Osage Orange Color Changes

You can't stop Osage Orange wood from turning brown as it ages. February 12, 2007

Freshly cut Osage orange (bois d'arc, bodark, Maclura pomifera) has an unusual and beautiful yellowish color that soon darkens, often to a boring brown. Does anyone have suggestions as to how I can arrest this color change? I need to be able to sell my pieces without concern that the customer will return later with a complaint that the color and contrast that caught their eye to begin with has now faded away. Is it UV related? If so, can someone recommend any UV blocking finishes that can be applied easily in the small shop? Or is it a chemical reaction, perhaps with oxygen in the air, or with an ingredient in the finish? Thanks for any advice.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
There is no way. The color oxidizes immediately upon exposure to air and light accelerates the process oftentimes.

From contributor V:
I just finished an executive desk out of that ugly wood. Man, I hate working with that stuff. It's mostly UV related. I have a bowl that was turned out of it in the showroom window and the bottom still has some of the yellow color, but the top is brown even though it was finished.

Take note that whatever you use to fill any nail holes, cracks, etc. will also need to be able to change color or they will be more upset about that in the future. I mixed fine sifted sanding dust with the lacquer that was used as a finish for all the filling. The two best suggestions I can make is to keep some aged wood on hand to show the client to avoid complications down the road, and second is to use UV additive in the finish to help slow down the process.

From contributor H:
Thanks for your input. I've also made some inquiries from other folks who work with this wood, and the consensus seems to be that it is caused by exposure to light more than exposure to air. I think I'll try to work out a way to accelerate the color change so the pieces I display and sell will have already arrived at their final color. And If I do find a procedure that arrests the color change, I'll let everyone know.

From contributor J:
You should do a test with a waterbased finish with UV inhibitors. They tend to keep wood looking more like it does without the finish and they generally will not amber with age.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor K:
The color change in osage is completely UV related. You can stop the color change by using some UV repellant finishes or by simply using very high SPF sunscreen. I made a work bench out of 2 - 12' x 18" x 8/4 and it hasnít even begun to change color.