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Product Awareness

Grain & Characteristics

Wood is a product of nature. Wood is not like man-made materials that can be manufactured to consistent specifications. Its natural imperfections are part of its appeal and character. Every piece of wood is slightly different in color, texture and grain from every other piece, even other pieces from the same tree. How wood looks and feels is dictated by a number of factors, including climate, soil nutrients, growing season, wind and weather patterns, and age at harvest. Nature’s appeal is its infinite, imperfect variety, and it is the uniqueness this creates that makes wood so valued. 

Grain is the most visible variable in wood.  Grain describes the general direction of the fibers in the wood.  Each species has its own general grain pattern.  Some woods have relatively straight-running grain, while others have wild, arching or curly patterns.  In addition to general species variation, each tree and each piece of wood from that tree also has its own unique grain.  No two pieces of wood will ever look exactly the same. 

Wood grain has a considerable impact on the appearance and feel of the final product.  Tighter or shallower grains will absorb stains differently than more open or deeper grain, affecting the final color.  This can even be found to some extent in the same piece of wood.  In addition, light reflects off of varying patterns and densities of grain differently, affecting our perception of color.  Whenever craftsmen talk of the color of wood, they understand that inherent natural variation will create a wider range of acceptability than is expected with a man-made material.  The variation of grain and its affect on color is a critical feature of wood that should be understood and appreciated.

Grain also affects how wooden parts are cut, shaped, and sanded.  Grain can be felt as well as seen, because it results from the fibers that run through the wood.  To shape wood into the form we desire, we need to cut those fibers.  The angle at which we cut those fibers has a dramatic effect on how that cut edge feels.  Cutting along the grain trims with the fibers, leaving long, smooth strands of natural fiber along the edge of our cut, which results in a naturally smoother feel.  Cutting across the grain chops through the fibers, leaving exposed tips of the fibers, which results in a naturally rougher feel.  These exposed tips will also absorb stain and topcoat differently from the tightly packed edges of fibers along the grain. 

Look at the picture of a stained door edge.  The darker piece of wood on the right side is cut across the grain (this is called end grain) and it has taken stain darker than the edge cut wood that is joined to it.  These pieces were assembled and then shaped, sanded, and stained together.  This is a natural result due to the inherent structure of wood.  

Stained Door Edge

Woodworkers use sanding to abrade the fibers along cut edges to make all edges as uniformly smooth as possible.  However, the end grain on a cross-cut end is still going to be very different from the edge grain on a with-grain edge on the same board.  Good sanding and careful finishing with a quality topcoat will minimize the variation, but the structural differences will still be there.  End grain will always absorb finish more readily, often resulting in a slightly darker color and a slightly duller finish.

The variation in wood is more than just in the grain.  For example, knots show the same variation.  Some woods have relatively few knots, while others have many.  Some knots are large and conspicuous; others are very small or clustered.  Characteristics such as knot size and quantity vary by species and by piece of wood.  


Another naturally occurring feature of wood is called a mineral streak.  Many woods have dark streaks running with the grain.  These are called mineral streaks, because they appear where the tree has deposited minerals within the fibers of its wood.  Mineral streaks can be quite striking in some woods, and they can range from thin dark lines to wide grayish or greenish bands.  Holiday Kitchens selectively cuts around larger, more obtrusive mineral streaks, but, due to the nature of many woods, we cannot remove all mineral streaks from the final product. 

There are other natural features of wood that vary among species and may be found in quality wood products.  Specific details for each species are covered in Holiday Kitchen’s Product Awareness Declarations for each species.  We recommend that our customers fully understand the wood they are selecting for their cabinets so that they can fully appreciate its unique beauty.  After all, the variety of wood is infinite.  This rich variety is one of the key features of wood; and Holiday Kitchens carefully balances this natural variation to provide you cabinetry of exquisite quality. 


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