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Complementary Woods - need a source, site or book

5367 Views 8 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  DHaden
I am looking for a source or book that describes which different woods complement each other. I understand open and closed grain woods, but sometimes you want to use contrasting woods or better yet woods types that complement each other and don't clash.

There is a true design element to this; for example would strait grained hard maple look good with strait grained black walnut? How would this look with quarter sawn white oak? How about ambrosia maple with walnut? Would zebrawood look good with curly cherry or strait cherry or tiger cherry? What if I put purple heart accents with pad auk? etc.

I know that this can be subjective, but there must be some design rules that assists with selecting complementary woods and wood types?

(my wife keeps telling me that my Navy Blue suit and chocolate brown shoes and red argil socks don't work)
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FWW has covered this a couple of times from what I can remember. This article here is one, but you do need to have a membership to view the whole thing. Or you could just look it up if you have access to back issues.

On another note, you are completely right about this being subjective. As I was searching for it on their website, I came across this statement sent in by a reader

I am a longtime reader of the magazine and Web site. I have always valued FWW as a skill-builder and a technical resource. But I was disappointed with you for the first time when I read Garrett Hack's article on how to use contrasting woods. I have a fine-art background, and in art, there is no right way-only a critic's opinion. When I read the article, I felt a wet blanket being spread over a large group of up-and-coming woodworkers. Never once did I read "in my judgment" or "it is my opinion."

-Kenny Bond, Madison, Wisconsin
Boy, I gotta say, if your eye likes it, and just to be sure if a couple people around you like it, you're probably in the ball park.
In the guitar world, tradition rules, but if you look at my website, I've built some real eye poppers, and they sold fast, often before done. Many were commissioned that way. Would I build a purpleheart dining room table with bloodwood chairs for my dining room? No way… But I built a guitar with exactly that, and it turned out looking great!
So for me, the design element, if there is even any one, is more the application of the wood and it's placement in your life, or the life of your customer. Otherwise, there would only be about 20 paint colors in the sample rack at any large home improvement store! Real estate people always want the colors of your walls to be neutral. Why? Because they are afraid of offending a potential buyer, and paint is cheap. So the hidden agenda is the real estate agent trying to sell the house, not the real focus of design. That type of thinking would make all cars black, white or silver, and all wood pecan colored…

I agree with the voice of Kenny Bond shown above. Why put a wet blanket on imagination? If it looks good to you, build the doggone thing and go forward!!
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You might want to look into studying color theory. It is taught in
art and design schools and text books.
I agree with Loren. That's what I was going to suggest. Even just some basic understanding of color theory and design theory that you can find on the net…..
I would think Google Images would be a good friend here. Pick an object-jewelry box, morris chair, whatever-and ask for pictures. The species may not always be obvious or identified, but by taking some notes you will begin to discover, in a very inexpensive way, what you like and what you don't like.

Or, an educational practice I particularly subscribe to: Try, Fail, Learn.


explore the projects on LJs and see what you like.
You could get a sample pack and check out different variations to see what you like.
The combonation I use most often, and alot of others I have seen is hard maple/walnut. I think they compliment each other very well. I think we all agree that if it looks good to you or your customers/gift recipients, then you made a good choice of wood combination. Don't let anyone tel you you cannot use certain combnations because they dont "look right". There are structural reasons to not combine certain woods, but I do not believe there should be any athstetic reason not to combine different woods. As Tennessee said we wouldn't have any variety if we didn't try new combinations. The worst that will happen is you find a combination you don't like, big deal you got to spend time woodworking. Best case you post something new and creative on here that inspires the rest of us to try something new and creative.
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