Darkening wood with steam

Saturated steam can be an effective way to darken some species of wood, while still green. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

I have heard that it is possible to darken peach wood and thus give it an aged appearance by steaming it. I believe this process is more popular in Britain and Europe than in the USA and Australia. Do you know where I might find detailed information about this process?

Many wood species darken when exposed in the green condition to heat [around 212 F (100 C)] for 24 hours or so, depending on thickness. We absolutely must use saturated steam, so often the steam is bubbled through a water trough before it is allowed to pass through the lumber pile. We use the saturated steam to prevent significant drying, although some will occur anyway. Hence, steaming for color is not used on refractory species (those prone to checking). Often the color of steamed wood is much more uniform and some would say that the steaming softens the color contrasts. I looked in my references, and find nothing that is very specific. Looks like trial and error--BUT KEEP THE AIR AT 100% RH.

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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