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Of time and tint

One of the things I like about cherry is how its color changes over the years. That’s also one of the things that bugs me about it.

I love cherry, and I love working with it. In looking back at the things I’ve built in the last couple decades, easily 75 percent of my favorite projects were cherry. And one of the reasons is how it ages. It starts out light pink, and then mellows to a dozen different shades of dark, reddish brown. Unfortunately, sometimes those dozen shades appear in the same project.

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Possibly my favorite project of all time is the 19th-century drop-front desk in the above photo. Borrowing details from desks belonging to four Civil War officers – two from each side – I consider the final result to be some of my best work.

But take a look at those two photos. The top photo was taken not long after completing the desk a little more than six years ago, while the bottom photo is from yesterday. Wow, did that cherry age unevenly.

On the one hand, my sense of uniformity when finishing a project is totally shaken. Things like this sometimes make me want to strip everything back down to bare wood and start over again. But on the other hand, the uneven aging is perfectly normal for cherry, and there are numerous historical examples that prove it. Uneven or not, the patina of aged cherry is a characteristic that I’ve grudgingly come to love.

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