Just like all wood moves, all wood experiences color change. While we can’t change those facts, we can anticipate them and plan for them, realizing that certain species have certain tendencies. As a lumber species that undergoes color change to an unusual degree, Teak certainly can create a dilemma for those using Teak to build high-end boats and decks. But with a little foresight, communication, and extra TLC, you can ensure that your customer will be pleased with their Teak on their yacht or deck.
Lumber Color Change Overview
The most remarkable color change which lumber will experience occurs when it’s freshly planed. Typically, oxidation causes a mellowing and darkening of color variations — a change that can be sped up when the boards are exposed to direct sunlight. While you’ll notice a definite change in the hours and days immediately after milling, color change may take months or years to be completed.
Teak’s Unusual Appearance
Unlike many lumber species which are simply lighter colors when freshly milled, newly planed Teak takes on an extremely different appearance than it eventually will in the long haul. (While a few other species also undergo more significant than average color change, Teak is the one that appears most unsightly when freshly milled.) When the surface of Teak is first exposed to oxygen and light, its surfaces often exhibit blotchy, streaky areas with a wide variety of colors.
Don’t be surprised if, instead of that classic honey brown, you see blues, browns, blacks, greens, and yellows, instead! Much to many a woodworker’s chagrin, even top-grade Teak that’s been properly kiln dried and seasoned will demonstrate this disturbing phenomenon. This temporary discoloration can be alleviated only with exposure to light. And as hard as it is for those of us in this modern age, what we have to do is wait.
Teak Color Change
If you were to keep your blotchy, discolored freshly milled Teak in a dark area, oxidation alone would cause it to experience a darkening; however, the streaks would still remain. Due to a high content of light-sensitive pigment (something similar to tectoquinone), only light will produce the necessary fading. (In a little experiment we did, Teak milled 6 months ago but kept in a dark closet had not faded as much as Teak exposed to sunlight, even though it had been milled only weeks before.)
The majority of the fading process will occur within the first few weeks of exposure to sunlight, but the complete transformation can take a few months. The eventual result will be a consistent, mellow brown hue with subtle, straight grain.
So the next time you begin to work with Teak, be sure to inform your customer about the unusual characteristics of this species, and then build a little extra time into your project calendar. During that time, be sure to give your Teak boards a good sun tan, making sure to avoid anything disrupting the direct exposure of each surface to the sunlight — after all, you don’t want any unsightly tan lines to interrupt the golden beauty of your Teak!