Ticking, Mottling, and Blotching

like blotching, but different. July 3, 2008

Ok guys I'm a finisher/chemist not a wood technologist. I know Ive heard the term ticking before but Im at a loss to what it is as to wood feature(s). Does anyone have a photo of wood ticking to view? If so it would be appreciated just for knowledge sake. This is in reference to another post where dye is causing problems with the ticking.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
I did a quick Google search for "wood ticking". It is the mottled look that finishers strive to overcome. Interestingly enough, it seems to be a desirable feature for manufacturers of imitation wood products. I guess it makes the plastic look more like real wood.

From the original questioner:
So youre saying any mottling affect in the wood such as quilt, etc. is to be considered "ticking" correct?

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
The post referred to blotchiness on maple and included the word 'ticking' in parenthesis. But the two terms are not interchangeable. Ticking is the physical texture of wood, not variations in density or direction of the wood fibers. If you look at the picture of the stained maple below, you can see where the pigments have lodged into the texture of the wood, most clearly in the foregoround and the top left portion where the wood is flat.

An easy way to understand ticking is to stain a piece of maple and then use a solvent to wipe the stain off. You'll see where the pigments have lodged into the texture of the wood. It's not uniform. There will also be areas where the wood is fuzzy or has variations in density that produce a blotchy look, but ticking is all the uneven coloring that aligns more closely with the grain structure. On lighter colored stained finishes especially, ticking is as unappealing as blotchiness.

I tried to find any reference to ticking and blotching/mottling/splotching using search engines but could not find any. I couldn't find anything that tied ticking to mottling that was referred to. I did find some mention where manufacturers of laminate and flooring products do their best to recreate the texture of wood (ticking) to give their product a more realistic appearance.

Figured woods, like quilted maple, are a different subject altogether. When the figuring is repetitive, it's given a name like curly, quilted, tiger stripe, etc. to set it apart as a unique piece of wood with unique character. Finishers usually use a dye on these woods (and possibly glaze(s)) instead of pigmented stains to enhance the figure.

Click here for full size image

Yea I've seen it a million times now that you've posted the image. I just never had heard it called ticking before.

From contributor R:
If I understand the posts and image correctly, I've battled this before. I always assumed it was differences in the porosity of the wood. I know that maple is not as ring-porous, obviously as, say, birch. But I assumed there are still pores and that some pieces are more so than others, causing the problem.