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Chatoyance annoyance

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I like light. Light is our friend. So let there be some; in fact, let there be plenty of it. But sometimes, light likes to play funny games.

The shop cabinets I built a few years ago improved not only my efficiency and storage options, but they improved how my shop looks. When I made them I wanted them to look nice, but make no mistake – these are shop cabinets. They have, and will continue to be, working areas that take on scratches, dings, finish splatters and everything else shop furniture undergoes.

So even though I wanted them to look good, this ain’t fine furniture here, so I used inexpensive pine and poplar throughout, with doors and drawer fronts of 1/2" birch plywood. They came out great, but when I gave them a few coats of polyurethane, I got a surprise.

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Because of a little thing called “chatoyance,” the light made the drawer fronts look way, way different from the doors. Now, you’re thinking I was a knucklehead for making them from different pieces of ply. Nope, they were all cut from the same 4x8 sheet. The difference is just grain direction, and my old friend light.

There was no way to avoid this either: While under construction, there was no difference in appearance whatsoever when the wood was still raw, but the moment I applied a finish ambient light had a field day. Oddly enough, the image above is how they look from the left. Just a step to the right, however, everything matches perfectly. Again, that chatoyance thing.

Like I said, these are shop cabinets and not something done for someone else’s home. This annoyed me at first because I don’t like surprises when I build things. On the other hand, I’m pleased that these cabinets developed a personality all their own.



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