Holy cow, look what's been hiding at the bottom of the woodpile. I brushed the dust off and ran this 9 inch wide plank of pearwood on the jointer, and look what I got. (My knees go weak...)
That's some pretty flamboyant figure happening there. Whatever shall I do with you, dear darling delicious one? I'm going to leave you where I can see you every day, and just wait for inspiration to whisper in my ear.
Ah, pearwood. It handplanes like buttuh...love working with this stuff!
Anyways, anyone wonder why wood gets this crazy figure sometimes? This pear plank has what is called curl. It was cut such that the surface is parallel to the radius of the trunk. Now if you were, instead of sawing, to split this wood with an axe along the radius and pull the two halves apart...wait, here's a picture.
The right lower part has been pulled apart, revealing in three dimensions the waviness of the grain. So when you cut across that radial surface, you are cutting through a series of abrupt changes in grain direction. Light reflected off the wood will vary with the direction of the grain, resulting in that shimmery effect. Impress your friends with this new word: Chatoyance. It's root is French for "cat's eye", and if you are familiar with tiger eye gemstones, it's a similar effect. Here, I'll use it in a sentence for you.
The subtle chatoyance of the freshly planed pearwood made Pam spaz out and drool a little.