What is wood chatoyance? Thuya Burl Rollerball

What is Wood Chatoyancy?

Wood chatoyancy is a shimmering quality where an object reflects light differently depending on the angle it is viewed from. Certain woods just seem to sparkle and dance in good lighting. In some species this occurs naturally when the orientation of the grain meets the viewers eye. It can even create a three dimensional appearance in the wood grain.

But not all wood takes on this property, and even wood that commonly has chatoyance may only exhibit it poorly unless properly prepared.

Because wood chatoyancy pertains to the grain angle of the wood, any sanding of the wood will ruin your chances of getting the desired sparkle. The roughed grain will not reflect light. To bring out chatoyancy, the wood must be cut with very sharp tools rather than sanded. A very clean and even cut is an absolute must.

When making wooden pens, I always avoid the use of sandpaper whether the wood species has chatoyancy or not. Sharp tools are the key to success. With the wood turned perfectly round and no tool marks remaining, I add a coat of finish to protect the wood and bring out the wood’s natural luster. My best finish is achieved with 8-12 layers of cyanoacrylate. This finish glue will harden and stay perfectly clear. It seals the wood away from oily fingers and the varying humidity of ambient air that could cause the wood to shrink or expand resulting in cracks. Best of all, its like putting the wood under a layer of glass after polishing which allows the wood’s natural grain and coloration to sing.