Gentlemen Prefer Blonds – Your Guide to Pale Coloured Timbers
We all know the stereotype – it’s what all men want, right? Blond, exotic, curvaceous and carefully kiln dried…
Like hair and beer, timber is often referred to as blond. Blond refers to paler, sometimes yellowy timber but much like hair it runs the gamut of colours – from mousey to platinum and everything in between. It takes in a few different species of what we call “temperate hardwoods”, which is to say hardwoods from the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere on either side of the Atlantic. These timbers find use in a variety of applications, from furniture to luthiery and it’s safe to say that this bevy of blond beauties is a diverse bunch, coming as they do from a number of countries and having a variety of distinct features; so without further ado let’s meet our timbers.
With proper traditional flaxen blond coloured early growth, Ash’s broad, dark grain is quite the contrast – though I am told it is now quite fashionable to have your roots showing! One of the grainiest timbers that we sell, our “super white” American ash has all of the colour consistency that you would expect from a truly premium quality timber and well as being clean and straight grained. Like most of the timbers in this list ash is a reasonably dense, hard timber, which can be easily worked to a glossy lustrous finish making it perfect for modern kitchen worktops or table tops. A tall, straight grained tree, ash grows straight up for a long way before putting out branches so long, clean boards are more readily available than in other species. It’s great height has always made it very visible, so ash has always been prominent in folklore, with the Vikings believing that the great Yggdrasil, the enormous tree that held up the world, was an ash.
Sycamore (European Maple)
If American ash were a Lanister, this would be a Targarean. Sycamore is the palest of the pale, sometimes even going so far as to be a brilliant white. Sycamore is actually a species of maple (it is Acer psuedoplatanus, meaning “plane like maple” due to its leaves which are similar to those of the plane tree) and like the other members of the maple family, sycamore produces incredibly hard, even grained timber whose density means that it is easily worked to a fine, lustrous finish. Sycamore’s grain is more discrete than that of its American cousins, but despite its grain being less noticeable, the often challenging conditions it grows in mean that its grain can be a bit more rough and woolly then its staid relatives from across the pond and knots and wildly romantic bits of interwoven grain are common. Sycamore wasn’t introduced to Britain until Tudor times, so unlike native species such as oak and lime there is a distinct lack of folklore associated with it, though most people will be familiar with its helicopter like seed pods which appear every Spring.
Much like its European cousin American maple tends towards pale and white, though the grain tends to be pinker than in sycamore. At Thorogoood’s we deal predominantly in two species, hard maple and soft. Hard maple comes to us both from northern suppliers in Michigan, were the timber is particularly pale and white, but also from the more southerly Horizon Wood Products whose careful cutting and processing mean boards with higher yield and super-consistent quality. Soft maple, which despite the name isn’t noticeably softer than the other stuff, is what our beautiful and highly prized ambrosia stock comes from, exhibiting amazing patterns of spalting and colour – for striking table tops you can’t get much better! Maple’s close, even grain makes it very easy to work and achieve a crisp edge and high lustre finish. It’s also as hard as hell, meaning it can be used in a number of high impact applications: sport’s hall floors and velodromes are often made of maple for example. Alongside beautiful timber, the most famous product of the American maple is probably it’s rich sap which is boiled until it is thick and sugary – maple syrup!
so what do you reckon, fancy a blond? Why not give one of our staff a call and we can talk you through your options, or nip in and see some of the most special boards around in the slab gallery.
Guides | 3 years AGO