, the color of cherry shifts from a light salmon to a deep, rich auburn — a transformation that can happen in as little as six months and continues to develop over time. Cherry will darken over time whether it receives a coat of oil or not. However, when oil is applied to fresh cherry, it amplifies the depth of the wood and its color by highlighting the reflectivity of the cell structure, giving it a three-dimensional shimmer.

 

two cumberland chairs in cherry and wood aging process

Left: Cumberland Chairs in cherry built five years apart. Right: The aging process of walnut and cherry over three weeks when exposed to direct sunlight. Top: Walnut transitions from dark to light. Bottom: Cherry shifts from light to dark.

 

Walnut is prized for its rich bittersweet chocolate to deep burgundy color. When finished with a coat of oil, the rich ripples of espresso and almond become immediately apparent. Unlike cherry, maple, or ash, as walnut ages, it lightens in color. This process does not happen as quickly as it does with cherry, but over several years, those deep chocolate hues will mellow into an ambered brown.

 

 

Wood u cation 4Top: Freshly oiled cherry on the left and cherry aged over 20 years on the right.  Bottom: Fresh walnut on the left and 20-year-old walnut on right. Right: Two New Gloucester Rockers in cherry built 20 years apart.

natural variation

the figure, mineral deposits or pitch, and woodgrain

 

cherry dresser with fern and books

 

The tree’s individuality is displayed during the milling process in the distinctive grain patterns formed through decades of growth. These variations depend on the section of the tree and how it was milled. We see those distinctions as assets, fingerprints that make each piece of our furniture one-of-a-kind. Cherry, walnut, and ash have beautiful straight grain, making them ideal for crafting modern-day heirlooms, but all wood species can have curl or figures.

 

Wood Cuts

Flat-sawn wood is a cut that brings out the patterns of the tree’s annual growth rings. This type of cut produces cathedral patterns and allows for the maximum yield from each log. The most efficient way to cut a log is live-sawn. Each board is cut straight off the log in one direction without changing the orientation— a method that produces a full range of angles and growth rings. Quarter-sawn wood presents its grain perpendicular to the face, which makes ‘rayflecks’ in the wood, while a rift-cut creates a straight grain.

Mineral deposits, or pitch pockets, are the beauty marks of a natural product. Like the veining process found in marble, these minerals are deposited by water evaporating, leaving mineral traces behind. The frequency of these deposits depends significantly on the environment or region of the country where the tree grows. Just as in marble, these natural deviations add rich character to the finished product.

 

Wood samples

Left: Pin-knots in unfinished cherry.  Middle: Mineral deposits or pitch pockets in a cherry.  Right: Tiger stripe in finished maple

 

In addition to mineral deposits and cuts that affect the wood’s look, another element captivates woodworkers and consumers alike. It is figured wood. Figured wood can appear in the form of bird’s eye, curl, tiger stripe, quilted, and many other terms, but the term “figured” refers to the movement of the wood. It is how the wood cells reflect the light, giving it an illusion of movement and depth as the eye passes over the board. How this happens is a bit of an anomaly. Many believe that a genetic aberration causes figured wood; some believe it is the expression of an environmental stressor or compression. Other elements that may contribute to a distinctive look in our wood furniture are pin knots. These small “pin-like” knots mark the location of pruning or a broken branch where new growth began to sprout.

cumberland sideboard in cherry, dr whites chest in maple, and stools in walnut

Top: Cumberland Sideboard in cherry. Bottom: Eastward, Bowback, and Edo Stools in walnut. Right: Dr. White’s Chest in maple

 

Whether cherry, walnut, ash, maple, or white oak, the human connection to wood objects is undeniable and visceral. Our pieces are made from premium North American hardwoods, and we predominately work in cherry and walnut. On occasion or upon request, we also work with a range of other sustainably sourced North American hardwoods. Crafting pieces of furniture from different species can have different results; a new character can emerge. For example, the dark tone of walnut can emphasize form. At the same time, the pronounced grain of ash conjures a more tactile experience, and the darkening of cherry over time may establish a more classic and traditional look and feel. Regardless of the species you choose, handmade wooden furniture will add soul to any space.

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