How to measure the colour of Wood

How to measure the colour of Wood

Measuring the colour of wood

The use of wood in today’s vast number of industries is so diverse that it is in great demand by a wide variety of manufacturers. These manufacturers, particularly in the more decorative applications such as flooring or furniture for example, are looking for wood of consistently good quality in the texture and appearance that they are used to.

The main uses of wood are as furniture, flooring, artwork, dishes, utensils, some musical instruments, in construction and even as some sports equipment, tools and toys, not to mention its fundamental use as fuel.
The appearance of wood used in the majority of industries is of utmost importance, with the exception of fuel that is. With the cost of some wooden flooring exceeding £100 in some stores or a wooden dining table costing a few hundred pounds from some suppliers, the appearance of these products as well as quality must be consistently excellent.

Why measure colour?

Different types of wood have different physical characteristics and appearances. The most notable of which is the colour. If you look at the images of wood below, the oak, mahogany and maple wood are considerably different in appearance. It is these appearances that are so important as they are so recognisable and can dictate the worth of the product.

When offered a chair in mahogany, most customers can tell you if it conforms to their pre-conceived idea of what a product made of that type of wood should look like. Keeping that consistency of appearance, particularly in the furniture or flooring industries, is extremely important as the products will be viewed adjacent to each other so discrepancies in colour will be obvious.

When to measure colour

There are a number of opportunities to take measurements of colour of the wood, depending on what the wood is being used for.

• Probably not very practical, but the trees themselves can be measured for quality as they are felled. With a portable instrument, this is a possibility but may not be useful as the wood will be subjected to multiple processes before it is ready to be sold to the public or used for construction of products.

• After drying or seasoning is another stage that colour measurement could be taken as these processes will have an effect on the colour of the wood. Errors in the process could affect the how lightness or hue of the wood is which will affect the final appearance.

• Treating the wood will obviously change its final appearance. Whether it is being treated with chemicals or stains, these will all have some effect on the end product. Monitoring this effect will ensure consistent products are being produced and the production process is as effective as it could be, therefore reducing the cost from manufacturing unsatisfactory products or having to re-treat some of them.

How many measurements

As with the measurement of most things, the more data you have, the better idea of the quality of the product. With a sample that could have some surface variation, the best way to organise the data taken would be to create an average. This average would best represent the product as a whole and provide suitable tolerances that would allow for any natural variation but inhibit the allowance of substandard products. 3 or 4 measurements could be taken over the entire surface to give data representative of the whole product viewable by a customer.

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How to measure the colour of Wood

HunterLab Miniscan EZ Spectrophotometer

The best instrument for use in this application would be the MiniScan EZ Spectrophotometer, particularly the 4500L model. This spectrophotometer measures colour the way your eye sees it and takes into account the texture of the surface as well as the colour to give an accurate depiction of the appearance of the product, not just its colour.

This is a handheld, portable instrument that can be operated in a variety of different locations. This instrument would be useful if an operator needed to complete testing on the production line, in a laboratory, indoors or outside. This instrument has the option to change from a large area view to small area view with as little fuss as possible. The large area view is able to take measurements across a 25mm view however the small area view gives accurate measurements over a 5mm space, meaning this instrument can measure a wider variety of sample sizes and focus on specific areas if needed. The instrument chosen would need to provide not only ease of use but also accuracy from panel to panel, log to log and the results be easily communicated between manufacturers to ensure that all who are constructing the products and analysing quality are working to the same high standard to deliver the best product possible.

Whether you are making a dining table or panelled wood flooring, “wood-n’t” it be nice to be able to keep the quality of the product at a high level easily and with as little interruption to the production process as possible? With a portable spectrophotometer, analysis can be completed at any stage, in any place with the accuracy of a bench top instrument.

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