Timber is such a natural product it is hard to group wood into exact colour classifications, based on the appearance of the finished (dried) timber boards.
There are thousands of tree species and the colours, of the wood, even vary, between the same species. This is influenced by where it grows, the time it takes to grow and the conditions it grows in.
This article highlights some of the, commonly, agreed, finished, timber colours along with listing some woods that fall within these colour classifications.
Please find below a list of timber colours and a short list of timbers that are considered to, generally, be of that colour:
|BLACK/VERY DARK BROWN
BLACK WALNUT (AMERICAN)
MAHOGANY - AFRICAN
ASH (AMERICAN WHITE)
DARK RED MERANTI
OAK (AMERICAN WHITE)
OAK - JOINERY GRADE S/E (EURO)
SOUTHERN YELLOW PINE
DARK RED MERANTI
WESTERN RED CEDAR
The majority of all timbers are classed into two main colours categories, light brown and dark brown. There are some exceptions, red and green for example, but the majority of timbers can be considered in be of some shade of brown in colour.
Timber can change colour with age and weathering, for example that natural colour of Larch is generally very light brown or almost cream in colour, with reddish heartwood affects but when subjected to external weather conditions and left un-treated, in time, it will turn a light grey or silver colour.
The same goes for many other woods. Cedar as another example [Western red Cedar] is, quite, red until exposed to the elements, turning silver/grey.
The colour of wood can also react very differently to treatments, for example two timbers, similar in colour can change substantially, even using the same timber treatment, stain, or coating. It is recommended to test on a small sample before fully committing to any finishes.
If you have a piece of timber and half of, the same surface, is left sawn and the other half is planed, the colour (or at least the shade of colour) will be, technically the same. However, the sawn surface will look different to the planed section for several reasons - when planing, the top, exposed, sawn face, is being removed [planed off] exposing a flat, clean, smooth surface. This will reflect light differently to the rough, sawn section, plus expose more the figure of the wood. The sawn face may also have absorbed dirt or moisture, also affecting the colour appearance.
Plus, when applying a stain, or any finish, to rough sawn timber, the grain is more open and therefore the penetration of the stain can be much greater resulting in a darker finish colour.
As timber is a natural product the colour of the timber can vary greatly, even among species, or even on individual pieces. Some species can display a range of colours across the same surface of the same board.
The extent of the colour changes depends on the growing locations and conditions and the species.
This is just a guide to the, general, classification of timbers and colours. When undertaking a woodworking project it is a good idea to order your timber from the same place, this can improve the chance of receiving timber with a close colour match. Although, as highlighted, this is far from guaranteed and, it is this diversity, in colouring, figure and grain that makes wood the most beautiful material to use.
No two pieces of wood looks the same.
If you would like to examine timber colours in more depth, then please visit the wood database.